A lot has changed in the 10 years since cannabis was legalized in the state of Washington — and Bellingham’s second Budfest is a reflection of that shift. Before legalization, no one would have guessed that families would flock to a public place, in large crowds, to celebrate cannabis. But for Budfest founders Amanda Mac and Stacy Bloch, it’s a perfectly natural fit for their hometown.
“I was born in Chelan and basically grew up in Seattle but moved up here in 1987 and opened my hobby store,” says Bloch. “I enjoy Whatcom County and Bellingham [and] consider it to be home.”
Bloch discovered his passion for drug policy reform — and his calling to become an activist — when he attended Seattle Hempfest in 1994. “I ran a stage at Seattle Hempfest for 22 years called The Hemposium stage,” he says. “We would have educational panels during the day, and bands in the evening.” He met his now-business partner, Amanda, at Seattle Hempfest, when the owner of the business she worked for appeared as a panelist on his stage.
As Bloch spoke with Mac, he learned she did marketing for the cannabis-related business. “I thought it must be fascinating to be a marketer for a company that produces a product that’s heavily over-regulated within the state, and completely illegal on the federal level,” Bloch says. “I asked her to join me on my radio show for an interview, and after that she ended up being my co-host for about three years.”
The synchronicity didn’t end there, as they discovered they both shared a very specific idea for the future. “One day Amanda and I were talking about creating an event in Bellingham and realized we’d both thought about something similar,” says Bloch. “Amanda had actually already picked up the domain name for Bellingham Budfest, and I had scoped out Zuanich Park years earlier. And the idea has morphed into what we see today.”
Their first event, in 2019, was a success, but the pandemic delayed its return. Now back on the calendar, this year’s Budfest takes place July 16th, 2022.
“We have six bands playing and two DJs. We have a number of food vendors, and licensed cannabis businesses in an enclosed 21-and-over area, so that people can learn from farmers, processors, and store owners,” says Bloch. “We have a half a dozen educational panels going on in the boathouse, and all kinds of yard games. There’s going to be an area with hammocks, and a tea house down there.”
It’s important to Bloch that people understand the event is appropriate for the entire family, and that kids of all ages will find something to entertain them. “It’s no different than a wine festival or an Oktoberfest, or any other events that you see out there,” he says. “The big difference here is that we are celebrating cannabis and we do not allow alcohol, so we don’t have a beer garden or anything along those lines.”
“We encourage businesses to create some games, so we’ll see cornhole and giant Jenga, and all kinds of things,” Bloch says. “There are going to be people down there with flow toys, hula hoops, all sorts of things like that. Basically, a lot of the fun things you would do down at a park.”
There will also be opportunities to check out the selection of food trucks on hand, as well as some small businesses. “We have an area we call the Art Bazaar, where local craftspeople sell handmade items. We also have an area specifically for Whatcom County glass blowers, and they’ll be in there exhibiting their products,” says Bloch. “We offer free booths to nonprofits, and we’ve got a lot of different groups: two different voting rights groups and probably about 10 other local nonprofits will be down there.”
To make sure that the message of a better future is clear to all, the festival also includes some unique, forward-thinking facets. “We have a group that is helping us be a ‘Towards Zero Waste’ festival, so we’re requiring all of our food vendors to use only compostable and recyclable materials — no single-use plastics are allowed to be sold,” Bloch says. “We have a water bottle refill station and a shuttle bus service that will pick up folks downtown and ferry them down to the event.” Buses will also be running from three different hotels in town, who are offering discounts on lodging during the event.
All of these details are designed to make sure that everybody feels welcome.
“In 2019, we had grandparents, we had babies, a lot of people I know brought their mom. Heck, even my whole family, which tends to skew conservative, showed up and had a good time,” he says. “It’s just a beautiful location: right on Bellingham Bay where you have a full view of the islands, the Olympic Mountains, all of downtown Bellingham, the university, downtown Fairhaven. It’s everything that makes Whatcom County beautiful.”
For more information, visit Budfest’s Facebook event page.
Bellingham Budfest 2022
Saturday, July 16 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Zuanich Point Park
2600 N. Harbor Loop Dr. on the Bellingham waterfront