Pollination Fest- A Long Standing Vision manifested (Part One, the buildup)

With the event behind us now and the buzz of so many people so jazzed about the place and event still present, I offer a reflection of the journey that got us to the point of hosting such an event. Firstly as a child I can remember the events like pig roasts and 4th of July with fireworks that drew in what seemed like huge crowds for me in my pre-teen years at the lake. Furthermore, the old band that used to play was so popular that we even had to extend the bar to put in a dance floor to accommodate the weekly shows. In more recent times benefits drew in people to support communal efforts to relieve financial strain from such things as sickness within the community. So I knew it was possible now to attract crowds to Treasure Lake in our rural location but not so far from the city of Cincinnati and its sprawling suburbs in three states.

Lake Jeanelia
the ad from the 50’s from the old lake showing the North arrow opposite and highlighting the 22 mile distance from fountain square in downtown Cincinnati

Back in 2003 while attending Hocking College in South East Ohio, I first launched the idea of having a festival seriously after taking a class on festival efforts there. Having talked extensively with my mates who knew the place well we decided that it could happen. In 2004 I began my 10-year odyssey across the globe spanning five continents. While the dream never died it was certainly put on hold for quite some time. When I decided to finish my degree in small business management online in 2010, the vision was reinvigorated, as it became a major tenant with the new business endeavor at the lake called Confluence Forest and Farm. Confluence, being where two energies converge to bring forth more, was the name given representing the business of the lake from my grandparents and TreeYo Permaculture merging together to start a regenerative center that included celebrations.

Integrated, multiple income stream business plan for thrivability
Integrated, multiple income stream business plan for thrivability

As the business was handed over to the next generation following my grandparents passing over the last couple of years, the idea was emerging as I began to integrate myself more into the business once more. At the end of last year, a collaborative effort ensued to bring a large, well-known band to the land but it became apparent over months of time that this event would be impossible for our first time. We began to think about some smaller events to compliment this big one as we were trying to still work it out. The idea of the smaller one quickly mushroomed and this cultivation led to Pollination. pollinationflyerprint   Thus a team emerged to lead it onward. Good friend Alex Ryberg and I launched the initial idea of having a mini fest to break in the grounds and test its capabilities to hold capacity without burdening the land. She pioneered the need for multidisciplinary workshops to be integrated as to create cross-cultural connectivity.   As the planning progressed and our need to draw in musicians led to us reaching out to Adam Stone who had recorded his hit Sustainably Me out at the lake the year before. With this reunion it became evident how the universe was beginning to conspire. From there Adam reached out to another music local spearhead Adam Peterson to ensure that a quality lineup would ensue as well as the great sounds that came through. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtZCEVGuNik   With the idea launched and marketing efforts being conceptualized and activated, we turned to the land which needed significant work to bring it up to level with holding the crowd we anticipated. With it already being a recreation area with rustic camping it was not a huge stretch to do so other than a few bigger projects. The main task was building the stage that would hold the musicians. After some debate on location my dream spot that I had been envisioning for quite some years, especially in the design phase of the business plan I wrote during my online degree, we began our process.

Back in my carbon farming course in 2009 in Summertown, TN I had shown Darren Doherty the exact stage location as we were examining keypoints in the landscape. He mentioned how the valley had a great amphitheater effect and with the valley being sandwiched in between the lake cabin and the bar, it seemed most ideal as to concentrate the energy with fluxes and flows between the differing hotspots of the festival. Thus we began with design of course as a team emerged with Adam Stone leading and amazing support began from Local Permie and former student Zach Tabor. We decided to procure posts for the stage from the land itself and went with the no-brainer choice of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) with its rot-resistant qualities and tremendous strength and durability. Thus we searched for an area that had the girth of posts we were looking for. Rather than randomly selecting from throughout the land we selected a particular valley to coppice these trees and make this action multifunctional. With the valley between campsite 3 and 4 being a spot where I had been concentrating efforts to remove honeysuckle and multiflora rose because of a high density of Paw paws (Asimina triloba), I decided to do the felling there to further open up the space. With the canopy breaks I was hoping that the Paw Paws would flourish more due to concentrated sun and also we plan to dot in other tree crops both for humans and wildlife like Serviceberry, Chinese chestnut, hazel and American Persimmon. I am hoping to recreate the forest as it once was or augmenting it to have an even more concentrated plethora of forage. While Chinese Chestnut is of course not native, it does replace our native chestnut that once thrived and composed up to 60%of all the trees in the area.

As we felled the trees, we also chopped up the material left behind in a multifunctional way as well. We first made a big brush pile to give habitat to smaller mammals, which supports the food chain of predators. It’s a simple technique that I learned in my original degree program. We also chopped and dropped material around the Paw Paws thus mulching in our broad acre food forest. We also immediately stripped the bark off the black locust posts, which was easily done with a knife and hatchet when green. With the post logs moved out and peeled we began to also envision the roof structure and felled more black locusts to get the taller skinny posts we would need for this. This meant more cleanup and more carbon being cycled back to the Paw Paws to help increase the fungal resources in the soil for them to thrive on. In this process we came across a turkeys nest full of eggs and it became apparent that despite the fact that we want to eradicate all of the invasives, this native bird that holds significant value to the forest, was very happy to nest in the thicket of multiflora rose and bush honeysuckle. It reaffirmed my belief to have a bit of this around for habitat as its original planting had this intent. Who knew it would grow to plague like conditions but it is a problem turned into a solution when cycled appropriately.

turkey eggs on nest
turkey eggs on nest

After digging the three-foot deep holes to set the posts another team member who came through clutch through the setup and festival itself, Michael Beck arrived. After being a student in Portugal last summer and becoming a good friend, Michael worked hard on everything and was a joy to have around. From the pizza mission at the festival as well as manning the cob building workshop station to helping finalize the design of the stage as well as vast amounts of work to implement it, he held up strong in the marathon of the buildup.

Once the poles were set we used donated recycled 2 x 4’s to create a frame and strength for the stage to be created. This was a big work that involved notching the post, which Michael and Tabor executed beautifully. We added some to the frame another day but we made a huge push that day to get the mainframe created. From there Adam Stone came in clutch with setting the plywood. While not my first choice it was the material that made the most sense so the musicians could have a clean floor to jam on. As the festival approached, we then added in the posts to be the awning and searched for the best temporary roof structure. Here Ben Pitz, an old friend who helped plant the apple orchard last year and first introduced me to Adam Stone, joined in for the last final push. After searching exhaustively for a canvas option we settled with a poly tarp and strung it the day of the festival. As that was happening Jade McConnell, Ben’s significant other, created a master piece of art to serve as the backdrop for the stage. Having been recommended by good friend Maya Mor back in Portugal, Jade came through with her rendition of a psychedelic hibiscus with pollinators to compliment.

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Along the way of the stage we worked the campsites, harvested firewood from downed logs, got the food situation secured and got beer and other refreshments stocked. We also finalized campsites and designed parking and camping. We drew in artists and set the lineup of workshops and musicians. We did what we needed here for creating the foundation for the cob experience by harvesting our beautiful limestone locally and digging.  Moreover, we worked collaboratively for marketing on the web and in person, with posters and networking with friends, musicians and workshop hosts. It was a great experience as it was my first music festival to attend and throw at the same time so it was quite a unique experience. More on how the festival actually went will be on the next blog. Thanks to all who contributed to the organization of the festival, the buildup and of course all the people who came and shared!

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