Report by the Czar
Report on the
2005 Porcupine Freedom Festival
by Varrin Swearingen '05 Porc Fest 'Czar'
Thanks to the hard work of a great team of volunteer organizers and the generous contributions of numerous people, the 2005 Porcupine Freedom Festival was a great success. Many 'reviews' have been and will be written by many people. This serves as a public review of the event for informational and historical purposes from the point of view of the 'Czar'. Additional information will be passed to the 2006 Porc Fest Team for planning purposes.
The Porcupine Freedom Festival is the Free State Project's annual gathering in New Hampshire. This year was the 2nd Annual Festival. It was held in Lancaster, NH at Roger's Campground starting on Saturday, July 23rd and running through Sunday, July 31st.
After the 1st Annual Porcupine Freedom Festival in 2004, I was appointed the Porc Fest Czar (a position which did not previously exist). My mission was to lead the planning effort for the 2005 Porcupine Freedom Festival. During the course of planning the event, I identified three purposes for having the Porcupine Freedom Festival which were published in the festival program:
1.To provide an opportunity for all Free State Project Participants to meet together in New Hampshire for social and other purposes.
To provide an opportunity for prospective Free State Project participants to experience New Hampshire first hand.
To provide an opportunity for New Hampshire residents to better understand the Free State Project and meet some of its participants.
For approximately a year prior to the event, a team of more than 20 people worked on festival and event planning. The result was an exciting festival with a broad variety of activities that appealed to a diverse group of attendees with a sole common thread: a thirst for freedom.
The event began on Saturday, July 23rd. An estimated 2-3 dozen attendees were present beginning on that day and the number of average attendees per day grew through Saturday, July 30th. During the course of the entire festival, an estimated 400 people attended at least some part of the festival, which may be the largest libertarian gathering all year. That figure does not include the people who attended the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance's Liberty Dinner but did not attend any other part of the Porcupine Freedom Festival. Attendees came from an estimated 38 different states plus the District of Columbia and at least two foreign countries. For the sake of comparison, an estimated 300 people attended the 2004 Porcupine Freedom Festival.
There were over 40 different scheduled events in over 20 different locations, including 7 different town tours. In addition to scheduled events, there were numerous spontaneous events of various sizes during the course of the festival.
There were representatives from 3 different political parties present as either speakers or vendors. There were representatives of 7 non-partisan pro-freedom organizations, 4 of which are focused primarily on freedom in New Hampshire, who had speakers presenting at the festival. There were a total of nearly 20 vendors on Saturday, including several additional pro-freedom organizations who did not have speakers on the schedule. There were also several people in attendance who hold positions with other pro-freedom organizations that were not vendors or scheduled speakers.
There were 7 planned social, recreational, or educational events, 4 planned community-specific events (3 of which were religious in nature), and firearms-related events on at least 7 different days in several different locations for people of all levels of experience.
Daily event review
- Saturday July 23rd:
The first day of the festival, there was a birth bash planned for the FSP. It was the 4th anniversary of the publication of Jason's original essay in The Libertarian Enterprise which ultimately led to the founding of the FSP organization. Cake was served to a 'party' with around a couple dozen people in attendance. At least one person showed up to the party who had only heard of the FSP through the Porc Fest ad in Reason Magazine.
Michael Badnarik taught his Introduction to the Constitution class in Concord, NH. I do not know how many people attended, though I believe there may have been at least a couple of NH State Representatives who were there.
Sunday July 24th:
There was a laser tag outing scheduled in Goshen, NH. No information was retained as to how many people attended that event. Goshen is about a 2-hour drive from Lancaster and few, if any, people traveled from Lancaster to Goshen to participate. There may have been participants who had not yet arrived in Lancaster but I have not received any reports about it.
Monday and Tuesday, July 25th and 26th:There were no events listed on the schedule for these two days, however there was shooting informally scheduled and accomplished on both days.
Wednesday, July 27th:
Shooting at the range was scheduled and accomplished on Wednesday. I attended the Wednesday event which began mid-morning. More than a dozen people were in attendance and the event was accomplished safely and enjoyably. At least three people identified themselves as beginners (one of which, I believe, had never shot a gun before) and were given excellent safety instruction.
Michael Badnarik taught his Introduction to the Constitution class in the hall at Roger's Campground to an audience of about 15 people. Reports from the attendees and Mr. Badnarik were very positive.
Thursday, July 28th:
More firearms related activities were accomplished on Thursday, including shooting at the range and a '2nd Amendment Gear Swap'.
7 Town Tours were organized and accomplished on Thursday. I spoke with a couple of the tour organizers who reported that people did, in fact, attend the tours. Attendance varied, but the ones I spoke to indicated attendance in the 5-10 range for each tour.
A Mock Town Hall Meeting was organized in Unity, NH at the Unity Town Hall and led by current Unity Selectmen and other town officials, including FSP Participant Mary Gere. There was an impressive display of hospitality from the people of Unity, including refreshments, local greeters, and a warm welcome from the officials, not all of whom are connected with the Free State Project. There may have been 50-75 non-Unity residents in attendance. There were also several residents of Unity in attendance and helping out who did not attend any other parts of the Porcupine Freedom Festival. Reports from the attendees were overwhelmingly positive with respect to the value and enjoyment of the event. The location was about 2 hours from Roger's Campground which likely resulted in lower than anticipated attendance.
Friday, July 29th:
Hikers met at the Cafe to climb Mt. Liberty led by Dr. Michael Edelstein. The trail head is about 45 minutes from Roger's and the hike lasted most of the day. There were a reported dozen people who went on the trip.
A Shooting Introduction for Beginners class was accomplished on Friday by experienced firearms instructor Tony Lekas. The session began in the Picnic Pavilion and then moved to an indoor range near Lancaster. Early reports indicated a full class of ~15 people, though I have not received an accurate attendance count.
The first session in the hall was titled Parties Promoting Freedom. John Babiarz reported on what the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire is doing to promote freedom in New Hampshire. Phil Blummel and Bill Westmiller reported on what the Republican Liberty Caucus does, both in general and in New Hampshire. The Democratic Freedom Caucus was scheduled to present but could not be present. Attendance was good at something over 100 and the reception was very positive.
The second session in the hall was a presentation by the NHLA. Don Gorman, their political director, talked about a variety of topics primarily revolving around what the NHLA is doing with respect to political activism at the State House. The audience very warmly received Don and he was both entertaining and educational. Rich Tomasso, Chair, was also present for the session, as were other NHLA officials. Attendance was well over 100.
The Leadership Luncheon was held at the Cabot Lodge restaurant. It was attended by over 25 FSP leaders and large donors. The environment was casual and social in nature. There were no planned presentations which gave the donors an opportunity to speak face to face with FSP Board Members, Executives, and Department Heads over a leisurely lunch.
After lunch in the hall was a session titled the "Education Funding Forum" led by Charles Arlinghaus of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy a NH based think tank. I was not present until the very end of that session but reports were that Charles did a good job conveying many of the intricacies of NH education funding to the audience of around 125-150 people.
The next session in the hall was the "We've Made The Move" presentations. Numerous FSP Participants who have already moved to New Hampshire spoke about various aspects of their move. Prior to each short speech, they were given a piece of chain to cut symbolizing the breaking of their chains from their former states. At the end of the speeches, a photo opportunity was given and the movers answered questions from the audience. The hall was fairly full (seating capacity ~185).
In the Pavilion, Bernard von NotHaus gave an update on the Liberty Dollar to an estimated 50-75 people. Reports indicated the session was informative and interesting.
In the Hall, we held the Porcupine Family Dinner where 175 of the attendees ate a catered dinner consisting of a variety of items in a buffet-style setup. The price was higher than last year, however reports indicated the quality of the food was vastly superior. An unknown but large number of attendees did not join the dinner, likely due to the higher price of it. I would estimate maybe only 1/2 to 2/3 of the festival attendees present on Friday actually ate the dinner.
After dinner, a live rock concert by 'freedom rock' band Poker Face was enjoyed in the 'bowl' outside the pavilion. The concert lasted about 3 hours, including a break between sets. The entertainment was very well received and attendance was dramatically stronger than last year's entertainment (a DJ and dancing). There were some attendees present who, I believe, did not attend other portions of the Festival.
There was also a social gathering of the polyamory community in a hotel room of the polyamory community liaison. Attendance is unknown but not more than a hotel room's worth.
Saturday, July 30th:
The speaker setup on Saturday was expanded to include not only seating in the hall, but a set of speakers outside the hall broadcasting to the parking lot and vendor table area. This resulted in less crowding in the hall and the ability of more people to hear the presentations. Some of the presentations in the hall were very full (including standing room only), but there were many additional attendees at or near the vendor tables and in the parking lot. This significantly increased the size of the hall audience over last year's festival.
The vendor tables were open for the entirety of the day and were placed under the trees across the parking lot from the hall. This resulted in some shade for the tables. Fortunately the weather was excellent. I visited each of the tables. Exhibitors included pro-freedom organizations (the Liberty Scholarship Fund, New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers, Bureaucrash, and the Free State Project), to political parties (the RLC, Libertarian Party, and Constitution Party), to a variety of other business and social tables (2 musical / band tables, the Liberty Ladies, and several businesses).
I heard bits of most of the presentations, but only saw the FSP presentation in its entirety. In some cases, I spoke to others about the presentation and received reports which were generally very positive.
The first presentation was by the FSP, led by Jason Sorens and Amanda Phillips. Attendance was standing room only (including many people standing plus people outside the hall) and is estimated at well over 200 people. Both Jason and Amanda were very well received. Jason delivered a speech about courage and humility. Questions were fielded from the audience on a variety of topics mainly revolving around the state and future of the FSP.
The next presentation was from Ed Naile of the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers. Attendance was strong and Ed was well received. Ed spoke about what the CNHT has been doing, including some information about activity in NH relating to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision which allows taking of private property for economic development purposes. The question and answer session was spirited.
Katherine Albrecht delivered a presentation on privacy, including issues surrounding RFID chips, surveillance, and loyalty programs. The presentation included multimedia components and ended with a question and answer period. Attendance was strong and reports from attendees indicated the session was very informative and important.
After lunch, Heather Talley from Bureaucrash reported on what they do as an international activist organization. Attendance was slightly lower in the beginning due to people just coming back from lunch. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to see any of Heather's presentation.
Michael Badnarik, 2004 Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate, spoke next. He delivered an inspiring session including information about his Presidential campaign and future plans. Attendance was, again, strong (everyone seemed to have returned from lunch by that point) and Michael was very well received.
The final speaker of the day was author Jim Bovard. Though the hall was still quite full, fewer people overall attended (inside and out) due to getting ready for the NHLA dinner later in the evening. Nevertheless, Jim gave a well received talk with questions and answers at the end on a variety of topics more aimed at 'general' and/or 'national' issues.
The NHLA held their 2nd annual Liberty Dinner in Plymouth, NH on Saturday evening. Speakers included Jack Cole (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) and Dr. Ron Paul (R-TX). They released their final 2005 Liberty Rating and gave out their legislator of the year award. Attendance was in the neighborhood of 175, including maybe a dozen state representatives and many others who did not attend any other part of the Porcupine Freedom Festival.
There were two general interest planned social gatherings on Saturday evening which lasted late into the evening. The Circle of Liberty was attended by as many as several dozen people at the campfire near the Pavilion. It featured speeches by most or all of the attendees on essentially any topic the speakers wanted to speak on. At a campsite, there was a gathering billed the Irregular Polygon Of Non-Conformity. It was more of a social / party atmosphere and was also attended by several dozen people.
- Sunday, July 31st:
Three religious community events were scheduled for Sunday. In the Hall, the FSP-Christians group held a carry-in breakfast and church service. Service attendance was ~25-30 and featured music by FSP Participant Bryan Stevenson and a sermon by pastor Garrett Lear.
The Seekers held a meeting at a campsite featuring remarks by Jack Shimek and a talk by Dr. Andrew Tempelman about his book "God and Quarks". I did not receive any reports for that event.
Amanda Phillips hosted a gathering of atheists at her campsite which was reportedly well received. No report of attendance was forwarded to me.
A second Introduction to Shooting for Beginners was offered at an indoor range in Manchester, again led by Tony Lekas. No report of attendance was forwarded to me.
The 2005 Porcupine Freedom Festival was, in most measurable ways, an expansion and improvement on the 2004 Porcupine Freedom Festival. Attendance increased by over 30% and it may wind up being the best attended libertarian event of 2005, at least in the United States and maybe anywhere in the world.
For many FSP participants from all over the nation, the 2005 Porcupine Freedom Festival was their first visit to New Hampshire with an eye towards moving there. Like the previous year, many left New Hampshire with a dramatically accelerated timetable for moving.
Some who are not yet FSP participants reported, for the first time, giving serious consideration to moving to New Hampshire after their visit to the Porcupine Freedom Festival.
Some people who live in New Hampshire but are not FSP Participants were exposed to the FSP and it's participants for the first time during the Porcupine Freedom Festival. Most reports of those encounters were very positive.
Given the above, I conclude that the 2005 Porcupine Freedom Festival was a success at achieving its stated goals, at benefiting the freedom movement in New Hampshire, at benefiting the Free State Project, at benefiting the festival attendees, and at securing its place as the premier libertarian event of the entire year in just about every measurable way.
It was an honor and a pleasure to lead the organizational effort for the 2005 Porcupine Freedom Festival. The spirit of cooperation and accomplishment, and the amount of talent and energy devoted to the Festival was world class. I would like to, again, publicly thank everyone who had a part, large or small, in making the festival the success that it was.
2005 Porcupine Freedom Festival 'Czar'
August 12, 2005