For its seventh annual event, the Regeneration Festival’s theme is the seventh-generation principle.
The principle, reportedly based on ancient Iroquois philosophy, calls for decision-makers to consider the effects of their choices for seven generations forward. In other words, an adult should base their decisions on whether or not they will result in a good and livable world for their great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren.
The Regeneration Festival takes place for four days over Labor Day Weekend, from Friday through Monday (Sept. 1-4).
As in years past, each morning of the four-day festival will begin with a dawn prayer at 6 a.m. at Kit Carson Park, 211 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Each evening, there will be a sweat lodge at 6 p.m. led by Pat McCabe. To reserve a space, call (575) 779-4821. There is also a run-walk from Taos Pueblo to Kit Carson Park, as well as a concert in the park.
While fasting has also been a component of past festivals, this year, a community fast began on Aug. 19 and there will be a public breaking of the fast on Friday (Sept. 1) from 6-7 p.m. at DreamTree Project, 128 La Posta Road.
Daniel Escalante, who is organizing this year’s community fast, compared the two-week fast to a relay race. “One person (or more) fasts for a day or two, then passes the fast on to the next person/people, who then pass it on the next and so on until the beginning of the Regeneration Festival on Sept. 1,” he commented.
When asked what was the inspiration for this community style of fasting, Escalante replied, “Years ago, I heard about a fast that farmworker union organizer Cesar Chávez did to help people in the farmworkers’ movement focus attention on the importance of nonviolent change. When Cesar broke his fast, many other people spontaneously took it up and continued the fast as a ‘community fast.’ I thought this was a beautiful way for an entire community to recommit to nonviolence.”
Escalante explained that the fast-breaking event is a ceremony with opening and closing prayers and participants reflecting on their experience of fasting.
The Regeneration Festival began in 2011 as a community response to the loss of 14 youth and young adults, whose lives ended due to violence, drug overdose, suicide or car accidents.
“A call went forward that a spiritual problem required a spiritual solution,” reads a press release for the Regeneration Festival. “For four days, participants, parents, children, community leaders, churches, and organizations united across Taos to fast, pray, walk, run, dance, sing, create, and provide outlets for the youth, to hear their voices, their cries, their stories.”
The Regeneration Festival is not just a Taos phenomenon. It has spread its reach worldwide.
“What began as a two-pronged strategy of prayer and outreach, has become a global movement of love for the future generations to come, with Regeneration movements sprouting up over the years from Española to Australia, Senegal to Texas,” the press release states. “Over the course of these years, seeds of great unity and solidarity of love and prayer have been sown from deep tragedy and have established lasting relationships that have grown into full-on community-based initiatives.”
Christalyn Concha, who has been involved with the Regeneration Festival since its inception, has been busy this past year meeting with youth and young adults, ages 12-27, on a regular basis. They have participated in creating a vision for the festival’s community concert through a series of planning classes. In addition, they have “reflected on deeper issues of what they want to pass down to their children and what they want to change,” according to the press release.
Their meeting place has been The BassMint, an all-ages community space and interactive learning center that opened its doors a year ago. The BassMint has also served as the central location for community leaders and organizers planning this year’s Regeneration Festival.
Several students from The BassMint’s DJ program have prepared sets of music for the concert at Kit Carson Park on Sunday (Sept. 3) from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“It’s been beautiful to experience them light up with new skills, creative outlets and find something that they are passionate about,” says Concha, who co-founded The BassMint with her husband, Ryan Leon. “We have always hoped that the Regeneration Festival will become more than an annual gathering, and we have seen it evolve and grow each year. This year especially, we witnessed how consistency and meeting regularly provided a sense of purpose and healthy outlets for youth and helped adult allies keep momentum throughout the year.”
Natasha McLaughlinn, 17, enjoyed planning the festival because she says she likes “helping organize something that makes an impact.” She says The BassMint has been like a second home to her, commenting, “I’ll never forget the memories we have made there.”
Lola Shropshire, 11, said that she likes to see how the Regeneration Festival grows. “It is even more impacting in more people’s lives each year,” she stated.
The concert in the park will also include Def-I (Albuquerque), Clara Natonabah (Santa Fe), Po.10.Cee (Taos Pueblo), 13Pieces (Santa Fe) The BassMint DJs (Taos) and Kaos and Xamarai (Arizona).
This year’s Regeneration Festival has a greater focus on environmental sustainability than in the past. Thanks to Angie Fernandez, the Kit Carson Park concert aims to be a trash-free, zero-waste event. Taco shell bowls will be used to serve Frito pies, compostable utensils will be supplied and organizers are asking participants to bring their own water bottles.
New offerings this year, sponsored by TILT (Taos Initiative for Life Together), include “Hands in the Earth Fest,” which will feature making adobe, food processing and garlic planting. There will also be a “Water is Life” pilgrimage to the Río Grande Gorge Bridge. Both events take place on Saturday (Sept. 2). Another new event this year is a night walk on Friday night (Sept. 1). Led by Silke Markowski, participants will walk into the Río Grande Gorge at night, singing songs and praying.
“May our hands reach out in support and the night bestow the gifts of understanding, compassion, hope and courage. May we walk to meet the next seven generations with each step along the way and say ‘yes’ to life, call for the help we need and find the courage to make changes that are necessary,” Markowski said.
Upon reaching the river, participants will light candles and float them in the water as a way to remember those who have passed and honor those who are facing difficult times.
Also new this year, on Friday (Sept. 1), there will be a “Youth Mental First Aid Certification Course” at the boardroom at Kit Carson Electric Cooperative from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. There are 30 spots available for people ages 16 and older. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to make a reservation. The training aims to empower participants so they can respond in supportive ways to those in our community who exhibit the signs and symptoms of mental health challenges.
“This is an opportunity to change the perceptions of mental health issues while providing resources and techniques to support our loved ones, classmates, friends, neighbors, etc. These are real issues that need continuous training and advocates to increase a supportive community,” said Victoria Flores, who is taking the lead in organizing the certification course.
On Monday (Sept. 4), the last day of the festival, there will be a youth forum from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. organized by Taos High School’s EQ Program. The forum is created for youth by youth. Adults are welcome to join at 1 p.m. for a community discussion.
This year’s Regeneration Festival is organized by a core team of Flores, Concha, Fernandez, Escalante, Markowski, Darilynn McClure, Lyla Johnston, Todd Wynward, TILT, Peg Bartlett, Jacquelyn Cordoba, Taos ALIVE, Ashleigh Grycner, Daniel Brown, Jake Foreman, Kalika Tallou, Michelle Concha, Taos HOPE, The Giving Tree, Taos High School EQ Program, Reading to End Racism, The BassMint, Cid’s Food Market, Mitch Miller, Farmhouse Cafe, University of New Mexico Digital Media Arts and The BassMint students (Lola, Oz, Natasha, Isabell, Chyler, Mateo, Wes, Isaiah, Kamaeli and Alex).
A complete schedule of the Regeneration Festival is available at regeneration-festival.com – or call (575) 779-4443, (505) 980-3387 or (832) 867-5819.