Ziontific Music Festival rocks Woodford

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BENNINGTON — Good music and good times are at the heart of the Ziontific Summer Solstice Music Festival, taking place at Prospect Mountain in Woodford for the second year in a row.

Rainy and humid weather made for a setting reminiscent of Woodstock, and the muddy terrain didn't seem to dampen the joyful atmosphere.

"This is my first time and it's been excellent, the talent here is incredible," said Michael "Crates" McDade, a performer at the June 16-19 festival. "The collective community is what struck me most, there are so many people here that just want to jam."

Even in the early hours of Sunday morning, the party didn't stop at Prospect Mountain, a location chosen for its natural beauty and extensive trail systems. Tents dotted the mountainside, looping between the main stage and a second performance area in the woods.

"I've never been to a festival; I've actually been a concert pianist for the past 16 years, but we came here to spread the light," said Bruce Pratt, director of the Northeast Project based out of New Hampshire, who was joined at Ziontific by his 13-year-old son. "I've made it my mission to elevate the arts, and what better time to start than now when they're so undervalued."

The organizers of the Ziontific Music Festival endeavor to create an atmosphere that is family friendly, offering a kids activity tent alongside wellness resources for all ages.

"It's generally been a great vibe here, overall I appreciate seeing the families and the kids," said Jeff Nickell, of the Connecticut-based wellness group known as The Conduit. "It's really very warm-hearted, the music that's brought here is very beautiful, and I like to think we also add to that with the wellness village."

In conjunction with The Conduit, the Ziontific festival has fostered complementary workshops for the mind, body and soul, including sound meditation concerts with ancient Himalayan singing bowls, planetary gongs, aromatherapy, various yoga classes, spoken word and poetry circles, and Thai massages.

"It uplifts the vibe, and having activities like yoga available is great if you've had a tough night or were out there late," said Nickell. "We've got massage therapy, and it's a really great opportunity to learn about different healing techniques."

Utilizing the term "zion," used by many world cultures throughout history to describe a place of harmony, alongside the word "scientific," the festival encourages the active and conscientious drive to promote positive change. The event's organizers describe the festival as a way for a community of people to work for global change on a local, and interpersonal, level.

"I've been to a lot of events where everyone is just walking around doing their own thing," said Rob "R. P. Gio" Giovinozzo. "There's this really nice family connection here."

Combining up-and-coming musicians with internationally touring acts, the Ziontific Music Festival aims to feature artists that are energetic, inspirational, educational, and uplifting. The positive messages encouraged by the organizers of the festival have various iterations in reggae, funk, and hip-hop.

"That's one of the great things about this show, you get to meet people that you can collaborate with and they're open to that," said Mcdade. "We started our band in the last year, and just here alone I think we've doubled the people that we'll be working with."

Many of the performers are also local, with the majority from the Northeast and New England specifically, including Vermont acts Binger, Cultural Chemistry, Fresh Patterns, DJ Transplante, Heirloom Seeds, Bless the Child, and Iyah.

"We played the woods last night, and it's been great," said Joey Batts of the group UZOO. "I've been coming to Ziontific for about five years but this year I've got my new crew out here, and they've been having so much fun."

Unlike larger music festivals, the intimate atmosphere at Ziontific allows performers and audiences to intermingle over the four-day celebration. Frequently, new friends can be found around the campfire just past the main stage, or during brunch at the lodge.

"It's a singular experience," said Pratt from the Northeast Project.

To give back to the town hosting them, the organizers of the Ziontific Music Festival are running a food drive, organized by the non-profit Strangers Helping Strangers, to benefit The Kitchen Cupboard in Bennington. Over the course of the festival, organizers hope to collect and donate over 500 pounds of non-perishables, toiletries, baby products, and feminine products for the local community.

Though the festival is new to the region, it provides a unique experience with a diverse range of bands and a welcoming atmosphere.

"There's new experiences around every corner, and everything is so beautiful," said Aaron Mosher, who was camping out for the weekend. "The view is great, the people are nice, and the music is awesome."

Join the Ziontific Community on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ziontificproductions), Instagram (@ziontific) or Twitter (@ziontific) to stay up-to-date on Festival information.

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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