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Festivals, Hippies, and Economic Development

Blog: Randomness
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Adrian Rehn

Imagine that you are hippie-dancing out in the woods to crazy electronic music. It is a blur of multicolored lasers, thumping bass, art installations, and people dressed like extras in a Mad Max movie. It smells a lot like wood smoke, and some other types of smoke.

Perhaps this festival scene sounds like utterly unproductive nonsense? Or maybe the ideal way to spend a Saturday? It's actually both of those things - as well as a powerful economic driver for regions looking to turn up the volume.

I spent the weekend of April 7-9 at the Lucidity Festival, held in the oak tree-laden hills east of Santa Barbara. Lucidity bills itself as more than your typical annual music festival, featuring over 150 workshops aimed at making global society more mindful. Attendees are able to participate in an alternative society based on wellness, environmental stewardship, disruptive thinking, and "good vibes," and the workshops teach best practices about bringing this approach to life back into our communities.

PHOTO: Harrison-Weinberg

I met a colorful cast of characters including Chumash Tribe shamans and a producer getting permits to skydive into his DJ set at Symbiosis Gathering, witnessed some incredibly creative dance moves, saw alleged alien artifacts, and had a great time camping out in the hills with my crew of 7 friends. I attended a wide range of workshops with topics that included cooperative business models, lucid dreaming, gamification, brain chemistry, sound healing at 432 Hz, "tapping into a limitless motivational source," and more.

The Sacramento region needs something like this. No, I'm not necessarily referring to the patchouli, acro-yoga, and plethora of crystals. I'm saying that Sacramento lacks a flagship music festival. We need something of the caliber to attract people from outside of the region to see music here. A festival is a great reason for out-of-towners to tour, shop, eat, sleep, and otherwise spend time in our cities and towns.

Valley Vision is currently working with the Institute for Social Research at Sac State on a public polling project to measure how our region prioritizes civic amenities, including sports facilities, transit stations, public art, and yes...festivals. The poll will run through April 21 and be released shortly thereafter, so stay in the know by subscribing to Valley Vision's bimonthly Vantage Point newsletter. This data could help make the case for investing in a flagship music festival and boosting economic activity and quality of life in our communities.

PHOTO: Edward Clynes

It’s important to point out that our area does have music festivals already, including Aftershock, First Festival, City of Trees, Sacramento Music Festival, Whole Earth Festival, and others, but all are either based on niche musical interests or too localized to attract out-of-towners in the amounts that we need to effectively showcase our region. We had TBD Fest for two awesome years right on the West Sacramento riverfront, which was able to attract thousands of people from the Bay Area to see some legitimately big names. TBD folded. Bummer.

Seriously. Sacramento needs a big festival. TBD Fest was dope while it lasted. It doesn't mean we need to hippie dance to crazy electronic music out in the woods, but we need something. Wait, actually that would be pretty cool...

Keep up with Valley Vision in the coming weeks to see if the region agrees!


Adrian Rehn is a Valley Vision Project Associate working in the food system, broadband, and communications portfolios.