This November 7, ISKCON devotees at the rural Prabhupada Village community in Sandy Ridge, North Carolina will be holding “George Fest,” the latest in a series of innovative festivals designed to attract the general public.
At previous events, devotee and outside professionals spoke on different aspects of sustainability such as transportation, farming, energy production, and solar panels. Another featured a seminar on sustainable relationships, while the most recent event, Krishna Fest, showcased “Hare Krishna” culture through stage performances of traditional music and dance, talks on Krishna conscious philosophy, and even a “Try on a Sari” booth.
“We want to give our neighbors a valid excuse to visit our farm,” says organizer Mitrasena Dasa, an instantly likeable devotee with a lopsided grin and a twinkle in his eye. “As a result of the festivals, our neighbors are seeing the temple as a place to learn things that are relevant to their lives. And as they become accustomed to visiting us, I am gradually presenting Krishna to them.”
George Fest will be the next step in this plan. People are already looking forward to hearing about one of ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada’s most famous followers, George Harrison, and Mitrasena expects a big crowd.
“I am working with several professional musicians for the event, and they are really looking forward to the devotional atmosphere at our temple,” he says. “One musician claims to be retired, but is willing to suspend his retirement for ‘a project like this one.’”
The musicians are collaborating with Mitrasena on a fully orchestrated version of ‘Within you, without you’ using esraj, tablas, sitar, violin, and more. The song will feature an extended instrumental section before culminating in a traditional kirtan.
Other local musicians will perform a variety of George’s songs, while a sitar performance, more kirtan and lots of prasadam (sanctified food) are all on the menu.
But the highlight will be the speech by Guru Dasa, an early disciple of Srila Prabhupada’s and a close friend of George’s. He was there to greet Prabhupada upon his first visit to San Francisco in 1967, and later started ISKCON in England along with his wife Yamuna and two other couples. He also met the Beatles in 1969 and lived in John Lennon’s estate for some time.
George Fest will end with a group rendition of My Sweet Lord, with Mitrasena gathering “as many acoustic guitarists as possible” to strum and sing George Harrison’s signature tune together.
Devotees who are interested in helping as musicians, preachers, cooks, yoga instructors, book distributors, entertainers, or potato peelers can contact Mitrasena at email@example.com.