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Voyage to Gnarnia

Article Published: Aug. 2, 2012 | Modified: Aug. 12, 2012
Voyage to Gnarnia

Visual art by Gabriel Lehman at the upcoming Festival of Gnarnia

The upcoming Festival of Gnarnia will be like mazing through a mandala.

The festival, set for Aug. 9 to 11, will be held atop the eastern United States’ highest point, Beech Mountain.

From the solace of the mountain comes sprigs of creativity, and for many, Gnarnia will be the canvas, the vacation and the prompt.

“We anticipate having one of the most arts-saturated events on the Eastern seaboard,” said Graham Hackett, the festival’s cultural ambassador, in an email. “The sheer volume of creative talent being assembled in one place is amazing.”

Over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Beats Antique, 7 Walkers, Tipper, Emancipator, Conspirator, 12th Planet, Rising Appalachia, Machines are People Too, and Firecracker Jazz Band, along with many others, will headline for the Festival of Gnarnia.

Many of the 100-plus featured bands are electronic, but there is some grandfather bluegrass and growling jazz. To choose the performing bands, Hackett joked, “We threw darts at a wall of album covers.”

He said that skilled music making, more than fame, is the winning qualification.

“After reeling in a wide array of national talent, we secured the most accomplished local artists we could,” he said. “There are countless ways of making good music. Audiences enjoy witnessing something being done well, so even if you’re unfamiliar with a particular style of music, you might get exposed to something brand new that rocks your world.”

Gnarnia will feel like a new vaudeville with its performance arts, he said. Fourth Destiny dances, Ariel artists, hoop dancers, a Seduction Sideshow, fire artists, illusionists, yoga groups, a miniature circus, belly dancers, Aztec dance, opera and others will be present.

The Poetix Lounge is cabaret-style showcase of national award-winning performance poets and spoken word artists. A costume ball, B-Boy Battles, bicycle jousting, a fashion show and mud-wrestling tournaments will activate the festival. Twenty-eight visual artists will display their work; most have cosmic or transmutation themes.

Audrey Burnhardt’s art is of muted colors and draped elegant human bodies. PPRWRK is overwhelming spectators with big bulky screen-prints, woodcuts and murals. Gabriel Lehman has surreal style of artwork, bulbous but soft figures with rich intricacy. Keith Prossick hand-paints patterns and mandalas with mystical and cultural motifs. Abhi Thati’s art looks like panoramic portraits excavated from crystal, aurora-like and painstaking.

Gnarnia isn’t so much a “gnarly twist on ‘Narnia,’” implying grunge-core and half-pipes, as it is a surreal millennial twist on the portal to Neverland.

“Many people do not realize is that the ancient ways have always included celebration,” Hackett said. “We are simply following a long-standing tradition of bringing people together to share an experience that reflects the best aspects of being human: creativity, sharing, dining, music, self-expression and more. Where could be better to do this than atop a tall mountain overlooking the natural splendor of this lush planet?”

Beech Mountain invites tourists to stillness in the town of only 350. Escapism at the Festival of Gnarnia can be reached by a ski lift to guided yoga, guided hikes, meditation workshops, or the cliff-sit to watch the sunset in a 100-mile blue ridge view.

Nine waterfalls, three lakes, and six natural attractions are planted within a short drive from Beech Mountain.

Gnarnia is partnering with Conscious Alliance Food Drive to present an “Art that Feeds” food drive during the festival. A free event poster will be given to anyone who brings 10 items of non-perishable food.

Visitors are encouraged to bring their mode of art, whether it be a unicycle or costume. All are encouraged to bring warm attire, rain gear, sunscreen and a water bottle.

Many camping and lodging options are available and listed on the festival website. An RV pass is $250, and a camping pass is $30 for the weekend.

A 3-day pass is $135 plus fees, a VIP pass is $450 plus fees, and daily passes are $75 each plus fees.
Any person younger than 18 years old must sign a waiver and be accompanied with their legal guardian at all times.

For more information, visit

Additional Images

Visual art by Gabriel Lehman at the upcoming Festival of Gnarnia

7 Walkers, featuring Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, will perform at the Festival of Gnarnia.
Photo submitted

Emancipator will perform at the upcoming Festival of Gnarnia.
Photo submitted

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