The Whole Earth Festival (WEF), an ASUCD unit, is a huge, FREE, eco-friendly three-day music, dance, arts, crafts and education festival which takes place in Spring during Mother's Day Weekend. It's the closest thing to Woodstock we have. It's a must-see Davis event. Tons of folks who are committed to sustainable living and environmental harmony make a pilgrimage to Davis for the WEF, and the UC Davis Quad area is lined with art & craft tents, music acts, massage tables, food**, educational booths, and a child's exploration area*. Various workshops occur throughout the weekend as well as a huge variety of music, song, and dancing. Of all the festivals that take place on campus, this is one of the most organized. Volunteering is quite the experience, plus you get a free shirt if you do.
The WEF uses hundreds of volunteers (known as Chaos Control [formerly Karma Patrol]) for the festival. If you want to eat some good food, get an artsy shirt for free, and help make WEF great; you should sign up to volunteer on their website.
If you want a booth or your band wants to play, apply on their website towards around December or January when the applications go up. The WEF office is located in TB 24 [EcoHub] and shares space other earth-friendly student-run units. (WEF used to be in the Silo, sharing an office with the Experimental College; but those offices were demolished and the space was remodeled and re-assigned in 2015.)
A little known fact is that Whole Earth Festival is one of the few ASUCD units that receives no subsidy. To put it in perspective, Picnic Day (another annual UCD event) receives over $20,000 a year in funding from student fees. WEF is self-sufficient. Although putting on the Festival is very expensive, fees charged to vendors (Food, Crafts, and Service booths) bring in enough money to pay the bills. So buying things at Festival (or making donations to WEF) helps keep it going. In 2016, to help refill the depleted emergency fund, a "WEF History and Donation Tent" appeared to allow the WEF community to support Festival more easily and to share our history.
The festival is a drug free zone so please keep this in mind when attending. *"Kid Space" is for children WITH their adults to explore and play; it is NOT a babysitting place and children should not be just 'dropped off'. ** Food Booths serve a wide variety of things to eat -- except for meat. Lots of vegetarian goodies, some vegan food, and wondrous sweets; even burgers and hot dogs -- just without meat.
Some cool history is here, and over 30 years of photos are online at the WEF photo archive.
Unique things to check out
- The Recycling and Composting effort is very successful. In 2004, only 420lb (3.5%) of the festival's waste went to the landfill. The rest was recycled or composted.
- Most people do not realize that every item that is thrown away at WEF is eventually dumped onto a large table and sorted by a volunteer. While this may not sound like an appealing idea at first, it is actually one of the most entertaining and coveted volunteer positions. Try it out, you might even find a groundscore. It's amazing what some people throw away.
- The Whole Earth Reusables Cooperative (WERC) runs the dish program for the weekend. It is one of only a few of its kind, and in some aspects is making waves on the campus, and in the festival / event world. Everyone from those wild hoopies to Camtroller and the 3rd floor ASUCDers are using the plates.
- Have a seat on the bench that was made during the 2004 Whole Earth Festival.
- There is a drum circle of epic proportions.
Things lost to time
- In the pit on the west side of Wellman Hall there was a DJ Stage that played all day and til 10pm at night. Known as the Sunken Garden some years and other years simply as The Pit, it has some kind sound down there. Alas, in 2011, there was a beating, sexual assault of a 14 year old, and rape of a 16 year old at that stage and UC Davis decided to close the doors on using the pit. Fred Wood, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs wrote in a public statement, "we are sending message that people cannot come to our campus and behave this way." Since 2012, the DJ stage has been on the east [Quad] side of the building during the day; and at nighttime is changed to Dance Stage or Fire Stage. [See links above to each year for details and schedules of all the stages.]
2004-12-11 19:12:53 The WEF was originally an art class project. They used to have a LOT of free stuff going on in the booths during the Seventies, but now it's devolved into more or less a holistic arts and crafts fair, where most booths are about making a profit. That said, it's still a fun festival (often held on Mother's Day weekend) and students and non-students alike should attend at least once. - CentralDavisite
- While WEF has evolved over time, Whole Earth Festival is THE best festival to go to in Davis. While the outer ring of the festival is largely dedicated to arts, crafts and food vendors of a sustainable nature; the INNER ring of the festival is all about FREEdom and fun. A few of us realized in 2006 after participating in Davis Art and Revolution, that there is seemingly two festivals going on at once, one outer about commerce which we all need and one inner about exploring oneself and finding a truer meaning to life that does not require money. —MorganTorngrenTatman
- After 9-11, security became of great concern to many people. The University requires ASUCD to hire security for the Whole Earth Festival, and that expense has grown over the years. In order to get enough money to fund itself, WEF needs to rent many booth spaces to meet its budget for everything (including paying for bands and security and structures and vehicles to move everything and lots more.) Booth fees are very high, but this is such a wonderful venue that folks are willing to pay them. Many of the Crafters who sell here have been coming for over 20 years and are a strong part of our WEF community — LoisRichter
2004-12-19 16:07:43 WEF is actually a Non Profit itself. The booths do make a bit of cash, but the folks who are selling the crafts are mostly families who need such income to support themselves, as this is all they do. This is completely different than any usual holistic arts and crafts faire. For many, this is the first festival of the spring and a lot of these folks have been strapped for income for months by the time they get out to the UCD quad. I would think it is more of an educational event, educating all on an alternative lifestyle with a focus on lessening our communal impact on the earth in a variety of ways through our everyday actions... - MikeyNolan
- While I agree with Mikey that the goal of the event is education about life alternatives for folks, the reality for the casual participant is a big arts and crafts fair. Which is nice enough, but not the spiritual-life-changing-event that some would like it to be. —Rocksanddirt
2005-01-21 11:18:00 Witnessing the orwellians at last years WEF gave me a whole new respect for the organization as well as a strengthened sense of irony. —DanMasiel
- What did the Orwellians do? —SummerSong 2005-04-14 16:30:24
2005-04-14 20:11:25 Back when UCD had a kickass art department, WEF was the place to be. At work, I did some really old video transfers featuring people such as Timothy Leary. —ArlenAbraham
2005-04-14 14:15:25 Don't forget to check out the students for a clean earth booth! They'll be there with bells on!!!
2005-05-06 14:15:25 I hope the Orwellians will let us know where they're going to be... hint hint... —MichaelGiardina
2005-05-07 11:48:34 The drum circle beacons.. —SirPallas
2006-05-13 16:48:40 do NOT purchase the eggplant sandwich. the fact that something that horrible comes from the whole earth festival is grounds for a city ordinance to ban hippies for life —DavisHo
2006-05-16 15:51:43 The dish system is not like no other. I've seen it in music festivals in Europe. —AntoineBouthors
You're right, it's not the dish system that's unheard of. It's people actually USING it that's unheard of. —BradBenedict
2008-05-07 12:42:57 Davis Community Acupuncture Clinic will be there this year, and while we aren't allowed to use needles, we'll be doing a bunch of other cool stuff and answering any questions you may have for our resident acupuncturist: Itay Neta. Swing by for your free consultation! —itayneta
2008-05-09 06:17:29 What are the best things to do for a groovy time? —GonZo
- Personal faves: Soular Dance Stage, talk with crafters, hug a KPer, play (disc/sack/juggle/your choice) while listening to a band.
- My fave: join the KARMA PATROL and help make the Festival happen!
2008-05-09 19:23:19 Oh why, oh why do I have to work during all the cool events? —SunjeetBaadkar
2008-05-10 15:13:38 I heard that they are forcing vendors to close at 6pm with threat to fine them if they don't. Seems sorta lame to close up so early when people are still out there... —SunjeetBaadkar
- Don't believe everything you hear. In this case, it was true about closing craft and education booths at 6 PM (probably will be in 2009, too), but fines? Ha! The idea (I believe) is that as the focus shifts to the stages, it's pretty hard to keep the chaos controlled and any security going if vending is still going on. If the booths shut, then the Karma Patrol can concentrate on stages & keeping the crowd happy. It probably does quash a few sales, but makes the event as a whole more manageable. —DougWalter
2008-05-10 16:43:41 we went late morning/early afternoon, and it didn't seem nearly as busy or patronized as it has in years past. There were significantly less vendors there than I remembered, and the crowds weren't very big. —ElleWeber
2009-01-25 20:44:01 The first one was called Whole Earth Week and like the name says, lasted a whole week. I went there every day and even got out of my 6th grade class for one whole day of it to participate and be part of a parade that went someplace downtown-maybe on 3rd Street-and back to the quad. The article calls it the closest thing to Woodstock Davis has which is accurate enough in common parlance but I think it's fun to note that Whole Earth Week actually predates Woodstock by four or five months! I recently saw a Peter Max poster for the 1970 Whole Earth Week for sale on the internet. It's pretty cool. Whole Earth continued as a week-long event for at least a couple of years and changed flavor very distinctly year-by-year, reflecting changes in popular culture in interesting ways. Back then I was sure that soon we would all be living in geodesic domes; in harmony with the earth and each other. It seemed so obvious. —JohnBaker
2009-05-11 18:41:19 I was playing saxophone with another saxophonist and a flautist in a drum circle at the 2009 festival. If anyone has any pictures, they would be much appreciated, since I didn't bring my camera to the festival. E-mail is [email protected]
- Thanks! —AaronSamson
2010-04-19 07:47:27 While I can respect and even admire some of the things the majority seem to stand for in this event, I can not understand why they have no respect or understanding of others needs and others personal space during it. The scent of funk is everywhere and, as much as they desire a clean environment, they seem to do more to harm it than to help it on each visit. This accompanied by the rapid increase in theft and other crime in town make me believe it would be better to not have this "celebration" at all. —WesOne
- I like how they decide that the event is environmentally friendly because of the small amount of waste going to landfills when recycling pollutes as well. There's nothing wrong with going out and having fun, but people should know that just having fun usually means there will be environmental damage. Of course, I really enjoy the nice and quiet aspect of Davis, so would not mind being without Picnic Day or Whole Earth Festival. —hankim
- There is no free lunch. There is a cost to everything and recycling does require energy, etc. However, it costs energy and resources to make a new cup just like it costs to recycle said cup. Recycling is (99% of the time) more environmental friendly than throwing things away. —DagonJones
- WesOne refers to "the rapid increase in theft and other crime in town". Please cite your sources. There is always a post-event meeting with all the folks involved in organizing WEF (including City and UCD police), and I haven't heard reports from them about any WEF-related crime wave. There are usually a few drunks arrested during the 3-day event, but not much else. (And I'd expect that of any large/rock concert.) Thanks. —LoisRichter
2011-04-11 21:51:05 The organizing committee would like to know about any off site problems during that weekend. We are aware that we have a social as well as an ecological footprint. Bringing more people into town has an effect. We can weigh the refuse that goes in various directions and meter the amps that we use to measure the ecological footprint. But to gauge the off site impact of having a festival, the staff has to hope that people who are bothered that weekend complain to us. Hopefully with something specific. —MichaelErickson
2011-05-05 16:55:47 I had a lovely time at the Whole Earth Festival last year, and I can't wait to attend again this weekend! I thoroughly enjoyed the frozen chocolate bananas from Joy & Taylor's Raw Chocolates, and I even bought some really nice — and handmade! — jewelry for my mother for Mother's Day. If you're on the fence, definitely go. The spectacle alone is worth it. —LilyRosamond
2013-05-12 16:28:54 Honestly some of it is kind of creepy. People get wasted and high, the food is ridiculously expensive, and there's very little regulation and security. It's a very "spiritual" festival with people claiming they can solve your problems with a crystal (true story) or that if you drink this "elixer" you will be all better. Some of the activities are orgy-like. —AnBan
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