The 7th Annual Seattle Hempfest
August 23rd 1998

It was a cloudy cool morning, when I arrived at 9:30, hundreds of people were setting up booths, and working on the two stages. I managed to find Vivian, he said that he didn't think he would be able to fit me in, as he was overcome by the sheer number of speakers, and in fact the 10am slot we had discussed was pointless because they were still setting up the stage and the gates were not officially opening until 10am. He said he would try to get me in later in the day. I didn't get to speak to him again until after 7pm, the man has a bigger adrenaline problem than I do! But he was right about speakers I couldn't count them all, but it was the who's who in west coast hemp projects. Besides Vivian McPeak (who was the most tremendous speaker) The list included Dennis Peron, Jack Herrer (Emperor wears no clothes), Rob Killain, Mike Gray, Adam Smith and Elvy Musikka (AKA Legal Marijuana recipient # 8) as well as Jeff Steinborn (Hemp Lawyer), Laura Callahan (November Coalition) and various drug war widows and orphans. Will foster's wife was unable to attend but sent a written message. I may be a slight bit more eloquent than some of the speakers, I don't think I could have had much to add to the event. There was at least a hundred vendors selling food, t-shirts, bongs, bumper stickers etc. All the various hemp groups (November coalition, Hempnet, Norml, Aclu) had informational booths set up. The Greens, Libertarians and the Socialists had booths as well.

As far as bands were concerned there was certainly no shortage. Early in the day a drum circle formed and went on for the entire event. At times there were as many as three dozen drummers doing their thing. One young women beat her drum for over five hours continuously, until her hands were literally raw . She was so close to bleeding, you had to wonder why she hadn't stopped earlier. The stages were ruled by bands like Floaters, Bad Kitty, Second Coming and the Herbivores. All provided some ass kicking tunes throughout the day. At 4:20 there was a licorice toss made from the main stage, seems the crowd wanted joints and many threw the licorice back...
My personal favorite however was a solo act at 5:45pm Joules Graves, a young woman with a strong voice and a single drum lead the crowd through two very powerful "chanting songs". She only had ten minutes on main stage (I understand she did a full set at the small stage earlier in the day, I am very sorry I missed that) but she gave 150%. her song "people of the earth tribe" really got the crowd involved and brought tears to my eyes.

The clouds persisted most of the day, but no rain fell. The event was very well attended Vivian announced that there were an estimated 60,000 people attending. Stretched along at least a half mile of beach it was really hard to say... Police presence was very heavy, uninformed cops on bikes horse and foot, and I am sure at least a couple of plain clothes guys... They generally stayed out of the crowd and picked people off the edges when they saw them with pipes. There was a lot of smoking going on near main stage, once again I depended on the kindness of strangers and was not disappointed. Stoners tend to be very friendly and out going, until they have been busted a few times... Vivian emceed throughout the day. There was a heavy repetitive theme to make donations, he said the event cost $40,000 dollars to put on. Staff members with buckets worked the crowds through out the day. There were many many plugs for local headshops bars and other sponsors of the event including Hempen ale. I put a dollar in the bucket, I figured it was my fair share if 60,000 were attending. I wondered why they had not just collected a dollar at the gate?

So perhaps, you are wondering exactly what I did to pass the day? Those of you that know me , know that I would not pass up the opportunity to work a crowd of 50,000 plus, would I?
Of course not, scheduled to speak at 10am, I spoke at 10am. Not from a stage but at the front gates. I was the first person that people saw when they arrived. I stood in my moccasins and very attractive hemp shirt (which attracted hundreds of people to me during the day) and handed out my literature. I started the day with about a hundred hemp packets and 200 or so copies of M.A.M.P. and a couple dozen copies of the dangers of marijuana. I solicited conversation with groups of people by asking them if they would like some free literature, which inevitably leads to the question, "about what?" I asked if they had web access, trying to save the packets for those who would be unable to read the information online. I engaged small groups of people, trying to select groups that had someone carrying a back pack , so the precious literature would not be wasted. At 11am I had no more literature!!! The man running the first booth, complemented me on my quiet, non offensive, low key but effective style. He noted that only three people had stopped to look at his sunglasses display, during the time that I spoke to a thousand people. I pointed out that my wares were free, always a good selling point. That part done, I mixed with the crowd joining in or creating conversations. I ran into Elvy Musikka, in the crowd who hugged me like an old lost friend Then said Who are you again I am so bad with faces. I assume she was joking...

The strangest thing that I saw wasn't the fellow carrying his around pet rabbit on his shoulder, but I man dressed up a a witch doctor, bones through the nose, headdress, feathers the whole bit. The dogs didn't seem to like his get up at all, most greeted this spectacle, with a growl.
Strangest experience at hempfest? A young woman dressed in military fatigues and a Lewinski type beret was working the crowd (purpose unknown, perhaps she was a performer, perhaps she was a bit touched) and doing avengers type posing, as well as threatening people with a squirt gun. While in the general area she asked, " if there were any man who was willing to join her in the crusade." I assumed she meant the fight against the drug war and volunteered my services. She asked me to knell and knighted me with a large balloon, kissed me on the forehead and when I stood kissed both of my feet and announced me as the newest warrior against the drug war. She then disappeared back into the crowd.
I enjoyed the music and the speakers. However I thought Jack Herrer was a bit disappointing... One speaker( Lawrence Chilliact?) said that the reason they liked to lock up non-violent drug offenders was because it makes the jails a safer place for the prison guards to work! One speaker who said he represented MPP said we should put away our tie dyes get our hair cut, shave our beards, put on suits and ties and march on Washington D.C. so that they would respect us? What the hell is that about? Sell out our individuality to make the point that we are individuals? Why not just poke our eyes out so we can see better?

2 VW's were raffled off as part of the event

The last three or four speakers stressed that they wanted to leave the park in better condition than when we arrived. At 6:00 pm right after Jules Graves finished her songs, Vivian spoke again, . One of his points this time out was that some 400,000 non violent people were living in cells 10 x 10 or less, as prisoners of the drug war, and he continued "think about that on your way home tonight!" I am sure I smiled as I realized that I was currently living in my van with about 4 x 8 feet of living space. I wondered have I jailed myself in this endeavor? During Second Coming performance a mosh pit formed and I decided to get away from main stage and joined in the clean up efforts. This is when I saw Vivian again during the bands performance, he was out picking up litter! We shared a few moments over a trash can before he had to return to the stage. I continued to pick up massive amounts of litter, thousands of cigarette butts, hundreds and hundreds of flyers, as well as cups, beer caps, food wrappers and condom wrappers? I assumed that those were here prior to our taking possession of the park (unless I missed some good stuff!) I worked my way towards the main gate and exited knowing that while I had not contributed a single bit to the mess I had removed at least a full garbage bag of trash. But I was well paid for my efforts 38 cents and a new pipe screen was my pay! I am also very proud to say that I did not see a single on of my flyers on the ground or in the trash! Mission completed...

All In all I would have to say if you get a chance to attend the second largest hemp event in the country or to hear Vivian McPeak speak go for it.
Back to Web Station #19!!!

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