Stoner’s Ball brings legal high to Haywood County

Jo Ellyn Woodward, right, a.k.a. The Blunt Queen, is the driving force behind the Stoner’s Ball. Donated photo Jo Ellyn Woodward, right, a.k.a. The Blunt Queen, is the driving force behind the Stoner’s Ball. Donated photo

The Stoner’s Ball is coming to Haywood County, but it may not be quite what people think. 

While the event indeed promises an elevated experience on April 19 and the stoner holiday 4/20, organizers promise that things will be kept 100% legal and extra measures are being taken to ensure everything goes off as safely as possible.

The founder of the feast is Jo Ellyn Woodward, known to most as the Blunt Queen. The Blunt Queen image has been carefully cultivated, and she can often be seen at either of her cannabis dispensaries in Spindale or Maggie Valley wearing a sort of crown made up of partially smoked blunts.

Woodward’s dispensaries are both called “Terps and Shine.” The Maggie Valley location opened in September of last year in the former Cartel Baggers location on Soco Road and sells a variety of products, including Delta 8, Delta 9, THCa and CBD. She said that the Stoner’s Ball will offer those same products. Each of those other than CBD produces a psychotropic effect akin to marijuana when smoked. However, each substance is legal.

While the Stoner’s Ball was initially envisioned as a relatively small gathering that would take place at the Maggie Valley Terps and Shine location, interest in the event grew steadily, and the venue was changed to the Stompin’ Grounds. Before long, Woodward moved it to the Smoky Mountain Event Center near Clyde.

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The event was going to be held at Woodward’s store and then Maggie Valley’s Stompin’ Grounds before finally landing at the Smoky Mountain Event Center. File photo

“Stoner’s Ball started as a joke, I won’t even lie,” she said. “I was at a venue with a bunch of [Moonshiners cast members] … I just said, ‘we should do a stoner’s ball on 4/20.’”

By January, Woodward was off to the races. She and her assistant began to nail down the schedule, vendors and other details. 

“I assumed maybe 100 people would show up, so let’s get a band and have a little party,” she said.

But now the event will span two days. There were 1,000 presale tickets available for 4/20, and those have already sold out. The event space capacity is 1,500, and more tickets will be available at the gate.

“When I circled back to the Facebook event page, I saw 8,000 people were interested in the event,” she said with a laugh. “I wondered how people even found out about this. I was very encouraged to hear about how many people are coming in from out of town and getting hotel rooms.”

The event initially sparked concerns over a few potential issues. Haywood County Sheriff Bill Wilke didn’t speak on the record, but he did send a statement to The Smoky Mountain News. That statement outlined his apprehensions in strong language but also noted that there wasn’t much that could be done.

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Haywood County Sheriff Bill Wilke. File photo

“After review of the scheduled event known as ‘Stoner’s Ball,’ and having consulted with our legal counsel, there appears to be nothing illegal about what is planned at the Smokey Mountain Event Center (SMEC) on the evening of April 19,” the statement reads. “Regardless, Delta 8, the substance that supposedly will be distributed at this event, has a significant effect of impairment (getting high) when used, and is virtually indistinguishable from organic plant grown marijuana when consumed. As such, I have significant concerns about the security and safety of attendees, and their activities following the event, particularly travel. My primary concern is everyone’s safety. As a side note, it appears that several hundred are planning to attend from across the state and beyond, and how the board and the staff of the SMEC plans to mitigate its own liability in permitting an event like this on county property, under such conditions, is a serious question.

“The families of Haywood County, including my own, have enjoyed the fair, bingo, flea markets, horse shows and agricultural events at the SMEC over the years. It breaks my heart to see what is occurring. I doubt that those who planned for and built what we’ve always called ‘The Fairgrounds’ envisioned how it is now being used. I always thought it to be an environment for children and families to grow up in and around agriculture and neighbors visiting neighbors at the various family events we’ve all come to enjoy.”

At the SMEC board meeting held April 8, one man did voice concerns about how the Stoner’s Ball may affect the image of the county to outsiders, but that was it. Board members said that since the event had security and there won’t be illegal activity, it would be tantamount to discrimination to prevent it from happening. While the board didn’t specifically discuss the ramifications of discriminatory practices, it could potentially open SMEC up to a lawsuit. Board members added they honestly hadn’t heard a lot of complaints or concerns.

“Other than [the one public comment], aside from a lot of through-the-grapevine, we haven’t had a lot of direct comments,” said Board Chair Melissa Jackson.

Furthermore, they said Woodward has been great to work with.  

“There’s a lot of misconception,” said board secretary Josh Justice. “It somewhat snowballed into something because of the name, but we’ve vetted what’s going on, and there’s nothing that makes it so we can’t offer her the facility.”

Woodward said she’s worked with the board and event coordinator Nancy Davis to make the event as safe and seamless as possible.

“It’s been easy to work with those folks,” she said. “I’ve had zero qualms.”

In her interview with SMN, Woodward directly addressed a couple of concerns. First, how would she stop people from bringing illegal marijuana into the event?

“We will have people walking the parking lots to make sure no one is smoking out there,” she said. “And people will not be allowed to bring their own products in. We will have products available … we will have pre-rolls (joints) in a particular paper.” 

Anyone smoking anything other than those pre-rolls will get booted by the security Woodward has hired.

“We won’t have any bongs or hookahs or dab rings or any of that,” she said. “We don’t want the cops there.” 

Another obvious potential issue is the possibility that inebriated people may want to drive after smoking at the event.

“If anybody is too impaired, we have sober volunteers that can give them a ride,” she said. “How they come back and get their cars is on them.”

“If there’s one bad thing then my store has a bad name,” she added.

Woodward was excited about the diverse array of attractions beyond the smokables that will be up for the offering. There will be cast and crew members from multiple TV shows, including “Moonshiners” and “Master Distillers.” However, Woodward was quick to point out that no alcohol will be sold, and alcohol consumption of any kind is not allowed. There will also be live music from regional acts throughout each day, and vendors will be on-hand selling everything from jewelry to soaps to clothes — mostly wares that the hippie crowd may be interested in.  

“Plus products will be available there to elevate the party profusely,” she said, adding that food trucks will provide the munchies.

There is one moment that Woodward was particularly excited for.

“We have a couple getting married right there at 3 p.m. on 4/20,” she said, adding that instead of the traditional unity candles, they’ll be offering folks pre-rolled joints to celebrate the nuptials.

In addition, Woodward said there will be a 50/50 raffle, with half the proceeds going to benefit the nonprofit Help a Vet Shine, which works to provide military veterans with resources and services.

There will also be competitions for best hippie outfit and best beard.

Gates will open at 2 p.m. April 19 and 20, live music will begin at 4 p.m. each day. 

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