Inclusion as a word paints a broad brushstroke for what a free society hopes to stand for.
The inaugural Inclusion Festival, coming July 28-29 to the Mountain Sky Festival Grounds in Jermyn, Pennsylvania, follows that path as a “sensory-friendly music, arts, yoga, and wellness festival for all abilities.” Expect a truly ground-breaking approach to a music and arts festival that encompasses, promotes and celebrates ALL.
As described by organizers Amy Pinder and Leah Barron, the festival is “the nation’s first outdoor, multi-day annual event that celebrates neurodiversity, promotes understanding and acceptance, provides holistic educational opportunities, and encourages healthy lifestyle choices that extend far beyond the festival grounds.”
Both Pinder, a speech language pathologist, and Barron, a special education teacher, were inspired by their experiences working in the field. They believe that music festivals hold strong potential to strengthen self-awareness, encourage exploration of passions and interests, build relationships, and connect with inner purpose to guide and sustain positive lifestyle choices. And, they also strongly believe that a festival built around the idea of diversity and openness not only benefits those with special needs but creates better understanding among the general population.
Asked about the driving force behind the festival, Pinder, whose work as a therapist primarily revolves around those with autism, says: “We ALL have special gifts and talents and we ALL have a purpose. I believe it is our responsibility as a society to support one another (with love, understanding, respect and compassion) along our path to identify, cultivate, and actualize our purpose so that individually, and collectively, we can experience true happiness and be free from fear and anxiety.”
The Inclusion Festival is being presented by All Inclusive Productions, in partnership with Accessible Festivals, a non-profit organization. All Inclusive Productions is a Benefit Corporation that offers educational and recreational activities for all ages and abilities through inclusive, immersive experiences designed to improve the wellbeing of individuals with special needs and their families.
The festival promises two full days of outstanding live music from a host of diverse bands and notable singer/songwriters. Among the scheduled performers: The Hoppin’ Boxcars, Michael Korins, The Merry Rockers, Reef The Lost Cauze, Camille WHO?, three-time Grammy nominee Brady Rymer, and Max Muscato (founder of “Rock Autism”).
This very first event from Pinder and Barron was five years in the making, starting with a dream and eventually turning to reality last summer. Its culmination takes place in just two months. The goal of having something for everyone in an all-inclusive format is ground-breaking on many levels; and the two have plans to take their show on the road to other parts of the country.
“Leah and I met five years ago at a music festival and quickly discovered we had similar interests,” says Pinder, a native of Buffalo, N.Y. who now calls Central New Jersey home. “We decided last August to do the festival and are excited at the response and participation.”
The festival not only highlights incredible music over its two days, but will have areas for people to take quiet breaks, relax and take in a variety of educational and experiential activities in its Wellness and Empowerment Villages. Inclusion offers:
- Educational Wellness Workshops
- Immersive, Experiential Activities
- Live Music
- Motivational Speakers
- Specialized Food, Craft and Product Vendors
- Community Resource Fair
- Therapeutic Consultations
- Vocational and Volunteer Opportunities
(More details found here.)
The Inclusion Festival is being held on the Mountain Sky Festival Grounds, a popular location for a variety of outdoor summer events. Pinder and Barron are hoping to draw attendees from such nearby metropolitan areas as Scranton, Wilkes Barre, Syracuse, Philadelphia, New York, Rochester and Buffalo.
Hard work aside to put on such an event, Pinder smiles when she admits “this doesn’t seem like a business. It’s a passion!”