There’s something magical about Sunrise Ranch. Beyond the breathtaking beauty that surrounds the valley at every turn, there’s an undeniable spark that creates an unparalleled experience during the first weekend of August. Sunrise Ranch is one of the oldest standing intentional communities in the United States, and the decades of love, support and communal growth have clearly contributed to the temporary experience known as ARISE Music Festival.

Something special happens when there’s a deliberate community effort to add to the event. As each attendee entered through the gates, the volunteers touched every participant with their infectious happiness and genuine desire to contribute to the festival. Cheerful hellos rippled throughout the campgrounds as freshly inspired neighbors lent a helping hand during set up. The butterfly effect was in full swing. As one good deed activated a wave of positivity, the vibes continued to elevate, triggering unexplainable occurrences that can only happen in such a magical place.

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Eager to make sure the line kept moving, the volunteers squeezed attendees into the campgrounds, causing a bit of an issue upon arrival. Overcrowding was apparent in both general camping and the North Lot, which temporarily distracted from the beauty of the venue while attendees scrambled to stake their spot. ARISE is still a young festival, though, and the changes in their camping layout shows they’re still figuring out the kinks.

This year, the universe took note and graced us with more fortunate weather than the year prior. Just as the sun began to kiss uncovered shoulders, clouds rolled through and cooled down the valley, occasionally sprinkling a welcomed mist. With the exception of an afternoon hailstorm, Mother Nature mostly worked in harmony with the festival to provide both sunshine and shade at just the right times.

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Inspiration spread through Sunrise Ranch and touched not only the volunteers and participants but the artists as well. During the Songwriters in the Round workshop at the Big Sunrise Dome, the inspiration took a stronghold and motivated the songwriters Ayla Nereo, Mike MacDonald and Chloe Watkins to perform an improvisational song that encouraged the entire room to join in through singing or dance. As the Big Sunrise Dome shook with the power of each participant’s contribution, hearts filled with joy and sincere gratitude for the opportunity to experience such a raw and genuine connection. While this was only one sliver of the weekend experience, opportunities to participate in similar ways arose at every turn during ARISE Music Festival.

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There were truly too many magical occurrences to chalk it up to luck. Sunday afternoon our crew decompressed at the campsite, sharing dreams and aspirations that were newly triggered from the surrounding élan. One campmate shared his desire to learn more about the path of a monk and his yearning to adopt the principal’s monks abide by. Later that afternoon at the campsite, a practicing monk approached our group and asked if we were interested in taking home some reading material written by Buddhist monks and invited us to a Sunday service at a local temple. Normally this occurrence would warrant a serious shock due to the impeccable timing, but our crew simply exchanged knowing smiles as this became commonplace at Sunrise Ranch.

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Many musicians took time out of their sets to thank the crowd, Colorado and the festival organizers. This is common practice for most musicians, but the sincerity and length in which the artists did so was notably impressive. Opiuo, the New Zealand DJ graciously thanked the organizers and crowd and commented on the magic of ARISE and Colorado as a whole. Fans cheered in agreement as Opiuo closed out Saturday night with a core-shaking performance. Other favorites Alya Nereo, Pepper, Roots of Creation and many more followed in suit with their praises of both the state and festival.

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While the musicians are typically the focus of most music festivals, ARISE has managed to cultivate an environment in which every aspect of the festival from the artists to the workshops, participants, vendors and venue hold equal emphasis throughout the weekend. There is a clear intention to create a festival in which inspiration strikes at every turn and attendees are encouraged to become participants.

Energized by the collective energy during closing, attendees began picking up trash around the campsite and surrounding areas. While doing so, I came across a trio of crystals left behind, a token of instant karma for the good deed. Like the many magical moments that came before, ARISE cultivated an environment in which occasions like that can happen. While ARISE may only last a few short days out of the month, the magic felt at Sunrise Ranch will continue to ripple through our actions until we’re reunited next year.

Photography by Meg O’Neill, Tyler Harvey and Zena Ballas. View the full ARISE 2018 galleries here

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