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SEATTLE -- Even before the estimated 200,000 people show up at the parks along Elliott Bay, vendors and staffers are busy setting up for Seattle's Hempfest 2010.

But perhaps the question after this weekend is whether there will be a Hempfest 2010.

It's amazing. It's probably the best festival we've been to, said Denise Devlin, a vendor showing off her signature item, a 44-inch tall,10-pound water pipe.

And that's how it is as they celebrate at Myrtle Edwards Park. Honest in lifestyle. Serious in policy.

We know who we are. It's our family, we can laugh at ourselves for sure, said Tim Pate one of the event's core staff members. But we want [people] to take us serious when it's our brothers and sisters who are dying of some dread disease that this will help or when perhaps we can make some kind of industrial use of this that will benefit the world.

Hempfest is a self-described pro-cannabis rally, advocating laws to decriminalize marijuana for medical, responsible recreational and industrial use.
The all-volunteer event is now in its fifteenth year down by the bay, and as always, finding funding is an issue, especially since they charge no admission.

Always concerned, said Tim Pate, one of the event's core staff members. I run Hempstock in Portland, [Ore.,] myself, and money is always the issue.

The weekend event is also now one of the largest pro-marijuana rallies in the country, and as such costs around $300,000 to put on. Mostly it's paid through vendors, ad sales, merchandise sales, sponsors and donations.

A lot of volunteer work, there's not a lot of money being put in, said Devlin.

Despite its high attendance, Hempfest lost thousands of dollars in 2009. This year, they requested permission to have a third day, on Friday, that could have helped raise more funds. They were denied by the city of Seattle.

There's always a need to make sure we have the fences covered, the water covered, the facilities, said Pate, who sounds like a politician when asked about the future of Hempfest. What happens is you get tight, is you get creative. You cut edges, you make sure you have the essential services, and you look for creative ways to raise more funds.

Through it all -- charging admission is not an option. According to the Hempfest website, organizers say a free event keeps their event open to the widest audience as well as maintains their constitutionally-protected free speech.

Really chill, that's the word I would use for it, said vendor Synava McDonald. Everybody can come have a good time.

Pate said event planners are applying for outside grants to keep the event going, but donations always help.

People walk in for free, said Pate. We hope that they can consider us when they pull out their wallet and contribute.

Hempfest 2010 runs August 21-22. For more information, visit www.hempfest.org.

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