THORNVILLE- The 2021 Gathering of the Juggalos was held from Thursday Aug. 19 at 8 a.m. to Sunday Aug. 22 at noon. A festival designated for fans of 90’s hit rap group Insane Clown Posse (ICP), the Gathering has long been an annual assembly of both avid partiers and lifelong fans decked-out in ICP-inspired clown face paint.
While the Gathering has been held at various locations across the nation since its debut 1999 event in Michigan, the festival has been able to call Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio home for a number of years thanks to venue owner Steve Trickle. This was Trickle’s fifth time hosting the juggalos, and he says he hosts them because he’s a “fighter for the underdog.”
“The first year, I’ll be honest, I was a little apprehensive,” Trickle said about hosting ICP. “But you know, after doing this show I realized that these kids are no different than a country crowd or a hippie crowd; 95% of them are good people. But in every genre, there’s 5% that kind of ruin it for everyone else.”
Trickle claims that he got more ‘thank you’s’ for sticking his neck out for the Juggalos than he did from crowds at all of his other shows combined. It’s the respect they have for him and his venue that he really appreciates.
But juggalos do like to get rowdy, and the venue had to implement security in order to keep concertgoers from lighting furniture on fire during Insane Clown Posse’s set, the final performance of the entire festival on Saturday night. Trickle said this wasn’t out of the ordinary for any festival, let alone the Gathering, and that his priority was to keep everyone safe.
At $200 for the whole weekend, the festival’s price was hard to beat considering the extensive lineup of artists such as rapper Danny Brown, To Catch a Predator’s Chris Hansen, DJ Paul and, of course, Insane Clown Posse themselves. Vendors selling food, grocery items, artwork, t-shirts and more lined the festival’s grassy field, supplying concertgoers with lighters, clothes and meals. Trickle was excited to see everyone back.
“It’s their one time a year that they get to pop off and have fun, and then they go back to reality,” Trickle said. “Especially the last year, dealing with being stuck at home and COVID, I myself understand. I have hundreds of acres of camping leased and last year I still paid all my leases for all of those parking lots and never parked one car, so I’m just happy to get to make some noise again.”
In order to staff a booth selling pendants and marbles, Dan Arnold from Virginia took a lengthy road trip to make it to his second Gathering. A fan of ICP since he was 12 years old, Arnold was introduced by a friend to the festivals in recent years, leading to some of the most unforgettable moments of his life and taking him “back to 13 years old” at each festival.
Arnold usually works at music festivals, as he’s able to create smooth glass pieces for necklaces or earrings after glass blowing for six years. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began he has started selling his work online a lot more, but events like the Gathering give him a great opportunity for sales along with a chance to see one of his favorite artists.
“I usually bring everything out and do (glass blowing) demonstrations at the farmers market,” Arnold said of his work. “At home, locally, I work with a plumber part-time. I do this part-time and I do a little bit of everything. One day I’ll be a good enough artist and I can live on just this.”
A number of vendors at the festival sell Faygo, a soda from Detroit that has been popularized by ICP and become part of their brand. Smashed Faygo boxes, cans and bottles littered the festival grounds as crowds of people spent an entire weekend living and breathing ICP’s lifestyle of Faygo and clown makeup.
Jeremy from Florida, a juggalo of 21 years who refused to provide a last name, had mixed feelings about the crowds of people attending the festival. He explained that since the Internet and social media have grown rapidly, people are a lot less friendly and many just come to party, rather than celebrate ICP and their message.
“There are people that aren’t even down with the clown, or don’t know the meaning and are still here, which kind of makes it feel less comfortable than it should be,” Jeremy said, explaining that people who are really there for ICP paint their faces and have a different attitude than just partying. “(The Gathering gives me) fulfillment, a feeling of placement or a no judgment zone,” he explained. “This has changed a lot, and I regret not coming earlier.”
But all juggalos really can come together under one belief, and that’s that ICP means family. Zack, a lifelong fan from Colorado, claims he was let into an ICP concert by Violent J, one of ICP’s members, with his mother when he was two years old. Ever since then, he’s enjoyed coming to festivals to meet other juggalos and feel free.
“In my mind (the festival is) completely unplugged from the system,” Zack said. “If we were all on our own and had our own little continent, we’d be fine. I have Tourette’s syndrome and I’m always being ridiculed, but I can be myself here.”
Jessica Green, a vendor at a drink stand, echoed similar statements. Green is also a lifelong juggalo, though this was her first time seeing ICP live.
“The family and the heart that’s here,” Green said, when asked about her favorite part of ICP’s music and festivals. “The energy. Just listen.”