Photosynthesis lights up Neah Bay

Story and photos by Donna Barr

West End North correspondent


Photosynthesis 6 filled the Hobuck Beach Campsite with music and lights in Neah Bay last weekend.


The techno-music and light festival has been held at the Hobuck Beach Campground since 2011.


This year’s event sent blue auroras of light arcing in giant waving fans across the night sky, blossoming into neon blue flowers where they encountered the foliage of trees.


Everywhere people walked, multi-color lights – holiday, solar, laser, and LED – lit up geodesic performance domes, costumes and even hula hoops.


The festival bills itself as working to help people make new lives for themselves.


Dare to Care’s booth sold knitted and beaded work from the women of Nepal.


Their initiatives include an orphanage in Katmandu and a leprosy community development initiative. Their website is


Drugs were light at the festival. Though some attendees have a  marijuana “green card,” none were reported violating Makah laws prohibiting the drug. Tribal police from Neah Bay and the Elwha supervised  the event.


Children ran happily through the festival, enjoying themselves in and around booths, often operated by parents or other relatives, all under close adult supervision.


Ten-year-old Clint Bain brought the dark, twinkling midway to a cheering halt, as he performed a spot-on Michael Jackson moonwalk routine to music broadcast from the Tribal Prints booth.


Other adults and children joined in to the Cha Cha Slide, performing impromptu hip-hop line dancing.


Gabriel Stirl walked slowly through the festival grounds, welcoming everyone by quietly drumming and singing the Greeting Song of the coastal peoples.


Stirl is of the Laq-`temish people, or “People of the Sea,” commonly called “Lumi” by outsiders. The ancestral language name of the Makah is Qwiqwidicciat, or “People of the Cape.”


Outside the Mandala Dome, where the illuminated crowd stomped and gyrated to the hard-driving electronic music, one officer denied dancing when asked.


“Not yet. But inside this uniform, I’m gettin’ down,” he said with a smile.


Vendors included many locals.


On hand were Kylee Butter, offering her cedar weavings for the first time, and Laura Courtney, displaying her innovative use of recycling paper music into traditional “bone-bead” style jewelry, and transforming pastel Goodwill bed sheets into hand-braided
rag rugs.


Chad and B’s Smoothies allowed customers to whip up their own beverages on a bicycle-powered friction-drive blender.


Neah Bay Police officer Brandon Smith couldn’t resist. (Neither could this correspondent.)

Officers reported little trouble, much like previous festivals.


Circle Couture owner Amy Hymas used peacock feathers from her grandmother’s farm to create exotic costuming.


Chad William Hagan and Skiegh Crystal Lynn Ward celebrated their wedding Saturday during the festival.


They were married by minister Kyle Bova, from the Universal Life Church Monastery.


Ward’s wedding dress and the barefoot wedding on the sandy beach were hailed by some attendees as among the most beautiful they’d ever seen.


Costumes at the event included sequined masks, feather headdresses, ornate beaded boots and comical animal hats.


Particularly lovely was Meghann Frickberg’s (“Art of Wings”) “Fiber-optic jellyfish,” a cascade of color-shifting LED wires, supported around her like shining rain by a colorful umbrella.


Speaking of rain, the normal west-coast mizzle was back again this year.

While not as severe as the small deluge that turned last year’s first night into a cold, dark version of

Woodstock, the steady drip made everybody dig up the extra clothing and boots they’d packed.


The festival look went from summer to winter, people showing off their best fancy boots, coats and headgear.


Still, they managed to sparkle and jingle with sequins, lights and coins, resembling a damp but cheerful north-country Cirque Du Soleil.


Festival attendees said they’d come to like the foggy, drizzly weather, especially since after a night of hard dancing, “You’re not all sweaty and stinky.”


A wide array of organic food  was offered at the booths, as well.


Crunchy fried carrots proved popular, as did flavored popcorn, using ingredients like baker’s yeast and local smoked salmon.


Big slabs of hot salmon, fresh off the fire, were sold at discounted prices late at night.


The correspondent’s favorite display tent was the second appearance of the cozy Snake Temple, where “Dancer” shepherds a small, welcoming music session, or where weary attendees may simply rest.


The tent is named after several small Royal Pythons that relaxed in an aquarium atop the music speakers inside the luxuriously-decorated tents (snakes seem to enjoy the vibrations of the speakers, often coiling up atop them by choice when at home).


Attendees were allowed to handle and pet one of the beautiful tame reptiles, named – what else? – “Snake.”


Festival staff  prepared the site by cleaning the beach and campground,  instructing attendees and vendors to pack out their own trash.


(Challenge note: Clallam Bay would be willing to back its claim that it is now probably the cleanest beach on the West Coast, year-round).

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