NORWAY — Aaron Fuda had a vision in 1991 — a gathering of friends and others on his property to protest unjust laws and enjoy a weekend of clothing-optional peace, love and dancing.

FUDAfest (Fully Unclothed Dancing Activism) grew into a place where hundreds would flock to party, dance and, for a few, get naked. The party, however, sometimes turned unruly with clashes with law enforcement and the town over drugs, road blockage and illegal parking, noise and the lack of a mass gathering permit.

Papa Fuda tends bar Friday at the FUDAfest in Norway. Papa Fuda is the father of organizer Aaron Fuda and came out from Idaho for the 30th anniversary celebration of the outdoor music and lifestyle festival. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Now, 30 years on, the civil disobedience seems a little less edgy and town officials said they have had few problems with the festival in recent years.

Many of the attendees in the early years are now grandparents.

FUDAfest appears to have morphed into the mainstream, becoming part of the fabric of Norway’s summer season. Volunteers painstakingly make sure vehicles are no longer illegally parked along McKay Road.

Even marijuana is now legal. What a way to ruin a protest.

While the protesting of unjust laws remains, Fuda even admits that the festival has evolved, but not completely. Last year’s event was held despite the pandemic and he still plans to burn an effigy of Uncle Sam during the weekend.

“Fudafest was started 30 years ago because I was sick of gatherings being broken up by police and had a vision of hippies, punks and metal heads coming together to fight unjust laws and to just get along,” Fuda said. “It evolved into a marijuana law protest, but I want to be clear that we are against all unjust laws. Now we have evolved again.

“There is no judgment for how you look, dress, or how you may identify yourself. We encourage self-radical expression with respect of the people around you and teach the importance of consent. We have had a lot of friction from the town over the years, but we hope to keep everyone safe and keep the road clear.”

Jephirsun Danger of Brewer gets some music going from his DJ deck Friday at the 30th FUDAfest in Norway. Danger says his group, The Sanctuary, is all about “PLUR: Peace, Love, Unity and Respect.” Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

In 2002, nearly 50 law enforcement officers led by the Maine State Police Tactical Team conducted a surprise raid and surrounded some 400 festivalgoers, searching them for illegal substances. Witnesses described tactical teams dressed in camouflage uniforms and gear and face paint.

“We wanted to get in and out safely, without inciting a riot,” MDEA agent Gerry Baril said at the time.

According to reports, they seized processed marijuana, 15 marijuana plants, psilocybin mushrooms, hand scales and approximately $2,000. Summonses were issued and one person was arrested.

Lexi Martin of Oxford swings Friday on the giant swing at FUDAfest in Norway. “I love it here,” Martin said. “All of my friends are here.” Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Over the years, authorities have complained about the lack of respect for the town’s policies and neighbors. Wreckers were called in to tow illegally parked vehicles. Police reported having rocks and bottles thrown at them when responding to the property for noise and drug complaints.

In the early 2000s, town officials passed a mass gathering permit for events with more than 250 people. It was a law Fuda pretty much ignored.

“Everyone knows this law was put into place because of FUDAfest, and it has been dubbed as ‘Fuda Law.’ We protest unjust laws, so their answer is to make more laws,” Fuda said at the time.

In 2009, the town sought a temporary restraining order against Fuda when he failed to apply for the permit for his festival. The order was denied by a Lewiston court judge.

Its protest of marijuana laws spilled into Norway’s annual art fest. Festival organizers built a float for the parade with a hot tub and a giant marijuana cigarette, and Fuda with a bullhorn yelling, “We smoke pot. We like it a lot.”

Elliviah Wilcox of Norway spins fire Friday at the 30th FUDAfest in Norway as musicians set up on the stage. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

In recent years, the festival appears to have maintained a peaceful coexistence with the town.  On social media, Fuda described the festival as a celebration of peace, art and music. He advises that fighting will not be tolerated. Neither are dogs and while marijuana is fine, participants cannot bring any pills or powder.

To combat the parking issues, visitors were being guided until all four wheels were off the road.

Fuda’s home base on the property is a large purple bus, with a van welded to the roof to create a second story. The second floor also features a deck.

The rain did not stop people from arriving on site beginning Thursday to set up tents throughout the woods on his property, which is called Fudaville. A large bonfire was burning Friday night with people dancing and listening to music on two stages. One of the stages was tucked in the woods where disc jockeys played. A number of bands were scheduled to play throughout the weekend.

Jephirsun Danger, a DJ with “The Sanctuary,” says festivalgoers are all about “PLUR” — Peace Love Unity and Respect. “We look out for each other,” he said.

The 30th annual FUDAfest is nestled in the woods of Norway and features two stages, a fire performance area and a large fire pit. Camping is scattered through the woods, and small outdoor kitchens and bars are set up. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

As the day fades, drum circles were formed, while a number of fire spinners and other artists entertained the crowd.

To help celebrate the 30th anniversary of FUDAfest, Aaron Fuda’s father, Papa Fuda, flew in from Idaho to attend the festivities. Aaron’s daughter, Marley Smith, who was also in attendance, just turned 31.

A massive swing was set up in the woods where brave souls would climb a large  tree to swing out over a pile of mattresses.

For the over-21 crowd, a makeshift bar was set up, where people were carded at the door and given colored bracelets.

To help keep the property clean, the festival sponsored a unique event — a cigarette butt picking up contest.

This year, festivalgoers were charged $30 in advance and $35 at the gate.

Andree Kehn contributed to this story.




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