By 5 a.m. my husband and I had packed up our camping gear and hit the road to Lolo for the second annual Montana State Hemp & Cannabis Festival. For weeks now fires have been raging all over Montana and smoke has settled into every corner of the state. The effect of rampant fires is clear as we roll into Missoula; bare streets, patios closed “Due to Smoke,” and firefighters collecting money on the side of the road for local operations.
We follow a patrolling fire truck up the road to the home of the festival, Lolo Hot Springs, and large pot leaves signaled that we were in the right place. We got there just as camp was waking up and as we walked through the campsite, wafts of marijuana settled in between the ever-present scent of forest fires.
Shelly and Erin Crobar, the organizers behind the Montana State Hemp & Cannabis Festival, could be seen all weekend chatting with patrons, participating in events and welcoming all their performers to the stage. Their warm personalities embody the spirit of the event, which both will tell you is all about, “bringing the cannabis community and hemp community together through face-to-face events.”
Erin stressed that the increasingly polarized nationhas found an anonymous platform, social media, to spread anger and hate. This is why they felt the need to create events that facilitate real time connections.
“People who might have been fighting online are hugging each other here,” Erin said.
Their message of connectivity was carried on through the many speakers giving talks at the festival. From a doctor who lost his license for prescribing medical marijuana, to the founder of a cannabis testing lab, all the speakers called for societal change through the unity of like-minded people. Doug Fine, the keynote speaker, was no exception.
About an hour before Fine, a hemp activist and journalist, was set to speak a strong breeze blew through the grounds and dissipated all the smoke. For the first time in what felt like months, we enjoyed clear blue skies that held for the rest of the festival. On that happy note Fine took the stage donned in all hemp clothing for his discussion called “A Tale of Two States.” He is growing hemp both in Vermont and Washington state. To grow his 23 acres in Vermont, all he had to do was pay a $25 fee to the state and he was free to start farming.
Washington state has been a different story. Fine said miles of red tape, fees, and murky laws have made cultivating this planet saving crop difficult. Fine encouraged the crowd to urge Montana officials to create a hemp farming plan that is simple and supports farmers rather than one that creates bureaucratic hoops.
When folks weren’t jamming out to all the great music or learning how to act for change, the Crobars kept the crowd busy with contests, raffles and performances. Yoga class was available for anybody willing to start their day early, The Circus Mafia amazed people with their silk and trapeze routines there was also a community painting board, and my personal favorite, the MacGyver contest. Within this content, contestants chose items from a pile of supplies to make homemade pieces. These creative minds came up with coffee mugs turned bongs, a water bottle with an interchangeable piece for smoking both dabs and flower and more. People not participating were asked to come up and try all of the pipes. A haze formed over the crowd of people while homemade pieces were being passed around. The winning piece was a double percolator made from a sippy cup and a water bottle.
Before the music started up on Saturday night, the winners of The Provider’s Cup, which was held this past June, were announced. The categories were Highest THC and CBD Content, Best Sativa, Best Hybrid, Best Indica, and Overall Best Strain. The champion for best overall strain was Blueberry by High Humidity from Kalispell. With their first cup a success, Erin and Shelly are getting ready for an upcoming Winter Cup in December.
With the speakers and cup announcements all wrapped up on Saturday, there was nothing left to do but jam out for the rest of the night. Girls busted out their hula hoops and the crowd put on their dancing shoes. I laid back on my blanket and enjoyed the stars and a (wildfire) smoke-free sky as Sol Seed and Aloha Radio pumped up the crowd. When Tribal Seeds came to the stage, the whole camp crowded the stage. Glow sticks lit up the scene while fists pumped to the unifying reggae beat. After them, Miller Creek and Enzymes kept the party going all night long.
As I was photographing the campsite Sunday morning, I was greeted by happy campers, ready to talk about all the awesome music and speakers from the past two days. This proved that Shelly and Erin have succeeded in cultivating face-to-face connections, from the first bowl smoked in the morning to the last joint passed at night.
TELL US, have you ever been to a cannabis event?