Enchanted Forest Retrospective
For many years, California’s Enchanted Forest Gathering has occupied a sort of liminal category among West Coast festivals. Having taken place at the end of the summer, EFG drew the crowds that Burning Man and Symbiosis barely didn’t.
Like its festival kin, the lineups at Enchanted Forest have always been stellar, the art has been (third) eye-opening, and the crowd has been committed to transformation by way of a party. But EFG has been a quiet rule-breaker.
In 2016, EFG made history by being both an alcohol-free festival and the first to host a medical marijuana dispensary five months before recreational smoking became legal in California.
Many festivals claim to be family-friendly, but none so much as EFG, which compromised on diurnal revelers’ need for sleep with a cultural expectation to go all night. The strategy: silent disco. The music reappeared at sunrise with soothing sets perfect for sun salutations, easing into a day of nonstop dancing, or — let’s be honest — gently tripping on the first rays of dappled Mendocino sunshine.
Many festivals tout community-building as a primary value, but EFG 2016 set in motion the conditions to really make that happen. The music was always loud enough to dance to but not too loud to discourage stageside conversations. The river — no more than thigh-deep in most spots — promoted lounging, frolicking, and friend-making.
I spent much of my time last summer shooting portraits on my old film camera, a Nikon FM2. Film photography is a slow art that requires patience, human connection, and that analog understanding that every moment we experience is beautifully fleeting.
These are the moments I shared, captured, and share again, knowing that Enchanted Forest Gathering 2016 was a once in a lifetime event. Enchanted Forest 2017 will offer something different. It now takes place in June, long before burner burnout. And with performers such as Tipper and Space Jesus, many will come for the music more than just the vibe. But if the predictions are right, this will be an Enchanted Forest not to miss, and I, for one, will be there. In the meantime, I will indulge in beautiful nostalgia, and in the spirit of Enchanted Forest, I invite you to join me. And of course, if moved, please share this vibe.