MOSCOW — Hemp Fest caught the attention of Muscovites on Saturday with flashy vendors, live music and food.
On a windy day in the scattered shade of East City Park, people turned out to indulge in the festival’s efforts and celebrate hemp. Vendors, some local and some who had traveled all the way from Seattle, attended the event and displayed their beautiful clothing, jewelry, crystals and glass art. Everyone came with their dogs to see what the noise was all about.
Arlene Falcon, the organizer of Moscow Hemp Fest and owner of Tie Dye Everything, has been running the event since 2006. It started in 1996 when a couple of University of Idaho students wanted to make Mom’s Weekend, or what is known today, more appealing than Parents’ Weekend . Washington State University’s Mom’s Weekend was a popular event, and UI students wanted a similar response, and so Hemp Fest was born.
Falcon has been a vendor from the beginning of the event, selling her tie-dye clothes, and by 2006 talk of the festival died down. She was inspired to lead the planning when she came across the music organizer, who said he had the setlist ready, and Falcon set about gathering vendors. She has kept the festival going ever since, except in 2020 when it was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As stated on its website, the Moscow Hemp Fest provides information about the hemp and cannabis movements and advocates for medical marijuana in Idaho.
Falcon said she began organizing the event in hopes of moving the discussion about legalizing medical marijuana into the political realm.
“[Cannabis is]not just a party of people, music and, you know, getting high. … It’s not just about that,” Falcon said. “I helped bring Boise on board in 2010. Rep. Tom Farrell spoke and opened his eyes to medical marijuana. … So we started getting petitions, (but) unfortunately futile attempts to change the law.”
Rather than hosting the fest in Washington, Falcon said hosting it in Moscow raises awareness and destigmatizes the issue, “particularly given the medical aspects of cannabis abuse,” and provides much-needed education.
Music filled the park and Falcon invited several local artists to perform. John and Nick Brensfela, musicians in their band The Pond, are both Muscovites who played at the event. They performed original bluegrass songs and made their Fest debut, and they were joined by several other acts.
Right off center stage, Rhonda Berles set up her table for her Mountain Rose Traveling Emporium store. At her venue she sells handmade jewelry, selenite wands and t-shirts, as well as backpacks, fanny packs and crystals. Berles has been a vending machine at the Fest for more than 10 years and traveled to Moscow from Priest River for the event. Berles has been a traveling saleswoman for 30 years, spending her winters in Arizona and returning to the Pacific Northwest in the spring. Berles said the purpose of the event is to “raise awareness of the medicinal value of the cannabis plant and bring family and friends together.”
The smell of Palo Santo wafted toward Bex Gill’s booth from three venues away. It was Gill’s first year at the festival, selling CBD products for her company, Bath By Bex CBD. Gill, who travels from Spokane, sells her own brand of handcrafted CBD bath bombs, balms and oils. She got the inspiration for her business a few years ago when she was suffering from severe back pain and started using CBD products. She wanted to make affordable CBD products herself to help others relieve pain.
“I’m just here to help people educate them about the difference between hemp and marijuana,” Gill said.
Cannabis is high in THC, the substance that gets people high, while hemp is packed with CBD, which doesn’t have the same effects. Gill said that CBD can help with inflammation, pain relief, skin care, and even elevate mood.
Gill said the Moscow Hemp Fest is important in bringing advocacy and education about hemp to Idaho.