Event organizers, local dispensaries call inaugural Niles Cannabis Festival a success

NILES — Event organizers and local cannabis companies called the inaugural Niles Cannabis Festival a success.

The festival, which was approved by the Niles City Council in April, took place at Riverfront Park South from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. Event organizers estimated the event had sold nearly 800 tickets.

“It’s amazing, and I’m so excited,” said Mel Spencley, co-owner of Float Presents, the company that hosted the event. “It’s going great. This is really good for our first time. … This event is the first of its kind, so I think everyone wanted to be here, see what would happen and enjoy this.”

The event featured musical performances from Bethany & Low, Anival Fausto Band, Brendan Monroe, Big Papa and the Wayward Children and The Crown Jewels – A Tribute to Queen.

Additionally, the event featured seven dispensaries, consumption tents, more than 20 vendors and appearances from comedians and local celebrities, such as Freddie Miller, who became known as “Freddie the Stoner” after being featured on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Marijuana vendors in attendance said they believed the festival was positive for both their businesses and the community.

“This is the first time I’ve been to an event like this, so it’s exciting,” said Alan Bonsett, CEO of NOBO, which has a dispensary in Edwardsburg. “I started in this business 10 years ago in Colorado, so I’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry, and this one is a big one. When this got on our radar, I wanted to make sure we came out for it because I thought I had done everything in cannabis, but we have never sold product at an event like this. This is the first time and hopefully the first time of many.”

Halfway through the festival, representatives of Sun Provisions, located out of Decatur, said their booth had been so busy they had run out of brochures and expected they would run out of cannabis product before the end of the festival.

“We’ve definitely gotten some new customers,” Parker Kubasiak, lead budtender. “We’ve had so many people come by. We’ve had a lot of people who are from towns close to Decatur who didn’t know we were there, so it’s been great to get our name out there.”

Closer to home, Better Daze representatives, located out of Niles’ industrial park, said the event gave them a chance to network with people from across Michiana.

“It’s been really cool to talk to everyone and get feedback on our product,” said Justin Chandler, part-owner. “I don’t think I ever thought something like this would ever happen. It’s really cool to see a town have an up and coming event like this, and I hope they have more in the future.”

The city of Niles has already approved a second, larger cannabis festival to be hosted Sept. 25, contingent on “all conditions and all rules being followed” during Saturday’s event.  Following Saturday’s festival, Spencley said she felt organizers were in good shape to host the September event.

“There are definitely things we need to work out and where I can see we went wrong, and I am sure there will be a nice conversation with the city of Niles to see what we can do differently,” she said. “The number one thing we did wrong was parking, but we will figure that out.”

Despite the small hiccups the event had, Spencely said the event went even better than she had hoped, and she thanked the city, the police department and the Niles community for supporting the first-ever Niles Cannabis Festival.

“We’ve changed a lot of lives today,” she said. “For this event to be happening, it’s been a rollercoaster, and I love it. I’ll take that rollercoaster any day to help stop the stigma [around marijuana]. If we helped even just one person today, we were successful.”

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