By ERIC SCHELKOPF
If you're wondering where Waldo is this weekend, he along with many other Waldos will probably be at the Waldos Forever Fest on April 20 near Dispensary33 at 5001 N. Clark St. in Chicago.
For the second year, Do312 is organizing the event, with the Chicago Cannabis Alliance being the co-sponsor of the event. The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the event is free to those who RSVP at do312.com/waldosforeverfest.
4/20 is slang in cannabis culture for the consumption of cannabis, especially smoking cannabis around the time 4:20 p.m. The festival will feature a variety of entertainment, including headliner Big Freedia, known as the Queen of Bounce.
Chicago acts Tatiana Hazel, Air Credits, White Mystery and Akasha will also perform. The festival will also feature DJ and comedy sets and drag performances. Chicago-based Verano, will be sponsoring The Chill Lounge, a relaxed setting outside of Dispensary33 where festival-goers can take a break from being on their feet and enjoy some free swag and other perks.
I had the chance to talk to Scott Cramer, founder of Do312 and Richard Park, a member of the board of directors for Chicago Cannabis Alliance, about the festival.
Q – Great talking to you. This is the second year of the Waldos Forever Fest. What was your vision for putting on the festival in the first place?
Richard: The Chicago Cannabis Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to educating people about qualifying conditions to receive a medical cannabis card in Illinois and helping Chicago patients access the medicine they need, saw legalization of cannabis in Illinois as an opportunity to destigmatize cannabis by educating people about it.
We partnered with Do312 to create the event in a streetfest format that Chicagoans love. The premise is a the celebration of cannabis culture and all the benefits of cannabis that we can now share openly.
Q - Did last year's festival meet your expectations and what are your expectations for this year's festival? For those who are attending the festival for the first time this year, what should they expect?
Scott: Yes. In our first official Waldos Forever Fest, we had approximately 1,500 attendees. This year we are expecting 3,500 to 4,000 attendees.
Chicago is famous for its street fests and we believe Waldos Forever is very much in this tradition, but with a unique cannabis-themed flair.
Richard: Ironically, this is a 4/20 celebration where cannabis cannot be consumed on site, but we want to share information about cannabis, unite cannabis fans to celebrate advancements in legalization and destigmatize it.
Major cannabis cultivation companies are rolling out the “green” carpet with Cresco Labs’ lush green entrance giving way to the high energy music sets crossing rap, bounce, hip hop and more genres, outrageous comedy and drag acts interspersed with trips down memory lane with the Grassroots Gaming Tent with vintage video arcade, and the Verano Chill Lounge, complete with a larger than life walk-in igloo.
Vendor booths will run the gamut of providing information regarding every aspect of cannabis and specific products to offering clothing and accessories sure to appeal to cannabis fans. The festive atmosphere wouldn’t be complete without lots of munchies in the Food Truck court and giveaways of swag throughout the day.
Q – This year's festival seems to feature a pretty diverse lineup of artists. How did you go about planning this year's lineup?
Scott: Booking the acts is based around being as intersectional and eclectic as possible. We want to make sure that all the artists we select really “get” cannabis culture.
We don’t pay attention to whether they are underground or mainstream, but instead look at whether they are entertaining and represent the full spectrum of cannabis users.
Q – There also will be other entertainment as well, including comedy sets, drag performances and DJ sets. Were you trying to have something for everyone attending the festival?
Scott: Yes. Cannabis cuts across all demographics, cultures and political and sexual orientations so we looked to showcase an intriguing, playful mix that will entertain everyone.
Q – What do you hope people will get out of the festival?
Richard: For those already using cannabis, it is a time to share stories about their favorite products and what it has done for them, as well as celebrate how far we have come in the battle for legalization. For those curious or new to cannabis, it provides an open, welcoming environment to explore and get answers to all the questions they might have about using cannabis and dispel some of the falsehoods perpetrated by society under prohibition.
Ultimately, this is an event where people from all walks of life can set aside their differences and come together to learn about and celebrate all that is good about cannabis.
Q – Do you anticipate the festival will grow every year and will become as much of a tradition as Taste of Chicago or the Chicago Blues Festival?
Scott: Chicago is in its infancy for 4/20 festivals compared to some other areas. With pending legalization of cannabis around the world, we see it becoming more of a national or international festival – perhaps on the scale of Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Day, where the celebration grows to cross geographic and cultural boundaries and provide an outlet for expression for everyone who wants to join the fun.