Currently Reading: Hempfest ’94

Hempfest had its day in the sun. All the community activism and dedicated efforts of all the volunteers produced the 1994 Gas Works Park edition, with a respected rock bill, a legendary Art Chantry poster and 15,000 attendees. This legitimate political rally with cultural appeal, which was a success on every level, snarled traffic for the affluent residents and became the target of municipal bureaucracy for years to come…


“By 1994 a strong tribe of dedicated volunteers had been established, and it became clear that a very special and unique spirit of community had developed around this group. The move to beautiful Gasworks Park had been made. Gasworks is a former petroleum production site with huge towers and stacks still standing – ironic for an event promoting alternative sources of energy.”

“Featuring the legendary Seattle band 7 Year Bitch and the sensational El Steiner, ’94 brought out 15,000 people and blew the lid off of Seattle while creating a snarled traffic cluster for miles around. This was the last year that Hempfest was able to exist without charging fees for vending and forming a formal, city-approved security force. The mosh pit that ensued for 7 Year Bitch’s performance put a serious scare on the organizers, as bodies surfed the crowd and the brave and daring dove from the stage like doobies being thrown to the crowd.”

“As the event grew exponentially in size and notoriety, the cost of production and promotion grew as well. The need for sound equipment, staging, scaffolding, radios, and advertising required the introduction of musical benefits and merchandising to offset the monetary demands of our growing phenomenon.

Famed Seattle clubs such as The Ditto, Crocodile Cafe, Rckndy, The Off Ramp, and The OK Hotel all opened their doors to help raise green energy for the cause. Hundreds of Northwest bands have contributed to date by playing gigs for free, and without any promise of playing the ‘big kahuna’.”

“’94 was also the year we picked up the most kick-ass graphics design team that any Hempfest has ever had. Jamie Sheehan, Hempfest’s art director, and world-renowned music art poster luminary Art Chantry, collaborated on our famous cigarette pack poster, produced both on hemp paper as well as 100% hemp burlap. This poster was the first of many designed by this team to win national awards for art design and creativity.”

“The sheer girth and magnitude of Hempfest ’94 brought the scrutiny of city officials and alarmed residents (traffic was clogged for miles) who saw a sleeping giant just starting to wake from a haze of political apathy and indifference. Up to that point not a single uniformed officer had ever stepped foot into Hempfest. That would change.”

“A growing concern from police, parks department, and neighborhood groups would be reflected in a series of negotiations that would span many months and involve as many subcommittee meetings to determine our ability to meet the new demands of the Special Events Permit that was now required of us.”

“The negotiations culminated with assistance from the ACLU, and required a $1,000,000 insurance policy, the addition of hired licensed, bonded and insured security, emergency evacuation plans, an on-site ambulance and paid EMTs. Meetings with concerned community groups soon followed, helping to establish Hempfest as a legitimate political rally, not merely a “pot party in the park”, as had been previously claimed by our critics.”




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