Extravaganja Celebrated at the Amherst Common
By Maxwell Gilbert ’13, Contributing Writer
Don’t let the bizarre weather confuse you — it is definitely springtime here at the College. There are signs of this glorious transition everywhere: clothes suited to warm weather, frisbee games, students tanning on Memorial Hill and the very palpable sense that the average productivity of each student has decreased significantly. Despite these numerous signals that winter has left us, other events help to remind us of the changing seasons. One of these events is the infamous “Extravaganja”.

Last Saturday, the Amherst Common was filled with people enthusiastic to celebrate the history of cannabis and to protest its illegality for the annual gathering of Extravaganja.

Although the weather was about as unpleasant as it was forecasted to be, people showed up en masse to participate.

There were numerous musical performances by a wide array of artists, bands and rappers.

The musical performances were the favorite part of the day for Walker Peterson ’11, who loved the “relaxing atmosphere that the most excellent afternoon had to offer.”

Peterson greatly enjoyed the sounds of the headlining band Primate Fiasco, who won the spotlight, and with it the coveted 4:20 p.m. performance time.

To satisfy the munchies, there were various food carts, including a very popular “Gourmet Vegetarian Food” station.

The remaining clusters of tents lining the green sold tie-dye t-shirts, exotic art, jewelry, clothing and various devices for smoking the illegal namesake of the day.

Students from all of the Five Colleges were joined by people of all ages and walks of life in this celebration of marijuana. Charles Loesch-Quintin ’13 described the mix as “a very eclectic bunch. There were a lot of different groups of people you wouldn’t expect to see all attending the same event.”

The Amherst Police unofficially allowed this massive but peaceful act of protest involving smoking “grass” on the green.

Extravaganja is a festival held on the Amherst Town Green to protest the illegality of marijuana. This year marked the 19th anniversary of the hemp-honoring celebration. The University of Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition hosts the event every year, hoping it will gain support for their movement.

The giant pot-party has always been held the weekend before or of April 20, the unofficial marijuana appreciation holiday in the United States. The term “420” (pronounced four-twenty, not four hundred and twenty) has become part of standard youth lingo for cannabis consumption. The origins of the term are attributed to a group of students from San Rafael High School in California, dating back to 1971. The students would apparently meet up every day after school to smoke at 4:20 p.m. They then began using this as a codeword for the activity associated with it, and eventually “4/20” became a day all about pot.

Looking around at the droopy, red-eyed and contented people around me, it was difficult to tell whether these students were engaging in active protest or just getting high.

Whereas smoking was just a part of the original counter culture that embraced it, entire festivals dedicated to pot-appreciation show just how far we have come.

Issue 23, Submitted 2010-04-21 03:25:46