Culture

Regeneration Festival bounces back

Forged in grief, ninth annual youth event emerges with renewed energy

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 8/28/19

Regeneration Festival is about bouncing back, just as a forest regenerates after a forest fire.It all began in August of 2011, founder Lyla June Johnston said. That was when four …

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Culture

Regeneration Festival bounces back

Forged in grief, ninth annual youth event emerges with renewed energy

Posted

Regeneration Festival is about bouncing back, just as a forest regenerates after a forest fire.

It all began in August of 2011, founder Lyla June Johnston said. That was when four young people from Taos attempted suicide in one month. "We could have easily become paralyzed with pain, fear and even guilt," she said. "It's so tempting to retract in the face of tragedy. Instead, our town chose to act in the face of tragedy and show up for the next generation."

Back then, a group of local people organized four days worth of events dedicated especially to young people. "As the founders of the festival were of Native American descent, we felt it important to honor the four directions by making the festival four days long," she said. "We held heavy metal concerts where the musicians pledged sobriety. We hosted community prayer walks to the Gorge Bridge and adorned it with prayer flags. We held early childhood fun days where toddlers could enjoy themselves and be celebrated. We orchestrated community hikes to Williams Lake. We hosted Lakota sweat lodges each night where people could come and prayer for the next seven generations to come. Indeed, the tragic and premature deaths of our children invigorated and inspired us, just as the nutrient dense ashes of a forest fire enrich the soil and awaken seeds."

This year, a new group of organizers are putting together the ninth annual Regeneration Festival, set to run from Friday through Monday (Aug. 30-Sept. 2) in Taos.

"What began as a farfetched dream has become an expected fixture for much of the community," Johnston said. "This year, we hope to bring as much healing as we have years prior. Each year has a theme, or a special prayer. One year we prayed for the children of Palestine and Israel that they would all be healthy and happy. This year our attention turns toward the immigrant youth, seven of whom have died in the past year while in the custody of U.S. government detention centers. Thus, Taos not only assists its own, but reaches out to support the world. Over the years, we have inspired 35 other communities in 13 countries to join us by creating their own Regeneration Festivals."

Each day will begin with a dawn prayer at 6 a.m. at Kit Carson Park, 211 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. And, it will end with a sweat lodge at 6 p.m.

Friday (Aug. 30) there will be a Native American foods cooking class for children from 6-8 p.m. at the Taos County Economic Development Center, 1021 Salazar Road, Taos. This event is open to children and young adults of any background, as well as their chaperones.

On Saturday (Aug. 31), the annual concert featuring young musicians and performers will take place from noon until 4 p.m. at the KTAOS Solar Center, 9 State Road 150, north of El Prado.

"It is an open stage," Johnston said, "meaning anyone under 30, amateur or professional, may spontaneously get on the stage to share their music, poetry, dance, comedy, beatboxing or any other type of performance. This big celebration will have fun activities, face painting, info booths, music and visual art stations."

Sunday (Sept. 1) will be the annual prayer run. Runners will all meet at 9 a.m. at the Kachina Lodge, 413 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos. Participants will run for about an hour with safety precautions, escort vehicles, water stations and refreshments at the end.

On Monday, Labor Day (Sept. 2), the festival will host an Immigrant Youth Advocacy Night at the TCEDC building from 6-7:30 p.m. "Here, we can 1. learn about the child detention centers near the U.S.-Mexico border; 2. donate new or lightly used toys for detainees; and 3. receive direction on how we can ameliorate the situation," Johnston said.

"We hope in our hearts that as many community members as possible will come to these events. It is the unity of our community that powers the efficacy of this festival," she added.

Visit regenfest2019.com for more information. Call (575) 779-4443 to reserve a place on the open stage or for any other questions. Call (575) 779-4821 to reserve a place at a sweat lodge.

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