At age 51, I just completed my first Electric Forest experience. My husband age 49, gifted us an incredible adventure and one that a middle-aged couple could not even dream up.
The conversation started with our friend Jessica who is a 4 or 5 year forest veteran. She is also half our age but ensured us we would find favor with the forest. With this charge, we began researching options. After speaking with Jessica looking at pictures and videos of past events, we were more than intrigued.
As is his nature, my husband looked at each package and dissected the costs and options. With a PhD in biostatistics, he has a talent for constructing information into a plan. What he came up with was a big surprise to me.
We live simply and do most activities on a budget. The looming forest, however, became something we felt was a good investment. This would be a special trip to celebrate our anniversary and to celebrate all of our hard work in years past.
Being huge fans of live music along with having adventurous spirits, the Electric Forest looked as if it could fulfill both loves. There was also a cloak of the unknown. “What would it be like in the Electric Forest? Who would we meet? How would this change us at this juncture of our lives?
Last year, we were lucky enough to attend all 3 Grateful Dead shows at Soldier Field in Chicago. I walked away changed from that experience. I was not a follower and really couldn’t name more than a couple of Dead songs. I found the music was only a small part of the experience.
What was the most profound, was the people. In my whole life, I have never experienced 70,000 loving and nonjudgmental people in one place all united by the music and the vibe. Spending 3 days in this environment taught me to let some shit go, not take myself so seriously and showed me how not having money doesn’t limit my self-worth.
After that weekend, I was able to leave an abusive work environment and take the subsequent pay cut. It’s been a tough year financially but something else was sparked from my 3-day adventure. I wrote and published an entire trilogy in one year.
It had been some time since I wrote. After having my creativity nurtured, I was able to start and finish The Chubby Trilogy. The theme of Chubby Chasers, Chance Chasers, and Challenge Chasers is for Carrolyyn Davidson to find her sweet spot amidst self doubt and family strife.
I believe I reconnected with my sweet spot at the Electric Forest this past weekend. I write under the pen name Kat Hibbard. Usually, I say it’s just a way to write and keep my privacy in check. Then I tell the story of how I chose the name. Kat is my first name and Hibbard is the street I lived on when I wrote my first book. I think this is akin to finding your porn name. For some time, I always thought this was just a pen name but this morning I realized Kat Hibbard is my true self and the forest helped me find that true self once again.
Upon entering the forest, I noticed many veterans. This is signaled by the number of wrist bands they wear and have worn over the years. Myself, I don’t plan on removing mine until it falls off or until it becomes necessary. The wrist band is a reminder to always stay in the forest even when the event is over. It’s a reminder to live fully and go all balls out every day.
While we are on the subject of balls out, during our visit I was surprised at the amount of nudity. Not offended, only surprised. While I don’t completely understand the motivation to wander naked in the woods, I will say each passing day, I wore less and less clothing. Knowing no one would want to view my 51 year old drooping parts, I remained covered in those areas. It did feel energizing to wander in unity without my mask on.
Yes, there were masks and costumes. The amount of time and energy that must go into putting together a forest costume is lengthy, I’m sure. Being a visual person, I found the costuming added to my experience of being in a wonderland. I understand attendees may dress up for their own entertainment but in some cases I found, the dress up was to amuse and entertain others. Our campmates changed outfits and personas quite frequently throughout the festival. It was exciting to see who would emerge from the fairy tent next to us.
The Enchanted Camp Ground is where we laid our heads at the end of the day and were we began our next adventure each morning. Pricy as the accommodations were, I did feel like a fairy princess. Each day, the magic fairy left us small offerings from the forest. Of course I saved them all and plan to make some type of table decoration out of them.
Cozy, were the fairy tents with soft comforters and pillows. My husband wanted to take the bedding home, he loved it so much. No folks, we were not roughing it. As a part of our package, we could summon a golf cart to take us to the entrance or back to our camp. Upon our late night return each night, we were greeted with wine and cheese. Our concierge staff were super friendly and always ready to help out. We enjoyed a free brunch each day along with several options for free cocktails.
Some may argue, this is not the way to experience the Electric Forest but for us, it was perfect. We could soak it all in and go home at night. Not being ones to stay up all night, it was great to go home exhausted from our daily journey.
Each daily journey was long and eventful. Music, love, food, drinks, followed by more music, love, food and drinks. It seemed we moved in three shifts each day to pace ourselves and take in all the forest had to offer.
Outside of the music, the forest was like a museum full of art and wonder. Each structure was carefully crafted and seemed at home between the trees. To see the forest lit up each evening was equally thrilling. I continued to feel I was a part of something great.
When my son, who is a part of the straight edge movement, heard I was going to the Electric Forest, I received a lecture. “Mom, there are going to be a lot of drugs along with a lot of shitty music!” There were drugs everywhere. The sight didn’t startle me as I never had to encounter anyone hurting someone else because of their high. I also didn’t notice too many people strung out on the sides of the paths. There was some of this but perhaps not as much as I expected. As with the nudity, I don’t fully understand why a person would spend that much energy getting there and then missing key events because they were too high but I don’t pass judgment. Again, someone might gives up crap for taking the easy route with the VIP package. Unlike the nudity, I did not feel the urge to experiment with things I never took before. I was not influenced one way or the other.
There were many dj sets, I just couldn’t get into but there were equally as many really great bands to fill our music jones. Most impressive to me were the stages and the sound. On a crystal clear night in the middle of the forest, you can actually detect the art of the person working the sound board. And, it was masterful at most of the stages.
Additionally, I have to raise a glass to the volunteers and maintenance staff. These fine people worked tirelessly at clearing trash and keeping the toilets clean and functioning. With the size of the event, I was continually amazed at the level of upkeep. I saw many patrons picking up after other not so thoughtful patrons. It was great to see the forest family taking care of each other in this way.
Finally, the food vendors offered a wide range of fresh and tasty food options. I am gluten free and do not eat red meat or pork. There were always great options from the food vendors. I can even say, I ate some of the best food I had all year. I feel like the promoters actually care about the health and well being of the forest family.
We are on the fence as to whether or not we will return. Not because we didn’t have a good time. The time was great and beyond these words. It’s more that we don’t have that many years to go adventuring and there may be something else out there for us next June. A new friend we met in the pool name Shannon told us about Burning Man with great exuberance. In the event, we move that direction, Shannon will get a call from us to learn what would be needed for that adventure.
Shannon, Robert, the Kylies and all of the other beings who stopped to give hugs, express love and appreciation, share what they had, lend a helping hand, and greet each other warmly will be fondly remembered.
We entered the Electric Forest knowing almost all we needed. I made sure to read all the faq’s and go through the website carefully. Only missing from the tips were the need for a face mask for the dust and the need for a portable mat for seating at the stages.
Don’t be a dummy and bring glass. It will not get in past the security check. I know some people managed to sneak it in but the security was the toughest on this point.
Until we find our next adventure, I will hold the Electric Forest and the Forest Family close. When I start to lose myself in the everyday, I will pledge to remember to put myself back in the glowing trees and shine.