Grilled cheese and hookahs

Grilled cheese and hookahsIn 1970, 20 people went into the woods armed with a keg, a pig, and two acoustic guitars. They weren’t searching for anything — well, perhaps a cure for the boredom and a passage to summer or somewhere else. What they found they left in the woods, returning each year to unearth their psychedelic relics. Thirty years later, that annual event is called Omega 2000.

It’s time to walk down Shakedown Street and feel the groovy vibes coming from the burned-out and freshly lit hippies, music lovers, and those in need of stress relief. “It is definitely time for a festival,” says Chuck Baker, Omega organizer. “Friday and Saturday (May 5 and 6) all of the visible planets will be aligned behind the sun, as well as a new moon.” It’s been said that far-out forces will inspire various human responses, which Omega hopes to accentuate with nature trails, jammin’ tunes, and drum circles.

The festival has known four names and has seen many changes since its inception, growing from the original 20 people and their guitars to a lineup of national and local bands. The entertainment scheduled for in between bands (or between states of mind) includes raffles, grilled cheese buffets, open vending booths, fireworks, and bonfires. “These are the real fireworks, none of that 8- to 10-inch bullshit. This is the kind of shit you see on the Fourth of July,” Baker says.

The festival’s speciality is white bread and cheese. “If you’ve ever been to a (Grateful) Dead show or Phish or Widespread (Panic),” Baker explains, “Shakedown Street forms in the parking lot. There are all kinds of vendors, and there are always people selling grilled cheese sandwiches for a buck.” Does it get any better than that?

Here’s a little something you can put in your hookah and smoke: There will be a daily raffle for a glass bubbler, blown in the heart of the Midwest. “We have three sizes: medium, large, and gigantic,” Baker says. The bubblers being offered are single-piece, handblown glass utensils consisting of a bowl, base, and stem, allowing “the smoker” a larger and more pleasant drag, hit, or pull.

But for Baker, the festival is about proving that corporate sponsorship is unnecessary for a good time and that people are capable of policing themselves. “The biggest problem I want people to have is, ‘Where did I put my tent?'” says Baker. He promises nothing less than a good time. “It’s unbelievable,” Baker says. “I’m surprised someone hasn’t passed a law to prevent us from having this much fun.”

Omega 2000 gates open at noon on May 4. The festival continues through May 6 at Clinton Lake State Park in Lawrence, Kan. The festival is $25 and tickets are available by calling 816-931-9330. Camping, parking, and hot showers cost an additional $15 for the entire weekend. For more information, call 785-832-1968 or check out