Pubdate: Tue, 11 Aug 2015
Source: Daily Press, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 Sun Media
Author: Ron Grech
Page: A3


Organizer Hopes Smokin' Live Bands Are a Big Draw for Annual Festival

MOONBEAM - Robert Neron is the voice on the other end of the line and 
apologizes for not getting to the phone earlier.

"I just came from outside to pick up branches and make the lot more campable."

As the organizer and host of the 17th-annual Hempfest being held in 
Moonbeam later this month, Neron said he has been busy making 
preparations to accommodate festival goers.

He described the week-long event as primarily a music festival, 
though traditionally most people who attend are advocates or 
supporters of decriminalization and freer access to marijuana for 
both recreational and medicinal uses.

However, Neron said he wants the event to be inclusive to everyone. 
He is hoping some people may show up to hear the live music and in 
the process perhaps learn something about marijuana or the people who use it.

"I'm trying to bring awareness to people that there is nothing wrong 
with marijuana, and that there is actually some benefits," said 
Neron. "It's the addiction and abuse of the said drugs that leads to 
problems. Anything you do in excess is going to be bad for you. But 
that has all to do with education.

"We just want people to come and mingle and interact with our 
friends. We're having a dance day where we're inviting the elders to 
come and dance in '50s style and swing in Latino style. We're also 
having a folk music night on Thursday and Saturday ... and we're 
having a bake sale and a potluck dinner.

"We're trying to include the community into our events and be part of 
the community as well."

Neron said six bands have been booked to play throughout the week - 
including several cover bands coming from Montreal.

ere is also at least one guest speaker, Kim Cooper from New Liskeard, 
who is a representative of Northern Ontario Cannabis Education & Reform.

is is the second-consecutive year the community just outside of 
Kapuskasing has hosted the festival since the event's relocation from 
Sault Ste. Marie.

Neron decided to take over the festival and bring it to his home 
community a couple of years ago, just when it appeared the event was 
on the verge of folding due to limited nances.

Neron said his property includes the old Knights of Columbus Hall in 
Moonbeam which he has since converted into a private lounge and 
renamed it Chez Willy. The bands will perform inside the hall. Neron 
said he has ample space, and his yard or property is large enough to 
accommodate 200 campers, if they choose to stay overnight.

In its heyday in Sault Ste. Marie, Hempfest occasionally drew up to 
1,500 attendees.

It is a much smaller scale event since moving to Moonbeam. Neron is 
hoping he might draw 250 people for the week-long festival.

Neron, who has undergone treatment for cancer over the years, has 
been a long-time advocate for what he feels are the medicinal bene ts 
of marijuana.

Back in October 2011, Neron was recruited by Freedom Party of Canada 
leader Paul Mckeever to represent the party in Timmins-james Bay. The 
legalization of marijuana was a big part of Neron's platform.

A key point of contention for Neron right now is the fact he no 
longer has a permit to grow his own medicinal marijuana. Neron said 
those provisions have been left up in the air since Ottawa introduced 
regulations in 2013, restricting the growing of marijuana to 
government-licensed producers. at government decision has been 
challenged and is the subject of an ongoing legal battle within the 
federal courts.

Neron has concerns that government control would increase costs for 
medical marijuana users and result in tampering with the THC 
(tetrahydrocannabinol) content of the available drug.

Despite these underlying issues, Neron said Hempfest is not about his 
personal challenges or political advocacy.

"It's a festival where the acceptance, education and awareness of the 
drug and its medicinal use are brought forward to the public and to 
the people who are interested in learning about the benefits of the drug."

Hempfest is being held Aug. 24 to 30 at 27 Cimon St. in Moonbeam.

Some of the cover bands performing at the festival include La 
Tragedie, New World Men (tribute to Rush), Misery (tribute to 
Metallica), and Renegades Of Funk (tribute to Rage Against e Machine).

For more information, visit online at or search 
for Chez Willy on Facebook.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom