In search of a tangent from my travel writing routine, I participated in the eighth annual Unifier Festival, where I debuted as a naive rookie and departed edified and breathing easier. What initially appeared as a dazzling world-music dance party in the woods quickly revealed itself to be an organic, utopian campus celebration focused on wellness, restoration, and worldly melody joy. This healing and expressive arts festival is transformational for some and pure entertainment for others.
The setting is a former kid’s camp in Tolland, MA, renamed as Camp Timber Trails where 417-acres of isolated forest in the foothills of the Berkshires boasts a private lake with its own island—it’s Ground Zero for connecting with nature. The camp layout ideally lends itself to focusing on myriad paths toward directed and natural warmth and empowerment in one gorgeous setting.
The vendors that semicircle the Main Field included green’n’groovy arts & crafts booths, including two for sound massage. One affable vendor, Sidy (see-dee), showcased clothing and jewelry from Senegal. Senegalese-born Sidy is a retired U.S.-based electrical engineer who now moonlights selling high-quality, colorful wares from his country of birth. Part of the proceeds he earns from such festivals doubles as fundraising for charities that serve Senegal. Other vendors included a comfy Tea Hut yurt. Also in the vendor zone, but certainly not a vendor, is the Safety Zone, a spacious yurt where the festival incorporates on-site therapists to provide mental health and wellness services free of charge. You won’t have any trouble finding someone to chat with here.
This three-day festival is about reverence for our planet, treasuring the sacredness of human connection, and using ceremony to weave people together. There’s A LOT going on here, and often simultaneously. Visual artists celebrate the live in-motion artist process while workshops sprinkled throughout the campus include the usual wellness enablers such as dance, yoga, rhythmic breath meditation, juggling, hula hooping, and drumming. The workshops also reach disparate heights with masterclass programs on making sourdough bread, a medicinal plant walk, intuitively creating your own wisdom cards, and “dismantling the machinery of self-negotiation to uncover the sweetness of life.” Add: a lakeside sweat lodge.
Many attendees enhance their connection to the earth by roaming happily without shoes, though this is certainly not a prerequisite. There’s dance, and then there’s ecstatic dance, which you’ll see plenty of here. This place redefines the organic, trippy groove of the hippy 1960s with a plotted wellbeing twist. The get-up-and-dance vibes in this forested venue are also very kid friendly, and not just in the official Kid’s Zone.
The live music lineup is what initially drew me to this festival, as there’s live music and DJs grooving day and night. World music acts, enhanced by stage-side fire dancers, included Boston-bred Billy Wylder, Peru-based Novalima’s Afro-Peruvian vibe, and Moon Hootch’s (two saxophones and a drummer) brand of psychedelic sax. The fantastic live music alone is reason enough to venture here.
Yeah, Unifier is way more than world music ambiences in the woods—it’s a healthy, niche-healing-arts long weekend not to be forgotten. Don’t beware of breakout hug-circles!
*For more information and details about next August’s festival at Camp Timber Trails, visit Unifier Festival. Campsites and cabins, reasonably priced, are available along with three healthy meals a day. All workshops and events are walker friendly while various shuttles also continuously roam the campus. Alcohol is discouraged and unavailable for purchase.