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These libertarians want to take over New Hampshire. But first, a clothing-optional gun show.

My wild week inside the Free State Project’s PorcFest, the largest libertarian festival in the world.

A man who goes by the alias Zero struts down the runway during a clothing-optional gun show at Body Freedom Village, on the fourth day of the Porcupine Freedom Festival, an annual event held by the Free State Project.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

The light haloing the White Mountains of New Hampshire is golden and a human resources professional is explaining the benefits of dropping acid, just a little bit of it, to experience some awe. He is naked, which wasn’t a surprise at this gathering, but unarmed, which was not a given.

I am, to be fair, already experiencing a degree of awe. This is the Nude Olympics on June 23, deep into the 20th annual Porcupine Freedom Festival, which bills itself as the world’s largest gathering of libertarians. This year, more than 2,000 people have assembled at this private campground in Lancaster, New Hampshire, for a week of activities ranging from target practice to lectures on police reform to knitting.


All of it — the naked men, the AK-47s, the drugs, the drowsy mosquitoes, and the bright northern light on our faces — is an offering to the idea of liberty, broadly understood. We are standing in a potential libertarian homeland, a Shangri-La where people could come together in pursuit of the fundamental human urge to be free. And besides, the man adds, gesturing to his bare behind, “I’m trying to get a little color.”

People in other parts of the campground had been calling me names all week — “presstitute,” “fed,” “deep state agent” — but the nudists were nice, especially the organizer, Jeff, a sweet-faced scientist who believes that if libertarians object to mask mandates, then they should also object to pants mandates. (Jeff requested that his last name be withheld to protect his privacy.)

At other hubs, there are workshops on beekeeping, welding, wound care, tax avoidance, homeschooling, natural birth, growing mushrooms, divination, and gun etiquette. Renaissance dancing got canceled, but at one tent there is a Christian prayer circle. At another, a 3-D printer moves on its own, as fleetly and silently as a hummingbird, producing the handle of an untraceable gun.


PorcFest is also an open-air market for nearly anything you can think of: a hot shower (“bring up to three friends”), methadone, Viagra, hallucinogenic mushroom tea, tacos, cannabis pastries, crystals, penicillin, vapes, massages, bongs, whole lobsters, acid, pickles, self-published books, AR-15 earrings, keto meals, moonshine, deworming medication, ammo. Cash is accepted, but gold, silver, or cryptocurrency is preferred. Prices are often displayed in “goldbacks,” which are impossibly thin sheets of real gold encased in plastic — at PorcFest, each goes for $4.

The Porcupine Freedom Festival — so called because the porcupine is peaceable unless attacked — is a production of the Free State Project, established more than two decades ago to get libertarians to move en masse to New Hampshire, become involved in politics, and found a libertarian state. A number of Free Staters have been elected to New Hampshire’s Legislature — one of them will later run past me nude through a field of wildflowers — alarming progressive observers who say the Free State Project wants to dismantle democratic institutions, a charge to which some in the movement would gladly cop.

At a tent at the Porcupine Freedom Festival, a vendor offers ammunition, recreational drugs, antibiotics, and more for sale. Illegal drug sale and use is widespread at PorcFest, held at a campground in the White Mountains. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

While my new, acid-dropping friend is a libertarian, he’s reluctant to make the move from the North Shore of Massachusetts to New Hampshire because he is gay and “Grindr up here looks like The Hills Have Eyes.” But many have answered the call, clustering on the Seacoast, and in Keene and Manchester. Of the 20,000-plus who pledged to join, Free State organizers estimate some 5,000 have settled in the state.


Motivations for moving vary, but a handful of triggering events come up again and again. I speak to veterans disillusioned by their time serving in foreign wars. Many early movers cite September 11th and the Patriot Act as a turning point. After 9/11, “America became different,” says Carla Gericke, the chairman of the board of the Free State Project, who came to New Hampshire in 2008. There was Ron Paul’s presidential campaign that year, too. More recently, COVID-19 lockdowns and the mask and vaccine mandates were huge motivators.

Some come to PorcFest from “Marxachusetts,” but I also meet people originally from China, Ukraine, Romania, and Australia. At one point, I speak to two German men who are considering emigrating because they are tired of European-style regulations. “I can carry a kitchen knife with me [at home], but that’s about it,” one says. He also wants to be able to do psychedelics. They came to PorcFest thinking it would be a test, a microdose of freedom, to see if it really felt as good as they thought it would.

He had been a bit worried, honestly, afraid of arriving to find a bunch of “weirdos.” But as it turns out, he shouts at me over the din of an aggressive accordion, “It’s even better than what I hoped for.”

Contestants in the Nude Olympics participate in a tug-of-war competition during PorcFest, held at a campground in Lancaster, New Hampshire. The event took place at Body Freedom Village, an area of the festival where nudists gather.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

The Free State movement was launched by an essay Jason Sorens published in July 2001, when he was a 24-year-old PhD student at Yale University. “Libertarian activists need to face a somber reality: nothing’s working,” he wrote in an online magazine. “What I propose is a Free State Project, in which freedom-minded people of all stripes . . . establish residence in a small state and take over the state government.”


There are workshops on beekeeping, welding, wound care, tax avoidance, homeschooling, natural birth, growing mushrooms, divination, and gun etiquette.

People who answered the call to action early on often talk about how challenging, and lonely, it was to arrive in New Hampshire without a network. Now, movers are helped with finding jobs and houses (there are a handful of Free State real estate agents) and met with a welcoming committee. There are clubhouses, meetups, and an inn run by Free Staters.

It is probably fair to say that these are not average libertarians, if such a thing can even be said to exist. The hard-core fringes of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, as well as the Free State Project, have a hostile relationship with mainstream libertarians — casual readers of Reason magazine, say, or followers of the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute (the “State-o Institute,” Gericke calls it).

Libertarianism’s exact place in the political ecosystem is difficult to define. But big-L Libertarians basically never win elections; the highest percentage of the popular vote a Libertarian candidate for president has ever received is 3.3 percent, and that was Gary Johnson in 2016, facing two uniquely unpopular main candidates.


But small-l libertarianism does hold sway in Silicon Valley, with political donors such as Peter Thiel and the Koch brothers, and also in parts of the Republican Party. This year’s PorcFest attracted presidential candidates including Democrat Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Republicans Vivek Ramaswamy and Larry Elder. There were also several of the actual Libertarian Party candidates, including Chase Oliver from Georgia and Mike ter Maat from Virginia. But even here, the red and blue candidates were getting all the attention.

I hadn’t come to PorcFest for the politicians. I was curious about who uproots their lives for an ideal, and why. And what does feeling free even mean to people who do make the move?

Attendees gather for the ceremonial burning of a wooden porcupine. A PorcFest tradition, the event is held on the last night of the weeklong event. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Each morning, I’d wake up, drive the 10 minutes to Roger’s Campground, and weave my way to a parking space while trying not to hit any of the “free range” kids. I’d buy an iced coffee from the friendly woman at “Liber-tea,” and wander among the tents. The first few days I attended a strict schedule of events and talks — including a Massachusetts meetup, where I met refugees from Somerville, and a workshop on how to run for office as a Republican. But I soon gave that up in favor of just pinging around like one of the pinballs in the January 6th-themed game at one site (“Experience the truth around the events of Jan. 6 through this full-sized playable pinball table...Earn bonuses for Free Speech and Don’t Tread on Me.”) and seeing who would talk to me.

For some, freedom means living authentically. New Hampshire “was the first place I ever felt safe,” says Aria DiMezzo, a self-identified “trans anarchist satanist” with Popsicle-red hair and a Mississippi accent. “It was the first place I ever felt truly welcomed, felt like I was among people who weren’t judging me,” she explains. “And who just accepted me as I am.”

For Dan “Taxation is Theft” Behrman, freedom means buying insulin in Mexico and smuggling it into the United States to sell cheaply, to stick it to the FDA. “It’s a human right,” says Behrman, who is running for president in 2024 and also developing an energy drink called “Blood of Tyrants.” “You should be able to walk into any pharmacy anywhere, knowing you need insulin, and you have a right to buy it. But for some reason, there’s all these regulations that say you can’t do that.”

For Nobody, which is the legal name of a man born Richard Paul, it means freedom to smoke a daily joint, while also carrying a firearm, in front of the courthouse in Keene.

For Varrin Swearingen, freedom is the legacy of Jesus Christ, who is, if you think about it, an OG opponent of big government.

For Jay Noone, it means not having a Social Security number, because “identification numbers are for livestock.” Noone doesn’t have a bank account, either. That makes running an agricultural business challenging, he explains to me by his RV one afternoon, as his wife bustles nearby, green parakeet perched atop her head. But his customers, at least in New Hampshire, get it. “Some people pay me in goldbacks, people pay me in cryptocurrency, people pay me in silver,” he says. Because he raises animals, he pays his baby sitter in meat.

For other attendees, freedom is the freedom from orthodoxies of thought. One afternoon, I come upon two flat earthers in joyful conversation, which I find kind of touching. I eavesdropped for a moment, then asked, “Are you guys flat earthers?”

They mistake me for a fellow traveler and begin to evangelize, when I interrupt. “Just so you know, I’m from The Boston”Oh no, I realized, It’s right there in the name — ”uh, Globe.” I drop my voice discreetly on the word, like a doctor delivering bad news. One man doesn’t seem to notice and continues to talk happily, producing a business card and pulling up his shirt to reveal his name tattooed on his abdomen. But the other seems to clock my round-earth bias and tries to backtrack — a valiant PR effort undercut by the fact that his T-shirt reads “THE EARTH IS FLAT.”

As the tattooed man chatters on, the other melts away, like the meme of Homer Simpson backing into the bushes.

So, as everyone keeps telling me, PorcFest represents “a big tent.” “You have some religious people, you have some LGBTQ people; somebody told me there’s some Nazis here. Who knows, there might be some feds here, too,” Behrman says. “But everybody just kind of gets along. And I think this is really what an ideal society looks like.”

There is, however, proving to be one problem with establishing a libertarian homeland: libertarians.

When I drop in on Dennis Pratt, PorcFest’s unpaid organizer, midweek, he is feeling beleaguered. A self-described “hugger” with a dog named Ron Paw and the ability to go on hourslong, learned digressions on ethics, he was being called a “tyrant” and a “fascist” by his own community. This is because he was attempting to herd (he prefers “support”) a group of people that did not especially like being herded (supported”).

“Libertarianism isn’t pro- or anti-vax. Libertarianism isn’t pro- or anti-gay. It just says: You choose for yourself, for your own body, and your own property.”

PorcFest might appear to be quite free, all things considered. But not everyone feels that way. So, the previous weekend there was a splinter festival, called Forkfest, for those who think that PorcFest, with its tickets and schedule, was authoritarian (Forkfest slogan: “No one is in charge, so everyone is.”).

Then there was the drama of the grass skirt. Last year, Jeff, the nudist, wandered around the festival grounds in a luau outfit that covered his genitals from most angles. Most. Like Venetian blinds, Pratt sighs, moving his hands like shutters.

Some of the more socially conservative attendees falsely accused Jeff of being a deviant of some kind, forcing the community to participate in a multiweek, online discussion that centered around his penis. “That took up two months of my life,” Pratt says. Ultimately, a compromise was reached in which there was no nudity in the common spaces — hence the Nude Olympics in a designated area — but still, no one was happy.

Dennis Pratt, PorcFest’s unpaid organizer, smokes a cigar alongside his dog, Ron Paw. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Then, there was the whole Kennedy thing: The Democratic presidential candidate was coming to speak at PorcFest, which was controversial not because of his claims about vaccines being linked to autism or Wi-Fi causing “leaky brain” syndrome, but because he didn’t want guns at his speech. That might seem like a reasonable request from a member of the Kennedy family, but to some the rule felt counter to the whole raison d’être of PorcFest. So in addition to yelling a lot at Pratt, many stood just outside the security perimeter in protest, with as many guns as they could hold.

“You know, some people won’t even let me into their hubs,” Pratt says, with a note of real pain in his voice. The fighting also, in his view, violates the whole point of a libertarian festival, which should be that — as long as you aren’t hurting people or stealing from them — you can make your own choices, whether that’s carrying 17th-century muskets, or brewing moonshine, or debating whether libertarianism is evident in the New Testament. “It’s a big tent!” Pratt says.

At least, it’s meant to be. One of the appeals of libertarianism is that it operates on a different axis, one that goes not from left to right but from liberty to authoritarianism. So a sincere libertarian might think adults have every right to marry whom they chose, have gender-affirming surgery, carry firearms, take drugs, pay for sex, refuse vaccine mandates, and refuse to pay taxes. Not all of these things are good ideas, Pratt says. But the choice should be yours to make.

Pratt, however, worries about a strain of “narcissism” infecting the movement, a sense that people forget that libertarianism means allowing people to do things that you don’t approve of. “Libertarianism isn’t pro- or anti-vax. Libertarianism isn’t pro- or anti-gay. It just says: You choose for yourself, for your own body, and your own property.”

Increasingly, “We have these two communities — not just that, but these two sensibilities,” he says. “I don’t know why we’re having so much of it, if it’s just the culture war reverberating on our shores.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at PorcFest on June 22. His family name, libertarian bent, and support from the tech world, along with his views on censorship and vaccines, have given Kennedy a foothold in the 2024 presidential race. RYAN DAVID BROWN/NYT

Much of the fiercest fighting takes place on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. A few years ago, the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, which is not affiliated with the Free State Project but shares many members and leaders, experienced something of a takeover by a hard-line faction.

The party’s account went full troll: “January 6th didn’t go far enough,” reads one of the milder tweets. Another says, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for libertarian children,” a riff on a white nationalist slogan, where the person posting had substituted “libertarian” in place of “white.” The strategy, such as it is, seems to be to get into online fights with higher-profile accounts, which inadvertently spread the message further. By one metric, it’s working: The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire account now has more than 50,000 followers. But many at PorcFest worry those followers are not true libertarians, but members of the alt-right.

“I have a huge problem with it,” says Jason Sorens, whose essay launched the Free State movement. More than two decades later, he seems a little out of place at PorcFest; in a sea of beards, guns, and cargo shorts, he is clean-shaven and wears button-downs. He’s on the research faculty at the free market think tank American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and has taught at Saint Anselm and Dartmouth colleges. He publishes op-eds. He has the look of a man who is vigilant about coasters.

We find shade behind the medic’s tent at the edge of a field. Sorens is in a complicated position: It’s clear he isn’t comfortable with many of the turns the movement he launched has taken, and the backlash that’s followed. When he ran for a seat on his local planning board in New Hampshire this year, critics jumped on his association with the Free State Project to suggest a sinister hidden agenda. He lost.

In a series of pensive tweets later he seemed, briefly, to suggest he would be stepping away from the Free State Project. But when we sit down together, it’s clear he’s decided to stick around and try to salvage the movement. “I can’t abandon the FSP and the New Hampshire liberty movement to those kinds of messages,” he says. “So what I’m trying to do is make the Free State Project a big tent for liberty people, with a big focus on being neighborly, productive, and tolerant.

“There’s a place for edgy messaging, but the edgy messaging needs to be forthrightly, plainly libertarian. If it’s pushing some kind of right-wing cultural agenda, that’s alienating as many libertarians as it’s attracting,” Sorens says. “As well as the general public.”

Kevin Haley poses for a portrait with his anime-themed rifle at the 20th annual Porcupine Freedom Festival. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

The message that the Free State Project is a dangerous, even existential, threat is being repeated more and more by progressives and left-leaning groups in New Hampshire. In June, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, Raymond Buckley, released an open letter to Robert F. Kennedy Jr., demanding he withdraw from speaking at PorcFest. The Free State Project promotes a “dark, dystopian philosophy,” Buckley wrote. “Your presence will lend legitimacy to an extremist movement that aggressively works against the interests of New Hampshire residents.”

Kennedy ignored him. “I’m very, very, very, very proud to be with a lot of people who value freedom,” he would say from the stage. His speech, filled with Trumpian jabs at the press as well as criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic, drew cheers.

It’s not clear if Buckley and others are overstating the movement’s current influence. It’s true: There are now many Free Staters in state government, including House majority leader Jason Osborne. But when Free Staters introduced a bill for New Hampshire to secede from the union last year, it failed spectacularly, 323 to 13.

At times, Free Staters count on the fact that most people don’t pay attention to local politics. Last year, at a sparsely attended town hall meeting in tiny Croydon, New Hampshire, Free Stater Ian Underwood moved to cut the proposed school budget by more than half. His proposal passed. When news spread of what had happened, the town was in an uproar. A little-known provision, however, said if more than half of registered voters cast ballots in a special election, there would be a new vote. The town quickly mobilized, fund-raising, handing out fliers, and forming a group called We Stand Up for Croydon Students. On the day of the vote, Underwood and his wife, Jody, then head of the school board, urged people to stay home, but, of Croydon’s 565 voters, 379 showed up — and 377 voted to restore the budget.

The town has since seen unprecedented political participation and widespread fury at the Free State Project. “It was ugly,” says Jody Underwood, who has a tent set up near PorcFest’s entrance to sell her husband’s self-published books. She blames outside forces, rather than legitimate disagreement, for the rout. Of the neighbors who stopped talking to her, she says, “I don’t know how they were being coached — but I’m sure they were.”

Children laughingly vie for a container of rainbow sprinkles at their campsite. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Some at PorcFest say that these are attention-grabbing stunts and counterproductive to the larger cause. “It was a mistake to propose something serious like that as an educational moment,” Sorens says, of the Croydon effort. “We need to spend as much time building up private alternatives as we do rolling back government.”

But political stunts are something of a specialty in the movement. Aria DiMezzo, the trans-anarchist-satanist, ran for sheriff as a Republican in Cheshire County on an explicitly anti-police platform. People just blindly vote their party down the ballot, she says, and she won the nomination. When Republican voters realized what happened, many were furious. But it was too late. “I was upfront,” DiMezzo says. “It was right there on my website the entire time. Black Lives Matter. [Expletive] the police. Trans Satanist. I never hid any of this. You guys failed to look.” (She ultimately lost to the Democratic incumbent.)

A few days after PorcFest ended, DiMezzo reported to federal prison, where she will be serving an 18-month sentence for operating a cryptocurrency exchange without a license. But when she gets out, she plans to run for office again — this time as a Democrat.

I had planned to camp at PorcFest, as many attendees do, but when I went to book, the campsites were all rented out. This turned out to be a blessing; not only did the campground frequently run out of water, but there were a few people I didn’t especially want to sleep near — notably, the man who spent the whole week stalking silently through the valley in a Halloween-style Michael Myers mask, holding a large prop knife. Or the white-eyelashed guy with a pistol strapped to his thigh who tried to interrupt my conversations by repeating lines he had looked up from my old stories (a tactic that would have been more effective if he hadn’t kept hitting the Globe paywall). Or the guy who asked me, cheerfully, where I lived and, when I said Massachusetts, dropped his smile like a curtain and said, “I meant your exact address.”

Some women do come to PorcFest, but they are far outnumbered, and most of them are here with husbands or boyfriends (“love that my husband can have the important conversations with others that understand him!!” enthused one woman in the Facebook group).

This imbalance is evident in the event’s aesthetic. Gericke, the Free State Project board chairman, tells me she once tried to get different tents to put up nice decorations, to make it more festive and appealing — like Burning Man, but for libertarians. Instead, she says with a sigh, everyone just put up “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.

A man with the legal name Nobody (center) at a singles soiree in the “Wicked Wonderland” tent, a lounge where drinks and illegal substances are sold.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

I asked a number of people why there were so few women. Pratt speculates that women are more alert to social stigma, and might not want friends or family to think of them as radical. For years, he says, his wife would kick him under the table when he started talking about libertarianism in front of their friends. Sorens suggests the male brain might, on average, be more logical and the female brain might be more intuitive. DiMezzo suggests an even simpler explanation for what’s kept women away: “libertarian men.”

On Thursday night, I pick my way with another Globe staffer through the campfires to the “Wicked Wonderland” tent, a lounge where you can buy drinks and various illegal substances. The evening was billed as a “singles soiree,” but inside are just one woman with her boyfriend, plus 10 or 12 very stoned men, who look up with shock when we walk in, like we’re giraffes.

They quickly recover: One man checks our ring fingers and shouts the results to the room. Another, whose bare chest is snaked in blood-red paint, shyly shows me his self-published novels. A third, with ear piercings and a gentle, open face, offers dabs of marijuana, explaining proudly that he takes so much that his sweat now smells and tastes like pot.

Two guys in the corner giggle uncontrollably when I try to speak to them. I’m relieved to spot the familiar figure of Nobody in an armchair, beaming at me like a stoned, benevolent Santa, but then he lumbers into the night, and it’s clear we need to get going, too.

An older man follows us out, and when I say I was “getting pretty tired,” he suggests we have some coffee with the assurance that there’s “nothing in it.” It’s an assurance I received several times during the week — one that makes sense in a context of drug ubiquity but one that, I would nevertheless suggest, is imperfect from a messaging perspective.

“I love you!” the kid with the ear piercings calls as I extricate myself.

“Love you, too,” I reply automatically, like a weirdo.

By the sixth and final night of PorcFest, the blissed-out energy of the first few days has dissipated, and there is a feeling in the air of something about to break. Everyone is tired, and a number of things have gone wrong: Someone vandalized the coffee stand. A money box was stolen. A guy having a bad trip hit somebody over the head with a crystal outside one of the hippie tents. The water ran out and the porta-potties were full. I was ready to go.

Taxation is not taxation; it is extortion, he says. Journalism is not journalism; it is propaganda. Public schools are not public schools; they are government indoctrination centers.

The week’s capstone event is the “Soapbox Idol” rant competition, followed by the ceremonial burning of a wooden porcupine. Inside the main pavilion, attendees have been invited to deliver three-minute rants on the subjects of their choosing, to be judged by a panel of three, including DiMezzo and Jeremy Kauffman, one of the people who operate the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire’s Twitter account.

A woman walks to Emo Night, one of the many dance parties held throughout the week at PorcFest.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Alu Axelman, author of books such as Corona-Fascism and Taxation is Theft, leaps onto a wooden box with the word “soap” scrawled on its front. A small man with a bald head, he speaks so fast that it isn’t apparent how or when he breathes. Libertarians, Axelman says, need to recognize the power of calling things by their true names: Taxation is not taxation; it is extortion. Journalism is not journalism; it is propaganda. Public schools are not public schools; they are government indoctrination centers. Cheers echo through the pavilion.

Several speakers rehash the internecine dramas of the preceding days: Someone calls Pratt a tyrant, then Pratt’s wife delivers a rebuttal. A woman argues that women need to stop whining and nagging if they want men to like them (a few men give her a standing ovation). A 14-year-old boy speaks passionately against child labor laws. And the man in the Michael Myers mask stands wordlessly for the full three minutes, breathing heavily into the microphone.

But it’s immediately clear that there’s something different about the last man who walks onstage. Bearded, hat pulled low over his eyes, he ignores the soapbox and begins speaking.

“I need you guys,” he says, “I’m a fifth-generation New Hampshirite, and my family’s been waiting for you since the Civil War.” He says the government has taken his children away, and vaccinated them against his wishes. And then he says, “They killed my 17-year-old six weeks ago.” Gasps fill the tent. “She was given the vaccine,” he claims, “and she was dead within a week.”

He keeps going, talking about the need to rise up, resist government control, take back our kids, resist “the gender manipulation.” He doesn’t stop for six and a half minutes. The tent is very quiet; no one interrupts him. As he concludes, there is a pause, followed by polite, uneasy applause.

People in the audience are whispering: Who is that? What just happened? Did his kid really die?

PorcFest closes with the ceremonial burning of a wooden porcupine. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Because the man was so clearly in the grip of grief, or some kind of mental health crisis, or both, I assume the judges will shepherd him kindly but firmly off the stage. That doesn’t happen.

Jeremy Kauffman begins to taunt the man in a curse-laden tirade: “I think you’re completely [expletive] insane,” he says. “And I think all of you who want to associate libertarianism with anti-vax [expletive], you can do it but you won’t get me along for the [expletive] ride.”

The man seems stunned for a moment, but then begins to scream, like he might attack Kauffman. People onstage begin yelling over each other.

“Put the mic down!”

“Make me!” the man says. “This is my [expletive] country, it’s called New Hampshire.”

“Get off the stage, LOSER,” Kauffman bellows.

People try to wrest the mic from the man’s grip, but he won’t let go. Kauffman starts in again. Some people begin hustling their kids out of the pavilion, others walk out in disgust.

As people surround the man on stage, Kauffman leans into his mic and begins to chant: “LOOOOOSER. LOOOOOOOSER.”

The next morning, the tents are starting to clear.

I had planned on getting an early start back to Massachusetts, but Pratt wants to talk again, I assume to do some damage control from the previous night. When I walk into his cabin, he looks exhausted. The man from last night had been kicked out of the festival, he explains, after refusing to calm down.

But Pratt really wants to talk again about the plague of narcissism — the error of believing that other people should live their lives according to your views. At this stage I was, to be honest, getting tired of other people’s views.

I ask about the incident the night before, and mention some of the names I had been called — why did people have to be so, well, unpleasant? Pratt doesn’t seem overly fazed. “Freedom is a relatively new industry,” he says. “We’ve had 6,000 years of this monopolistic product that’s imposed through brutal violence.” The people out there trying to create something new were like the early adopters of cellphones, he says, unafraid to stand out. Sure, they might look ridiculous carrying those giant boxes around, but “those are the people who actually are brave enough to be in the vanguard.”

An attendee shows off the bracelets that she has acquired from each year she has attended PorcFest.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

He grants that there might be some unpleasantness, some infighting, some eccentricity. But perhaps that is part of the package, he says, spreading his hands. “If you’re not disagreeable, you’re going to be an authoritarian.”

Some two hours later, I leave Pratt’s cabin. The emptying campground looks odd, denuded. The markers that I had used to orient myself over the past week are missing — the coffee stand packed up, the oversized bongs carted away. Had it all been a dream?

I finally get in my rental car to head home to Massachusetts. As I speed south, down Interstate 93, I keep thinking of Pratt, who says he gets nervous when he crosses the border out of New Hampshire. It’s like he can feel the invisible chains of the state winding tight around his chest.

I had never paid much attention to state lines before, but now I watch for the sign for Massachusetts — no “Live free or die,” like New Hampshire’s, but a mayflower and a chickadee.

A few weeks later, I see that a new splinter festival, called SquareFest, is being floated on social media for those with more socially conservative values. But then the PorcFest 2024 organizers, in a twist, announce new, and stricter, rules for nudity at next year’s festival, effectively keeping it to a single area.

“I give up,” Jeff texts me. He is fed up with PorcFest. He’s packing for Burning Man.

Annalisa Quinn can be reached at Follow her @annalisa_quinn.