While walking around the 22nd Gathering of the Juggalos in Thornville, Ohio, a juggalo was overheard saying, “The best part of the Gathering is the gathering”—a statement that sums up the four-day Insane Clown Posse-hosted music festival pretty damn perfectly.
The Gathering is a music festival, but more than anything it’s a way for juggalos to come together, forget about everything else in their lives, and just revel in each other’s company. COVID, inflation, abortion bans, gas prices, war in Europe, kids at school picking on you… none of that matters for four days of the year during the Gathering of the Juggalos, which ran from Aug. 3-7.
On the last night of the festival, just minutes before the closing set from hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse, we ran into Mandy aka TripleSix, a juggalette who has been to 20 Gatherings, and asked her why she keeps coming back: “I look forward to this all year long. This is my escape from the real world. To come and be with all the weirdest, most wonderful motherfuckers that walk the Earth.”
The Gathering is one massive, hedonistic family reunion. Though the juggalos were controversially classified as a “loosely organized hybrid gang” by the FBI back in 2o11, sparking lawsuits and a march on Washington, D.C., there is no sign of it here.
For Pat, a juggalo from Massachusetts, ICP are the main reason he’s made this his 15th Gathering. “The juggalos are great, the culture is great, but that’s just extra. It’s more about ICP for me.”
This year Pat and the other juggalos got to see ICP play twice—a set of deep cuts on Wednesday night, and a more standard set on Saturday. In between, dozens of bands performed including rap legends Slick Rick, Sir Mix-a-Lot, and KRS ONE. The days start at noon and go deep into the night courtesy of music and events such as the Bigfoot Seminar, about the existence of Bigfoot; the Miss Juggalette beauty pageant; a hot dog-eating contest; and Vampiro’s Spoken Word, about Mexican wrestling superstar Vampiro. Pro wrestling, movie screenings, and haunted attractions round out the festivities. When the organized events wrap at 4 a.m., juggalos throw their own after parties at their campsites till dawn.
At one of those community campsites we stumbled upon some sort of dabs-smoking competition where two juggalos would try and out smoke one another from a giant dabbing rig. In between rounds we talked to Justin, who met his wife and stepdaughter at the Gathering years ago, about what this all means to him. “This is what we live for every year. You just forget about all the bullshit when you’re here. The rest of the world doesn’t mean shit while we’re here. This is home. This is family.”
Here are a series of exclusive images from this year’s Gathering of the Juggalos: