The power of ‘Frendship’

Snowboarders honor their code of comradeship at annual ‘Frendly Gathering’

WINDHAM — The Frendly Gathering Music Festival returns to Windham on June 26 and 27 at Timber Ridge, located on the back of Magic Mountain.

Twiddle, one of the festival's headliners, has played the festival since its inception. The event's press release describes the act as “Vermont's own jam band."

Nahko & Medicine for the People are the other headlining band, joined by nearly 28 other musical groups. In addition to “rock and roll, bluegrass, folk, jam, reggae, and electronic acts,” the festival's organizers promise “music, camping, yoga, food, skateboarding, dance workshops, inspiration, and a big dose of 'Frendship.'”

Professional snowboarders Danny Davis and Jack Mitrani and their friends are behind the event. The name is not a typographical error. Mitrani and Davis's motto is “there is no 'I' in Frends.”

The duo have been best friends for about 11 years, and met at Stratton Mountain School. “We became friends through snowboarding,” Mitrani said.

The Frendly Gathering Music Festival started in 2010, Mitrani said, after two horrible accidents.

While he and his friends were trying out for the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, two of Mitrani's friends, halfpipe specialists Davis and Kevin Pearce, sustained severe injuries that ended their Olympic dreams.

In December 2009, Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury in a horrific crash during halfpipe training in Utah. A few weeks later, Davis fractured several vertebrae and his pelvis in an ATV accident. At the time of their respective accidents, both Davis and Pearce were among the top U.S. riders on the professional snowboarding circuit.

As Mitrani told Snowboard Magazine in 2012, “After all the chaos I felt it was necessary to get everyone together and move past what had happened. So with a little help from my frends, we put on a weekend getaway camping trip and called it, 'The Frendly Gathering.' So, it basically started as a meeting point for all of our frends to come out, celebrate life, and get over the wild winter we all had just gone through."

That weekend camping trip, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., grew to about 250 people after Mitrani and Davis began talking about it on social media.

Although the friends count music as a priority, the first event had no bands.

“We rented a big speaker and hooked up an iPod to it,” Mitrani said.

In 2011, the organizers wanted to relocate the festival to Vermont, “because that's where we're from,” Mitrani said.

“We built a stage, invited 12 bands, and 500 people came,” he said, noting his reaction at the time was, “Oh my God, this is turning into something!"

Last year's festival had about 4,000 people and included a skate ramp.

The festival is about “having fun with your friends,” Mitrani said. “The 'Frendly' platform brings out the best in each other. It's the same vibe as snowboarding,” he said, explaining, “it's about getting together and having some fun."

The location is another result of “Frendship."

When Mitrani and Davis were in high school, their buddy Chris Waker would host after-prom parties at his family's home. “The place to be was the back of Magic Mountain,” Mitrani said.

In 2011, they approached the Waker family about bringing the festival to their land. Mitrani said they not only agreed, but have been “totally helpful,” even helping build the festival's stages.

In exchange for their hospitality, the event's organizers promote an “eco-friendly commitment” for all participants to follow, including utilizing carpooling, no single-use water bottles, no glow sticks, and to “[p]roduce one dumpster full of trash at the MOST,” according to the event's website.

This way, all can enjoy “the comforts of nature” at Timber Ridge by “Maximiz[ing] fun with minimal environmental impact.'

Passes are available for the entire weekend, as well as Thursday early arrival passes “for those who want to set up their tents in prime locations,” the press release says.

“The range of camping is vast, from general campsites, to luxury cabin rentals that are fully stocked for a convenient and comfortable weekend camping experience,” says the press release.

How do the neighbors in the rural locale like having a weekend-long camp-out music festival in their backyard?

“Ninety-eight-percent of the locals absolutely love it,” he said, noting “maybe five people” are less-than-comfortable with it.

But, Mitrani said the festival organizers work hard to promote a culture of mutual respect. Festival rules dictate no pets, and prohibit weapons of any sort, according to the website's “FAQ” section.

“We're proud of the nice people The Frendly Gathering attracts,” Mitrani said. The feedback the organizers consistently receive is, “These are friendly, nice people. We hear they have good energy,” he said.

He also notes the local business owners appreciate the festival: “It brings in a lot of business.”

Mitrani said the festival stresses “quality over quantity,” that a smaller festival allows them to make sure “every detail, from art, food, and music, are thought out.”

“We cap the number of tickets to 3,000 to keep the integrity,” he said, adding, “I don't want it to be way too crowded, or we'll lose the feel of the festival.”

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