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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

UC Davis to host the 53rd Whole Earth Festival in person

The festival will include changes to eliminate past instances of cultural appropriation

By ANGELINA ANGELO — campus@theaggie.org

The 53rd annual Whole Earth Festival (WEF) is returning in person for the first time in two years on the UC Davis quad from May 6 to 8. This zero-waste festival focuses on promoting activism, sustainability, wellness and environmental consciousness, according to the WEF website

This year, festivities include live bands, arts and crafts vendors, educational workshops and food vendors. The history of the festival spans over 50 years and began as a small class project for UC Davis students. Since then, it has grown in size and attraction and become a self-sustaining ASUCD unit.

Over the past few years, student groups on campus have raised concerns about certain aspects of WEF. Some past events at the festival are now considered disrespectful to certain communities and cultures, according to Cozette Ellis, a fourth-year design major and a co-director of WEF.

“WEF was started in the late 1960s, so parts of the festival have become problematic due to cultural and religious appropriations,” Ellis said. “We have […] taken input from many different student-run groups. We have decided to not facilitate or allow a drum circle to take place. We hear what students have shared regarding not feeling comfortable or respected during WEF, and we are doing our best to make adjustments accordingly.”

WEF has been working to promote an inclusive space by making changes such as altering the title of the “Karma Dome” to “Festival Dome,” additional staff training, as well as working with the ASUCD Ethnic and Cultural Affairs commissioner to identify and eliminate issues of cultural appropriation, according to the WEF website.

In addition to inclusivity issues being addressed, COVID-19 will also have an impact on the festival.

 “While we have a student staff of about 41 people, most of our staff [has] never seen the festival in person before,” Ellis said. “This year, we will have less vendors and artisans present due to the impacts of COVID-19 on small businesses.”

WEF is a family-friendly event and historically has attracted around 30,000 people. Community involvement is critical to this event, Ellis said, and she recommends masks in order to keep the UC Davis community as safe as possible. 

Nancy Marshall, a recently graduated UC Davis student and a co-director of WEF, spoke about the importance of volunteers for this event. 

“This is a community- and volunteer-run event,” Marshall said. “We are taking volunteers up until the day of the festival. Visit our website to sign up, and you can receive a free meal and WEF T-shirt. We are also taking volunteers day of. Visit us at the dome in the quad, and we will direct you to the right place.”

Emily Marillio, a first-year Native American studies major, said she was excited to volunteer at the festival this year.

“I am looking forward to giving back to my community and seeing what the festival is all about,” Marillio said via email.  

Written by: Angelina Angelo — campus@theaggie.org



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