Like other gatherings in the North Bay and beyond, the Emerald Cup cannabis competition and festival was forced to be socially isolated in 2020 due to the pandemic.
It’s not something the close-knit community wanted to do, but the event stayed alive online.
“The contest, which is the main feature of the Cup, still went forward well,” Emerald Cup-founder Tim Blake says. “We had over 600 entries, we did a [digital] awards ceremony. We snuck by without too much damage.”
Now, the Emerald Cup returns to live events with the upcoming two-day Harvest Ball on Dec. 11–12 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.
While the Emerald Cup’s awards show is moving to Los Angeles, the organization retains its North Bay roots at the Harvest Ball, celebrating cannabis with an eclectic lineup of live music, informational sessions and a marketplace featuring several small farms. Covid-related protocols, such as requiring proof of vaccination or negative test results, will be in place for the event.
“It’s still challenging with Covid, but our audience is ready to get together and gather after two years of being apart,” Blake says.
The Harvest Ball’s live-music lineup will get the crowds moving, with headliners like electronic outfit Big Wild and reggae-rock artist Trevor Hall, and a range of performers like New Orleans legends Dumpstahphunk, folk siblings Shook Twins and San Francisco soul-rock band Monophonics.
The lineup also features legendary rapper Kurupt and friends, including members of Wu-Tang Clan, on Saturday; and Oakland rapper and hyphy pioneer Keak da Sneak on Sunday.
“I’m more excited about the music than ever,” Blake says. “I’ve always wanted to be a cutting-edge event for music.”
In addition to the two-day concert, the Harvest Ball offers several in-depth discussions on the hottest topics in cannabis today, including sessions covering new developments in psychedelics, regenerative farming, genetics, and a conversation on cannabis and sexual healing.
“We always bring in the leading people to talk, and we’re doing that again,” Blake says. “We’ve got a well-rounded bunch of speakers and panels coming in.”
One of the biggest topics this year in cannabis is small farming, and the Harvest Ball will address that topic not only in a session about securing the future for small farms, but by creating a space for small farmers at the event’s massive marketplace. Through a raffle lottery system, the event gave 27 randomly drawn small farmers booths space at the marketplace for free.
“Frankly, the small farmers have had the toughest year of their lives; we’re looking at over half of them not making it,” Blake says. “It’s been a challenging moment for them.”
Compassionate care is another topic on the rise, and the Harvest Ball is donating one dollar from each ticket to the Sweetleaf Collective’s charity program, which helps get free medical cannabis to low-income patients, veterans and seniors.
Finally, as with previous installments of the Emerald Cup, Blake wants this upcoming Harvest Ball to be a place for “the tribe” to come together.
“Overall, it’s a wonderful moment for everybody to connect and have a great party,” Blake says. “We’re honored to come back to Sonoma County and all stand together for the weekend.”