The most recognized Coachella-adjacent image to emerge from the desert every year is one of Neon Carnival, the late-night amusement park that draws celebrities, ravers and wannabes — often the descriptors are mutually exclusive — to the wilds of Thermal, Calif., another desert town in the Coachella Valley, about 30 miles from the festival grounds.
In its ninth year, the event created by Brent Bolthouse moved to a new location at the Hits Desert Horse Park with returning presenter Levi’s. The denim giant provided shuttles to and from the festival, where Beyoncé closed out the evening with a nearly two-hour show. The event officially opened at 10 p.m. but the lion’s share of VIPs, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Kourtney Kardashian, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Nina Dobrev, Jamie Foxx, Alexander Wang, Hailey Baldwin, Chance the Rapper, Daniel Kaluuya, Jhené Aiko, Post Malone, French Montana, The Chainsmokers, Odell Beckham Jr., Tyga, Christina Milian, Taylor Hill, Candice Swanepoel, Tony Goldwyn, Teyana Taylor, Martin Garrix and Patrick Schwarzenegger, arrived post-Bey.
The fair was a mass of careening bodies, often clad in shorts and fringed jackets or clubwear. (There were even a few high-cut, one-piece bathing suits in the crowd — no doubt styled for the all-important Ferris-wheel-in-the-background shot.) The desert thirst was quenched courtesy of Golden Road Brewery, and people who weren’t exactly photo-ready after the dusty journey there could get touch-ups with Batiste Dry Shampoo before heading into a photo booth.
DiCaprio hasn’t missed a single Neon Carnival, thanks to always entering through a private entrance and heading directly to his VIP table with friends. Kardashian arrived hand-in-hand with boyfriend Younes Bendjima, who also went straight to the bar for refreshments. Meanwhile, Neon loyalist Hilton hit the dance floor with her early Aughts pal Caroline D’Amore, while Chance the Rapper celebrated his 25th birthday a few days early by dancing at his table next to French Montana. As he left, Aiko ran up to give him a big birthday hug.
Other famous faces spotted in the crowd included Jamie Chung, Bryan Greenberg, Romee Strijd, Amber Rose, Sasha Grey, Shay Mitchell, Shanin Shaik, Kellan Lutz, Blake Griffin, Iggy Azalea, Logan Paul, Jasmine Tookes, Belly, Scott Eastwood, Charlotte McKinney, Chandler Parsons, Kris Humphries, Nicole Scherzinger, Hailey Clauson and Shaun Ross.
Kayper, DJ Politik, Jesse Marco and DJ Ruckus kept partygoers dancing with performances that lasted until nearly dawn. (Victoria’s Secret model Shanina Shaik joined fiancée Rukus onstage during his set.) And those who still had the energy — and the balance — rode bumper cars and played carnival games such as beanbag toss and Skee-Ball.