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Singing a New Tune

Hoxeyville Music Festival has a long tradition of being untraditional. This year is no exception...
By Gretchen VanMonette Gretchen
Photography - Jonathon Alfano And Sabrina Pacitto
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Singing a New Tune blog image

The Hoxeyville Music Festival, set for Aug. 18- 20, is the first multi-day festival in Michigan—and the nation—to be granted a license for onsite cannabis sales and consumption alongside alcohol.

Sponsored by Dunegrass Co. and thus dubbed the Dunegrass Garden, the consumption lounge is a private area with a great view of the stage and a front-row seat for enjoying cannabis.

For seasoned concertgoers with an appreciation for cannabis, it’s about time. Younger cannabis users may wonder what is the big deal. After all, weed, alcohol, and music have been in concert together since forever.

“A festival lifestyle is well matched for cannabis. It’s always been there. We’re just moving it more into the mainstream,” says Tom Beller, organizer of the Dunegrass Garden.

The tricky part was getting it out from behind the bushes and into general awareness while not stepping across the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency regulations.

First of its Kind If you think coordinating a music festival featuring multiple stages, performers, and vendors is challenging, try applying for a license to allow cannabis sales and consumption at the same event. “There is no manual for something like this,” says Beller. “There are rules, but no manual.”

“A festival lifestyle is well matched for cannabis. It’s always been there. We’re just moving it more into the mainstream.”

Tom Beller, Organizer, Dunegrass Garden

The first step was perhaps the easiest—getting local support.

With the festival being a part of the area for two decades, the community of Wellston was well acquainted and accepting of the festival and its participants. “Having the backing of the community is critical,” says Beller. “You can only do things like this when you’re welcomed.”

Next up was finding insurance for such a cannabis-related program, as options were limited for such an event. Security was another concern. And in the midst of all that, Beller and his team would have to begin the daunting process of safely and legally offering cannabis for sale and consumption.

“The coordination of seed-to-sale monitoring was unique and intense,” says Eric Piedmonte, Chief Operations officer at Dunegrass, which operates six dispensaries in northern Michigan.

The setup strategy was to keep the cannabis sales and consumption area accessible but sectioned off from the general festival activities. “We’ve designed the area to be secure and separate but with great sight lines of the stages and performances,” says Piedmonte. “It’s like we’re in our own bubble within a bubble.” Alcohol and cannabis will stay separate in other ways too, as alcoholic beverages will not be permitted in the cannabis area, and vice versa.

“We are definitely held to a higher standard than alcohol vendors, who are in clear view,” adds Piedmonte. “But this is the path to normalizing cannabis enjoyment at festivals and events across the state and even the nation.”

Cannabis Under the Canopy

Dunegrass Gardens will be open daily, with shortened hours on Thursday to coincide with the partial day of musical acts. The lounge will sit under a huge canopy with a living room vibe with plenty of comfy chairs and couches. Guests will find seating for groups of ten with a table in between.

Piedmonte expects 20 or more top brands to be a part of Dunegrass Gardens. Along with sales and consumption, Dunegrass is bringing in cannabis experts for short seminars on growing and production aspects and question-and-answer sessions.

There will also be fun experiences like tie-dying, giveaways, and Euchre (a trick-taking card game). Also in the works is a morning kayak trip, before the lounge opens. “The entire experience will appeal to visitors from 20-somethings to seniors,” says Piedmonte.

While the journey was tough, Beller remains proud of the groundwork he and the rest of the Dunegrass team have laid down for future festivals. “This is so new for Michigan,” he says. “We’re crafting the standard operating procedure for the state regarding cannabis use at festivals.”

“This is the path to normalizing cannabis enjoyment at festivals and events across the state and even the nation.”

Eric Piedmonte, Chief Operations OFFIcer, Dunegrass