HFOF 2015: Music Festivals as Wilderness Guardians
Harpers Ferry Outdoor Festival 2015:
Music Festivals as Wilderness Guardians
I attended the 2015 ‘Harpers Ferry Outdoor Festival’ (HFOF) at the ‘Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship’ (BRCES) because I believe in the concept of celebrating art and sport to preserve wild land and clean water. It is amazing to consider, during a recession based on commercial monopolies, that it is possible to support local talent and save our woods, forests, creeks, rivers, and the wild and free creatures whose lives depend on these environments. During an era where it is common for people to litter on their way to a job that pollutes natural ecology, events like HFOF are truly revolutionary and patriotic in Native American terms.
The BRCES land is beautiful; almost 1,000 acres of wilderness and a small organic farm run by a caring family. Years ago when I visited with my father, BRCES had just begun their mission on the land, and the old white house was over grown and in disrepair. Now the buildings and land are functional again, while being in harmony with the landscape. BRCES is truly a success story for environmentalists.
Volunteers run the show during HFOF. I was lucky enough last year to be a volunteer under the leadership of President Lisa Cullinane. Lisa is very friendly, kind, and smart; which by the way is my favorite kind of leader. We started preparing a few weeks before the event, and by the event I felt things were flowing well. Vendors are usually small businesses and non-profit organizations that rent spaces around the field, using tables and tents. I really enjoyed the variety of concessions, and the food and drink was good. There are always tensions and stress involved in any social production, but any problems that arose were resolved. Hundreds of people attended the festival both years I have been; although the first year my non-profit tent for ‘Sustainable Cooperative for Organic Development’ (SCOD), and my fine artist partners did not get visited by many people during the event, so we did not make any earnings. For me it was ok, because music is certainly a type of art; and I was happy to be there.
Camping among trees or in fields is one of the best things in Life. The first year I slept in my tent the first night, in Demory Field behind my vendor table. At night the humidity lifted, however this created a dew which saturated my books and artwork exposed to the sky; however items in the tent and oddly enough below the table-cloth were fine. The second day my art partners arrived and set up a tent to shade us a bit; which really helped survive a day of full sun in the field. I also wore sun-block, a large hat, and sunglasses so as to not be sun-burned. Some of us rented the white house for the second night, which was very nice indeed! Staying at the house was a relief from the electric generator that was kept running all night at the main field, to keep their fridge on to preserve the food. Also the best part of the field at the crest, had become over-crowded with vehicles; which in my opinion ruined the very purpose of being in Demory Field… in other words it turned the perfect camping spot into a parking lot. Despite traffic congestion, most reveled in the mirth, and many stayed up all night with enthusiasm and excitement!! So the second year, the parking situation on the hill was better. Also in 2015 I camped down at Piney Run creek for 2 nights, and put a hammock up in the woods the 3rd night. It was still good to have the house for bath-rooms, shelter from variations in weather, and back-up beds.
Bands begin playing the first evening (Friday), and folk music continues through the night, into the next day and night. The second night, Saturday, has the most people. Famous bands are fine, but when you have personal stock invested in local bands, hearing them play has more meaning. Although most of the show revolves around the main stage, my favorite part is playing with other musicians by the grand fire pit. The field has a natural amphi-theater shape around the fire pit; which was made by Boy Scouts with impressive stone work and movable wood benches, along with a cob oven. At night the fire pit area hosts musical jam sessions, which embrace the audience, allowing anyone to play with or with-out the bands; this is musical freedom and creative collaboration at its finest!!!
Lastly in this article I want to thank everyone that helped make HFOF happen. Some of my personal high-lights were being with friends, hiking the trails, and witnessing natural phenomena such as the lightning-bug show across the fields; those tiny lights were every-where even into and above the trees!! As I observed the natural light show, I meditated on how often our Nation’s founders enjoyed wonders that surpassed the magic of their technologies back then. Even today many scientists concede that our artificial efforts fail, in comparison to the energy efficiency of the natural world. Through places and gatherings like this, we can study how plant leaves photo-synthesize, and then we can learn make technology that does that for electricity. Thank you to those that stayed and picked up all the trash! I hate picking up litter, but I do it way too often and way too many people are littering. The sheer abundance of garbage is not encouraging regarding the future of humanity or civilization. At the event there are luckily enough volunteers to pick up all trash within sight, after many hours of pick-up. I like to return to the site days later, to double-check that the clean-up was effective. Any negative issues did not stop us from having fun, nor did any problems hinder the success of the event as a whole. I also love mulberries, and the trees were in season! I definitely want to return next year to HFOF at BCRES, and be a part of music festivals (with arts and sports) that donate to wilderness stewardship, and take place within a nature preserve. Please come join us, if you are not already with us!!!!