Extravaganja to be held at Franklin County Fairgrounds

  • A crowd browses a ring of vendor and exhibitor booths along the perimeter of the 26th annual Extravaganja, held for the second year at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton in 2017. This year’s Extravaganja will be held at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 2/19/2020 8:55:44 PM

GREENFIELD — Extravaganja is coming to Greenfield’s Franklin County Fairgrounds this April after trying to host the event in Northampton and Holyoke.

The event is “a political rally that has been bringing the cannabis community in western Mass. and surrounding areas together” for almost 30 years, hosting local bands, vendors and speakers to educate about cannabis, according to materials from the organizing group, the Cannabis Reform Coalition. The free, all-ages event will be held from noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday, April 19.

The Greenfield Board of License Commissioners approved the entertainment event application by majority Tuesday evening, after hearing from coalition president Claire Walsh. The coalition, made up of an e-board of six to 10 college students and an extended membership of students and community members, is a registered student organization at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“Some buildings will be used, i.e. the Youth Hall for a medical/first aid station and children’s center, the Roundhouse for an educational center with informational booths and about 100 horse stalls will be used as vendor booths,” the event application reads. “Stages will be situated facing away from residential areas and all music/amplified sound will stop by 7 p.m. Two stages will have music and one will have panels.”

License Commissioner Alan Ball asked if there will be any sale or consumption of marijuana in the fairgrounds.

Walsh answered, “There is no smoking inside of the buildings, but it is not otherwise stated whether you can or cannot smoke on the property. There will be no beer or wine, or liquor.”

Ball followed up with a question about sampling products that may contain cannabis.

“We’re hoping to have a 21-plus section where dispensaries can participate,” Walsh said. “This event has been all-ages historically and I’d like to keep it that way. But having a 21-plus section would allow us to control that and have dispensaries there, some of which are in Greenfield.”

Michael Nelson, president of the Franklin County Agricultural Society, which owns the fairgrounds, said he was contacted a couple of weeks ago by the group and read through their entertainment application. He said he was impressed with the coalition’s organization and structure.

“As far as feasibility, 10 years ago I wouldn’t have even considered the event, but so much has changed as far as the image of cannabis in our culture,” Nelson said Wednesday. “Not only is it legal medically and recreationally, but when the vote happened a few years ago, there was a large percentage of people in this region who looked favorably on the use of marijuana.”

He said he believes the event is a good opportunity and will be part of a diverse array of events hosted at the fairgrounds this year.

“With any event, we try to encourage capitalizing on the local economy, and with many events, they attract a large number of people to the area,” Nelson said. “We’re glad to be a part of the ongoing economic development of the regional community.”

According to the coalition, during the last three years, Extravaganja has attracted from 6,000 to 10,000 people. In the last nearly 20 years, Walsh said, there haven’t been any reports of violence or arrests.

“Through UMass they have shuttle buses that can be rented. We want to do shuttles from Amherst and other Five College areas to cut down on the amount of driving going on,” Walsh said. “We’d like to raise awareness for this event — if you are going to be consuming, it’s best not to drive. We also promote carpooling to the event as well.”

After many years on the common in downtown Amherst, the event moved to Northampton’s Three County Fairgrounds. Last year, for the first time in its 28-year existence, those under 21 were not admitted.

Plans to move to Holyoke were stymied by downtown construction, traffic management and site procurement, the coalition stated.

Walsh said she got connected to the Franklin County Fairgrounds through friends of friends and word of mouth.

“There has already been a couple of events related to cannabis that were held in the area and we connected through people that way,” Walsh said. “That’s one of the parts of CRC (Cannabis Reform Coalition) I enjoy —being part of a larger community and meeting new people through that community.”

Questions, comments or any advocacy, performance, education, speaking or vendor application inquiries can be made by emailing the Cannabis Reform Coalition at crcumass@gmail.com or on its website, bit.ly/2SKcYVo.

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