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Davis, California

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Festival to celebrate the earth from the ground up

This weekend not only marks the celebration of mothers everywhere, but also of Mother Nature herself.

Whole Earth Festival (WEF), the annual three-day celebration of everything from the earth, begins Friday afternoon on the quad and wraps up on Sunday at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and includes crafts, food, art, workshops, massages, several music stages and good karma.

The theme for this year’s WEF is “From the Ground UP,” which co-director Brennen Bird says is especially relevant in the face of so many natural disasters and as global emissions skyrocket.

“The earth is really crying out right now,” said Bird, a senior nature and culture major. “Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, the gulf coast oil spill – it’s becoming more and more clear that we’re under the illusion that we’re separate from the world. But we’re a part of it. And if we hurt the earth, we hurt ourselves.”

WEF’s organizers’ primary concern is to produce zero waste over the course of the three-day festival on campus. Last year, 4 percent of WEF’s waste was non-compostable. For food, patrons pay a $1 deposit for utensils and get their dollar back when they return utensils. Several of the over 400 WEF volunteers will spend the weekend washing these utensils in a portable Sodexo trailer.

A team of compost volunteers will meet at the Resource Recovery Zone, where they ensure the waste produced at the festival cannot be recycled, reused or composted.

The financially self-sustaining unit derives most of its budget from vendors, who pay to sell their crafts on the quad. Crafts for sale include candles, soap, jewelry, clothing and art.

“A lot of people think the craft booths are just part of a big ‘hippie mall,'” Bird said. “But that’s their livelihood. We support them and they support us.”

One of the most popular vendors at the festival is a man who calls himself Joe Peace. Peace creates thousands of pendants with either the word or symbol for “peace” carved into baked and glazed clay. He accepts donations but does not charge for his pendants.

In addition to the vendors, WEF also raises funds for the festival from donations, crafts and food sales. This year, WEF worked with a $100,000 budget, $6,000 of which went toward entertainment.

One of WEF’s more unique features is its experiential space, where visitors can attend workshops such as, “Orgasm your dreams to screaming success;” “Grow your own herbal farmacy;” and “Contact Improv,” where attendees learn a form of dance where dancers remain in constant contact with each other.

“The experiential space is really about rethinking and rediscovering our connection with the earth,” said Dylan Tarnoff, director of the experiential space.

Like many aspects of WEF, attendees should come with an open mind, as many of the workshops are intended to be “mind-expansive,” Tarnoff said.

“Some of [the workshops] are pretty far out,” he said. “But it can’t hurt to hear what these people have to say. This space is pretty unconventional. You won’t see anything like it anywhere else.”

Critics of WEF cite the build-up of trash downtown as a result of the large crowd that the festival attracts. John Geisler, operations manager for Davis Waste Removal said WEF weekend typically sees more trash simply because there are more people in town. While he commended the zero-waste mission of WEF, he said that this may not be as plausible for a city like Davis.

“It would take a complete revamping of the way we live,” Geisler said. “Grocery stores would have to stock things with only compostable packaging and use biodegradable plates instead of paper.”

Regardless, WEF organizers strive to attain sustainability in every way possible during the weekend as a testament to their mission of respecting the earth.

“WEF is by far the best weekend in Davis,” Bird said. “It’s a great way to use this shared space and we can respect it by not producing waste.”

For more information on WEF related information on arts and entertainment this weekend, read this week’s MUSE.

MIKE DORSEY contributed to reporting in this article. LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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