The very first hemp festival in Seattle was held 23 years ago in 1991. There’s a great history on their website that you can read here: Seattle Hempfest History
The Seattle Hempfest takes place the third weekend of August so this past weekend was their most recent. The first and last time I made it to Hempfest was five years ago as Jack Herer’s guest in 2009. It was Jack’s very last one.
I wanted to take time to honor Jack and take a walk down memory lane, so I thought I ‘d share some of the very last pictures I ever took with Jack at the Seattle Hempfest.
There were over 300,000 people at the Seattle Hempfest that year. I remember how excited Jack was about the large turnout. I always compare walking through Hempfest with Jack to what it must of felt like walking though the Red Sea with Moses. The crowd would part and honor him everywhere we turned. His jubilance was palpable and very contagious. Oy! The charisma of that man was so awesome!
I loved every minute of being in Seattle with Jack in spite of the fact that I was super ill with the flu. I was so sick; I missed the very first morning of Hempfest because I was stuck in bed with a temperature. As I made my way through the thick crowds later that day and reached Jack’s booth, I was so relieved that it was totally worth the effort. I got to see Jack in action. I saw the love I felt directed towards me when I was with him, be distributed to the masses. Jack loved people, FOR REAL!
Jack was intent on introducing me to everyone and anyone, but especially made it a point for me to meet Don E. Wirtshafter, Keith Stroup and the Hempfest organizer that year, Vivian McPeak. During the festival, I remember Don taking me aside and drilling me about my hemp clothing line and my hemp knowledge and then taking me back to Jack saying, “she checks out.” Little did I know, I wasn’t just having a nice conversation with Don, I was being vetted!
I almost didn’t make it to Hempfest that year. I didn’t think my clothing line was ready for its debut but Jack insisted that I go. Several times, I said I couldn’t go until Jack finally convinced me. (He was great at guilt trips!) His insistence beat out my tenacious Virgo tendencies to strive for a perfect product. So Jack made room for me in his booth and as he sold his books and videos, I sold tees that were inspired directly from his book.
I can tell you this, I felt a little like “Legally Blonde” amongst the Rastafarian vibe, but I had a blast. There were lots of fun stories that came out of that weekend, like the time I thought I was following Jack’s van back to the hotel and ended up following the wrong van and walking into a stranger’s house looking for Jack. It was a scene straight out of “stoner movie!”
A month after Seattle’s Hempfest, Jack was on his way to Portland’s Hempstalk. He called me on the way to say he wished I could have gone to that festival, too. I told him I wished I could be there as well, especially because I had had such a blast at the previous festival. As usual, he told me he loved me and I whole heartedly reciprocated as we hung up. That would be the very last conversation I would ever have with Jack. It was at the Portland Hempstalk that Jack suffered a massive heart attack on stage in the midst of his speech. He never fully recovered and passed away seven months later. My friend, mentor and hero was gone.
It’s been difficult for me to return to Hempfest. It just doesn’t seem like it would be the same without Jack. The recurring thought I always have is thank God he pushed me to go to the Seattle Hempfest that year. I would have missed out on so much. The lesson I learned from that is to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. You just never know when it will be your last chance.
Miss you so much, Jack. One day, I’ll make it back to the Seattle Hempfest, just for you.