The event was offered as a free service to the community by the Brahma Kumaris in partnership with the city of Hollywood, Florida. Local CBS TV, NPR and newspapers collaborated in mustering the drumbeat leading up to the festival.
The vibe on the day was great with nine different activities, live music, taichi, yoga, food or just laying on the grass to choose from. Flags, balloons and banners around the park created a nice festive atmosphere, along with Houng's peace mural that flanked one side of the stage. Each of the activity spaces was tastefully decorated. The Tent Talks, Inner Peace meditation room, Children's tent and Virtuescope were the most popular. The sunshine and wind were ideal for a day out in the park and the crowds enjoyed the food choices including gelato, organic and local sorbet, roasted corn on the cobb, fresh coconut water and a vegan bakery displaying cupcakes, etc. The massive stage was filled to capacity at one point with Willie and (fifty) Friends band.
Wanda Myles, local host of the morning edition of NPR, kicked things off on the main stage. The mood was set by Stacey Berkley, electric harpist par excellence. Julia Dale, the eleven-year old singing sensation, known as the Miami Heat's lucky charm, surprised the crowd with her grace and talent. Peter Betan and Marc Berner performed a couple of light numbers. Then came the star attraction of the day, Willie Stewart and band with the Rhythms of Africa.
The scene was incredible from the stage, to see a sea of people lying on blankets with small patches of green in between. Then looking a little bit up and see a sea of people in the plaza of tents. They played tunes from Africa, Jamaica and Cuba. Kids weren't too sure how to dance to reggae so they decided to just jump up and down to the beat. It was heart warming to see many of the young performers in their "zone" knowing they were at-risk kids and music was their way to a new life. People expressed their appreciation afterwards on being able to enjoy the music and dancing without anyone smoking or drinking in the area.
Sister Veronica shared a brief message with the audience pointing out that peace doesn't have to be boring nor does it mean to sit still; like this day it can be expressed in fun ways. Then four yogis joined her on-stage and Bebe Butler spoke a clear and beautiful commentary guiding people to state of inner bliss. As she faded out, the band began to play John Lennon's 'Imagine', reggae-style, keeping people in that space. The final item was Marley's 'One Love' and everyone erupted into dance again. The entire place was a glow, and rocking out. What a way to close!
At days end the park authority estimated over a 1000 people attended. Everyone walked away floating with a sense of joy unlike anything they'd experience before. Willie tried to put it in words, "I felt an energy come from somewhere …". With a whole lot of new friends and fans made that day, there were already conversations about doing this event again next year, bigger and better, even before we left the venue.
On the flight back to the west coast I was reminiscing the feeling of magic, how everyone and everything came together perfectly. Now, I look forward to the unfolding of the miracle again when we host the festival at the next destination this summer. Stay tuned for the details.