Enchanted Forest Gathering is Proof You Don’t Need to Drink to Have Fun

guest written by Che Hanson

Enchanted Forest Gathering at a glance

Music genre:  Glitch Hop World Beat

Camping: Yes

Capacity: Small, about 3000

Crowd type: Families, ravers, hippies

For the first-timers

Black Oak Ranch has a heady history dating back to the 80’s, when Wavy Gravy convinced the Grateful Dead to play a show there to help him pay off a debt. The hippie vibe has certainly stood the test of time; every single person I met was warm, inviting, and open to conversations about everything.  Our interactions usually involved hugs.

It took about four hours of driving north on the 101 from the East Bay to reach our destination, where we were kindly directed towards where to camp/park, making it easy to find our spot even in the dark.

Standout food

Vegetarian and vegan options were strongly represented by a variety of vendors ranging from amazing vegan chai tea and delicious Indian dishes to Greek souvlaki. The food was relatively light, making it easy to have a snack and hit up a yoga class without your stomach turning in downward dog.

Stage layout

Stages at Enchanted Forest were almost otherworldly, set on hyperspace star gate mode. Visuals outshone even those at Burning Man (shout out to our founder Stephanie, who I’m sure will love to debate this with me). A multi-layered design utilizing projection mapping and laser-cut wooden panels became a portal into another dimension once night fell, guiding onlookers into a sacred and beautiful alternate reality. Videos just don’t do it justice; you really do have to be there.

The Saucy Spot, next to the showers and foam tub (a genius idea courtesy of Dr. Bronner’s), and had a soft and springy floor, perfect for executing some crazy yoga/breakdance combo moves I’m sure I’ll never be able to replicate. This was definitely the place to get down, and I was fully entranced by the amazing dancers on the floor with me. B-boys and contact improv dancers came together in raw impromptu performances as cheers and applause continuously erupted.

Musical highlights

Nas Ja, Oneness, and Space Geisha gave my favorite performances of the weekend with their ethereal sounds. It was refreshing to hear my kind of music all over the place for three days straight, spanning genres from techno, world beat, glitch-hop and more. As a first timer at this festival, I felt as though exactly what I’ve been waiting for is a gathering just like this. Everywhere I went, I found conscientious people so happy to see me even though they didn’t know me. I talked to new friends about how I used to spend long nights listening to Intelligent Jungle and Deep House, sober and alone, and eventually found friends who would join me while remaining substance-free.

Things to do

  • hit up a yoga workshops/twerkshops
  • take part in classes including Intro to Poi, Break-Dancing, Acro-Yoga, and Tantric Meditation
  • enjoy medicinal marijuana in the Dab Lounge

VIP or nah

The VIP experience was nicely rounded out by a frog pond and some peace and quiet.

Being able to see and talk to some of my favorite artists like Andralien was a huge plus—apparently fans have told him that fractals appear in their minds’ eye when listening to his music (not on drugs). He’s never seen this himself, but it’s clear that for some, his music allows for a deeper connection with the universe. It’s consciousness for the ears.

Story corner

Attending a boozeless event while celebrating my seventh year living an alcohol-free life was the best party I could have asked for. It was very inspiring to attend an event with an ethos so similar to my own, with the addition of rave-style posters around the grounds advertising alcohol and substance–free living 12 step meetings.

Enchanted Forest may have been a party, but it was also blessing. I normally work in production, so it was a nice break to go without working (though I did lend a hand in building the stages, and watched some friends run them like pros). It took 20 years of partying and raving to finally find a festival that perfectly suits my taste, and between seeing my brothers who I camp with at Burning Man and even briefly DJing, all my desires were more than met. If a 2000-person rainbow gathering/rave/yoga/mediation retreat with sober-centric event is what you’re into, look no further than Enchanted Forest Gathering.

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