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Under the Spell of Enchanted Forest

Having been to so many gatherings and festivals of all types and sizes over the past dozen or so years, I would think it would be more difficult for me to choose a favorite. A few years ago I probably would’ve said Burning Man was my favorite, and it is truly amazing and unique, for sure… but the event that’s had my heart the past few years is my favorite for many different reasons. Let me tell you the tale…

In 2011, a seed was planted here in Mendocino County. In 2012, I discovered and attended my first Enchanted Forest Gathering in the beautiful redwoods of Camp Navarro about 45 minutes down the coast from my house. Not sure what to expect but lured by the most delicious of bass music lineups, I set up camp with two of my best burner buddies, Fern and Koji, in a towering redwood grove. We watched as the Boy Scout camp was transformed into a glittering wonderland of art, music, beautiful people, sweet little environments and altars, silly play and lots of color. We danced in the glow of a giant flower of life that changed colors as it lit up the crowd and stayed up all night because the music was just too good, Random Rab played at sunrise and I had a flow wand dancing partner that just wouldn’t quit!

Megan and Fern at Enchanted Forest 2012

Being at Enchanted Forest my first year, I felt like I had stumbled into a secret coven of magical fairy folk. Everyone I met and encountered simply radiated love and positive energy. There was an element of ceremony, of holding sacred space, more so than other events I had been to, but it wasn’t pretentious or overly woo-woo, simply in the background was an understanding that we were engaging in something meaningful, more than just a party. Though it was also one of the sauciest parties I’d ever witnessed, without any of the sloppy sauce due to its alcohol-free status. I have never seen dancers so in sync with each other, a dance floor so full of smiles, or reluctantly dragged my tired ass to bed with a bigger smile on my face as I have at Enchanted Forest Gatherings… And this reaction is not uncommon, our community quickly become family and everyone who has been simply gushes about the top-notch production, over the top decor and ambiance, amazingly epic stage design, lighting, music, and performance, but most of all… the smiles, the joy, the LOVE. Be still, my heart… it’s coming up again soon!

Random Rab EF Sunrise 2012

Wanting to be more involved with such a stellar local festival, in 2013 I signed up to volunteer. My job was to help decorate the teahouse stage and to paint and put up signs all over the venue, and I got to meet more of the amazing people involved with organizing the festival. But what made that year most special for me was that Enchanted Forest was the first music festival that James and I attended together, shortly after we started dating.  It was also the first time I’d seen him DJ or perform at a festival, so I got to see the audience in awe and think “that’s MY boyfriend up there on that stage. Clearly I am WINNING at life!”

Blissed Out

I have so many beautiful memories of that weekend but what stands out most is getting to see Flicker absolutely crush it on stage DJing with Acacia Beats. He shared a set with his homies on Friday evening, on the most epic stage I had ever seen, a beautiful work of art nestled in a fairy ring of redwood trees with a waterfall and crystal altar underneath it. (Audiowaska knows what is up with stage design, and has been involved with Enchanted Forest ever since).  He was SO pumped to be up there, he was dancing harder than anyone in the crowd below, and I got to hoop to the whole set, sneak up to the stage to get a few photos, and watch in awe as my sexy new man did his thing. I still have a photo of him DJing on that stage as my desktop background; it is almost the sexiest thing I have ever seen (second only to him spinning fire, of course).

Flicker Gettin' It

We got to spin in the fire circle and on the performance platform to some pretty amazing music that year, had a great time goofing around with all our friends in camp, and become part of the Enchanted Forest family.

Last year Enchanted Forest was faced with quite the logistical challenge when it had to move venues just a week or two before the event. But this gathering just HAD to happen, and so the crew found a new venue last minute and it was held at Stone Bear near Tahoe on the beautiful (and cold) Yuba River. Even with having to move the entire festival hundreds of miles away, the weekend went off without a hitch. This family is resilient, creative, and capable!

Get Frisky Kitty!

Acacia Beats got to DJ again on another mind-blowing stage, and once again I volunteered as an assistant to the production team, this time brought in by Tulku himself, who James and I had gotten to know a bit better since we’d been involved with some of his parties and I’d started helping his lovely lady Amae with her Amae-zing clothing line, Amae Love Designs. I helped prepare the cabins for artists, check in artists and staff at the box office, and ran errands for artist relations. And I got to wear the ‘Saucy Squad’ laminate like a real part of the team!

Mr. Bill and Opiuo melted our faces, we spun fire and snuggled to stay warm in the crisp mountain air, and we danced down by the river and on top of the hill overlooking the Sierra Nevadas. It wasn’t our usual redwood home in Mendocino, but 2014 proved that it wasn’t the forest we gathered in that mattered, it was the community that made Enchanted Forest home. No matter where we danced together, with this crew, there was always magic in store… the air sparkled with it as the beats echoed through the trees. Everywhere I looked, people were smiling, hugging, connecting, creating, expressing, and most of all DANCING.

EF Family

Even though I didn’t officially begin working in festival production as a staff member until a few months later when Tulku brought me on to the Foreverland (now Once Upon a Festival) marketing team last summer, I consider Enchanted Forest to be the festival where I got my start in event production. I started as an attendee and got more involved each year. A lot of my friends are involved, whether performing, volunteering, staff, or playing the ever so crucial role of attendee, and it’s about an hour from our house. I have learned and grown so much because of my experiences at this event and connected with some truly amazing people. If there is one transformational festival I could encourage everyone I know and love to attend, one closest to my heart, it would without a doubt be Enchanted Forest Gathering.

Night Time at EF

This year marks 5 years of Enchanted Forest, and my fourth and most involved year yet. In the span of less than a year I have gone from scrambling to save or volunteer or street team for events such as this just so I could afford to attend, to this year being a part of the production crew that makes it happen as a production and marketing assistant. It’s almost too good to be true, and I still can’t believe this is my life and I get to work with such a superstar team of jedis!

And speaking of almost too good to be true, Enchanted Forest will not only be returning home to Mendocino County this year, but we’ll be dancing under the beautiful ancient oak trees of the legendary Black Oak Ranch, the old home of Earthdance, my former favorite local festival that ended in 2010. This means our community has some room to grow, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about this family, it’s that EF will always be true to our roots.  This move also opens up more possibilities and allows us to expand Enchanted Forest’s offerings to include a wider variety of music, eight different workshop areas, and all kinds of sanctuaries and environments to explore.

Enchanted Forest 2015 Lineup

One of the things I am most excited about this year, besides this amazing music lineup of course, is the addition of the Flow Zone at Enchanted. Kandice of Holistic Hooping and I are co-coordinating the space this year, and we are super excited to be bringing in about 10 amazingly talented flow arts instructors and performers. We’ll have workshops during all three days of the festival covering a variety of flow arts props and disciplines — it will be like a mini flow fest within my favorite festival! There will be a few flow vendors and a specific space in the back of the main concert bowl set aside for spinning things, practice, and play. It’s truly a dream come true and coordinating the workshops has been really exciting! I am so incredibly grateful to be on this team.

Clearly I could go on and on about this gathering, but I’ve written more than enough to share my experience, and this event is truly something you must experience for yourself, because words and photos simply can’t do it justice.  There is just something about being at Enchanted Forest, surrounded by the colorful forest critters on the dance floor, soaking up all the love being shared, moving your body to incredible music and witnessing masterpieces unfolding before your eyes… it’s more than just another transformational festival. I always say being with my festy family is going home, but Enchanted Forest is like Grandma’s house, all smiles and fresh baked pumpkin pie and more love than could ever be contained. I hope you’ll come home with me this year. It’ll be the most enchanting yet…

Take the LEAP! <3 We got you.

Reflecting on an Amazing End to Festival Season

Almost a month has passed already since Foreverland, which marked the end to our festival season this year. Since we started off early with Envision in February, it felt like a really LONG season. We only went to seven festivals, but with a couple back to back festival weekends and street teaming, volunteering, and working at over half of them, it was a very busy festy season. And a seriously amazing year in general… wow.

It has been hard to come up with the words to describe the past couple of months – they have flown by and the only way to summarize is to say that I’ve been overwhelmed (in a good way), extremely busy, and of course, overflowing with inspiration and ideas to keep me very very busy through the winter and into 2015.

One thing I must say is that I am in complete and utter AWE at some of the people I have been working with and surrounded by lately. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming because of how amazing life is. The transformational festival community, and especially the flow arts community, have recently opened up even further to me, filling me with a massive dose of inspiration, creative energy, and motivation to hustle my ass off and share this magic light we are co-creating with the world.

It’s kinda blowing my mind that I don’t just go to festivals any more, I help create them. As someone who has been going to barter faires, festivals, gatherings, burns, etc. etc. for about a dozen years now, this represents a pretty massive shift for me. And makes me ridiculously excited.

I am now helping the marketing & media teams for Enchanted Forest and Foreverland, wearing many hats and assisting however I can, but mostly maintaining social media accounts, creating marketing materials, and working with some very talented people to get the word out about these beautiful events. I have learned a LOT from some of the masterminds involved in events like Envision and Lucidity, and it has been a great way to gain experience in marketing and social media management. I get to build upon my design skills and learn new ones, all while helping the production team and getting a peek at how some of my favorite festivals are created. But I don’t just see events being created here, this community is building a new paradigm, testing out new ways of life, creating an amazing variety of art, circulating ideas, and bringing many divergent communities together to create something beautiful. This experience has made it even more clear to me that the transformational festival community can and is changing the world and shaping a more healthy and whole way of being. It’s electrifying watching this all take shape, and even more amazing playing a small role in making it happen. Like I said, wow.

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We finished off festival season with our only flow festival this year, Pacific Fire Gathering, on the Oregon coast, followed by Foreverland the very next weekend. We got to have a fun little flowmily sleep over at our friends’ house in Eugene before and after PacFire, and in addition to getting to spend time with friends we haven’t seen much of lately, we met many more spinner friends. Oregon was good to us and we didn’t want to leave! We worked at the fuel depot, took tons of workshops (I got to take two from the very inspiring Mary Jane Schroeder – such a badass!), watched all kinds of mind-blowing performances (and a very silly renegade show), spun fire all night, brought mega hoop out to play on the beach, got some new toys, learned a lot, and laughed so much our faces hurt. So much silliness, spinning, and love!

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I have never felt more at home among a group of people as I have at flow arts festivals. FireDrums and PacFire are definitely both on the must do list next year. These are our people and we were so tickled to be welcomed into our Oregon spinner crew at Camp Lookout at PacFire. FLOWMILY!!!

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The above poster was in the lodge at PacFire. It was my favorite. ONE OF US! If by “us” you mean this crazy family of circus freaks, fire benders, ninjas, jugglers, spinners, dancers, performers, object manipulators, and clowns that I am lucky enough to have stumbled into – then yes, I am in the cult. Sign me up. PacFire was one of those life-affirming weekends that will be fueling my flow practice all winter and then some. Lots to work on!

We were home for a couple of days, just enough time to do laundry but not enough to catch up on sleep, before it was time to head to Foreverland. After working on the event for six weeks, I was really excited to see everything we’d been envisioning manifest. Plus we had a pretty awesome crew gathered to camp with,  friends from our various summer adventures all setting up camp together for one last hurrah of the summer.

I headed to Foreverland with our friend Kolby, and we found a spot to camp and got situated before James and a bunch more friends rolled in. We arrived just in time to catch a beautiful sunset Thursday evening over the lake, and witnessed domes going up, stages being built, and a dusty lakeside being transformed into a pirate’s playground. It was quite an impressive collaboration, and the vibe and atmosphere reminded me a lot of Burning Man, though on a much smaller first-year-event scale, and with a lake, albeit a depressingly low and muddy one due to severe drought.

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We enjoyed perfect weather at Foreverland, hot days good for chilling and floating on the lake, and mild cool nights perfect for dancing and taking in all kinds of art and magic. I worked a bit over the weekend, posting updates to our Instagram and Facebook pages, participating in media team meetings and taking photos. We got to see some great music and performances, hang out with friends, spin some fire on stage, and even go up in the Space Wench pirate ship stage at the lake’s edge. It was an epic weekend and really satisfying to see the event we worked so hard on go so smoothly.

James and his buddies played an Acacia Beats set on a floating stage on the lake Saturday during the day. Their tunes brought out plenty of people to dance on the lake’s edge or float and swim in the water. I rode a floaty out to the stage, carefully taking my camera with me to get some photos during their set.

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Foreverland is a collaborative effort put on by various production companies, Burning Man camps, and other groups such as Enchanted Forest, Fractal Planet, Hookahdome, Sacred Spaces and more. It was a mix of the spiritual new-age hippie crowd, the rowdy pirate party people, local first timers and festival regulars, folks from all over and all walks of life, who came together to celebrate art, music and life harmoniously and beautifully. By the end of the weekend, the local cops were partying with the attendees on the dance floor and holding “Give Thanks” signs for photos at the top of the pirate ship stage… mind blowing stuff and a wonderful way to break new ground for the festival community. It is an absolute honor to be involved with such an inspiring group of people at Foreverland!

We have been slowly winding down over the past month as we clean up and pack away the festival gear, get back into a regular spin jam schedule, and make the most of the autumn abundance here in Mendocino.

I started canning with a friend in Comptche recently, and have been spending afternoons and long nights out there making jam, picking grapes and apples, sharing homegrown food, trying new jelly recipes, and even making salsa and pickles. I’m keeping up with the fermented foods swap group and just started taking belly dance classes again.

James and I have had plenty to practice after PacFire, and hosting regular spin jams and fire practice sessions. James made a Facebook page for his fire and DJ performance and got fire performer insurance. He’s been practicing with his new fire staff and recently got hired for his first professional gig as an insured performer at a birthday party last weekend. I am following suit with insurance soon and we will both be performing on Halloween at a local street party event. Super excited to be leveling up our involvement in flow arts and performing, and I am so proud of my amazingly talented man for taking big steps towards making a living from spinning fire. Wow.

Lots of good things to come as the rains return and our social schedule slows down. I have been enjoying the time at home to work, save money, make delicious food, and go out and about locally. Hibernation  & work made: engaged!