Pubdate: Thu, 11 Sep 2014
Source: Northern Times, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The Northern Times
Author: Benjamin Aube
Page: 20


MOONBEAM- There was laughter, tears and the occasional cloud of smoke 
at Hempfest 2014 in Moonbeam earlier this month.

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 premises.

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

"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 there.

"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 MiracleMan.

DJ Jade took care ofmusic 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: Jay Bergstrom