Meet the Blue Ridge Beltane Planning Committee! These are the people who were so inspired by the festival and the community that they felt moved to volunteer their time, energy, and love to make the festival happen every year. (Updated November 2019.)
Adam “Turtle” Szyikowski
Inner Sanctum Support Staff, Venue Liaison
Turtle came to Blue Ridge Beltane over six years ago to check out the group dynamic, and he found what he’d been missing in his own eclectic personal practice. He says, “You can’t know which [path] is best until you’ve tried them all.” He is a loving husband and father. He trained in residential modeling and studied engineering geology. He is particularly fond of fire dancing and volleyball. Turtle has never been accused of being the most outgoing person, but he is learning to come out of his shell more often. This year, he will be encouraging others to expand their own boundaries and embrace their most authentic version of themselves while creating and preserving safe space at the Inner Sanctum.
Aimee “Thistle” Zwart
Ritual Coordinator, Workshop Coordinator
Thistle hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains and has been an integral part of the magical community for many years. She loves being with community at Blue Ridge Beltane. One of her favorite parts of the festival is participating in rituals and workshops. Now, she has the joy of coordinating these delightful activities for future attendees. She says to everyone, “May we aid each other in loving growth during this time of celebration.”
Board Facilitator, Marketing Coordinator
Mary Baldwin University graduate, domestic goddess, and baking enthusiast, Brittany first attended Blue Ridge Beltane in 2017. She immediately welcomed the opportunity to join such an inclusive and progressive group of people. Becoming a mother encouraged her to become a breastfeeding advocate, attachment parent, and feminist-for-all. She keeps her cauldron from bubbling over through personal connection with people and nature, therapeutic cooking, and academic pursuits. She has practiced earth-based religion since her early teens, and she remains committed to cultivating that energy of loving respect for the world that nourishes all life. As a member of Shenandoah Valley Reclaiming, she coordinates public rituals to show the beauty and power of cooperative magic. She is also a member and organizer of Earth Church in downtown Staunton, a family friendly and community-led group of like-minded people sharing different perspectives on spirituality.
Board Secretary, Registration Coordinator
Cyndi is an eclectic solitary practitioner, and she has been attending Blue Ridge Beltane since 2010. What started as networking within the Pagan community turned into an exciting exchange of skills and talents. She has volunteered since 2015, and this year she takes on the role of registration coordinator. She loves all sorts of music, cooking, baking, crocheting, reading, and craft beers. Her muggle career as a clinical social worker has led her to become a mental health advocate for children and families. She has two children – Chris and Callie – along with two dogs, one cat, and a grand-cat.
Red Tent Coordinator
Denise “Dirty Mother” is a priestess, an educator, and a facilitator of the Red Tent. She defies the patriarchal paradigm by following her own intuitive path through creative expression and her commitment to womyn’s empowerment in the arts and in the history of sexuality and divine feminine worship. Experiences that have strengthened her commitment: working as a clerk at the feminist/lesbian 31st Street Bookstore in Baltimore; working as a dancer for four years on Baltimore’s infamous ‘Block;’ teaching OB-GYN protocol and techniques to medical students with Johns Hopkins; a decade of costume design in Baltimore; directing and acting in various productions of The Vagina Monologues; a three-year purgatory as a corporate event planner, event coordinator, and sex educator for the Spiral Dance Women’s Center; vending, facilitating, and educating in the Red Tent since 2007 in the mid-Atlantic pagan community; coordinator for the Scarlet Den at Turtle Hill Events Beltane and the Inner Sanctum at Blue Ridge Beltane. She has been making music and writing poetry for over 20 years. Her last musical project was Red Wound. Creating art, music, and sacred space for womyn has been her joy and salvation. Learn more about Dirty Mother Productions online.
Ed has been attending, presenting, and volunteering as security at festivals in Virginia for over 10 years. He has been attending Blue Ridge Beltane for the last several years where he has volunteered as security, security co-coordinator, and workshop presenter. Ed runs his own private investigation company – Black Cat Security and Investigations – in Virginia and works with several groups within the state to stop child abuse. He’s been following a pagan path for over 35 years and self describes as a grey eclectic Celtic pagan, having studied various spiritual and magical paths. Ed and his wife Paula love the family bond that Blue Ridge Beltane has created. This atmosphere keeps them coming back year after year. He can’t wait to see everyone soon.
Eric Eldritch is a Radical Faerie, Urban Shaman, and Avante-Gardenarian Witch who lives at the intersection of sexuality and spirituality. He is known as a Sacred Fool, a master of the profound and profane, bringing depth and joy to an understanding of body, mind, and soul. He has been invited back to Blue Ridge Beltane year after year to coordinate a “Maypole for All.” (Editor’s note: And because we LOVE HIM!) Eldritch is a community organizer with leadership experience in nonprofit and professional organizations for over 20 years. He specializes in event planning, public relations, and organizational development based on principles of group identity, sociolinguistics, and cross-cultural relations. Drawing on years of experience in ceremonial and ecstatic forms of worship for ritual construction, he specializes in interfaith worship and spiritual retreat planning. Eldritch consults with pagan and community groups to collaborate with, organize, and energize them. Part of his work with these groups includes crafting tailor-made classes, rituals, events, retreats, professional seminars, panels, and fundraisers. He can also create art, graphic designs, flyers, brochures, and promotional materials for groups. Eldritch welcomes your questions, communication, and collaborations! Contact him at Eldritch@EldritchVentures.org or by calling him at 202-309-5486.
Our amazing new webmistress has worked so hard on redesigning our website that she hasn’t had time to write a bio. A woman of many talents, Erin brilliantly balances managing a restaurant with being a mother, partner, and healer. She is fiercely loyal and loving with a radiant energy. You can catch her dancing by the Bel Fire. Stay on the lookout for more details to come shortly on the webspinner behind the Blue Ridge Beltane site.
Fermented Beverage Competition Coordinator, Wellspring Coordinator
Gretchen is that loud chick with the glasses. You may remember her from the mead workshop and other Beltane shenanigans. She admits that she is really lousy at names, faces, and memory in general, so cut her some slack. She can’t wait to see everyone at Wellspring café this year, where she will probably try to feed you because that’s her thing. May this year be the best ever!
Onsite Registration Co-Coordinator
Jackrabbit has not had a chance to craft a bio yet either, but Wikipedia tells us that Jackrabbits are fast runners (up to 40mph) with long ears, an incredible jump height (as much as 10ft), fiercely independent shortly after birth, and live solitarily or in pairs. Jackrabbit’s friends describe him as clever, always ready with intellectually stimulating conversation, and offering a unique perspective that broadens and brightens others’ perspectives. He is authentic, supportive, and encouraging. Don’t miss out on his amazing singing and incredible hugs.
Activities Chairperson, Sparks Park Coordinator, TASC Force Coordinator
Jane is a well traveled, experienced educator who grew up in Ithaca, New York. After earning her B.A. from Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, she went on to earn her Master of Library Sciences (MLS) degree from Syracuse University. Jane has always had a strong connection with nature and spirit. She has been a practicing pagan for more than 25 years and counts Starhawk and Waldorf-education founder Rudolf Steiner as two of her greatest influences. She has taught and cared for children for over 40 years in addition to raising her own daughter. Nowadays, she also has the joy of getting to spend time with her grandson. Jane is enthusiastic about sharing her vision for the children’s activities area with the Blue Ridge Beltane festival and community and growing the influence of the TASC (Totally Awesome Sages & Crones) Force.
Festival Management Chairperson, Infrastructure Co-Coordinator
Jenn has been a part of Blue Ridge Beltane since 2016 and joined the committee in 2018. She has always found sanctuary and healing in nature and now continues to seek the paths of personal truth, wisdom, spirituality, equality, inclusion, and service to Earth our Mother. Jenn first came to BRB seeking community and new experiences, and she says, “I found this and much more. I found a home.” Among her favorite things are hiking, backpacking, camping, kayaking, sitting on a rock or in a hammock in the middle of the forest contemplating life, and of course… craft beer. She previously worked and lived in the national park for 7 seasons. After working with various camps, festivals, and conventions, Jenn is excited and grateful for the opportunity to make some magic through Blue Ridge Beltane.
Board Treasurer, Marketing & Swag
Laura has been attending Blue Ridge Beltane since 2013, when she first came to support her husband’s new venture vending at a festival. Laura is an earth-loving, Buddhist, tree-hugging hippie. She returns each year and volunteers on the committee due to a deep dedication to our home tree: the mother tribe of passionate healers that makes up Blue Ridge Beltane. Laura may try to get you involved in earth-based activism, meditation, and laying in the grass.
Inner Sanctum Coordinator
Diamond Lil AKA Dirty Flower AKA Lily is a Witch and Priestess in service to Love. Her mission in this life is to love, support, cherish, and encourage others so that they may heal and then transform. She lives by the maxims “Live Out Loud” and “Love It All.” As a hedonist, she seeks to suck every bit of nectar from this life, be it bitter or sweet, and to hold space for others to do the same. She has served the Inner Sanctum temple for 10 years; honoring the Divine, reveling in the sacredness of pleasure, teaching the language of consent, and encouraging all to express their most authentic selves. Lily is also a proud founding Trustee and Vice President of the Stone Circle Tradition of Wicca (USA).
Melanie Monteclaro Pace
Mel is a neutral good nerd. She first attended Blue Ridge Beltane in 2019 and fell in love with its vibrant, eclectic, and inclusive community. Her favorite moments from her first festival include getting adopted by a pod (thanks Sylvia, Erik, and Jac!), hanging out with the elders, and falling asleep to the sound of drums. When Mel isn’t hanging out with magickal folks or reading fantasy —Terry Pratchett is a favorite — you might find her on her current sidequest (studying feminism and spirituality as a PhD student at the University of Virginia). She has also worked with gender & sexual minority youth and in survivor-centered rape crisis response. Mel is a member of Shenandoah Valley Reclaiming and helps organize Earth Church in Staunton, VA.
Volunteer Coordinator, Wellness Center Coordinator
Melissa found the festival through WitchVox in 2008, and she has been a committee member since 2013. She is passionate about returning to the natural way of things and does feverish research on homesteading, natural birth, and parenting. Melissa recently launched her own business, Motivated Mamas, a professional handywoman, organizing, cleaning, and child care service. Blue Ridge Beltane is her yearly reminder of how beautiful humanity can be when we all come together for a common purpose. One day, you may just find her barefoot and breastfeeding on a commune somewhere!
Percussive Incendiary Captain (AKA Drum Circle Facilitator, Bel Fire Coordinator)
Patch Kyaio is a dynamic and engaging percussionist whose spiritual and musical passions have come together to form a personal path that is as loud as it is enlightening. He’s been involved with Blue Ridge Beltane for eight years now. He has been making noise since birth and practicing djembe since 2001. He has found his connection with the world through the drum. His influences range from traditional African, Middle Eastern and Caribbean traditions to jazz, hip hop, folk and everything in between. With an indomitable spirit and an infectious smile, Patch weaves rhythm into every aspect of his life and teachings. His work has included education and performance for colleges, public and private schools, music festivals, spiritual festivals and fundraisers. He has performed with a wide array of musicians, including Overton Barry, Barney McClure, Mark Lewis, Norm Bellas, Karin Kajita, Easa Grayson, R. Tigre Cruz, Pash’n and more! His spiritual path includes Red Road Native American, South American Medicina, and Santeria. He and his proudly polyamorous family live in a 300-year-old cabin deep in the Shenandoah Valley with their dachshund, Charlie; their coyote, Sydah; and two feral children, Luna and Felix.
Communications Coordinator, Photography Coordinator
Rodney has been attending Beltane in the Blue Ridge Mountains on and off since 2001. He was drawn to Blue Ridge Beltane for new ideas and experiences. He loves the fellowship and unity he has found at Blue Ridge Beltane, which is why he has continued to come throughout the years. The love and connection he feels with this festival moved him to make the leap from community member to committee member. Rodney’s work is primarily behind the scenes, and his candid shots during the event capture the quintessential spirit of love, connection, and community found at Blue Ridge Beltane. He has few beliefs and many ideas.
Roped in by his wife, Steven first attended Blue Ridge Beltane in 2018. He found himself volunteering with the Infrastructure Team, and with little prodding he agreed to join the Planning Committee. He brings years of festival experience to the BRB community. He divides his day between a full-time job in mental health and raising three intensely independent children. Steven describes himself as an agnostic humanist and has always felt a connection with Earth-based spiritualities. He has been an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church Monastery for many years. Steven is also a writer, tea drinker, gardener, tequila aficionado, and nap enthusiast.
Vendor Coordinator, Marketing & Swag
Sue has been the t-shirt lady (Inklings Ink Screen Printing) at Blue Ridge Beltane for four years before coming on as Vendor Coordinator for the 2019 planning season. She expected nothing her first year, and the blessings and welcoming of this magical community drew her back time and again. The festival refreshes her spirit yearly. She respects Mother Earth and teaches others to do the same. She loves to read and create. Sue and her husband Alex have been married since 1980. They have two children (Beth and Cave), and two beautiful, charming granddaughters.
Sunny “Kristina” Adler
Entertainment Coordinator, Festival Signage and Decorations Coordinator, Venue Co-Liaison
Sunny is an earth-worshiping, light-spreading, mead-making, beer-brewing, trance-dancing, motorcycle-riding, love-making, child-rearing, garden-growing, Kirtan-chanting, hands-on-healing, honeybee-keeping, real-estate-selling, universe-flowing, music-loving, world-traveling, triathlon-training, gratitude-filled, sexy, harlot of a pagan woman from the Charlottesville/Staunton area (New Hope to be exact)! She is mother to Joy, Jake, Callie and Mica. She is so very happily and passionately married to Matthew. She is friend to many and hopefully many more to come. She has attended Blue Ridge Beltane since 2003 and volunteered in various roles since 2011, including as a member of the steering committee, ritual coordinator, workshop coordinator, and volunteer coordinator. Encouraged by her then 12-year-old daughter, Mica, who saw a flyer, she chose to stay and aid the continuation of this sacred festival community, building her spiritual family and home.