Neon Carnival makes its big return to the desert next month and it’s bringing Paris Hilton to the party.
The popular desert festival after-party returns for its 11th incarnation this year, with a weekend-long activation at Desert International Horse Park in Coachella Valley and Hilton as a special guest, hosting a replica of the Neon Carnival experience in the “Paris World” metaverse.
While Neon Carnival has long been an invite-only affair, organizers say Hilton’s digital experience will allow fans and followers at home to get in on the party even if they don’t have a ticket to the festivities.
“We’re going to recreate the experience of getting a wristband pick up, driving to the desert, going to Neon Carnival and more,” says Brent Bolthouse, founder of Neon Carnival and one of LA’s best-known hospitality mavens. “We’re giving you access to the Carnival even if you can’t make your way to Southern California.”
“Obviously, Paris loves our party and I know her well,” Bolthouse tells Rolling Stone, adding that “I did her 16th birthday party a very, very long time ago.”
When it came to this year’s event, Bolthouse says he “had a quick talk with Paris about [Neon Carnival] and she was like, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ It’s a great experiment for all of us and I can’t wait to see it unfold.”
More details about the Hilton collaboration are expected to be announced in coming weeks, but Bolthouse says there’s a lot more to look forward to for this year’s event. Neon Carnival takes to the desert once again on Saturday, April 16 and this year’s party features the iconic ferris wheel and amusement park thrills alongside live sets from DJs Ruckus and Kayper, and newcomer Mel DeBarge, a New York-native who’s quickly making a name for himself in the international party arena.
For Bolthouse, the return of Neon Carnival comes after a tumultuous two years in which music festivals — and their accompanying parties — were put on hold due to Covid. The entrepreneur says the 2020 edition of Neon Carnival had been set up and ready to go, when the quarantine suddenly shut everything down. “Even in April  we didn’t really know what was happening or what was going on,” he says. “So we all were like, ‘Is it moving forward? Is it happening?’ We did a lot of work that year and it was brutal when everything was cancelled, but I’m excited to see people again and bring back something that’s been missing for a few years.”
While mask mandates have been eliminated in California, Covid concerns still linger, and Bolthouse stresses that Neon Carnival will be following all the same guidelines as Coachella: “Everything we do is always geared around keeping people safe and safety is always first,” he says, adding that Neon Carnival is completely outdoors and spans three football fields.
This year’s event features the return of Levi’s as a sponsor, with the popular Levi’s-branded ferris wheel. Tequila Don Julio will serve up craft cocktails from an “Airstream Speakeasy,” while Liquid I.V. will be kicking off their on-site Neon Carnival presence with a fully branded bumper car installation. DIRECTV, meantime, will sponsor a VIP lounge. Bolthouse says the invite-only affair is expecting up to 10,000 names on the guest list, thought he stresses that it’s not a party people can “buy their way into.”
“We care about the curation of the crowd as much as we care about the rides and the games,” he says, “and that’s what makes it special. I go to a lot of parties and I just feel like there’s something about it that feels like a work event versus a fun event,” he adds. “So this is just really about how do we keep that spirit of fun? That’s our primary purpose: this has to be a super fun party.”
Neon Carnival has come a long way since its first incarnation 11 years ago, though it hasn’t lost its “it” factor. “Our first year, we were in a hangar with DJ AM and Steve Aoki doing a DJ battle in the hangar, and it was just sort of this little experiment,” Bolthouse reminisces. “It’s been growing since then and we’re happy to be back; we got the last few years behind us and it’s like, ‘God, I think we’re all still okay.’ It feels like we can really start running again and we’re ready to go.”