I attended my first music and arts festival in 2007. It took a day or so to feel comfortable with the crowds, the camping, and the trek to the stage across mountainous terrain. By the end of the weekend, I knew I had experienced something really special. The community was warm, welcoming, and playful. For the first time I could recall, I felt comfortable enough to be the most authentic version of me and I wondered why most adults thought play should end in childhood. I knew festivals would become a significant part of my life and work.
Work, for me, has always been supporting people with disabilities. I was a special education teacher prior to becoming a speech-language therapist, and now work privately with a variety of ages and abilities, all of whom find joy and a spark that facilitates regulation and learning in music and play.
When I met Leah, a special education and yoga teacher who now directs our programs and plans our events, at a festival in 2017 and learned of the passions and experiences we shared, I knew our business ventures were destined. Together we created Inclusion Festival, the nation’s first and only sensory friendly music and wellness festival designed with inclusion and accessibility at it’s core.
Just last year, we joined forces with Accessible Festivals and I stepped into the role of Executive Director. And just last year, I was crafting a “2020 vision” for this organization that has had to change significantly due to the global pandemic. We have shifted our focus to online accessibility, offering an example of best practices and consultation to other producers. We have learned a lot of important lessons and we are excited to integrate all we have learned into our future plans.
Next up, we will be presenting an accessible virtual concert experience this Spring and we hope to offer a safe, socially distanced concert in-person later this year. Stay tuned for more details! We also hope to hug you at a festival as soon as possible. Thanks to everyone who has been following our journey. We are very grateful.
Leah (in sunflower hat) and I leading an impromptu yoga jam to favorite tunes at The Peach Music Festival in Scranton, PA in 2019.