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!
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!
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!”
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.