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A real grassroots party

10th annual 420 Festival features packed roster of reggae-inspired acts

What: 10 th annual 420 Festival

When: Tuesday, April 20, 4 p.m.

Where: Dusty's

Cost: $10

April 20 is circled on the calendars of many of the 420-friendly folks around the world, and in Whistler this countercultural holiday has developed a loyal following.

Robbie Currie, who also goes by the musical moniker of MC Nobody Really, founded the community's 420 Festival 10 years ago with the help of another local musician, DJ Phroh.

"When I first moved to Whistler I met up with DJ Phroh, we started jammin' out and I knew that he was a really good reggae DJ, and I was doing my hip hop thing back in the day, and it just clicked one day," he recalled. "I looked around Whistler Village on April 20 and I thought, 'You know what? This town is full of snowboarders and riders that love smoking!'"

So, the two musicians decided to join forces to organize a 420 party for the people of Whistler, hosting the event at Merlin's for the first four years and Dusty's for the past five.

"This is a celebration of mainly Whistler locals getting together, celebrating the annual tradition of 420," Currie offered up.

"The party is just all about a celebration, it's not a party where, by any means, Intrawest or the police have to worry," he added.

Today, the party that started as an intimate reggae night has grown into a sold-out annual event, which drew almost 500 people to the patio of Dusty's last year. It's also amassed a pretty impressive group of sponsors - Vancouver's New Amsterdam Café, Katmandu and Hempire, and Armada Skis - who have anted up with some great prizes for party attendees.

"Every year, the party and the legend has grown, and grown, and grown," Currie laughed.

"I think the whole concept of 420 is all about freedom," he said. "I think it speaks to the kids in Whistler because the kids ride and live that lifestyle."

Aside from the somewhat illicit activities that may be associated with this "green" event, there's a strong musical element to the party, with a tonne of reggae-inspired hip hop acts on board. This year, Whistler's own Kostaman, Jux Cain from Toronto, DJ Phroh and Element MC (the Whistler Junglists), DJ Ten80, Keith Force, MC Clutch, Bill Zone and Phareke from Vancouver, MC Logic, Travlist, Animal Nation, Godfrey and, of course, MC Nobody Really, are slotted to perform.

"The target for the party is a good reggae-inspired vibe along with obviously good local hip hop," Currie explained. "Lots of really good beats."

In the typical laidback, laissez-faire attitude of the 420-friendly folk, the $10 tickets don't have to be purchased in advance: "We don't really worry about it too much. Every year it's at the door, people show up for 4 o'clock." But the first 100 people through the door will get a free gift bag from the New Amsterdam Café, so people who show up early will be rewarded.