About This Festival
Elevating the Mother of All Virtues
Gratitude Migration is a bold invitation to the people of New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia to experience a new kind of summer getaway for one glorious long weekend. While the rest of the region works on its tan, books and paddle ball games, the good people camped out on the shores of Sandy Hook Bay are focused on something else entirely: gratitude.
Gratitude's effect on an individual's happiness is no secret—the ol' Gratitude Journal is an oft-cited salve for turning that frown upside-down—but what this festival's organizers are harnessing is its ripple out of our hearts and into the world at large. Founder Drew Meeks and team have built a cool music and art festival on top of that spirit, put the whole thing on a beach, and, bam!, the Hamptons can suck it.
"When we have appreciation for one another, for the moment we are in, and for the blessings in our life, we change the vibration of the world around us. We feel better, we do better, and we continue to create and expand, building a better world step by step," says Rishe Groner, Marketing and Communications Director of Gratitude. "It's as simple as smiling at your barista, giving someone a compliment, or taking a deep breath to notice the sunrise instead of complaining about the heat in the sand."
"Together, We Can Create the World of Our Dreams"
The sand is the palette for what Meeks calls "a futuristic dreamscape of unbounded creativity and incredible vibes." You could also think of it as 3,000 people coming together to enjoy live music and DJ sets, commune in themed villages, revel in art installations, and learn about things like sustainability and eco consciousness. Festival landmarks accentuate nature and the four elements: there's the Gratitude Earth stage (representing a Phoenix rising), the PEX/Incendia Fire Stage, the Center Camp Wind Tunnel, and the Water Healing Temple. Annual highlights include sunrise meditation by Dawn of the Burning Sun, sunset butterfly parades by Dreams of the Last Butterflies, mermaid and fire performances, and even a Saturday night effigy burn.
Last part sound familiar? "I suppose my inspiration can be traced back to Burning Man, which I first attended in 1997," recalls Meeks. "My experiences there, and with the related creative communities I've become a part of over the years, have grounded my belief that anything is possible and that, together, we can truly create the world of our dreams."
Brooklyn Warehouse Parties Head to the Beach
Gratitude Migration was originally conceived as an official Burning Man Decompression event in 2010; the result of four friends, including Meeks, who wanted to give thanks for their powerful connection while also showcasing the talents of their extended community of artists and makers. It soon became clear that going the official route wasn't going to work, so they created an independent entity, NYC*Gratitude, named after an element of the FIGMENT Project. (Part of the participatory culture movement, FIGMENT had just adopted "gratitude" as its 11th principle, joining the 10 Principles of Burning Man.)
For the first three years of its life, NYC*Gratitude took place at a converted trolley factory in Brooklyn called The Electric Warehouse, and attendance peaked at 1,500 in 2012. In 2013-14, it moved to a bigger Brooklyn warehouse (60,000 feet), doubled attendance, ratcheted up talent and production values, and incorporated educational speakers and programs. In 2015, NYC*Gratitude merged with Upstate New York's boutique Migration Festival and Migration founder Avi Werde became a co-founder of the new festival, now rebranded and relocated to the seaside spot where it's held today.
While the setting may be natural, the NYC skyline is always in full view (or full glow, if it's nighttime), which means that participants do not fully escape the reality of their surroundings. This is symbolic for organizers. "Often, festivals take place far off in a forest or farmland and you feel so disconnected from the 'default world' and it's harder to remember that integration is a primary component of transformation," explains Groner. "People know that part of experiencing this magic on the beach is to take that forward into life back in the city."
The Gratitude Migration crew takes great care to integrate the local community into the festival, too. Many volunteers come from Keansburg, the borough and local organizations, and discounted day passes help those who don't have the means attend. For Meeks, being inclusive is just as important as being grateful: "I'm inspired to make profound, life-changing experience and the resulting world-changing realizations, accessible to everyone—not just the people who can spend thousands of dollars to go out to the desert each year."