Everybody used to call the Seattle Hempfest “the best single-day marijuana event in North America.”
But now, that is totally untrue. Why? Because Hempfest has become so popular that it is now a two-day event!
Even though Seattle has been rocked by riots, earthquakes, Republican energy grid ripoff coups, and other oddities, it’s still one America’s most progressive cities, and the Seattle Hempfest is a jewel in the city’s crown.
Hempfest founder Vivian McPeak has given years of selfless service to make Hempfest a professional, well-organized, exciting and interesting event. Hempfest visitors experience a fantastic blend of music, pot-friendly products, 100,000 stoners, and the marijuana movement’s top icons and orators.
According to Dominic Holden, the hard-working media wizard who helps McPeak coordinate the hundreds of volunteers who make Hempfest run smooth and clean, this year’s event will be the best ever.
And instead of just sitting on the sidelines and watching all the eye candy at the 2001 Hempfest, Holden wants you to be sleepless in Seattle this August, helping the Hempfest crew create a hempy weekend for the whole world to see.
Cannabis Culture caught up with Holden for this exclusive interview, just after he finished doing 132,421 important things out of a list of 420,000 important things to be achieved before Hempfest opens the third weekend in August.
Q- Let’s start with the easy stuff. What are the dates and location of the 2001 Hempfest?
The Seattle Hempfest will be held on August 18th and 19th at Myrtle Edwards Park in Downtown Seattle. We’ve grown so much over the last 10 years that we’re making the transition to being a two-day event. The festival is held in Seattle’s most beautiful public space, stretching over one mile along the waterfront. This year we will easily top last year’s record of 120,000 participants.
Q- Hempfest has always featured the best regional bands, but I heard that his year, John Lennon, Hendrix and others were going to be appearing via some special psychic channel. What’s the real story? What bands, speakers, vendors, and other attractions will be offered at this year’s fest?
The Seattle Hempfest offers four stages, dozens of bands and hundreds of hundreds of speakers and vendors. And we’ve got more activists than you can shake a stick at. It’s the largest and most progressive hemp related event in the country. While we are dead serious about our activism and ending the war on drugs, our staff and crew works year-round to make Seattle Hempfest fun and interesting for everyone.
Right now we’re still in the process of finalizing our headlining bands, so I can’t name names. But Cannabis Culture readers have definitely heard our headlining acts before. But we’re not just about big-name acts. The Seattle Hempfest is also the largest local music venue in the Northwest. We’ve got rock, folk, reggae, hip-hop, trip-hop, punk, metal, world music, techno and everything else in between, so there’s really something for everyone. Every year hundreds of bands and organizations offer their support to Hempfest, we are proud to include talent from around the country who support our cause to end marijuana prohibition. (So bands, keep sending those demo’s!)
Once again, we’ll play host to the largest number of nationally known hemp and drug policy reform activists gathered for a drug policy reform festival. You can expect to hear from representatives from NORML, CAN, CSDP and the November Coalition as well as leaders in the industrial hemp movement.
Our food vendors will be featuring hemp food products ranging from hemp burgers to hemp cakes to hempy burritos. Our craft vendors offer a huge array of hemp and related products from around the world. And this year, The Seattle Hempfest will include a Hemposium with hands-on demonstrations with raw hemp as it is made into textiles and food.
Q- Other than the fact that we now have two days to party in Seattle, what’s different about this year’s fest?
Since we’ve grown to a two-day event, we can now properly address the #1 issue facing drug policy reform activists today: the fact that there are over 600,000 non-violent drug war prisoners in America. That’s as large as the entire population of Seattle! The Seattle Hempfest seeks to raise awareness of their plight, and the effects of their incarceration on families, communities and the nation at large.
The Seattle Hempfest 2001 will tell the story of the painful failure of America’s brutal and ineffective drug policy by integrating our message throughout every facet of the event. The effects of misguided social policy is hard for most people to talk about, but we feel that it is our moral obligation to raise our audience’s awareness about these issues and give them the opportunity to get involved and make a difference. It’s our hope that the spirit of community and empowerment that grows out of Hempfest will act as a catalyst to reform in America’s “justice” system.
Most of the people who come to The Seattle Hempfest already know that the first US flag was made of hemp and that George Washington grew hemp. But most people don’t know how racist and arbitrary our policies have become or how many people out there are suffering. Nothing can match the tragedy felt by a mother who has lost her child for decades to a heartless prison sentence, except for being sent to prison yourself, which is a threat that all of us live under every day.
The folks who come to The Seattle Hempfest want to see the end of the drug war more than anybody does. Our power lies in our numbers. There are so many individuals who support the cause of drug policy reform that every person involved helps to make the statement that we will not stop until the drug war ends. And the more effective we become, the sooner Hempfest will no longer be a demonstration in protest but a celebration of freedom!
Q- Hempfest is located in a beautiful city park on the waterfront, but I know that the City doesn’t permit camping. Given that this is a two day event and no camping is permitted onsite, what will Hempfest do to help people find and afford lodging and transportation, which can be extremely problematic in Seattle’s traffic-jammed, expensive grid?
Lodging info will be available on our website for long distance travelers, early reservations are advised. Seattle has a lot of hotels in all price ranges. Usually the ones further away from downtown are cheaper. Our website includes links to networks of hotels in the Seattle area and some out of town places to pitch a tent. You may have to drive for about an hour to get to a good campsite, but this is the Pacific Northwest and it can be done. My word to the wise…reserve your hotel or campsite now!
Q- Other than the fact that people who work to plan and manage Hempfest get to hang out with awesome studs like you and Vivian, why should people volunteer to help Hempfest?
Hempfest is the perfect opportunity for anyone who is outraged by the effects of the drug war to make a difference and to fight for a cause they believe in. It only takes a few hours for a couple days to really support the drug policy reform movement and help create a super-sized marijuana demonstration. It has become a tradition in Seattle that the marijuana smokers have a right to come forth and prove that our struggle for justice is real. Every year the event gets better, and bigger. By doubling the event’s length, this year we will make cannabis history and send our message out to the world.
Lots of folks volunteer with their friends, working shifts together, and taking breaks together. The only rule is that all volunteers have to sleep once a day, some folks are almost too dedicated, ya know? But being too dedicated isn’t that bad. Our entire staff, even directors and bands, all work without pay, some of them actually leave their jobs for a few months a year! There are some things money can’t but, and being a part of change is one of them. A lot of people start off working at the fest and find that they want to do more. Folks who get in touch with us early, like in July, can help lead crews and other projects!
This year we will need over 800 volunteers working with folks on everything from security and hospitality, to helping the vendors or joining stage crews. Everybody is an expert at something, there lots to do and every pair of hands makes a difference. Folks can pick out their shifts beforehand, and have fun the rest of the time. We’ll give you a Hempfest staff T-shirt and great hospitality while you work! Our staff has parties and camp outs before the fest and afterwards we have our annual staff recognition POT-luck where everybody gets prizes and we honor the year’s “Golden Nuggets” for their hard work.
All you have to do is visit our website and fill out the volunteer application. (www.seattlehempfest.com/staff.phtml) We ask everybody to come to a short training meeting in August. If you are coming from out of town we will have a quick orientation on the day before the festival. We’ll talk about what to expect during your shift, and what to do if any problems arise. But as in years past, every thing always goes good, even with the police. As a volunteer at Hempfest you have a great chance to work with the police without any weird feelings. They like and respect us, and we feel the same way. Officers work side by side with us to make sure we have a safe event. We remind our audience that police are not our enemies, injustice is our enemy, and that is what Hempfest is about changing.
A great amount of our success can be attributed to the women working in our group. We have been blessed by a core group and staff that is balanced equally between men and women, or gods and goddesses as I like to say… Katie Morse, our staff director has put countless thousands of hours into Hempfest over the past few years along with other movers and shakers. Share Parker, bassist for the Herbivores, and Desiree Moore, our treasurer, are both members of Hempfest’s steering committee and are on the Board of Directors for Washington NORML. We could not possibly get by without Gloria, Hempfest’s vending director, and Emily Jo Testa, without whom things couldn’t possibly rage like they do. The progress of Hempfest and the momentum of activism in Washington State could not be possible without the women in our movement, they are our gurus, adding greater sense, foresight and reason into the work we do. So when you come to Hempfest this year, you will see the center of our operations, its named Mother Bunker, and its called that for a reason.
Q- So now that people are all turned on and want to work their asses off for you, how can they contact Hempfest to offer assistance as volunteers, to attend as audience members, or to become vendors?
There are a few good ways to get a hold of us. If you can get online, visit our website, www.seattlehempfest.com for all types of Hempfest info. If you are interested in volunteering or vending at this year’s festival see the applications that are available for you on our website, they’re easy check ’em out. Email should be directed to [email protected]. or folks can leave a message on our Hotline (206) 781-5734 and we will get right back to you.
Q- People smoke herb at Hempfest, discreetly and without many problems, but what do you think the herbal ingestion situation will be at this year’s event?
Traditionally, many adults choose to smoke marijuana when attending Hempfest as an act of civil disobedience to show their support for sensible marijuana laws. There were no citations or arrests at last year’s festival. Seattle Hempfest does not allow buying or selling marijuana at the event. Possession and consumption of marijuana is still a crime, and as long as it is, The Seattle Hempfest will be there.