I just returned a few days ago from the annual Seattle Hempfest, the 24th version of this extravaganza, and I thought I might share some of my reflections on this extraordinary and unique event.
First and foremost, Hempfest is truly an enormous undertaking that requires several days of long hours to assemble the stages and hundreds of individual exhibitor and vendor booths; three days of long hours to manage, including a security team to guard the park overnight and provisions to feed the hundreds of volunteers each day; and then several days of equally long hours to disassemble everything, clean the grounds and replace any damaged turf.
And keep in mind this is an all-volunteer event sponsored by Seattle Events, a not-for-profit corporation, and is also free to the public. The event costs the Hempfest organization nearly $900,000 to put on, and that money is raised largely from vendors, exhibitors and sponsors. The volunteer effort is headed by Hempfest co-founder and Executive Director Vivian McPeak. McPeak leads a core group of volunteers who meet year around to plan for the next Hempfest, and who run a downtown store called Hempfest Central selling all sorts of hemp-based products.
There are three primary stages (the Share Parker Memorial Main Stage; the Peter McWilliams Memorial Stage; and the Ralph Seeley Memorial Stage, all named for beloved legalization activists who are no longer with us) spread along a narrow piece of parkland called the Myrtle Edwards Park. The park extends more than a mile along the downtown Seattle waterfront, from which an array of bands perform each day, with several speakers scheduled for brief 5-minute speeches between music sets (while the next band is setting-up). Some of the prominent speakers this year included Congressman Dana Rohrabacher from CA, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and public television travel guru and author (and NORML board member) Rick Steves.