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Beardfest 2014: A rising star in the festival world

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Summer is the prime time for festivals of every type - food, environmentalism, music, and art to name a few - but rarely do you get a festival that rolls all those flavors into one weekend event. That is, until Beardfest came along.

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Beardfest is an upstart festival that began as a backyard gathering/party/experiment and has grown into a chimerical collusion of environmental awareness, social involvement, art collaboration and musical expression the likes of which is rarely seen outside of Burning Man. And although the gathering is only in its third year, there is strong evidence that Beardfest may be the next big thing in the Jersey festival circuit. An inherently hard to describe event, the festival's official website attempts to define itself by stating:

"In a world where entertainment is often too reduced to a passive, spectator/performer relationship, and where social interactions are too often reduced to quick moments of stolen time, and appreciation of nature is too often kicked aside for the pride of progress, Beardfest attempts to be a breath of fresh air."

That said, Beardfest is probably best experienced rather than defined as it evolves more each year. This year's event has several components that make up its collective whole: music, yoga, art, workshops and camping. The musical lineup for Beardfest 2014 includes 24 bands whose styles and genres of music span every taste. Free yoga and Tai-Chi classes are scheduled for the whole weekend and are open to anyone, and space is dedicated for group artistic expression. The workshops include making natural skincare products, native plant identification, midwifery, grass-roots environmentalism for governmental change (with Paul Glover, Green Party candidate for PA Governor), storytelling, community building through gardening and growing your own food. Onsite camping encourages festival-goers to commune more with the natural world to appreciate what it offers.

Those are just the planned offerings; the serendipitous bonuses that occur when large groups of diverse individuals gather to enjoy the music, art and workshops often form the foundations for even bigger and better things, and Beardfest 2014 may be no exception. Philadelphia Arts Camp (PHART) will be collecting all gifted art, music, and related merchandise to display, play, gift, and promote at Transformus (East Coast Burning Man) to help get individuals' art and music out to a larger audience. With sponsors like the School of Rock, Drowing Fish Studio, Elephant Talk Indie Music Magazine, and Tuned Up Booking, Beardfest is establishing itself as an oasis of creativity in the Pine Barrens.

If you plan to camp on the 300 acre festival site, environmental respect is the word of the day. All campers are advised to bring bug spray, sunscreen, food, non-toxic soap or detergent and reusable water bottles; water, snacks, and porta-potties will be available, but be prepared for an entire weekend outdoors. As expected, all trash must leave with you - this festival walks its talk.

Beardfest 2014 will be held June 13th through June 15th at 2201 Weymouth Road (Blueberry Hill), Hammonton, NJ. Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the gate for the full weekend, $25 for a Friday pass, $30 for a Saturday pass, and free for kids under 10. Visit the official Beardfest website for a list of band stage times, workshop specifics, information on camping and more.

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