Photos by Juliana Bernstein/Courtesy of Symbiosis.

Symbiosis Gathering founder Kevin KoChen spoke with HIGH TIMES about the transformative potential of witnessing a total solar eclipse with thousands of your closest friends.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience for many, and a lifetime obsession for a few, witnessing a total solar eclipse can catalyze epiphanies about the nature of existence and humanity’s place in the universe. So naturally, the team behind the annual Symbiosis Gathering Festival—who’ve been working for years to build community around celestial events—have planned an Oregon Eclipse Gathering that starts August 17 and ends with the big event on August 21.

Well loved in the community for previous festivals timed to coincide with the Autumnal Equinox, Symbiosis has become known, not just for incredible electronic music line-ups and symbolic dates, but also for its significant educational programming, integration of visionary art and artists, and added attractions like swimming and amazing art boats and floats.

Photo by Juliana Bernstein/Courtesy of Symbiosis

The festival eschews corporate sponsorships, favoring local vendors of handicrafts and organic foods, an ethos that evolved from their interpretation of the values and culture embodied by Burning Man.

Looking forward to the eclipse festival at the Big Summit Prairie in the Ochoco National Forest, Symbiosis Festival founder Kevin KoChen hopes to reach the pinnacle of his event planning career.

“I’m completely aware that we are doing the best thing we could possibly ever do,” KoChen said. “If I ever talk about another show as special, then I’m just lying. This is everything we could have ever hoped for.”

Photo by Juliana Bernstein/Courtesy of Symbiosis

KoChen believes building community and creating social change is the only way out of our current political and ecological mess, and he sees the festival as a part of that effort.

“There’s been a corporate takeover of world’s resources, and when we’re disconnected from one another, it’s easier to extract financial resources from people we don’t know,” he explained.

To help re-build these connections and manifest a truly global movement, the eclipse gathering has been designed as an international collaboration, with artists, builders and performers coming from 13 other festivals, and 30 percent of tickets sold going to attendees from 65 foreign countries.

“There are very few times in life when we can just focus and not be distracted,” KoChen said. “There is nothing you can see that is more incredible than a total solar eclipse. It’s an immediate come-to-Jesus, shit-your-pants kind of thing… One of the few instances where people will stop everything they’re doing, not check their phones, and be totally and completely enraptured.”

Photo by Juliana Bernstein/Courtesy of Symbiosis

With a 55-acre lake for swimming, art boats and immersive installations, the Oregon Eclipse Gathering will build on the vibes created at previous Symbiosis Festivals, but with a grand finale that will be near impossible to top.

“It’s the best festival venue I’ve ever seen,” KoChen said, “a gigantic prairie, surrounded by mountains, with the greatest chance of having clear skies for the eclipse.”

Photo by Juliana Bernstein/Courtesy of Symbiosis

With a solid musical lineup including Bassnectar, Beats Antique, Gaudi, Shpongle, STS9, String Cheese Incident and many more, the eclipse festival promises to be an ideal location for what most eclipse-heads consider an unforgettable experience.

RELATED: Eclipse Tripping—An Otherworldly Experience
Keep up with all HIGH TIMES’ culture coverage here.

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