Celebrate Life and Love at B.E. Easy Music & Arts Festival

B.E. Easy Music & Arts Festival Flyer

Support the efforts of the B.E. Easy Scholarship Fund

This Valentine’s Day, the beautiful Bryant Park in Lake Worth, Fla., will host the B.E. Easy Music and Arts Festival featuring Nahko and Medicine for the People, Cope, The Resolvers, Unlimited Devotion and Friends, Ancient Sun, The Funky Nuggets, and Sawgrass Express.

Ancient Sun and The Funky Nuggets will also play a pre-party on Friday, Feb. 13 (that’s right, Friday the 13th), at the Funky Buddha Lounge in Boca Raton. Plus, Thriftworks will headline a Saturday night after-party at Propaganda, a venue located just one-half mile from the festival site, with support from Lucky Costello.

In addition to a fierce lineup of local and national acts, this fest truly has heart. B.E. Easy was created to honor the life of a young man named Benjamin Evans, who was prescribed opiates at the age of 19 and developed an addiction. Though he later got clean, he lost his battle one fatal night at the age of 23.

It was Benjamin’s brother Christopher’s idea to hold the festival in his brother’s memory, and with the help of loving family members and devoted friends, B.E. Easy saw its first incarnation two years later in 2013.

A change in date and location has moved the 3rd Annual B.E. Easy Music and Arts Festival to Bryant Park on Saturday, Feb. 14. Situated along the Intracoastal Waterway, the park offers enchanting views of the water, a built-in amphitheater, restroom facilities, and more.

Music runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and the after party kicks off at 10 p.m. There will be a chance to win a pair of tickets to Wanee Festival as well as a pair of tickets to Suwannee Hulaween.

Paid camping is available at the nearby John Prince Park campground (about 2 miles from the fest) and there are several hotels in the area. Food and beverage vendors and an ATM will be located on site. Outside food and beverage are prohibited, except for bottled water. Leashed pets are permitted on the festival grounds.

General admission and VIP passes for the event (children under 12 are free with a paid adult), and tickets for the pre- and post-party are available on the festival website. (If you buy them in advance, you can see all the music for about $50.) There is also an option to purchase a combo ticket for B.E. Easy and The Zen Gala, a Ft. Lauderdale event with performances by Nahko and Medicine for the People and others.

Proceeds from the festival benefit the B.E. Easy Scholarship Fund, a 501(c)3 charitable organization that offers addiction recovery resources to people who may not otherwise have access. I spoke with Benjamin’s mother, Mary Jane Evans, who told me more about the festival’s mission and the fund, and shared the story of her son’s life and the addiction that ended it.

The Mission

As always, the festival’s main objective is to provide addiction and grief counseling on site. Attendees can visit the B.E. Easy tent at any time to speak to a trained counselor. Mary Jane stressed that the atmosphere is very relaxed and anonymous; counselors will even walk the festival grounds to talk with those who are interested but reluctant to sit at the booth.

“We had licensed mental health counselors, especially addiction specialists, at our festival the first year. ... Those counselors were amazed at how many kids came and talked to them, because if they didn’t have a problem, they definitely knew somebody that had a problem,” she said.

The truth is, countless young people (and people of all ages) have battled with addiction or have friends who are struggling. Some have lost loved ones and need a way to express their grief.

I know I’ve seen the consequences firsthand. Maybe you have, as well.

This commitment has resonated with the Florida community, and people have stepped up to offer their help in numerous ways. Area bands have donated their performances. Because of the Lotus has volunteered to organize live painters and art installations for the event. Free workshops offering healing alternatives to the 12 Steps (such as yoga and meditation) have been donated.

A Pompano Beach business even offered to supply all the tent and furniture rentals needed for B.E. Easy at no charge (about a $2,000 value).

“[These are] people who have struggled with this in [some] way, either themselves, their children … and realized how little resources there are and how much it’s needed,” said Mary Jane.

The B.E. Easy Scholarship Fund

Though many are affected by the trauma of addiction, access to support systems is often limited by financial ability or the pure availability of knowledge. The B.E. Easy Scholarship Fund aims to provide resources, financial or educational, to those who are in need. So far it has helped four people get the help they deserve and directed several others to additional sources.

The scholarship fund’s slogan — Open Dialogue Saves Lives — represents its belief that honest communication is the first step to healing and erasing the shame that prevents so many from seeking help.

Some have criticized the fund’s affiliation with the event, citing the well known connection between music festivals and overt drug use and abuse. But Mary Jane is adamant in her efforts and refuses to back down.

“We have to go into that community to reach those people. Some people understand that and some people don’t. I just decided a long time ago I’m not going to worry about those people who don’t understand what we’re doing because I know we’ve reached kids. I’ve seen kids who have turned their lives around.”

The operations of the fund and festival are handled by Benjamin’s brother and friends, many of whom also donate their skills to the cause. A sponsorship info request form and donate button are located on beeasymusicfestival.com if you are interested in offering your own resources to the B.E. Easy Scholarship Fund or Festival.

Benjamin’s Story

Benjamin Evans was diagnosed at the age of 8 with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. According to The Perthes Association, in a child with this disease, blood supply to part of the hip joint becomes limited for reasons unknown causing bone death over time.

Benjamin was forced to wear a brace that held his legs far out to either side in order to keep his hip joint intact, so he spent his third and fourth grade years in a wheelchair. When blood flow eventually returned, the extent of his bone loss was shown to be severe. 

“He really just had such a great spirit about it,” said Mary Jane. “He was just determined to do everything.”

Unfortunately, things got worse. Benjamin needed a hip replacement, but surgery was not an option until he had finished growing. So at the age of 19, Benjamin was prescribed opiates to help him endure the pain he was in, and he became addicted.

“We tried everything,” Mary Jane said. “It truly is a disease. It’s not something he ever wanted.”

Benjamin Evans
When he was 23, doctors were finally ready to operate, and he went into rehab to get clean before the surgery. The operation was a success, and Benjamin was back to his old self. “It was like having my son back, really. He was just a joy ...”

Then one night six months after his surgery, Benjamin took something and never woke up. 

The tragedy of his death strongly affected his community; six hundred people came to his wake. Benjamin loved music and had attended a number of music festivals while he was alive, so having a festival seemed like the perfect way to remember him.

Hence, B.E. Easy Music and Arts Festival and Scholarship Fund were born with the goal of celebrating Benjamin’s life and filling a gap so there can be fewer stories like his in the future.

“He was just a great kid, big-hearted, always had a big smile on his face. … He touched a lot of lives in his short time.”

B.E. Easy Festival Facebook event | Pre-party Facebook event | After-party Facebook event

Thandiwe Ogbonna is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. She writes for The Untz, and has written for DubEra.com, NoDepression.com, and Home Grown Music Network. Tweet to her, @ThandiWay, and tell her about your next great event.

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