Earth Dance 2008

By Yvonne Zusel

You would never guess it to witness the ease at which glow sticks flew through the air on Saturday night into Sunday morning, but Earthdance 2008 almost didn’t happen.

Originally meant to be held at Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek, the event venue was changed Friday night to Boo’s Warehouse in downtown Phoenix because of permit issues.

See more shots from Earth Dance 2008

The 15-hour party was one of more than 300 similar parties in 60 countries held “to promote peace and humanitarian efforts through the global language of dance and music,” according to its Web site.

Event organizer Jeff Jordan said the change was an “incredible disappointment.”

“It was going to be a gorgeous venue,” he said. “Not a lot of people want to sweat in a box.”

He said because of the last-minute change, many people drove out to Queen Creek still thinking the event was at the farm.

“They wanted money back for the wasted gas, but we had to say ‘Sorry, there’s not much we could do.’”

On the whole, partygoers seemed upset the event wasn’t held at Schnepf Farms, but most were grateful the event still went on at all.

“We were a little disappointed,” said a 18-year-old Mesa resident who goes by the raver name Luna. “We were excited about going someplace new.”

Though a portion of the $35 admittance fee were earmarked for Earthdance International and the Emaho Foundation, a Buddhist meditation center in Scottsdale, at times it was hard to tell the event had anything to do with Buddhism. Only one small room was dedicated to promoting awareness and learning about the religion.

Lou Ann Behringer, a volunteer for the Emaho Foundation, said she was “grateful” that the organization was receiving proceeds from the event, but was unsure how many people actually learned anything about Buddhist culture.

“I think if people have a brief encounter with it, they may remember it,” Behringer said. “But I don’t necessarily know if it will stay with them.”

Indeed, many revelers who were questioned didn’t know the impetus behind the event. Many were just excited to have a reason to party.

“We’re just here to dance,” said 23-year-old Smiley. “We’re here for the vibe and the music.”

The music was the driving force of the evening, with five different DJs spinning simultaneously throughout the event while partiers moved to the beat with glow sticks and photon lights.

The diverse crowd ranged from high school girls in bra tops and day-glo mesh shorts to longhaired middle-aged men hanging out in the meditation room. Many sucked on fluorescent pacifiers and sported the “kandi” bead bracelets often given out at raves.

Old friends who hadn’t seen each other since Earthdance 2007 hugged, happy to see each other after a year.

22-year-old Kyo said diversity and inclusiveness goes hand-in-hand with the PLUR (peace, love, unity, respect) philosophy of the rave culture.

“This right here is a raver family,” he said, motioning to the group he was sitting with. “We protect each other.”

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Jonathan McNamara