Isla Vista locals – armed with bubbles, hula hoops and flower power – gathered in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park on Sunday to celebrate the first Isla Vista Freedom Festival.

Attendees danced to live music, painted on walls and perused booths set up by local businesses and fundraising groups. Vendors provided free food, and plant seeds were distributed to encourage locals to start their own gardens.

The festival started at noon and ended with a techno dance that lasted until 8 p.m. Throughout the day, local performers – including Ras David, the UCSB Middle Eastern Ensemble, Broken Open, Lonesome Dub, Toast and Jam, Pacific Wisdom, DJ Chuck and DJ Tyler – performed hour-long sets.

Doraly Espinoza, a fourth-year biopsychology major, said she and her friends had organized the festival by themselves and raised support for it by soliciting local businesses.

“We’re just trying to voice that you don’t need an organization to start something,” Espinoza said. “It should come from the community for the community. We didn’t want to go through a campus organization for funding. We wanted to create a space for people who wouldn’t normally be hanging out together where you can eat locally grown produce and dance with your shoes off.”

Fellow event coordinator Elaena Stanitsas, a fourth-year sociology major, said that she and her friends decided to helm the festival in order to encourage a public dialogue about freedom.

“We thought, ‘What better place for a public discussion than in a park?'” she said. “Right now is the best time to have the festival. So many things are obviously going wrong and there are not that many spaces to talk about what to do.”

Notable guests included the I.V. Pirate, Eric “The Flower Guy” and a fairly large snake named “Jungle Love” that was passed around amongst the dancing throng.

Ashley Dotter, a third-year communication major, said the festival and its message represented the true spirit of the Isla Vista community and its legacy.

“I came out today because I love Isla Vista,” Dotter said. “This is what I live for in my college experience. The music, socializing, bubbles, hula hoops, crazy old stoners – it makes me feel that this is what I.V. should be like, how it was in the ’60s. Now it’s just a bunch of frats.”

Local resident Ron “The Professor” Woods, infamous for his role in the burning of the Bank of America in 1970, said the festival reflects the promise of the new year.

“We’re in a revolution,” Woods said. “This festival enhances 2009. It gives me hope, real hope. We have a new president, new concept and talented young people. We can change.”

Still, Woods expressed some disappointment at what he felt was a less than ideal turnout.

“What I fear about today is that only around 300 of these students are getting the message. All of them should be concerned about freedom,” he said.

Eric Hansen – more commonly known as “The Flower Guy” – speculated that the somewhat low turnout was due to the sunny weather, which drew many locals to the beach rather than the park.

“The problem with today is like everyone else I’m going to the beach,” Hansen said. “I’m just here to set the stage for the sunset with some colorful flowers on this beautiful day.”