With morning tai chi and nighttime fire twirling, the 45th annual Whole Earth Festival will samba and sway onto the UC Davis Quad this weekend with more music and food, crafts and art.
The theme: “Curiosity Connects.”
Here’s co-director Hadeyeh Hidari’s take on what that means: “At one of the first festivals I went to, I was walking by someone, and I didn’t know this person, but I beatboxed a beat. Then, I mimed throwing the beat at him — and he continued the beat. Afterward, we just smiled and walked by each other.
“That’s a curious connection to me. I want people to connect in playful, artistic and spontaneous ways.”
The free festival’s opening ceremony is scheduled for 11:50 a.m. on Friday. The event will run until 10 p.m. on Friday night, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. until the closing ceremony at 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Whole Earth has a reputation as “a white bourgeois hippie festival,” said co-director Soo Lee, a junior math major from Seoul, South Korea, but this year she wanted “a more welcoming vibe” — for everyone.
“When I first went to the festival, it excited me, and I wanted to be part of that community, but also I felt alienated because I was a woman of color or because I didn’t dress like a hippie or because I didn’t smoke pot, or things like that,” Lee said.
“By bringing in different kinds of students and students of color, I think we’re being more welcoming.”
She and Hidari, a senior psychology major from Moraga, assembled a smaller staff — 45 compared to 75 a year ago — with a new look.
“We got people who did not fit into the accepted culture of WEF coming in,” Hidari said. “We have someone that’s been part of a frat before. We have someone who currently is in a sorority.
“The reason we hired these individuals is that we felt they were capable of doing the job and representing (a broader range) of students.”
The directors also sought to re-emphasize education throughout the festival.
This year’s event will boast 40 booths devoted to education, compared to 12 a year ago, with topics that include pesticides, midwifery, solar power, electric bicycles — even chess.
Elsewhere, the “Sacred Space” will host introductions to traditional Chinese tea ceremonies (noon, Friday), compassionate communication (noon, Saturday), and singing for people who are struggling, including the dying (1 p.m., Saturday and Sunday).
The “Experiential Space” will see workshops on topics like medicinal plants (3 p.m., Saturday), collective decision-making (4 p.m., Saturday) and composting (3:30 p.m., Sunday).
Even the “Kids Space” will highlight crafts made with both natural and reused or recycled objects.
Among this year’s featured speakers in Young Hall will be Burning Man co-founder Michael Mikel (2 p.m., Saturday), on that festival’s environmental initiatives, and science fiction authors Kim Stanley Robinson and Michael Blumlein (4 p.m., Saturday) on “Science and Justice.”
At 10 a.m. Sunday, also in Young Hall, the festival will screen the documentary “Flow,” about the growing privatization of fresh water.
Whole Earth started in 1969 when an art class taught by José Argüelles organized an “art happening” at UCD — and ample arts and crafts will again be on display. The “Art Space” will include paintings, murals and sculptures, along with performance and interactive art.
Circling the Quad, 150 crafts booths will sell jewelry, art glass, clothing, toys and more.
Also listed in this year’s program: 19 food booths, with menu items like pupusas, tempeh reuben sandwiches and coconut curry tofu, and 13 service booths, from animal rescue to organic fruit and vegetable delivery.
More than 300 volunteers — the Karma Patrol — will be on hand to make this year’s event go smoothly. Some volunteers have returned for decades, passing on the festival’s history and ideals to newcomers.
Music and dance will be performed on three stages. There will be reggae and belly dancing and jangling hippie grooves, as always, but the directors say a greater variety will be on offer.
On the Quad stage alone, the schedule include Spanish gypsy swing (Beso Negro: 8:50 p.m., Friday), Celtic rock (Tempest: 5:45 p.m., Saturday) and “French folk funk fusion” (Dgiin: 2:20 p.m., Sunday).
“I’m excited about the electronic music,” Lee said, then laughed. “Not old WEFies — old WEFies consider electric guitar electronic music. I don’t know how they’re going to deal with dubstep and electro swing, and stuff like that, but that will happen on the Quad.”
Hidari said she was looking forward to Fanna-Fi-Allah Sufi Qawwali — Pakistani music by way of a group from Grass Valley.
“There’s like six or seven people. It’s beautiful to hear all these voices,” Hidari said. “It’s really awesome because my mom’s coming on Sunday, too, and she loves the Sufi poetry, so I’ll give her a surprise.”
On Mother’s Day, no less.
Festival notes and tips:
* Because the festival no longer has access to a dishwasher in the Memorial Union, food will be served on compostable, not reusable, dishware. The directors say they hope to find a long-term solution to decrease waste beginning with next year’s event.
* The forecast this weekend calls for temperatures to reach 88 degrees Saturday and Sunday. Since water and soda are not for sale at the festival, it’s best to bring a reusable water container to fill up at the hydration station. It will be at the northeast corner of the Quad, next to the festival’s headquarters and help center, the Karma Dome.
* UCD is emphasizing a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol. In January, the campus also went entirely smoke- and tobacco-free, a policy that includes e-cigarettes.
* No camping is allowed on campus. The nearest public campground is at KOA, 3951 Lake Road in West Sacramento.
* Dogs are allowed, but must be kept on leashes.
* Organizers encourage walking or biking to the event. For those who drive, daily visitor parking costs $8. More information can be found at http://taps.ucdavis.edu.
* For the full festival program and map, see https://wef.ucdavis.edu.
— Reach Cory Golden at email@example.com or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden.