The Harmony Festival

Pixies, men in sarongs, children in butterfly wings with painted lions on their faces, half dressed women hula hooping to reggae, wafts of marijuana smoke, this is our entrance to this emblematic Northern California event—the Harmony Festival. Created as a guide on how to live sustainably, this expanding Wine Country festival (which now stretches over three days in June) lures families from across the globe.

Armed with a squirt bottle and some snacks, my family and I entered the Children’s Magical Playground. Face painters and balloon animal artists populated the outdoor area. A car shaped like a shoe with drummers and violinists towed behind on a flatbed. Like pied pipers, they handed capes to children and asked if they would join the People’s Parade. Kai selected a blue cape, blew some bubbles, grabbed a free applesauce and started marching with the parade through the crowd.
Like us, he was quickly distracted by the wealth of stands selling everything from doll houses crafted out of real wood, leaves and stones to 3-D paintings. Everywhere we looked there was something (or really, someone) to marvel at: The pot-smoking tent, where smoking is encouraged in an area quarantined from the rugrats; the ecovillage cluttered with yogis stretching upside down and speakers touting the benefits of composting; the skate ramp, the food vendors hawking raw organic vegan wraps and peach lassis; and the music.

To draw city types and hippies from the innards of Mendocino County, the Harmony Festival has upped the ante, departing from its typical lineup of meditation guides (though they can still be found in the ecovillage) and peace loving songstresses (they too can be found in the aptly named Goddess Village), I’ve seen everyone from Flaming Lips to Zion I, Chali 2na, and Lauren Hill on the main stage.

Instead of watching the music, Kai delighted in learning to skateboard from a couple of 9 year olds, playing beach-ball soccer with another toddler and hula hooping with the hottie hoopsters. This was exactly why we enjoyed these types of festivals—we can stand in the sun with a beer and enjoy live music  and all sorts of entertaining peeps—including the lady decked out in cowboy gear and furry knee-high boots.

In terms of Harmony, this festival brought out all types, but it was the families that shone amongst the crowds. How can you not appreciate the child being towed on a skateboard, the kiddos flipping in the bouncehouse, the naked baby taking a break inside a hula hoop, the tweens skating the half pipe, and their parents, deservedly lounging on grass, maybe smoking some of their own, or merely pausing in a sea of humanity to wonder what their little babe will become and if a trip to a wonderland like this festival can inspire a love for all people, and the planet.

For more Sonoma County itinerary planning, click here.

Pick up a copy of my Northern California: An Explorer’s Guide or Backroads and Byways of Northern California.

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