More than 3,500 brave global warming at Energy Fair

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11872001007606.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘The main exhibition hall at the Sixth Annual Renewable Energy & Sustainable Lifestyle Fair.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118720014722309.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘A trailor full of wood-burning options at the Sixth Annual Illinois Renewable Energy & Sustainable Lifestyle Fair.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118720018728436.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Fair-goers examine an electric car—one of many vehicles displayed at the Renewable Energy Fair.‘);

Sixth annual event features latest in energy technology, organics and sustainable lifestyles

OREGON, Ill.—An eco-friendly crowd of an estimated more than 3,500 flocked to the Ogle County Fairgrounds Aug. 11-12 for the Sixth Annual Illinois Renewable Energy & Sustainable Lifestyle Fair.

With Byron Nuclear Generating Station as backdrop, vendors braved high temperatures and high humidity to address the growing environmental crisis of global warming, the nation’s reliance on foreign oil and sustainable lifestyles. The fair featured everything from vendors offering organic products to speakers sharing solutions of how to address the growing global energy and sustainability crisis.

By 9 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday, the booths hummed with activity, some scrambled to set up, and others began sharing their products with curious fair-goers.

Everyone had something they wanted to see. Some came for the numerous biodiesel cars, others sat in the shade of tents to listen to the panel of international speakers. They came from all over the world to share their stories of renewable energy, from batteries to worms and everything in between.

Keynote speakers Torbjörn Lahti of Sweden and Alisa Smith of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, packed the pavilion with their lectures about creating sustainable communities and eating locally. Lahti is an adjunct teacher at Umeå University and founder and co-owner of environmental consulting firm Esam AB (The Human Ecology Company), and Smith is the author of Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally. Smith’s book sold at below retail price as a gift to fair-goers. The third speaker, William Stigliani, of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, shared his solutions to updating antiquated energy systems and how to continue green living.

Visitors had nothing but smiles on their faces. Many opted to camp out on the faigrounds just a few hundred yards from the fair. RVs and tents dotted the landscape at the west end of the fairgrounds. Still more people signed up for the field trips to area locations focused on renewable energy. The GSG Wind Farm, the Quad-City Labyrinth Project, the Zenn electric car (which offered free test drives), and the One-Watt House drew large numbers of visitors.

The rest of the fair featured vendors, offering everything from composters to soap to books. All told, the event included more than 60 workshops and presentations and more than 100 booths and exhibits. Organizers Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl, president and vice president of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association, respectively, said they were pleased with the turnout.

Many stands offered organic produce and other organic food items—from caramel corn to organic vegetables to goat meat. Local environmental agencies such as Angelic Organics and the Severson Dells Environmental Education Center shared their message and signed up new members. Solar energy-powered fans, ovens and even a race car filled fair booths. Many fair-goers sported caps with built-in solar-powered fans. And many transportation options were featured, from biodiesel to electric to hybrids to a “veggie car” fueled by vegetable oil.

If you missed out on this year’s fair, you can visit the Illinois Renewable Energy Association at for more information about this year’s fair or plans for next year’s seventh annual event. The Vogls will also be reviewing speakers and other events of this year’s fair in future columns.

from the Aug 15-21, 2007, issue

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