« It’s a spiritual festival, » said David Hickey, nicknamed « Hobbes » for his love of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. His right bicep bears a tattooed image of Hobbes, the stuffed tiger co-star of Bill Watterson’s popular comics trip.
Hickey is the founder and, for the past eight years, organizer of the Firelight Gathering Festival, that takes place every mid-August at the Whispering Pines Campground in Curran. The Firelight Gathering replaces the Kaleidoscope Music Festival that originally took place at the site but has grown too big now for the campground and has relocated to another part of the province.
Most of the people who take part in the Firelight Gathering festival are neo-pagans, people who worship or feel a spiritual connection to the natural forces of the world. But, Hickey noted, attendance at the festival is open to anyone who just wants to enjoy a weekend of music, singing, dancing, and workshops on a variety of topics from drumming to Wicca. There is also a daytime « Crones Chat » that Hickey said is geared towards seniors attending the festival, an informal kaffeeklatsch get-together to relax and chat between friends, new and old.
Hickey was a regurla participant at the Kaleidoscope Festival and when it moved on to a larger venue, he and some friends talked about what would happen. He decided then to try and organize a new, and smaller, music festival to replace Kaleidoscope.
« I really only intended to do it once, » he said, with a grin. « But i twas such a success, I just kept on doing it. »
Hickey had lots of willing on-site volunteer help with this year’s Firelight Gathering Festival. Several participants spent some of their free time with cleaning up some of the debris still left behind from the May derecho that stormed across Easter Ontario. When work became too hot and sweaty, there was cool shade to shelter under or cool water of the tiny lake on the campground to dive into.
« Camping at Whispering Pines is such a joy, » said Hickey. « Everyone was in a real good mood. »