True to our Roots: How Enchanted Forest is engaging responsible growth
To be completely honest, I hesitated before making this move to Black Oak Ranch. Not because I didn’t think Black Oak Ranch was an absolutely stellar venue but because I knew that a certain level of growth would be necessary for Enchanted Forest to be sustainable here. I sat with this concept for months before beginning the design/creation process.
Enchanted Forest is deeply personal to me. A few years ago I realized that it had taken on a life of it’s own and was beyond “my creation.” I felt more that I was a steward of a vision that wanted to come through for a truly unique style of gathering and that is how I have approached the design of this event ever since.
One of the main gems of Enchanted Forest has always been the intimacy and cultivation of significant connection amongst friends new and old. I believed that what made this connection stronger at our gathering compared to other festivals is that we maintained a high level of production with a relatively smaller population.
Last year was our biggest year yet and at Stone Bear, we had approximately 1700 people onsite. This year at Black Oak Ranch it is our intention to host 2000 to 3000 (staff and participants).
So at first I hesitated. People close to me started telling me all of the things that would be necessary to achieve those kinds of numbers and none of it sounded like the gathering that this community has come to depend on. So I remained silent and quite honestly stopped listening to those people. I instead listened to my dreams and intuitions, to an inner voice that has always guided me throughout the production process. Months ticked on and people began wondering if we were hosting the event this year. I was certain I would rather not host the event at all then to turn it into something it was never meant to be. Finally my patience was rewarded and the vision of the 5th annual Enchanted Forest Gathering started to reveal itself to me. It looked nothing like what everyone else said it would have to be and felt real to me because at its core it was still extremely unique and would achieve something I have yet to see within other festivals throughout the summer.
Yes, I finally felt confident that I saw how we could responsibly grow The Enchanted Forest Gathering that would preserve everything that the community had come to know, love and trust about us. While at the same time allow us to open our arms and encompass a larger community. This is what I saw, so I set out to make it real.
First and foremost we would maintain our tradition of being an adamantly alcohol-free event. This was non-negotiable and at our heart is one of the things that truly separates us from the rest.
We would encourage growth in the parts of our gathering that strengthened community. So this year we expanded our workshops areas to 8, all active throughout the day. So at anyone time in the day participants will have 8 different and exciting options of wisdom sharing.
We reached out to the wonderful people that produce the Sierraville Contact Improvisation Festival and asked them to produce a mini dance festival within our larger container.
We did the same with the creator of the Flow Zone at High Sierra Festival and asked her to incorporate a similar space at EF. We then reached out to world renowned teachers of both arts and asked them to teach at Enchanted Forest this year.
Other workshops areas feature themes of Mind, Spirit, Sexuality, Yoga and Kids Workshops.
Beyond expanding the offerings we will make available this year we will embellish and refine the sacred spaces we have been cultivating over the years.
What has become my personal favorite pet project within the container of our gathering is our late night tea lounge where we first started featuring live music at our event. We saw a huge expansion in this space last year by hosting it in the Skinny Kitty Saddle Tent, which I am happy to say will be returning again this year. Only this year we are adding a sexy mellow jazz element to the music programming and expanding the integration of the art gallery into this space.
A crowd favorite since the beginning, the ever-evolving Nectar Temple/Sacred Sanctuary of Squish will be refined and expanded.
Last year we added the element of a “Happy Hippy Health Spa” to this space, which we were thrilled about. This year we take this space to a whole new level by adding a shower time party every day around sunset and increasing the healing offerings available at the Nectar Temple.
There are new and exciting areas that we have been dreaming of adding for years and are finally able to. However we have to keep at least a few surprises in store for you.
One last area of deep refinement that I am most excited about is our late night dance experience. The seed for The Enchanted Forest Gathering was planted on the dance floor. We will again be dancing under the illumination of sacred geometry in the tree tops only this time we will be dancing on the Foam Floor featured at Beloved Festival. Also this year our late night dance space will feature the Funktion-One dance stacks, which some will remember from the infamous Woogie Stage at Lightning in a Bottle
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope you enjoyed this insight into the creation process behind Enchanted Forest this year. I understand what it is like to watch something that you have poured your heart and soul into grow and change into something big and beautiful and beyond your control. Examples of this are evident all throughout our lives. Therefore, I felt it was important to share with you that Enchanted Forest will stay true to its sacred, sexy, silly, saucy roots. Enchanted Forest is a gathering that is made for the community, with the community.
We look forward to co-creating magic with you for this, our 5th year. <3
Steward of the Enchanted Forest Gathering.