For the 41st year, downtown Madison will again be the location of the Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival the first weekend of October. Once again, thousands will gather to learn about cannabis, listen to speakers and music, visit vendors of cannabis themed merchandise and enjoy the company of likeminded people while calling for an end to Cannabis Prohibition.

2011 brings a major change -- the festival will continue into its fifth decade without the leadership of Ben Masel, the lead organizer for the last 39 years, who passed away April 30 from cancer. Over the decades Masel welcomed hundreds of thousands of attendees protesting the unjust prohibition and celebrating and educating about the many benefits of the cannabis plant. Carrying on the annual tradition will be colleagues who have long worked alongside Ben to keep the festival rolling; the Wisconsin and Madison chapters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the medical cannabis advocacy group Is My Medicine Legal YET? (IMMLY).

Harvest Fest 41 is the same weekend as the highly anticipated football game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the newest addition to the now 12-team Big Ten. Organizers expect that thousands of football fans will pass through festival events on Saturday.

In early brainstorming sessions for this year's festival, Ben came up with an idea for a festival theme, dubbing it the "Industrial Hemp Bowl". The name refers to the fact that both Wisconsin and Nebraska were once centers of industrial hemp production with many acres in both states still hosting thousands and thousands of feral hemp plants through today. The design features longtime Harvest Fest mascot Buddy Badger and his new friend Herby Husker. The Industrial Hemp Bowl theme can be found on Harvest Fest posters, fliers, an upcoming short video, event program, and official festival merchandise.

Festival events include the Friday night Sept. 30 IMMLY Medical Cannabis Benefit at the Frequency nightclub downtown from 5-8pm. Returning to provide music are Utopian Rag and Brok'n Arrow. On Saturday October 1, Harvest Fest will be at Library Mall from 12-6 pm featuring live music, speakers, vendors and more. Artists for Saturday include Nama Rupa, Groovulous Glove, the Taki All-Stars and T.U.G.G.

Sunday October 2 is the traditional parade up State St. to the State Capitol steps, something that cannot really be described but is best experienced in person. There will be live music at Library Mall starting at 1pm and the parade departs State & Lake Streets at 3:30pm to Capitol Square's for a rally and concert on the State St. steps.

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Author: Gary Storck
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Website: 41 and still smoking: Madison