by Cassidy Chambers (photos: Colin Roedel)
I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into…
Electric Forest is a highly anticipated summer festival you wait all year to attend, with many of the attendees planning for it all year. I had heard about the festival multiple times by a group of friends who attend every year. I was never able to grasp how one music festival could attract so many tribal followers. However, my eyes have been opened. And let me just say it was one of the most unique experiences of my lifetime.
For readers who may not know, Electric Forest is an annual music festival that takes place at the Double JJ Resort in Rothbury, Michigan. It attracts tens of thousands of individuals (dubbed the “Forest Fam”) from all across the United States and Canada. This year, the festival was 4 days long, but in its previous years it had been two back-to-back weekends. The festival features a variety of artists, but mainly electronic and dubstep acts. There were four main stages, with multiple smaller stages sprinkled throughout the sprawling resort. But, unlike many other music festivals, the music itself is just a fraction of the Electric Forest experience.
Within the resort, there’s an area named Sherwood Forest, in which large pine trees are neatly planted with lots of walking area in between. Festival goers can enter the forest to interact with hired acts comparable to Cirque du Soleil. Wandering into the Sherwood Forest for the first time was absolutely breathtaking. Large art installations were placed throughout for people to interact with, immersing you into a world detached from modern society. Touch something and it might light up unexpectedly. Look at one art installation and you might stumble across a button to open a hidden compartment. Think of Disney World, but replace all the whimsical characters with fairies and other creatures from a fantasy dream.
If we’re being honest, the experience is designed with the notion that festival goers will be “altered,” and the installations cater to the hallucinations they might experience. What blew me away were the intricate details put into the set design. Every aspect had been planned out by a large creative team; it was like the world’s craziest marketing stunt.
One thing commonly found throughout the forest were hidden fairy boxes, which are little take a gift, leave a gift hubs. There was also a legitimate trading post were goods brought or found can be bartered. In my four days there, I was only able to scratch the surface of experiences for guests. Others I had heard about were a speakeasy being revealed by pressing a button on a typewriter, a scavenger hunt that leads to a giant hidden ball pit, and an Alice in Wonderland tea party.
Evenings were when the forest truly came alive. The woods lit up with lasers, a rainbow of colorful lights, and all of it was bathed in blacklights. It truly felt like something out of a movie. I honestly felt as if I was in Willy Wonka’s factory, except everyone was on drugs and seeing an Oompa Loompa would be considered normal.
One small thing I noticed while lying in one of the hundreds of hammocks they had for festival goers was how clean the entire experience was. No trash or food waste littered the ground. Festival employees work tirelessly to eliminate the possibility of seeing trash and taking you out of the immersive world. Even in the campsites, employees regularly cleaned out any trash that could pile up from the estimated 45,000 attendees.
Another interesting aspect of Electric Forest is how everyone dresses up in outlandish costumes, which mirrored those from The Capitol in the Hunger Games franchise. Fairy ears, horns, and face paint were a common sight. The dystopian and space-like costumes threw me off at first, but quickly became normalized. It was a common sight to also experience a lot of nudity, and I knew no matter how outlandish the getup, something would come along and one-up it.
When you are at Electric Forest, you feel as if you are in a safe bubble impervious to the outside world. I was never checking the time because it didn’t matter. I wasn’t concerned with work, my problems, or anything happening in the “real world.” In a way, the creators behind the festival dreamt up the ultimate escapism experience. It was less of a festival and more so an immersive experience where you were the show inside of the carnival.
Everyone is kind, compassionate, and looking out for one another. The entire experience encourages love and body positivity. All walks of life are truly embraced in a way I have never experienced myself. There is no wrong body, there is no wrong sexuality, and there is no wrong outfit, as long as you are open minded and respectful towards everyone else.
I highly encourage everyone to take a major step out of their comfort zone and create their own lifelong memories in the Sherwood Forest. You’ll find a community, memories, and friendships that will last a lifetime.
To find out more about the festival, head to their website by clicking here.