Sunday, May 19, 2013
HARMONY -- Attendance was light, but the party rolled on.
Kendall Emerton, left, and Jordan Rousse dance with hoops to live music during the Hempstock Fest in Harmony on Sunday. Organizer Don Christen said the 22nd festival of camping and music draws people interested in ending prohibition of marijuana. "The festival went well this year, though attendance was down from previous years," Christen said.
Staff photo by David Leaming
Between Thursday and Sunday, about 500 people camped on a grassy field for the 22nd annual Hempstock, a four-day festival of peace, love, music -- and hemp.
Event organizer Don Christen said the goal of the annual party is simple.
"We want to legalize marijuana, period," he said. "People who smoke marijuana are not criminals. The perception of marijuana is distorted."
For the past four years, Christen has hosted the festival on his Carson Hill Road property, called Freedom Field. Originally, the event had been held on a farm in Starks, but the landowner started his own annual pot party and cut Christen out, he said. Since then, attendance at Christen's event has slipped.
Christen charged campers $25 per day or $60 for the weekend, which will allow the festival to break even with operational expenses this year. In better years, strong ticket sales helped Christen do more.
"Until attendance picks up, that's about all we can do with it," he said. "It's cut my activism down. It takes money to get the word out to the people."
Trevor Stevens, who lives in Harmony, has served as a vendor at Freedom Field for the past three festivals. Standing by his kiosk Sunday, Stevens took a break from selling glass pipes and T-shirts to talk about the weekend. He estimated that the event drew about 500 people this year, down from 2,000 people in the previous years. He said the recent legalization of medical marijuana might have something to do with the drop in numbers: there are fewer restrictions to rally against.
"Everyone's kind of content. Everyone seems to be able to do everything legally. They have their caregivers," he said.
Nonetheless, Stevens said legalization of marijuana, specifically hemp, needs to grow; and it's a message he literally carries on his back. Lifting his T-shirt, Stevens displayed a large tattoo spanning his shoulders and the length of his spine. The tattoo features a marijuana leaf encircled by illustrations of its purported uses: body care products, nutritional supplements, livestock feed, fuel, construction materials and more.
Madison resident Jody Brown said less regulation makes economic sense.
"If they legalized cannabis, our country's economy would boom," she said.
Brown argued that hemp could replace wood pulp as the dominant fiber for paper and could boost industry along the Kennebec Valley.
"It's not about smoking it. It's about growing our economy and making our country strong again," she said.
Also, Brown asked, if it is smoked, what's the harm with being a little mellow?
"We love each other and we treat each other like family on this hill," she said. "Where's the bad in that? It's only good."