My friend and I arrive at the Brink Lounge for 420 Fest around 7 p.m. to big smiles at the door, “Legalize It” paraphernalia and a healthy dose of tie-dye and strobe lights.
We take a seat at the bar, and I begin to notice the diversity in the crowd. The attendees range widely in age; the demographics range from white-collar gentlemen to motorcyclists to the youthful, colorful-clothing crowd that you would expect at something called “420 Fest.”
The event features an array of bands on two stages. The crowd is mellow but merry. The delicious, overpowering aroma of pizza wafts through the building.
The demeanor is consistent; everyone seems to be in his or her happy place.
A couple with a baby walks past, the baby responsibly equipped with giant pink headphones, as reggae rock begins playing from the main stage.
We notice a group of men were wearing matching overalls. To my right at the bar, an elderly lady wearing a baby-pink cardigan scans the food menu, reading glasses around her neck.
The evening continues and the crowd gets larger but doesn’t become rowdy. A woman in a floor-length flowery dress begins dancing in front of the band, and more join her.
We go outside for a cigarette (the cancer-causing kind), and end up befriending one of the overall-wearers to the side of the building, where he’s smoking something as well.
I think he calls it “grape goddess.”
He tells us that the overalls are his band’s performance outfits, and we wish him luck on his show.
At one point, a lone middle-aged woman sits next to us on a couch. She’s nervous, she tells us, as she had made a new friend and joined in the 420 festivities perhaps more than she had planned.
She says she had never done anything like “that” before.
She tells us her name, and that she’s an attorney. I notice that she has a brownie clutched in her hand — a parting gift from her new friend — but she’s too scared to eat it.
“I’m not trying to freak you out,” she begins, “and I’m not kidding!” She throws her head back, laughing for a moment. “Everybody thinks I’m kidding. I just wanted to warn you that I have epileptic seizures sometimes.”
We take note, and let her know we’ll keep an eye on her.
My friend explains to her that a lot of the time, when you feel like your heart is racing after smoking, it’s because you’re mixing with alcohol. The alcohol in your bloodstream exacerbates the effects of the THC, sometimes leading you to feel like your heart is racing.
This seemed to make her feel better, and our conversation continued on.
When I tell her I’m writing an article for a school paper, she becomes very enthused.
“You’re a witness!” She bursts. “You make history.”
Eventually, she tells us she has to go and find her friends. Mistaking us for tourists, she tells us how lovely it was to meet us and wishes us a nice stay in Madison.
While pre-Easter festivities undoubtedly rage on in rowdy bars throughout Madison, I’m happy to be spending my night in a calmer environment.
We leave before bar close, but if I had to wager a guess, I’d say that the evening continued at the same pace.
Furthermore, when faced with the question of whether to drive or call a cab, most people at the event probably called cabs. Doing something risky would have felt, frankly, insanely dramatic for this crowd.
As Wisconsin begins taking small, mitigated steps toward marijuana legalization, I can’t help but think about how people might change their minds about the plant by attending events like this one.