Hi, I’m Jimmy Dean Hoffa, and no that is not my real name. It’s a nom du plume I’ve chosen to use for submitting articles to Cactus Hugs, but chances are if you’ve lived in the Coachella Valley in the past 10 years you’ve read something I’ve written prior to this. Speaking of, Casey offered me this amazing opportunity to remain anonymous and attend high profile events on a bit of a test basis, so you may be seeing more of these and other articles if things work out. If you enjoy let him know, if you don’t – then don’t @ me.
“Neon Carnival with “POKÉMON Detective Pikachu” and The LG Mobile Experience – April 27” – that was the subject line of the email Casey forwarded me. I don’t know how corporate sponsorships work nor could I figure out why a movie about a crime solving electric mouse voiced by Ryan Reynolds fits into an event following a large Country (RIP Western) festival, but I was excited to find out. Levi’s was also listed as a major event sponsor, so I dusted off my one pair of jeans I wear everyday, found a bandana to protect against potential high winds, grabbed my wife and Lyfted my way down to Thermal Saturday night to find out what it was all about.
The best way to describe Neon Carnival as a local and a bit of an outsider looking in is to say; Neon Carnival is just like the Date Festival – but the exact opposite. There are bars everywhere and you can drink almost everywhere – no drinks on rides except the ferris wheel. There were no long lines for the rides or the games. The rides themselves last longer and go faster (I was terrified on the ferris wheel) and this is the most important thing, EVERYTHING IS FREE.
Carnies are replaced by models paid to pour drinks (poorly). Attractive brand reps provide you some service/swag but aren’t afraid to have a good time themselves (even the cleanup crew was getting down when the right song came on). The parking was easy, the weather was nice and it is an amazing adults-only carnival where you can’t help but have a great time.
Without making this a long story about my night, let’s just break this down quickly into the 5 W’s of journalism – who, what, where, when and why – to explain Neon Carnival.
WHO is at the Neon Carnival?
It’s just what you’d expect at a private, invite only, after hours party if you ever watched a movie with a cool party/night club establishing shot. Everyone there was beautiful – all the guys looked like Thor in Avengers: Infinity War and all the women were either models, Instagram models (who all made sure to get a photo on a bale of hay), or prettier than the prettiest female in your office or workplace. I did not see any celebrities I could identify in attendance, but I did spy a few names on the list at check-in.
In addition to your standard cowboy themed jeans/jean shorts Stagecoach look there were lots of party-goers in 90’s era neon day-glo colors (cuz NEON Carnival). There was a small smattering of outlandish rave attire, men in full body race suits, and the combo bikini and chaps look that was popular amongst several in attendance.
The majority of the crowd was easy going, fun having, younger, from out of town and just looking to have a good time (I honestly could not tell if the MAGA hats and Trump shirts were ironic or not) – but you could spot a few older local social/political/business influencers who looked out of place as fuck and 30 years older than everyone else in attendance. Also some other local media members looked just miserable to be there (seriously, you guys do not seem fun).
Overall, a solid crowd and I would gladly party with those people again.
WHAT is the Neon Carnival?
Neon Carnival is an exclusive party made up of four key parts:
Two bourbons followed by bumper cars should scare anyone straight from ever thinking about drinking and driving:
A mechanical bull is the obvious must-have for any post Stagecoach party:
Not gonna lie, a little windy and scary at the top after a few drinks. But the guy up there sprays PAM on the slides for an epic race down:
(Did I mention playing these games was FREE?!!)
You know what makes playing those carnival games that are rigged for you to lose super fun? Making them FREE!
My wife owned everyone in this game:
She may be half-carnie.
And hey, you still get to win the cheap prizes, even though the games are free.
I am definitely the only person who took this photo:
Simulated blur effect. I want you guys to see this how I did.
Here’s an empty dance floor shot taken from atop ferris wheel. I’m not kidding, it was terrifying for me up there to take this photo and I am not afraid of heights and never drop my phone:
It did get busy a bit later:
Shoutout to the DJs for playing 90% non-Country music that still made everyone in attendance happy. Except for the decision to play “Cha-Cha Slide” and some other wedding jams for the old people heading in to enjoy which prompted my exit. To get the hundreds in attendance to dance from one end of the event to the other and have those on the dance floor absolutely shred it was no easy accomplishment. Hats off to you.
WHERE is the Neon Carnival?
Neon Carnival was at HITS Equestrian Center – where, according to this interview, they moved to because Thermal Airport going international means they can no longer have fun parties on the tarmac. Being in the middle of nowhere is great because the event was surrounded by police presence and checkpoints to get in. No way for crashers or paparazzi to ruin the event for anyone in attendance. And if you weren’t at Ragecoach – as many in attendance seemed not be – it’s far but easy to get to.
WHEN is the Neon Carnival?
The event opened at 10pm Saturday and went until… IDK??? I called it quits early Sunday morning, but revelers were still making their way in.
WHY is the Neon Carnival?
Neon Carnival definitely has something to do with brands forming alliances with young people in some synergistic buzzword social media cultural chess pie… and it’s really good at doing it. I wish it was corny and I could make fun of it, but their partners did a great job of entertaining guests.
LG took photos for you and sent them to you. No strings attached. But you couldn’t help but notice the photo quality and some of the cool features that makes selecting and sharing photos super-easy on their mobile devices.
These cacti with faces in the LG area tripped me the hell out.
Who would ever do such a thing?
They also had an ASMR lab that I’ll admit I am too old for but these kids loved it.
Speaking of 90’s kids… they also love Pikachu.
In addition to the giant inflatable Pikachu, you could dance with a virtual Detective Pikachu, there was a SnapChat filter on the ferris wheel I was too afraid to snap after I saw it (because it went fast and I got scared and I’m a big baby) and these things for those who left their cowboy hats at home.
I saw a lot of people running around trying to catch all the Pokemon related swag and features of the events do they all seemed to be enjoying it. So clearly, the people behind these corporate alliance sponsored parties know what they are doing, even If i necessarily do not. Successful brand partnerships aside, the event is clearly run by people who know what they are doing and know how give people a good time.
Congrats to them on 10 years and their first Stagecoach weekend.