Boise Hempfest

By: Ryan Augusta

Idaho’s state capital finally had it’s own Hempfest protestival. On August 13, 2016, volunteer coordinators delivered the gift of an inaugural Boise Hempfest to the citizens of Idaho’s heart. For 11 hours the Gene Harris bandshell was alive with educational speakers and spectacular performances sheltered in the majesty of Julia Davis Park. With less than seven months of preparation, years of cumulative community outreach rose to fruition. Boise has joined the Global Tribe of public service educators and out of the shadows a great voice of freedom was heard.

Catching the eye of entrepreneurs nationally and locally, Boise Hempfest, Inc. created an entirely self-sustaining festival. Vendor fees and minimal sponsorship mitigated all costs. Supplemental creative fundraising generated additional revenue that was needed for insurance and incorporation. Fifty-two vendors, with products ranging from crafts to delectables, participated in accommodating over 2000 guests. Boise has now joined the thousands of cities around the globe that annual celebrate the miraculous benefits of the plant called cannabis.

A state surrounded by a broad range of medicinal and recreational cannabis freedoms, Idaho has faced its own struggles. Standing geographically between Oregon, Washington, and Montana, which all have legalized cannabis to some extent, Idaho has failed to pass any such measures.. Grandmothers are sentenced to prison for growing cannabis and students are losing education benefits for petty possession.

At times in the past year Boise Hempfest, Inc., was unsure about successfully actualizing. The nonprofit  succeeded by building a sustainable business model that places its potential for success entirely onto the public it intends to serve.

Boise Hempfest, Inc., accepted only enough vendors to maintain a competitive environment of wares and to ensure its partnerships a prolific experience. The founding coordinators guaranteed exclusivity to vendors, which was key to establishing a functional foundation. This unique consideration is sure to inspire lasting security. Accepting only what was needed balanced the festival’s needs with those of its constituents. The intent is to marry positive business ethics with long-range structured incentives that focus on growth.. Every year is expected to be better than the last.

Though this was Boise’s inaugural Hempfest, it wasn’t the first cannabis-related festival. In 2011, Julia Davis Park welcomed 2400 guests and, in 2012, Anne Morrison Park was graced by over 4000 visitors—both hosted  by the volunteer group Compassionate Idaho under the name H.O.P.E. (Hemp Offers People Everything) Fest. H.O.P.E. Fest enlightened the community to a potential for change. Those who attended these first venues were shocked to find their message received with welcome hearts and open minds. Boise Hempfest invited the continuance of these ideas and made itself available to every facet of their community.

When Boise Hempfest, Inc., was in development, the organization decided against a specific agenda on hemp, unlike other festivals that announce a public platform of positions. Their goal was education and influence. Law enforcement and pro-cannabis activists were welcome. Members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition(LEAP) and NORML as well as public leaders attended the event.

Volunteer Event Coordinator Serra Frank stated, “Our primary focus was education on every aspect of cannabis. Our ‘Enchanted Forest’ included 42 displays that addressed everything: the 10,000-year history, 80-year prohibition, the 45-year war on drugs, from medical and industrial  cannabis to religious sacrament.”

Frank went on to explain that both Grasscity.com and Boise Digital were very pleased with the “Enchanted Forest.” Both companies have offered a partnership for 2017 and will present a professionally-modeled concept to enjoy next year. Frank took time also to speculate on next year's festivities, “Our intention for future events is to grow from there and provide as much information as possible about this plant and its role in society, politics and science to Idahoans every year.”

At the end of the day Boise Hempfest had no debt and $110 in the bank—just enough to pay every bill and print next year’s business cards. Within 24 hours the team of volunteers was already promoting the Second Annual Boise Hempfest. Julia Davis Park has been reserved for April 15, 2017.

Serra Frank stated clearly, “We are an island of Prohibition, continuously bombarded with outdated and misleading information about the cannabis plant. We hope that our neighbors will join us in spotlighting the need for reform in Idaho and that Boise Hempfest will help provide an educational platform for the experiences and expertise of those who truly understand cannabis and all of its beneficial qualities.”

With volunteers like these, there’s no question that Boise, Idaho, will continue to be a beacon of hope in a bleak but wonderful anticipation.

For more information please visit www.Boisehempfest.org or email The Boise Hempfest Board of Directors at BoiseHempfest420@gmail.com.