Hempfest is an annual event that has taken place in Seattle each August since 1991. Founded as a “small gathering of stoners” by Vivian McPeak and Gary Cook, Hempfest has grown into a three-day political rally, concert, and arts and crafts fair, with attendance well over 100,000.
This year, however, Hempfest must take a new approach. It’s one that organizers may not have expected but are embracing with the same conviction and fortitude that has made Hempfest one of the world’s largest gatherings to advocate for the decriminalization of marijuana.
The organization announced in late May that the 29th iteration of the annual event, originally scheduled for Aug. 14-16, 2020, would move to Oct. 10-11 and also take place completely online.
McPeak, the organization’s director, is a peace, social justice, and cannabis rights activist who is committed to working cooperatively with citizens and public officials to accomplish common goals.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced in March, we were not immediately concerned,” Vivian explained. “Our event is in August, and in our naivete we assumed all would be fine by then. But as things progressed it became obvious that there was no way we could safely produce our event in the parks this year. So unfortunately, our event, as we’ve been producing it for the last 28 years, cannot happen.”
Just short of three decades of non-stop advocacy, he and other organizers found themselves fighting to salvage the event.
“The decision to not hold the event has put the organization in somewhat of a financial crisis. We have financial obligations we are unable to meet, and we have never defaulted on a financial obligation,” he said. “In order to subsist we must meet those obligations, and the best way to do that is for Hempfest to survive – creating alternative revenue streams as fast as we can.”
Meeting these obligations will only be possible with the partnership and support of the cannabis community.
“By transitioning Hempfest online, we hope to make our mission more viable and powerful than ever before,” McPeak said. “An online event lends itself to a worldwide platform allowing for a greater and more diverse range of participation. It provides a multitude of possibilities, such as subsequent events, virtually and publicly (once public events are permitted again) and is helping us explore other avenues for relaying our message and mission.”
The programming for the first virtual Hempfest will be similar to past festivals, with speakers and musical performances.
“By moving everything online, we are no longer limited to the number of people who can attend, dates or times. Now anyone in the world can come to the event and view it at any time, so the capacity for getting educational information out to people is much greater. Which is why we wanted a dynamic theme for Hempfest 2020.”
Hempfest 2020 – A rebirth?
McPeak calls this year’s theme “Green Renaissance.”
“We are excited to present our theme to the world, a post-pandemic reset. A 2020 vision of a post-COVID future featuring many of the leading luminaries in various fields of the cannabis industry, including medicine, agriculture and science,” he said.
“Our goal is to present cannabis as a catalyst in reimagining a just, healthy, sustainable global society based on public health, social justice, and environmental preservation. This global pandemic has exposed glaring structural deficiencies that are compromising the current economic and environmental health and sustainability of humanity. Hempfest 2020 will present an overview on the role cannabis can play in a post-pandemic reset to aid humanity in forging a path into a more viable and sustainable future.”
McPeak and the entire Hempfest community stand in solidarity with other regional and national events and businesses struggling to withstand this unprecedented health crisis. They encourage your support and your commitment to making our world a better place, and hope that you will join them as they work towards a better, and hopefully greener, future.
For more information about Hempfest 2020 and how you to contribute or participate, visit hempfest.org.
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