Pubdate: Tue, 02 Sep 2014
Source: Daily Press, The (CN ON)
Page: A1
Copyright: 2014 Sun Media
Author: Benjamin Aube


The North: Live Music, Politics, Pot Smoking On The

MOONBEAM - There was laughter, tears and the occasional cloud of smoke
at Hempfest 2014 in Moonbeam on the weekend.

And though there was plenty of beer on hand, this party was BYOB:
Bring your own bong.

In a large hall inside festival organizer Robert "Willy Jack" Neron's
home in Moonbeam, live music and dancing kept around 100 people
entertained throughout the weekend. Outside, dozens of tents lined the

Usually held in Sault Ste. Marie, Neron explained the path the
festival took to get back to his hometown of Moonbeam, just outside of

"It's the 16th-annual Hempfest," said Neron. "We're Ontario's oldest
outdoor festival - you'll see we have campers here, which makes it an
outdoor festival. This year, we've moved it to Moonbeam because of the
financial situation. Like any other festival, it's a tough market out

"Here, I own the hall, I own the sound system, I own everything you
see here, so it's a lot easier for me to make it here than (in Sault
Ste. Marie), where it's minimum $20,000 just to stay, and that's
without bands or anything. It's extremely expensive. Here, for a
fraction of that price, we can have the same festival."

Hempfest 2014 featured a weekend-long party complete with a barbecue,
a campfire and a Saturday night rave until the wee morning hours.

The festival featured live performances by Estelle Deschamps and
Friends, Elements, FreeDubStar, Ken Krazyfingers Parent, Yanick Neron
and Miracle Man.

DJ Jade took care of music for the rave, and other artists such as
Blaq Roche, Morgan M.O. Little, Damjan Binda, Noel Revelation, Urban
Havoc, Phat Sunny and Sly Skeeta kept the beats flowing all weekend.

"From 4 to 7 a.m., it's chill out time," said Neron, previewing Sunday
morning's post-rave activities. "We'll have softer lounge music to
give people's ears a break and relax to be ready for the morning. At
other raves, you get the loud music and you dance, then they throw you
outside. Here, we know how to treat people. Yes, we've got loud music
for many hours, then we turn the music down when it's all over.

"This year, there may not have been as many people who were able to
make it out as usual; sometimes we have upwards of 250 people.
Hopefully with our new site and the progress we've made and are
planning to make, I'm sure the gang will come back. "We've got a good
group of about 100 people here. If you add 100 people to that, and
it'll make it even better."

Tears filled Nerons eyes and emotion overcame him as he looked around
the smoky hall filled with people and music.

After a recent bout with Hodgkin's lymphoma, the 48-year-old said he's
happy to be standing, let alone hanging out with his friends at his
favourite festival of the year.

"People come back every year to see old friends," he said. "It's like
a big family. We've been doing this for 16 years.

"It does make me emotional. It warms my heart to see everyone together
like this."

He chuckled, saying conversation among friends often tends to come
back to politics and the legalization of marijuana. A handful of
states in the U.S. are currently in the early stages of their own
version of legalizing and regulating the distribution of the plant.

"You can buy as many cigarettes as you want, you can buy as much
alcohol as you want, you can buy as much milk as you want, but why
draw the line at marijuana?" asked Neron. "It has never killed anyone,
and the other three things I just named have."

Back in October 2011, Neron was recruited by Freedom Party of Canada
leader Paul McKeever to represent the party. Though legalization of
marijuana was a big part of Neron's platform back then, he said he was
irked by recent comments by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and other
politicians, whom he believes have made calculated remarks about the
issue for their own gain.

"My medication shouldn't be used for political leverage," said Neron.
"If you're controlling my medication, you're controlling me. It makes
no sense that you want me to vote for you. It doesn't work that way."

All that was required to gain entry to Hempfest 2014 was a recommended
$10 to $20 donation to the Moonbeam Food Bank. For those without the
means to do so, a donation of non-perishable goods was more than
enough to join the party.

Tasha Hall travelled from Sault Ste. Marie from the event, just one of
many festival-goers from out-of-town. She's only missed one Hempfest
in the 16 years of its existence.

For the past seven years, Hall has worked security with Neron at the
event, though she said she's only had to ask one or two people to
leave during that entire time.

"It's usually a pretty peaceful place," she noted. "It's a second
family. It's more like a family reunion to me than it is a festival. I
recognize a lot of the people here, but I always meet new people as
well. Everybody has been really sweet.

"We all have the same views, we all have the same wants for
legalization, and it's just a good time for everybody to get together.

"Yeah, we love smoking pot, but there's more to love there. We don't
just get together to smoke pot, we get together because we love what
we're doing, we love Hempfest."  
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D