Hear Festival 2017 happened on Aug. 5, 2017. I’m still trying to process it, but wanted to take a second to write down some of the thoughts percolating in my mind.

First, if you do not know, Hear Festival is a major event for Here/Hear. It is mostly a music festival that is aimed at raising awareness for those who suffer from mental illness and may be suffering from suicidal ideation. The goal of the event is to raise awareness and understanding of what it means to be suicidal and/or to have a mental illness, while also helping Here/Hear raise needed funds. And, on both counts, I thought that we did a good job. We exceeded expectations in these areas.

Numerous things struck me, though, about the festival

The Music(ians)

To begin, both the music and the musicians were fantastic. It’s always great to have people, artists, who are part of your event that support what you are doing and about. It is very different to have them saying they want to be part of it, to remember them in the future, and that they represent the very best parts of your organization. It’s always a worry for me when we bring people in that they will say or do things that we, as Here/Hear, then have to “clean up.” None of that happened.

Also, it’s nice when people agree to do more than one thing. One of our biggest supporters over the last year is the lead guitarist and singer for the band Slow Orbit, Dave Blenkinsopp. Not only is he a great supporter, though, but he uses his art as a way of helping us further our mission. He agreed to not only play with his band, but also did a beautiful live painting and engaged a number of people. A lot of others followed his example and did a great job of interacting with the people there, with really doing all they could to engage. And I really appreciate that, more than most people will know.

The Food

Part of what makes a festival is not only the music, but also the food. We had three outstanding food vendors that did a great job of representing our town and representing what Here/Hear is all about. We had a BBQ stand, a coffee bar, and then a Latino booth that had elotes, fruta, and horchata. I can’t really describe it. But, they were all active with trying to get people to the festival, they all served delicious food and drinks, and they showed the best of what Plymouth, IN has to offer. They helped make the festival.

The Speakers

One of the things we did a little differently this year was to invite some speakers to share. We had the speakers share while bands were switching their instruments over. This went pretty well. We had speakers that really ran the gamut, from two girls who are freshman in high school talking about the need for mental illness education in their school to a transgender woman talking about the reality of being transgender and what that does to one’s mental health to a mother who lost her son to suicide and a wife who lives with a bipolar husband.

Again, I always worry when we invite people to speak because we do not censor at all or screen what they say, which can mean that there might be “messes” to clean up later. We had no such messes. We had no problems. We just had great people speaking to the reality that they live within. It’s a testament to those speakers that they had such great, insightful, and important things to say.

The Volunteers

As one can probably imagine, putting on a festival like this takes a number of volunteers. It takes a lot of people committed to the cause willing to do some work. And we had no shortage of people that were willing to be there and help out. That takes a lot off of my mind as I run the festival. I can designate and organize and just do what I need to do to get bands and speakers and coordinate.

There were two groups of volunteers, though, that really blew everyone away. First, there was the Brown family (Gil and Renee and their daughters). They put together a kids booth where kids could draw and paint and do some other things. And it was awesome. The kids and their parents loved it. My kids loved it and have hung their paintings up in their rooms. It was above and beyond what I or anyone else expected. And we appreciate it.

Second, there were the sisters of Delta Theta Tau. This is a local sorority that my wife and mother and sister are all part of. They happened to get a large number of volunteers to help set up, to run various booths, and to clean up. They provided more than enough volunteers for these things and it made a world of difference.

Let me end by saying that there were negatives. There were things that we wish would have gone differently and things that we will fix next year. There’s no doubt about that. But, we had no major problems, no fights or issues among people, we had good attendance, and we made money. We also got our message out there to a lot of people. So, there was a lot more good that came about due to the festival than negative.

Overall, we’ll do this again next year. We have a blast putting it on and letting people get a taste of what our organization is all about.