The event: The sixth annual Neon Carnival, aka a late-night dance party, complete with carnival games and rides, celebrity sightings and a giant water slide, created by nightlife entrepreneur/ mastermind Brent Bolthouse. The event happens every year during the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, but is not affiliated with the two-weekend fest. This year's Neon Carnival was presented by Paper Magazine, with sponsors PacSun, Tequila Don Julio and "³DOPE²" the movie.
"It's about celebrating life and building some brand awareness," said Bolthouse, who attended the party in a pair of Birkenstock boots, gray Levi's and vintage army jacket.
The scene: Nearing 11 p.m. Saturday, hundreds of people waited in line, hoping to get into the party. Leaving the party at 1:30 a.m., the line was just as long. Inside, PacSun created its own carnival game with hats and plenty of prizes, and partygoers tried their luck at the ring toss, some skilled enough to win a fluffy stuffed animal.
The line for the bumper cars, Ferris wheel, giant water slide and fast-spinning, twirling-contraption no-one-with-any-drinks-in-their-system-should-have-attempted were all at least 50 people deep. Don Julio supplied the party with a neverending flow of cold tequila and people walked around munching bags of Pop Chips, sipping Izze sparkling juice and licking CoolHaus ice cream cones.
On the dance floor, Leonardo DiCaprio busted some serious moves (think uppercut in Mortal Combat). Kellan Lutz, Josh Henderson and Scott Eastwood danced away. Justin Bieber hung out at Chris Brown's table in the VIP area. Also spotted were Aaron Paul, Jamie Chung and her fiance Bryan Greenberg, model Alessandra Ambrosio and Julianne Hough.
Who wore what: Most partygoers headed to the carnival straight from the festival. Girls with dark paint in their hair and mini backpacks threw back a round of tequila shots after shouting "Coachella." Packs of guys walked around in striped tank tops and long, patterned shorts (some floral, some with Mickey Mouse on them). Girls who could have been models -- and probably were -- sported crochet crop tops and high-waisted silk pants, and there were too many pairs of denim shorts and frayed tops to keep track.
Overheard: "California culture is the Coachella uniform," said Bolthouse, who says he's not fussy when it comes to fashion.
On how big Neon Carnival has gotten this year: "It feels like we hit some sort of zeitgeist level this year," said Bolthouse. "I had kids coming up to me at the festival saying they are from Ohio and they read about this party and can I please give them a wristband. I feel like that has never happened before. I just like that it's still here and people like what we do. I'm super grateful."
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