Features, Print July 23, 2019

It Takes A Village: Arise Festival Leaves No Trace

by Dan England

If you’re considering a hang at the Arise Music Festival in Loveland August 2 – 4, here’s a tip: Bring your own water bottle. 

Bringing a plastic water bottle to Arise is much like bringing a Voodoo doll to a Catholic Mass. The music festival won’t sell them there. In fact, if you do bring a single-use plastic bottle to Arise, expect the same reaction you’d get from horrified Catholic Church basement ladies if you waved said Voodoo doll in their faces.

“Tap water in plastic bottles may be the greatest scam ever perpetrated upon the American consumer public,” Arise’s website proclaims, but their cause is far more widespread, elaborate and holistic.

Open space and open minds: Arise in Loveland. Photo by Molly McCormick

Arise was created by Master Activist Paul Bassis, who worked with famous activists such as Daryl Hannah, to give a platform to those who needed it. His background, said Arise’s Mo Hnatiuk, comes from “fighting the good fight.” The festivals hosts presentations in the so-called Wisdom Village, a live painter, film presentations and panels, a yoga instructor, a Healing Village, “thought leaders” and others who are there to change or embellish people’s minds, not just help them rock out.

Given that, and the beautiful, thoughtful Sunrise Ranch, a 350-acre sustainable farm that offers its space for conferences and spiritual communities (and could be the perfect place for a scary movie about a nature-worshipping cult – just sayin’), the founders of Arise knew offering a big, trashy festival that left the place looking like a second-rate Woodstock would go against everything they were trying to teach all with that music, talk and, yes, fun.

“We say we are more than a music festival,” Hnatiuk said. “It’s a movement. Music is supposed to feed your soul.” 

That means a lot more than giving out free water to fill your Hydro Flask or stickered-up Nalgene. Two years ago, when a nasty storm blew through the grounds, Arise workers helped secure tents for campers sleeping near grazing cattle to ensure they didn’t just toss their would-be broken tents later. Upholding the “reduce, reuse, recycle” ethos takes work and forward thinking.

A performance by Quixotic at the 2018 Arise Festival. Photo by Somer Mock

Speaking of which, the festival promises to plant a tree for every ticket sold. Additionally, at the end of the festival, workers and participants (only if they want to, the cult thing was just a joke) join hands in a “bohemian chain of love” and pick up every piece of trash left on the grounds down to the last cigarette butt.

If this all sounds a tad idealistic, well, the idea is to challenge people not only through the workshops and discussions but by helping them take care of the Earth for future humans. If a three-day festival (August 2 – 4) that attracts tens of thousands with a band lineup of more than 100 performers can follow the campground ethics of Leave No Trace, why can’t companies, families, or, you know, you?

Loveland’s Arise is a family affair, practicing theologies to keep the planet healthy for future generations. Photo by Brittany Teuber

All of this includes booking bands and performers who follow the thought-provoking guidelines of Leave No Trace and other ideals, or at least respect them, including this year’s headliner, Tipper, and others such as Leftover Salmon and Railroad Earth.

“We usually get incredible feedback,” Hnatiuk said. “There aren’t people, many conscious people anyway, who will push back on anything like that. If anything they promote it. They give a shout-out on stage.”

The festival also won’t accept sponsorships from companies it deems ethically questionable in the way they’ve treated the environment, preferring to work with organic, sustainable companies. It also sets high standards from participants.

“As we’ve grown (the festival is now in its seventh year), people have learned from experience,” Hnatiuk said. “We’ve pushed it so hard, we’ve never had an issue with it.”

In fact, it discourages anyone from ignoring the principles, and almost all the attendees have embraced them, she said. “People don’t want to be the odd one out. You can check yourself,” Hnatiuk said, bolstering the old adage that to make global changes – it takes a village.

Arise takes place Friday, August 2 – Sunday, August 4 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. Shuttle bus information plus weekend and single day passes are available at arisefestival.com