2018 marks the end of the third 7-year cycle for these gatherings around the Summer Solstice. The first cycle began in 1998 with the Om Festival, a weekend event that had five sound stages and around 4,000 participants at its peak. The Om Festival's final year was 2004.
The Om Reunion Project formed to continue the gatherings by introducing the week-long format in 2005. This second cycle started out small with a few hundred participants, gathering at different locations and re:in:venting itself through different names until re:generate in 2011.
The third cycle began in 2012, now called Solstice Gathering and taking place at the Walkowiak farm every year. Having a consistent location and a relationship with the Walkowiak family allowed for improvements to structures and growth in membership, including new components such as Family Camp. As the third cycle closes, Solstice Gatherings have about 1800 participants including over 150 children.
Who knows what the fourth cycle will bring in 2019? Stay tuned...
What is Om Reunion Project?
Mmmmm Salad King. Young ravers and rainbow kids joined forces and visioned OM over thai islamic noodles in 1997. Tired of the dirty, commercial parties which were instigating the slow death of the rave scene in the late 90s, and yet inspired by the genuine love that permeated it … they knew it was time to create something alive, thriving, living, breathing, CONSCIOUS and community bound. And so OM Festival was born of the blood, sweat and tears of a bunch of passionate party kids!
Continual inspiration fuelled the fire: a Plastikman rave in a corn field (somewhere in southern Ontario?) … a massive Teknival festival in Europe, a Rainbow Gathering, Burningman... Sumkidz began!! Putting in endless hours in collective meetings, building consensus, and investing all their money and time to make OM Festival happen.
The outcome - thousands of ravers, hippies, artists, musicians, poets, activists, health practitioners, knowledge-seekers and arts collectives from all over Canada coming together to create a temporary autonomous zone based on free expression, and participatory culture. Bound by the idea that WE>I and a Leave No Trace philosophy … magic did indeed happen! Though there is much to describe, one certain thing is that it couldn‘t have happened without the countless volunteer hours, money invested by collectives, and dedication from the OM community both leading up to and during the events! We thank you!
Everything ends sometime though...
With so much done by so few for so many, with too many authoritarian obstacles - the equation had proven to be unsustainable. Due partly to increasingly false media surrounding electronic music, it became even more difficult to produce outdoor music events of that magnitude. Once dreams of buying community land began to fade, Sumkidz knew it was time to put an end to the huge multiple thousand person gatherings.
This left many OMies dazed, disappointed and confused about what would be next!
From the initiative of a small group of die-hard members, up sprung a week-long member-based gathering where everyone was expected to volunteer at the gathering in some way! Smaller, yet fuller in so many ways... enter the next phase, the birth of Om Reunion Project. While some original members of Sumkidz stayed on to work with ORP, many new organizers joined this new collective to continue the tradition of OM in a new cycle and format.
Since 2005, what has prevailed is a smaller, more intentional gathering with less focus on big production and headlining acts, and follows the philosophy that EVERYONE contributes through membershifts on site, whether they are organizing or performing or just coming to play all week in the woods! This was a fundamental shift in the community, breaking down hierarchies and the need for extremely high budgets to run a festival. And while many people resisted, it attracted many new members, alongside those who continued to support the OM community.
The result - our deeply loved, deeply rooted, multi-generational event know as Solstice Gathering! Taking place on the summer solstice every year in southern Ontario, the festival continues to grow, change and shine with its members at its heart.
See you in the woods.