Zimfest 2022 is On in June

Dear Zimfest community,
After a nail-biting final weekend of teacher and performer applications, we are happy to announce that Zimfest 2022 will take place June 24-26 in Mount Vernon, Washington. Fewer in-person applicants than in non-pandemic years means that we will have a slightly shorter festival, with two days of workshops and afternoon concerts instead of the usual three. Festival activities kick off with a ticketed evening concert at the Lincoln Theatre on Friday evening June 24, with the African Marketplace and daytime activities at the Skagit County Fairgrounds through the weekend. 

  • Offers to volunteer are also fewer in number this year. We still have desperate needs for assistance with our Concerts team and website research. Write to volunteers{at}zimfest{dot}org to offer your help.
  • Vendor applications are now open for Marketplace vendors of musical instruments, art and craft items; food vendors need to be licensed by the state and county and will be handled separately. See the Vendor Information page for links to the application and PayPal for payments. Application deadline for vendors is May 28, 2022. Please direct any questions to marketplace{at}zimfest{dot}org.
  • We have had a robust response to our request for pre-recorded performances, and look forward to scheduling some fabulous hybrid evening concerts at the Lincoln Theatre!

Stay tuned for an update from the Zimfest Covid Safety Committee.

We hope to see you in the beautiful Skagit Valley this summer!
Claire and the Zimfest Organizing Committee

Heron taking wing, by Rachel Edson


Take Flight at Zimfest 2022!

Posted In: Festival News
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21 Comments on “Zimfest 2022 is On in June

  1. Claire Jones says:

    The correct dates for Zimfest 2022 are June 24-26 (not July). Sorry for the typo in the original post, and the confusion it created.

  2. Angela Marie says:

    June 24-26 yes! Thank you for your continued dedication to Zimfest.

  3. Alisa Solberg says:

    Can we purchase tickets in advance?

  4. Wynne Higgins says:

    Hi beautiful people there was a typo on the last email -should have read June not July correct? Can’t wait! Love to you all.

  5. Eric Orem says:

    Hello – I shall share this email I sent to the organizing committe here as well as it serves as a public forum for the time being. I add my voice to those who have shared their concerns about Zimfest 2022’s attendance policy.

    I’m writing to express my dismay and bafflement, as I witness written on your website the tremendous absurdity of a music festival taking it upon themselves to enforce medical procedure requirements for all attendees of the festival. This is nothing short of discrimination, and worse yet, it is a policy rooted in dogma. The irony of such an ‘inclusive’ festival like Zimfest – outright excluding a significant portion of the community who might wish to attend is simply incredible. Perhaps the irony is lost on those who contrive such policies?

    I’ve been attending this festival on and off since I was a kid, for almost 20 years. A legendary band that I‘ve had the honor of performing with for over a decade, Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited, asked me to perform with them at Zimfest 2022. I cannot in good conscience agree, given the policy of attendance, nor does it seem likely that I’d be ‘allowed’ to perform, given that I am covid vaccine-free and shall remain that way until the end of my life, whenever that comes.

    It saddens me to see that the covid hysteria and mass compliance campaigns have not left once relatively apolitical things like this festival unscathed from such darkness.

    I’m afraid that if this admittance policy is indeed the one which is upheld by the festival this year, that I shall never be attending, even if the policy changes in the future, nor shall I recommend anyone attend Zimfest again.

    Eric Orem

    • Janis Weeks says:

      Eric, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. The Zimfest Association Board knows that opinions on Covid risk-reduction measures, including vaccinations, differ within the Zimfest community and more broadly. Protecting Zimfest participants from Covid infection is a top priority of the organizers: hence the vaccination requirement, based on expert medical and public health recommendations as well as positive feedback from potential participants.
      Janis Weeks
      ZA Board
      Zimfest Covid Safety Committee

  6. Alessandra says:

    Thank you Eric. I would like to add that a vaccine is “not” the only way to overcome the virus…it might be for people whose immune system is compromised, but not for everyone. Our immune system is incredibly sophisticated, tailored to each of us, free, and it even has a memory. How can anyone say that a vaccine is the “only” way to keep us healthy, let alone safe?! How does anyone know of the safety of a “one size fits all” drug.
    Requiring a vaccine in order to be able to participate in any activity is fostering segregation; it infringes on our freedom of choice. Additionally, if the vaccine keeps one “safe”, why does it matter if the next person is not vaccinated?
    I am surprised and disappointed by this decision.

  7. Erin Ely says:

    Zimfest Association is in a no-win situation here. 

    I know each one of us is responsible for our own personal health.

    However that’s much different than being responsible for a group of people gathering together in various indoor and outdoor spaces.

    I’m not saying people’s beliefs/opinions are wrong, however I do feel it’s unfair to the organizers to put them in this situation.  They are trying to do the best they can with the information they have, to put on a safe festival.

    I may or may not agree with the vaccine requirement, however I am giving them the benefit of the doubt, that they are giving their best efforts to make this a safe place for everyone to gather.

    I have also been coming to this festival for over 20 years and there is a lot of passion, time and energy that goes into organizing and putting this festival on. I have been a festival organizer in the past and based on my personal experience I can only guess how much time, effort and hand wringing has gone into the organizing committee’s efforts to even make this happen in person this year.

    Putting this festival on and trying to make it work for everyone, is not an easy thing to do.

    It’s up to me to choose to attend or not attend the festival this year, based on the conditions put forth by the festival organizers.  My personal feeling is that their goal is not about discriminating against people.

    I’m not saying people should not have an opinion about being vaccinated or not vaccinated, however I feel it’s unfair to the Zimfest organizers to be demonized for their efforts to put on an in-person Zimfest under these ever changing conditions around COVID.

    • Eric Orem says:

      Hi Erin –

      Indeed, a huge effort is put into organizing this festival and making it happen; I have been a part of that in the past as well. But that’s not my focus here. I’m also sure that the goal of the organizers is not to discriminate, but things can happen inadvertently, and I think it is important that such instances be pointed out and not simply allowed to happen.

      I’m afraid I must disagree in that no, the policy actually does not allow freedom of choice for everyone, namely the non-jabbed. I cannot choose whether or not to go; the decision has been taken out of my hands. Whereas, if there were not a vaccine requirement, everyone could choose to attend or not based on their own health and general situation.

      What you end up with by catering to those who would likely not attend without such a requirement is a guaranteed number of people not able to attend, forced out of participation. This is exactly the sort of thing I and many others have been warning about the last couple years as we headed down this road, only then we were called conspiracy theorists. 🙂

      • Janis Weeks says:

        Eric, you’re correct that there are people who will not attend if there *is* a vaccination requirement, and people who will not attend if there is *not* a vaccination requirement. As event organizers, with the fiduciary responsibility of holding a successful festival (i.e., Zimfest Association doesn’t lose money), the Board evaluated the options and concluded that a vaccination requirement is the best option for holding a well-attended, successful festival. We acknowledge with regret that some community members, like yourself, will choose not to attend.

        • Eric Orem says:

          I’m sorry, you speak of choice to attend or not; it seems like the point I am trying to make has been lost:

          There is no choice of attendance for unvaccinated persons. The choice has been stripped from them. I believe the festival is making a grave error in this decision.

        • Eric Orem says:

          I understand the predicament you are in and that the festival needs to be financially viable.

          However, of the two major paths Zimfest could take with regards to this policy, one allows personal judgement and decision making, and the other outright bans people from attending. As a matter of principle, how clear could it be – which path is correct?

      • Alex Weeks says:

        I wanted to weigh in here with the my reasoning around this decision. First, I want to make clear that this is my personal opinion, and I’m not necessarily speaking for other board members here:

        Unfortunately, we are forced to make a decision, and any decision we can make has consequences.

        Three main possibilities were considered:

        Hold the festival in-person WITHOUT vaccine requirement:
        Pros: Avoids the need to stipulate a personal medical decision by participants.

        Cons: Increased risk of infection and illness for participants. This risk is highest for those with chronic health conditions and elderly participants. Also, the concert venue requires proof of vaccination, which would be a problem even if the festival more generally did not have this requirement. Some people will choose not to attend in the absence of this requirement.

        Hold the festival in-person WITH vaccine requirement:
        Pros: Minimizes risk of infection and illness for participants. These risks are particularly high in close quarters, while exerting yourself, for example at a concert, or workshop. In line with consensus medical opinion, and CDC recommendations. Consistent with concert venue requirement.

        Cons: Requires that we stipulate personal medical decision for participants. Some people will choose not to attend in light of this requirement.

        Hold the festival virtually:
        Pros: Side-steps the vaccination issue all together

        Cons: Obvious downsides of not being able to come together in person

        I know there is disagreement about the efficaciousness, or safety of a COVID vaccine, but when weighed against the consensus of the medical community, and expert institutions such as the CDC, I don’t think we can responsibly act contrary to these recommendations.

        I wish we did not have to make such a difficult decision, but unfortunately given the current reality we are forced to do so. In future years, I hope this will not be necessary, but as recent history has shown, predicting the future is very difficult.

        • Karen S says:

          In retrospect, perhaps Option 3: *Hold the festival virtually* would have been the prudent choice…
          Can you tell us more about why this option was ruled out?
          As we all should know by now, the Sigma variant or the Omega variant could rise up at any time.
          Why rush things?

        • Claire Jones says:

          The virtual option has not been ruled out at all. The concerts at Lincoln Theatre will be hybrid live/pre-recorded, and the pre-recorded sessions have been included so that folks who could not physically come to Zimfest could be included.
          We have received more than enough submissions than there will be time for at the live concerts, and hope to present some in online programming following the festival.This was requested at last year’s Village Meeting, and I am happy to announce that it looks like we will have the volunteer staffing to pull it off!

        • Karen S says:

          Thanks for that clarification, Claire! It sounds like there is a lot for people to enjoy, whether they choose to attend in person or not.

  8. Karen S says:

    Hi all.
    I was not planning to engage in this discussion – I understand the topic of Covid vaccines is a charged issue, and I don’t see the point in debating it here.
    Now, however, words like “discrimination” and “inclusion” are entering the conversation, couched in extremely strong language like “…apolitical things like this festival unscathed from such darkness.”

    The North American Zimbabwean music community has ALWAYS had an issue with discrimination and inclusion, and has always been political. That some are able to deny this fact suggests that they are the beneficiaries of the status quo.

    The community itself is founded on–is entirely dependent on–cultural appropriation. This topic has been discussed frequently. There was an excellent interactive presentation about it at Zimfest 2021. I remember it coming up in Victoria in the late ’90s.

    That some in the community are claiming the community has always been about “inclusion” is mind-boggling. How can anyone look at a community celebrating Zimbabwean music, almost entirely made up of middle- to upper-class white Americans, and call it inclusive?

    I don’t mean this comment to derail the Covid conversation. I only mean that, if we’re going to talk about discrimination in the Zimfest community, then let’s talk about discrimination.

    Perhaps those who feel excluded by vaccine requirements may have a sense of how others have felt excluded all along.
    And those who are happy about the vaccine requirements – you are not off the hook, either. The next thing could exclude you.

  9. Amy Robinson says:

    Individuals who decline to be vaccinated are not a protected class. The vaccine requirement may be viewed as discriminatory, however, there is a reason to discriminate in this situation. Asymptomatic individuals who are not vaccinated have been shown to be able to spread COVID-19 virus for a longer period than infected individuals who have been vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID infection. Unvaccinated individuals put others at risk of contracting this virus which has killed over 6 million people on the planet, so far, including some of our beloved teachers. Further, many of those who have had the virus and recovered continue to experience significant persistent sequelae, i.e. long COVID, adding to the justification for the vaccine requirement.

    I interpret vaccine refusal as a lack of respect and compassion for the vulnerability of others, as well as to the vulnerability of the health care workforce which must care for infected patients in the hospitals. Many health care providers have died from work-related exposures, and many others have suffered from COVID-19. This is a much different situation from something like tetanus. If you get tetanus, as a result of not being immunized, you only hurt yourself. If you get COVID as a result of not being immunized, others may be infected by you, unknowingly, and they may end up in the hospital, ICU, dead, or sick but recovered with long term disability.

    Individuals who organize gatherings of any size bear responsibility for trying to optimize the safety of the participants and could be held responsible for COVID-19 infection among attendees, were it not for making an effort to prevent exposure to infection. I applaud the organizing committee for trying to create a safe space for this event under difficult circumstances.

    It is unfortunate that all of our preferences cannot be accommodated by the reality of this pandemic. It is a gift and privilege to be alive and healthy, and also a privilege to participate in events such as Zimfest.

  10. Becca Moeller says:

    I will not be able to attend Zimfest this year because we won’t be finished rebuilding the home that burned down a year and a half ago in the CZU fire here. There’s an insurance clock ticking so need to keep going.

    But, I’m writing to express that there is another consequence of non-vaccination that has not been addressed that has far reaching consequences. I’m flying off today to a memorial service for my brother-in-law who died not from Covid, but because of Covid. He had a minor heart attack and needed surgery. He was in the hospital a week waiting for an ICU bed to free up and the cardiac staff to reach capacity again enough for the surgery to be scheduled. He had another attack and died while waiting. Those ICU beds were full of – you got it – unvaccinated Covid patients. We know this for a fact as my sister used to work at this hospital and was told by a current overworked, burned out nurse. Our actions affect others in ways we may not know.