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An eye-opening experience

It’s not very often that in one weekend I try tightrope walking, juggling, dancing, attend multiple concerts, see a group of violinists, eat way too much food or go on a mini-hike.
Of course there was plenty more to do, but those were the most randomly spectacular highlights of my first Hillside weekend.
In the best way possible, this past weekend felt like two weeks worth of activities crammed into just a few days.
As a Kitchener native, I had never been to or heard of Hillside – and spent most of my concert-going years living in Vancouver. Regardless, I am embarrassed that I had never been to or heard of this hippie-fun-folky-food fest, since it will probably end up being the highlight of my summer.
I went into it with no set schedule (except to see Tegan and Sara), so that I could get the whole experience. When it rained, I took shelter under a tent and stumbled into Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs rocking out. Needless to say, I, unexpectedly, have a new CD in my collection.
When I went back to Kitchener and told my family and friends about Hillside, I found myself sharing bits and pieces to different people. Mostly to let them know what they would have enjoyed.
To my parents, it would be enough to sell them on all of the food, sitting by the lake with a beer and listening to live music.
To my friends, the dance classes, workshops, slam poetry readings, bonfires, one-of-a-kind gifts and swimming in the lake would have been more than enough to be entertained. At the risk of overselling my enthusiasm, there was, actually, something there for absolutely everyone.
It was also the first Hillside for my 20-year-old niece, who came along with me. We both noticed that there were very few ways one could accumulate any waste. At every turn, there was someone eating off of reusable plates, volunteers doing dishes, real cutlery, local food, compost bins and hydration stations. And in no way could you purchase a $6 beverage without a $5 Hillside mug. If there was garbage, it was probably on a snack from home, and I am absolutely floored at how environmentally conscious the whole thing was.
Going beyond the minimal waste, there was an incredible range of food – from Indian tacos to Popsicle stands and food trucks. There was one thing that stuck out more than anything for me as a vegan. I’ve grown to expect persistent hunger pains at public events. Yet with the amount (and range) of vegan, gluten-free or vegetarian items, Hillside, very easily, could have been a healthy local food festival with live music in the background.
If I had any complaints, it would be the weather. But that’s out of anyone’s control. Otherwise, I’m glad I wore comfortable shoes and brought a reusable water bottle or mug, or I would have been either really thirsty or really broke.
This was certainly the first of many Hillsides for me.

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