Zero-waste event will feature music, art, food, placemaking
— What exactly is Big Love Fest? According to its creators, it is a festival devoted to strengthening and growing our community through creative, collaborative means. Big Love aims to promote diversity and non-judgmental inclusion. It is a celebration of our city and its people and an opportunity for Akronites to come together in the spirit of love and unity to make connections and build bridges between one another. Big Love Fest is a family friendly, zero waste event.
Big Love Fest 2016: Building Bridges will take place Saturday, March 12 from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. at Summit Artspace, 140 E. Market St. in Akron. Every nook and cranny of Summit Artspace will be filled with art, music of all kinds, storytelling, poetry, guided meditations, yoga, community-building workshops, cooking demos, food and drink, children’s activities, and locally made products of all kinds.
Big Love is more than just a festival, though. To quote the Big Love Akron blog, “Big Love is, at its core, a network of like-minded individuals that share the value of a greater community love, for a whole city in all its diversity. We are inspired to build bridges and spark creative collaborations across race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender and anything else that seemingly keeps us apart. In short, we believe that great things happen when people of diverse backgrounds come together.”
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Akron Peace Project Founder, activist, environmentalist, author, and musician Zach Freidhof to talk about Big Love Fest 2016. I asked Zach, one of the founders and leaders of the Big Love Network, what it was that inspired the creation and continuation of Big Love.
As he spoke, it was clear that Zach is a man deeply in love…with our planet, with people, and with Akron, the city he calls home. He spoke of some of the places where he’s traveled and the positive change he’s witnessed in cities across the country.
Zach talked to me about permaculture (development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient), community gardens (pieces of land gardened using individual and/or shared plots on private or public land to produce food, located in neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, town halls…anywhere), and placemaking — a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces capitalizing on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well being).
He earnestly expressed his belief that we all can learn from one another if we come together to collaborate and share with open minds. Zach and his fellow organizers believe that Akron has everything we need to create the community we want, but he stresses that doing that requires change, and the change must begin inside each of us. “Outer change is not going to happen without inner change,” he says.
That is where the Big Love Festival comes in. The music, the art, the performances, the food and just about everything else that makes up the festival is included with a purpose. “It is all part of a transformation,” says Zach. “It’s about building a bridge to ourselves, and then between ourselves and each other.”
Leading by example
The Big Love Fest organizers lead by example. At the end of Big Love Fest 2015, whose attendance consisted of over 2,000 people, waste had been kept to less than one half of one garbage bag for the entire 12-hour event. The event is expected to be even larger this year, but not the waste. Organizers are determined to produce less waste this year than the year before.
Zach had lots of good ideas to share, but I had to ask him about what he thinks of the label “hippy festival” I’ve heard bantered about. He said he believes that in the sense that peace and love are principles at the forefront of the event, he thinks the label fits, but to view it as a hippy event would be to miss the point and sell Big Love Akron’s potential short. “Big Love is for everybody. Summit Artspace is a big building and Big Love is a big event. Not everything is for everybody, but there is something at Big Love for everyone who comes.”
Organized by the Akron Peace Project, Health Equity for Akron’s Longevity and Sustainability (HEALS), and the Akron League of Creative Interventionists, Big Love Fest 2016 depends on the support — financial and otherwise — of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and local organizations like the Downtown Akron Partnership, Summit Artspace, 91.3 The Summit, the Akronist, Torchbearers, Dance Your Soul, Lawnfest Live, BME, Akron Yoga Summit, Global Ties Akron, Cleargold Audio and Lighting, and Wandering Aesthetics Theatre Company, as well as a host of other organizations and individuals, to make it all possible.
The group is still looking for sponsors and volunteers. To learn more about Big Love 2016: Building Bridges, go to www.facebook.com/events/1710340395919521.
To learn about sponsoring Big Love Fest, go to bigloveakron.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/looking-for-sponsors-2.