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EcoFest II: benefit boasts dynamite line-up 

by Stephanie Mahoney

ecofestThe end of summer marks the beginning of Sedona’s festival season. And it all begins September 15 with the exciting, ecologically themed Sedona EcoFest.

EcoFest put itself on the festival map last year with the “King of the Blues,” B.B. King, Los Lobos, Merl Saunders, Walt Richardson and Sedona’s Michelle Branch (whose career is exploding!).

This year, Sedona EcoFest II is sure to please again with an even more diverse lineup. A truly great concert band, Blues Traveler, will headline this year’s show, which includes bluegrass (Yonder Moutain String Band) and reggae (Third World), Merl Saunders and The Rainforest Band, a crowd favorite from last year, and “The Tree Lady,” environmental speaker Julia “Butterfly” Hill.

Hill, who gained international notoriety by sitting atop a 1,000-year-old redwood, has become one of the country’s most impassioned speakers on the environment. 

Other additions to the festival include the Eco-Exhibition Tent, Animal Observation Area, a Friday night (Sept. 14) benefit party with Limbs Akimbo, and the presentation of the first Sedona EcoFest Environmental Steward Award to Julia “Butterfly” Hill.

Festival headliner Blues Traveler are popular worldwide. The four founding members (John Popper, lead vocals, harmonica and guitar; Chad Kinchla, guitar; Brendon Hill, drums and percussion; and Bobby Sheehan, bass) met while they were students in high school and have been playing together ever since.

Third World, often referred to as “The Ambassadors of Reggae,” formed in 1973 and has been at the forefront of the reggae movement with smash hit songs, sold out tours, and inspirational messages. Their initial notoriety came from opening for Bob Marley and The Wailers. Later came “Try Jah Love,” which was produced by Stevie Wonder and became the band’s anthem and solidified them in the archives of musical history.

Yonder Mountain String Band, whose unique sound has been taking the country by storm, will surely set the show afire. Their bluegrass sound (referred to as “Jamgrass” or “psychedelic boogiegrass”) is rapidly becoming a hit amoung young people in the U.S. The band recently received a headlining spot at the world renowned Telluride Bluegrass Festival. “Drive without drums” defines the YMSB sound.

“Yonder Mountain String Band put on one heck of a live show and they’re fun. That’s what we want Sedona EcoFest to be known for. These guys will definitely help us achieve that goal,” said Philip Walker, EcoFest executive director.

Merl Saunders and the Rainforest Band once again bring their unique brand of funky blues to Sedona.

“We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at last year’s EcoFest despite the rainy weather,” said Saunders. “It’s a great cause and the fans were incredible. We’re excited and proud to participate in the 2001 Sedona EcoFest.”

The most notable addition to Sedona EcoFest 2001 is the addition of a keynote speaker, along with the creation of the Sedona EcoFest “Hope for Tomorrow” Award.

The idea for a environmental speaker was brought about by the interest to increase the festival’s emphasis on ecological education. “Although there were many qualified candidates to fill this new slot in the festival, the first recipient of this coveted award will be none other than the remarkable young woman Julia “Butterfly” Hill, who inspired the world by living for over two years in the giant redwood tree she named Luna in protest of the logging of ancient redwood trees,” said Walker.

Hill, with the help of steelworkers and environmentalists, successfully negotiated to protect the 1,000-year-old tree and a nearly three-acre buffer zone. Her two-year vigil informed the public that only three percent of the ancient redwood forests remained.

Hill climbed the 200-foot-tall redwood tree on December 10, 1997 to protest the clear cutting of the old growth redwood forest in Humboldt County, California by the Pacific Lumber Company. When Hill couldn’t insure the future of the breathtaking tree, she simply stayed in her leafy perch, an action of hope and defiance that touched hearts around the world. Hill’s lone vigil, surviving wild weather and harassment from her opponents, drew international attention to the plight of the redwoods.

Television, radio, print and Internet journalists, as well as entertainer-activists Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Mickey Hart and Woody Harrelson, made the pilgrimage to Luna.

“By standing together in unity, solidarity and love we will heal the wounds in the earth and in each other,” Hill said. “We can make a positive difference through our actions.” On December 18, 1999, Hill came down to a world that recognized her as a heroine and powerful voice for the environment. Not long after her vigil, Hill and other forest activists founded the Circle of Life Foundation to inspire, support and network individuals, organizations, and communities to create environmental and social solutions that are rooted deeply in love and respect for the interconnectedness of all life.

2001 Sedona EcoFest takes place at the Georgia Frontiere Pavilion at Sedona Cultural Park. Advance tickets are $40 and gates open at 11 am. parking is $10 per car. Tickets may be purchased by calling 800-780-2787 or through TICKETS.COM.

Attendees are urged to car pool and to bring a blanket. Sealed plastic bottles and small (12 x 18) coolers are okay. No glass, aluminum, cameras, alcohol or chairs are allowed. Low back beach chairs may be rented at the festival for $3. For more information visit the festival Web site (

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