Harvest Fest 39: Madison Musicians Rally for Medical Marijuana

Features 29 Sep 2009

2009_harvestfest_madison_300Harvest Fest  39: Madison Musicians Rally for Medical Marijuana

“Prohibition…goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”  – Abraham Lincoln, December 1840

This next week marks the 39th anniversary of the Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival.   Since 1970, Harvest Fest  – as it is more commonly referred to – has been rallying the heads to get up on their soapboxes and do what we Madisonians do best: quirky and blissfully un-ironic shakedowns of the cultural status quo.   Presented by North Coast, Underwater Productions, and Madison NORML (The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws,) Harvest Fest is a multi-day event with the avowed goal of heightening public awareness of the issues surrounding  medical marijuana, industrial hemp production and marijuana prohibition.  With an estimated 4000 attendees over the course of the event in 2008 – including 1200 marching upon the Capitol – organizers hope to see an even greater turnout this year.

Marijuana has always shared a cultural connection with popular music and Harvest Fest brings a number of top-quality Madison and regional performers to the stage.   Things get started on Thursday, Oct 1st at The Alchemy on Atwood Ave, with a free Harvest Fest kickoff party featuring Insomniac Gypsy, an eclectic bluegrass troupe from the Fox Valley.   The bluegrass gets a little greener on Friday evening with the 7th Annual IMMLY Benefit Show at the Frequency on W. Main St. from 5-8 pm, with performances by Fox Valley experimental jam-rockers Brok’n Arrow and Madison-based Mark Shanahan’s Kirby Molar All-Stars (folk rock Americana.) IMMLY (Is My Medicine Legal Yet?) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the “advance [of] public education regarding the therapeutic use of cannabis to the general public and the medical community in the U.S. Midwest.”

Harvest Fest kicks into high gear on Saturday, with multiple performances and speakers on the Library Mall during the day while Madison favorites Natty Nation deliver their signature roots rock, reggae & dub sounds at the High Noon Saloon after dark.  Joining Natty Nation on stage will be Iowa-based Blue Island Tribe and WORT’s Tropical Riddims Sound System

 The day’s events start at 11:30 a.m. and continue through the day. Among the keynote speakers will be perennial Senate underdog and political activist Ben Masel, speaking of his efforts to promote Wisconsin Assembly Bill 206 – a bill currently in committee in the State Legislature to authorize creation of a Blue Ribbon Panel to examine the potential agricultural benefits of promoting industrial hemp production in Wisconsin.  In addition, IMMLY?’s Gary Storck will address the state of the Jackie Rickert Medical Marijuana Act¸ a medical legalization initiative sponsored by  Rep. Mark Pocan (D- Madison) and currently awaiting final release from the drafters of the Legislative Reference Bureau.  Additional speakers include Jim Miller of CMMNJ (Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey) and  members of SAFER (Safe Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation) from Colorado.  The musical highlights of the day include performances by the always energetic Blueheels and  the jam-fusion explorations of Elf Lettuce. Also appearing are Madison acts Kronic Jones (reggae/roots rock), Adam Isaac & The People (funk/rock/soul) and the chronically exuberant Bill & Dan’s Excellent Adventure from Eau Claire.  Special guest emcee RaFury joins the festivities as well to keep the positive vibrations moving along.

Harvest Fest goes for the big finish on Sunday, Oct. 4 with more musical performances on the Library Mall followed by a mass march up State Street to the Capitol. Performer s on the Library Mall include progressive reggae-rockers Moon Boot Posse from Lacrosse and iconoclastic rocker  The Dave Band from Gays Mills. As the march culminates at the corner of State, Main & Carroll Streets, Madison politico-jam heavyweights Baghdad Scuba Review will rally the masses from the steps of the Capitol building while a variety of speakers address the crowd. Scheduled are further appearances by Ben Masel and Gary Storck, as well as Russ Bellville of NORML, Mason Tvert of SaferChoice, and Mary Powers,  a disabled veteran suffering from terminal cancer, AIDS and Hepatitis C who is the star of IMMLY?’s  weekly “Mary and Gary” show on You Tube and a strong voice for the Jackie Rickert Medical Marijuana Act effort.

It remains to be seen whether the legislators and people of Wisconsin are ready for real change on the issues of medical marijuana, industrial hemp and decriminalization.  One thing is certain, however, and that is the organizers and promoters of Harvest Fest are convinced that change can and will happen with greater education and public awareness of the issues of marijuana prohibition.    A safe weekend full of good vibes, peaceful political activism and great local music can’t help but bring them a little bit closer to their goal.


39th Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival

Schedule of Events

Thursday 10/1 

 The Alchemy | 1980 Atwood Ave. | 608.204.7644

Harvest Fest Kickoff Party with Insomniac Gypsy (bluegrass)     No Cover |9:30 p.m.

Friday 10/2

The Frequency | 121 W. Main St. | 608.819.8777

7th Annual IMMLY Benefit Concert w/

Brok’n Arrow (jam rock)

Mark Shanahan’s Kirby Molar All Stars (folk rock Americana)

 Food from Glass Nickel Pizza

$10 Suggested Donation | 5:00 – 8:00p

Saturday 10/3

Library Mall

11:30 – 12:15 Kronic Jones (reggae/roots rock)

12:45 – 1:45  Blueheels (rock/alt-country)

2:15 – 3: 15  Adam Isaac & The People (funk/rock/soul)

 3:45 – 4:45  Bill and Dan’s Excellent Adventure (rock ‘n roll from Eau Claire, WI)

5:15 – 6: 15 Elf Lettuce (psychedelic jam rock from Madison, WI)

Special guest Emcee: Ra Fury

Speakers: Ben Masel, Jim Miller, Gary Storck, SAFER group, others


High Noon Saloon | 701 E. Washington Av | 608.268.1122

Natty Nation

Blue Island Tribe

Tropical Riddims Sound System

Event time: 9:30p

Admission: $10 cover, $8 in Advance

Ages: 18+

Sunday 10/4

Library Mall

1:15 – 2:15p  The Dave Band (rock )

2:30 – 3:30p – Moon Boot Posse (rock/reggae/jam)

Parade: Library Mall to State Capitol    3:40p         


State Capitol Steps   4:20 – 6:20   

Featuring Music by:

Baghdad Scuba Review (progressive jam rock)

Speakers: Ben Masel, Jim Miller, Gary Storck, Nick Mortensen, Russ Bellville

Jacki Rickert

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