A new day: Enthusiasts celebrate marijuana ‘holiday’ at Extravaganja fest

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  • Jay Bochain and Kristina Watson of Connecticut share an umbrella and a smoke while listening to a set by Shokazoba at the Extravaganja marijuana festival held at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Trombonist Kat Rapacki, left, trumpeter Nick Borges and guitarist Josh Hirst, from the Northampton-based band Fat Bradley, play a 20-minute instrumental set at the Extravaganja festival held at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton on Saturday, April 20, 2019. Early rains dampened attendance and cut each band's would-be 45-minute set down to 20 minutes. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Trumpeter Nick Borges and guitarist Josh Hirst from the Northampton-based band Fat Bradley play a 20-minute instrumental set at the Extravaganja marijuana festival held at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton on Saturday, April 20, 2019. Early rains dampened attendance and cut each band’s would-be 45-minute set down to 20 minutes. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • These friends from Chicopee found the least-trampled patch of ground to spread their blanket, backed by a tarp, and listen to bands at the Extravaganja marijuana festival in Northampton on Saturday, April 20, 2019. Most visitors stood or visited vendors during performances by nearly a dozen musical acts on two stages. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Cannabis consultant Ezra Parzybok speaks in the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition’s Education Village tent during the Extravaganja festival held at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton on Saturday, April 20, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton attorney Richard Evans, left, and Terry Franklin, Extravaganja event coordinator, speak to the crowd about cannabis reform between musical acts. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Visitors to the 2019 Extravaganja marijuana festival at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton negotiate puddles and mud in the vending and exhibiting areas after a morning of heavy rains on Saturday, April 20, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amanda Binette, left, of Hatfield, University of Massachusetts senior Cherise Connolly and Rachel Rioux of Shrewsbury enjoy music by trumpeter Nick Borges and the band Fat Bradley during Extravaganja at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Megan Bantin and Tim Dolgas of New York listen to the band Colorway during the Extravaganja marijuana festival held at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton on Saturday, April 20, 2019. Heavy rains turned much of the grounds to mud before the noon-time start of the festival and kept attendance lower than in recent years. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Heavy morning rains dampened attendance at the 2019 Extravaganja marijuana festival held at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton on Saturday, April 20, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The combination of heavy morning rains and foot traffic turned much of the Three County Fairgrounds to mud for the annual Extravaganja marijuana festival on Saturday, April 20, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer 
Published: 4/20/2019 7:18:31 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Whether rolling it up in tobacco leaves, packing it into glass bowls or vaporizing it in handheld devices, marijuana enthusiasts lit up at Extravaganja on Saturday for 4/20. 

For the past 28 years, the University of Massachusetts Amherst Cannabis Reform Coalition has held one of the largest and oldest marijuana festivals in the region on April 20, a day that for decades has been widely recognized by advocates as a national holiday for cannabis.  

“It’s a really special day,” Claire Walsh, president of the coalition, said at the Three County Fairgrounds. “It’s a special opportunity that we try to have every year to have a place for people to advocate for themselves, a place for vendors to show off and educate people about what they sell.” 

Since retail marijuana shops opened up in the state last November, Walsh said there has been a significant increase in products available to the public, and part of Extravaganja’s mission is to provide some education on what’s out there. 

No marijuana was for sale at the festival, but many products such as pipes, rolling papers and non-paraphernalia items were found in over 80 booths around the Three County Fairground. Tie-dye shirts, blankets, rings and other jewelry were just as common as colorful pieces of glass and CBD products. 

The festival began with rain and heavy wind, causing tents to blow over and mildly dampening smokers from sparking up. Within an hour, the rain subsided, and there were hundreds of people milling about from booth to booth along the muddy fairgrounds. Many were huddled in front of the music stage, puffing on joints and passing them to one another. In total, Walsh later estimated over 5,500 people attended the event, including staff, vendors, bands and speakers. According to Northampton Police, there were no arrests or major traffic issues.

A tent under the banner “The Education Village” hosted panel discussions throughout the day with members of The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, a group dedicated to ending cannabis prohibition in the country. 

Ellen Taylor Brown, a panelist and a marijuana advocate with Sinsemilla Seminar, said Massachusetts has the opportunity to become a leader in the marijuana industry since it is the first state to legalize recreational sale and use on the East Coast. 

She said important issues include creating a just social equity program for marijuana businesses, incorporating the veterans’ population into the marijuana community, and making sure the state’s cannabis community communicates with the state’s marijuana governing body, the Cannabis Control Commission. 

The commission “holds meetings where they allow for public testimony and feedback,” Brown said. “It’s about showing up and letting them know what we want to see here in Massachusetts.” 

Sheree Shold, who traveled from Connecticut, came to Extravaganja for the second time and said she enjoys the atmosphere at the festival. “It’s a good time to hang out with people,” she said. 

“It’s definitely a culture shock the first time here,” Shold said. “People-watching is very interesting.” 

Caitlin Mott and Kelly Otolle, both freshmen at UMass, said they never expected marijuana to be legalized within their lifetimes. 

“We saw someone lighting up a bowl over there and we were like, what?” said Mott with a laugh. 

Extravaganja organizers are considering seeking a new venue for 2020 due to age restrictions imposed by Northampton. The event barred attendants under the age of 21, with an exception for Five College students above the age of 18.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com 




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