What is Beardfest?
Beardfest is a three day celebration of creative energy that strives to enliven the artist in everyone. Beardfest offers attendees the opportunity to unplug in South Jersey’s beautiful Pinelands Preserve while enjoying music that spans an incredibly wide range of genres; but our definition of entertainment goes far beyond the spectator/performer dichotomy. At Beardfest, attendees have the opportunity to collaborate on large scale murals throughout the campgrounds, practice yoga, participate in a variety of collaborative music making activities, and share ideas in our community workshops.
From humble beginnings
Beardfest began in 2012 in Zach’s backyard. It was planned as a going away party for our band Out of the Beardspace, which was getting ready to move all of its members to a remote mountain farm in Linden, Virginia. The band had been living together in a house in Cherry Hill, New Jersey for the year preceding the move. While living in Cherry Hill, the band wrote music, jammed, and rehearsed regularly; and spent a lot of time on group projects such as their large backyard garden, an outdoor cooking operation, and various homesteading crafts. Through a trip to a magical permaculture farm in Costa Rica called Punta Mona, the band was connected to the farm in Virginia where they would eventually move to plug more directly into nature for six months.
Ever since high school, the group of people who would eventually become Out of the Beardspace had been throwing party shows in Zach’s two acre, partially wooded backyard whenever the parents were away for a weekend. We would invite a bunch of friends, set up a little stage, play some music, hang by the fire, and have a great time. You can imagine what a bunch of high school kids might have done with free reign over 2 acres. One time a couch slid down the stairs and punctured a hole in the wall, which Ethan fixed so perfectly the next morning that Zach’s parents never noticed…bands were shut down by the cops numerous times.
Anyway, over time, the parties grew to the point where we would send a group text to 20 friends and three times that would show up an hour later. So as you could predict, we eventually got caught.At first, the ruling came down that no more back yard parties were allowed. But Zach’s parents being exceptionally cool, reconsidered their ruling, and decided to change course. They decided we could continue the parties if they were kept safe and organized, and they offered to help. So the parties continued and even grew, as we took on bigger challenges like EP and Album release shows featuring our friend’s bands from out of town.
Fast forward back to 2012. As the band prepared for its move to Virginia, Zach had an idea: let’s throw a giant, day long going away party. We can invite all of our friends who we met in the School of Rock around the Tri State area to bring their bands to perform, and at the end of the day whoever wants to can pitch a tent and stay the night. I still remember walking around in the New Mexico desert, where I was learning to build Earthships for a month, as Zach pitched the idea to me over the phone.
And so Beardfest was born. We threw the lineup together in a month, invited some friends on facebook, and enlisted our parents to work the door. The event was one day long, featured 15 bands, and cost $10. About 100 people showed up to hang out and enjoy the festivities. But it wasn’t until 2013, after our tenure on the farm in Virginia, that Beardfest really started down the path that it is on today.
Over the course of our six months living in tents, growing our own food, and spending every waking moment together, the members of the band learned much and grew in many ways. Besides our explorations into organic farming, outdoor living, and connecting with nature, the band completed its first full length album. Zach experienced the Rootwire festival and was inspired by its combination of beautiful art and far out music. I travelled to Costa Rica for a second time and was inspired by the holistic educational efforts of Stephen Brooks, owner of Punta Mona and co founder to the Envision Festival. Sam honed his graphic, web design, and video production skills from the one tiny room in Virginia where we had access to electricity. This combination of inspiration and skills led us to work toward making Beardfest 2013 something more grand than it had been before.
Beardfest 2013 was expanded to a two day, two night event. It featured what would become the ROMPUS art collective, yoga classes, and workshops on things we had been learning about on the farm; like permaculture, organic gardening, and how to build earthships. And it featured our first headliner: Consider the Source; a band who Zach had seen for the first time at Rootwire. Sam made us a website, a nice poster, and a bunch of info-graphics, which allowed us to promote like never before. The team of friends and friends of friends that came out of the woodwork to realize and add to the vision that year really blew our minds with their passion. And the crowd that turned out to participate ensured that this thing would continue for years to come.
Since then, Beardfest has continued to grow, moving down the street from Zach’s backyard to our beautiful home at Paradise Lakes Campground today. (Actually, in 2014, everything was set up and sound-checked at a different Pinelands property, but then, in an emergency turn of events, Beardfest was forced to switch locations to Paradise Lakes at the last possible second. At the time, Paradise Lakes was just an unused campground in despair, but Zach’s mom Jen LoPresti pitched it and was able to convince the owner to open the gates for us…we’ll save the full crazy story for those who want to ask us personally)
Anyway…Since then, Beardfest has continued to grow.. We have been brought in world renowned musicians who have been an inspiration to us for years. We have seen the Beardfest team grow in its numbers, its abilities, and its love for one another. We’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with visionary leaders such as Robyn Mello (our workshop and vending curator), and Bri Barton and Anne Yoncha (co captains of ROMPUS), whose skills and perspectives have helped to shape what the event has become. And we have have been fortunate to have teachers who inspire us in an inexpressible amount of ways come in to teach community workshops. Best of all, we’ve seen and gotten to know so many of you, the Beardfam, and we’ve had the benefit of your participation in the collaborative and (hopefully) enlivening experience that is Beardfest.
We can’t wait to hear what you all will add to the workshop conversations, see what you will paint on the collaborative murals, and feel the magic that you will bring to Beardfest again this year.