This year, after a four-year absence, I returned as an attendee to the Porcupine Freedom Festival, aka Porcfest. I’m happy to say that Porcfest 2019 was a success and even featured some history-making civil disobedience. More on that in a moment. First, kudos to Rodger and Jessica Paxton and their crew for throwing an excellent festival – in spite of the now-expected political bungling by the Free State Project‘s board of directors. Longtime Porcfest attendee, and Free Keene blogger Rich Paul had this to say:
The tension that has subdued Porcfest for the last few years is finally healed. It feels like 2012 again.
Before I continue my review of the event, a little background:
After its rise to being one of the most well-attended libertarian gatherings on the planet and also becoming the most cryptocurrency-welcoming event as far as its vendors are concerned, the Porcupine Freedom Festival, which is organized each year by volunteers, but ultimately controlled by the Free State Project corporation, ended up making a few key errors. Yes, it was a mistake for them to kick me and my radio show out after a few volunteers made a stink back in 2016, but I don’t hold a grudge, and at the time even published a blog encouraging people to continue attending Porcfest.
That’s one of the more obvious mistakes they made, as despite my urging of people to continue to attend, attendance did drop sharply the following year, from what I have been told. However, the other things they botched were even more damaging to the event.
For years, and from before they decided to ban me, people who’ve attended the Porcupine Freedom Festival each Summer in Northern New Hampshire have complained that its recent years have been lacking in fun, partially due to an ever-increasing burden of rules at the event and centralized decision making on the part of the Free State Project’s board of directors. For instance, longtime vendors felt pushed out of the “Agora Valley” prime trading zone by the artificial extra costs imposed by the FSP onto the RV campsites in that area.
Nearly Empty Agora Valley @ Porcfest 2019
Where did these artificial costs come from? The story of Agora Valley is one that libertarians should know well and should have seen coming, but the libertarians running the FSP failed to see it and fell into the same centralized control trap they typically argue against. In the earlier years of the Porcupine Freedom Festival at Roger’s Campground, the first few rows of the RV camping area became, through natural market functions, the most desirable real estate in the park. The reason is that all the major speakers and events are held at the Pavilion at the bottom of the hill, so most campers will pass through that part of the RV area on their way to attend Porcfest’s various events. Eventually the zone was dubbed “Agora Valley” and vendors would compete to reserve the prime spots first for the upcoming year’s event, however the cost to the vendors at the time was the normal lot fee charged by the campground.
Eventually, someone at the FSP got the bright idea that Agora Valley should be managed by the FSP’s festival organizers, and a vendor’s fee and agreement was created. When asked, the FSP’s representatives generally will defend the fees as reasonable, since they include a ticket to the event, promotion to the event’s VIPs, as well as a listing in the event’s “Whova” event program app, for a very small premium on top. They are right – the Agora Valley vendor prices are reasonable. However, the market is clearly speaking, more this year than ever before, that the fees and rules are not welcome.
However the other way the market responded during this year’s Porcupine Freedom Festival, was the creation of the “Where it’s at” zone deeper in the RV area. Longtime Porcfest vendors and attendees, fed up with paying more than they had to or simply frustrated by the restrictions for Agora Valley, decided to opt-out and setup a hot zone of economic activity in the RV rows past the Valley’s “jurisdiction”. This mass exodus left Agora Valley nearly a ghost town at this year’s Porcfest.
To be fair, according to Shawn Grissom, this year’s Porcfest vendor coordinator, there were vendors in the lonely Agora Valley that did very well this year. That said, even Grissom agreed the FSP should let go of trying to organize the campground and focus on their event production alone. Let the market self-organize again in the camp/RV area.
Heroic Open-Air Drug Market at Porcfest 2019
Aside from the centrally-planned failure of Agora Valley, the rest of the 2019 Porcupine Freedom Festival went off well and received rave reviews. The Paxtons did a great job of bringing balance back to where Porcfest wasn’t just a family vacation spot – with approximately 200 kids and teenagers in attendance – but also a great party. This year there was a naked guy down at the campfire at night on at least a couple of occasions that I saw, along with a topless young lady, plus an amazing open-air drug market.
During the final night’s Free Ross auction to benefit imprisoned liberty hero and founder of the Silk Road underground market, Ross Ulbricht, there were two vendors set up just outside on a couple of picnic tables right next to each other. One vendor offered items for sale on a whiteboard such as “not mushrooms” and “not pot” while the other seller’s blackboard offered shrooms, flower, and edibles. It even included a shout-out to #freeross.
The little things like that made this year’s Porcfest feel like Porcfests of the past, but what made this year’s Porcupine Freedom Festival historic was what happened at the end of the Free Ross auction. After two hours and well over $10,000 had been raised from bidders on dozens of donated items, two activists donated a couple of eighth-of-an-ounce containers of cannabis to the remaining auction items. The auction was run by Mancamp founder Jay Noone and since he doesn’t have a auctioneer’s license, the entire event was civil disobedience. Noone then made Porcfest and likely New Hampshire history by auctioning off the cannabis to two lucky winners including me and the his assistant, Angie. What fun! (more…)
Come out to join us – it’s not too late for this year yet!
The sun has risen on day number three of Forkfest 2019 at Roger’s Campground as we appear to be on track to top last year’s event. One key indicator – besides new faces showing up this year in the early two days – is the number of food vendors here this year. Day one was pretty slow as always, but by the evening of day two, there were at least four campsites offering food for sale including Matt Roach & Vincent at RV 82 who set up and were operational before anyone else, offering biscuits and gravy in the morning then other delicious hot food later in the day including a chicken chili and cornbread combo. By day’s end, “Taco Munch” had opened up in the tenting area, I heard Silver Dave was serving up food near the dome, and Bardo Farm sausages were being offered by Shawn the soda guy in the RV zone.
If you don’t already know, Forkfest is the yearly camping party in the woods that began in 2017 at Rogers Campground in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. This year, Forkfest happens the five days prior to the Porcupine Freedom Festival and you’re invited to come and create whatever experience you’d like others to have. No one is in charge and the event is decentralized. (In fact, some people have different names for the event, including Somaliafest, Shirefest, and Banned Camp) It’s up-to-you what happens at Forkfest.
The most important thing to know is that there’s no central committee deciding anything for the decentralized event. Just about the only thing generally agreed upon are the dates. Even the name has changed, depending on who you ask. In 2018, Free Keene blogger Darryl W Perry came up with the catchy name, “Forkfest”, which seems to have stuck with many participants. An unofficial Forkfest website was launched along with an unofficial Telegram chat room and unofficial Forkfest Forum. Liberty.menu has created an event to which one can RSVP. Last year there were even two competing event calendars made by attendees.
Darryl’s “Forkfest” name speaks to the idea that this event “forked” off from the Porcupine Freedom Festival. Some have noted that attending Forkfest felt to them like the first original Porcfests, which were much less centrally managed early on than they are today. Porcfest is still a great event, but its direction over the years has resulted in some wanting an alternative, and now they have it as Forkfest 2019 is coming up June 13th through 18th, at Rogers Campground. There are no ticket prices, as there is no organization behind the event. It’s just a bunch of liberty loving people coming to the same campground at the same time. Whatever happens, happens.
Five-Hour Rave at Forkfest 2017
Some Forkfest attendees may just want to hang out and camp with other like-minded people while others may wish to create activities and events for their fellow attendees. Usually, they’ll announce their plans on the Telegram chat or Forkfest forum and already there’s going to be “Mancamp”, nightly dance parties thrown by Anypay, and looks like at least a couple of food vendors. Maybe there’s something you want to see happen? Make it happen!
One excited past Forkfest attendee, Chris Waid of tech talk show Freedom Decrypted has stepped up to help promote Forkfest by purchasing a major sponsorship of Porcfest! Thanks to Waid’s efforts, Forkfest is now a Gold level sponsor of Porcfest! That means Porcfest’s VIP tent will be provided by Forkfest and Forkfest fliers will be in all Porcfest attendees’ bags, promoting Forkfest 2020. When asked about his reasons for sponsoring the event, Waid said, “As a programmer and CEO of a tech company that deals in free or open source software where forking is a common solution to problems of centralization it would have been difficult for me to pass on an opportunity to help sponsor events I love and particularly when one has been forked from the other.”
Darryl W Perry interviews Porcfest head organizer Rodger Paxton in the LRN.FM Tent at Forkfest 2018
Forkfest 2018 was a success! From those I spoke with on the subject, we had way more attendees than last year (which was the first year of the new, decentralized libertarian camping festival). Numbers were noticeably heavier on the first day this year and we hit an estimated over 100 by Saturday. 150 more arrived Sunday for Jay Noone’s wedding and many stayed until the final day, Monday, which included parties thrown by Darryl W Perry and the now annual final night bash at Jim and Chris Babb’s campsite.
The attendees were much more geographically diverse with attendees from across the United States and even from as far away as Lithuania!
Of course, since Forkfest is decentralized and has no organizers or tickets, we really have only estimates of attendance based on observing the state of the campground. That said, it was clearly up maybe three times more than last year, and that’s if you don’t factor in the 150 wedding attendees.
The weather was excellent until the very last day when we were hit with a pounding storm during Free Talk Live‘s recording. Like last year, we broadcast from the event every day from one of the RV sites. Initially it was the opening night hangout for the hardcore campers who showed up for the always-least-populated first day of Thursday.
Rich Paul leads the traditional 4:20 celebration at Forkfest 2018.
On Saturday, we gathered at the LRN.FM broadcast tent for 4:20 with Rich Paul performing his invocation over the PA system. Much cannabis was smoked and a good time had by all.
Sunday was Jay and Shalon Noone’s beautiful wedding and reception, attended by a good portion of the entire park. You can see photos from the wedding as well as the LRN.FM tent broadcasts on my Google Photos album here.
Monday included the parties I mentioned above and many vendors arriving for the Porcupine Freedom Festival which is the long-running, centrally-organized, ticketed libertarian festival that begins at the end of Forkfest.
Shalon and Jay Noone, shortly after getting married – the first ever at Forkfest.
Word has definitely gotten around about Forkfest and many attendees were only planning on staying for Forkfest rather than staying all the way through the Porcupine Freedom Festival (Porcfest). Attendees I spoke with seemed to appreciate the fact that no one was in charge, the decentralization, and the freedom found at Forkfest as a result. (Porcfest, as an organized, board-directed festival, has acquired a number of undesirable rules and vendor fees that has turned many away over the years.)
As with last year, this year’s festival had different names, depending on whom you asked. Whether Forkfest, Somaliafest, or Banned Camp, it’s intended to be the five days prior to the start of the Porcupine Freedom Festival. Forkfest is five full days of no rules (beyond what Rogers Campground already has, and they are pretty hands-off) and just good liberty-oriented company at a beautiful site located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Each attendee decides what to do, bring, or create for others.
Pencil in Forkfest on your calendar for 2019 from June 13th until the 18th. Those are tentative dates, based on what Porcfest organizer Rodger Paxton said about Porcfest 2019’s likely dates of 6/18-23. For the latest info and to plan for next year with other attendees, please join the unofficial Forkfest forum and Telegram chat, which you can find via the unofficial website at Forkfest.party. You can also RSVP via the Forkfest 2019 entry on Liberty.menu. Given we only promoted this year’s event for three months prior and we’ll be promoting 2019 for a full year, it should be even bigger next year! See you in 2019!
Liberty-oriented campers hanging out by the LRN.FM broadcast tent, Day One of Forkfest 2018
Forkfest 2018, the decentralized liberty camping event has started small but strong, kicking off yesterday at Roger’s Campground in the beautiful White Mountains of Lancaster, New Hampshire.
Like the first event last year, this year started slow on Thursday while many are still at work. By my estimates, more are here already this year than were here last year by this time. Not only that, the geographic variety of attendees is more pronounced. This year already has visitors from Lithuania and the United Kingdom as well as a couple from Virginia. Plus many others have indicated they intend to be here no later than Saturday.
What’s happening at Forkfest 2018? Good question! Parties, athletic events, a wedding, a letter-writing event for Ross Ulbricht, a Mesh Networking session, and others have been announced by various attendees. Of course, plenty of socializing and just hanging out by a campfire. There are already a couple of competing calendars that have popped up for attendees to use to promote whatever events they’re involved with. You can find those calendars via the unofficial Forkfest Forum.
Tavern Owner Laura Hardiman Poses with the Anypay App and Cryptocurrency-Loving Forkfest Attendees
If you’re in the area, come on up to Lancaster and join us. There are no tickets to Forkfest (and no organizers or board of directors)! Your only expenses to enjoy your time with other libertarians, voluntarists, and liberty-loving anarchists are your camping costs from Rogers Campground.
Forkfest continues through Monday the 18th and is expected to grow throughout the weekend. Of course, it’s not going to be the size of the fifteen year event that it was spawned from, the Porcupine Freedom Festival (aka Porcfest), which begins on Tuesday the 19th at noon and runs through Sunday the 25th