Reflections on the Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair

With ideal weather and high energy prices, we anticipated record attendance for the Fifth Anniversary Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. Three thousand visitors supported our expectations. We felt we had some great new speakers. Judging by participant responses, we did. We also had new booths with batteries, corn furnaces, green building supplies and furniture, a sailboat, recumbent trikes and a farmer’s market stand.

DCEO’s Energy Bike was a favorite among many visitors, especially children. Kids’ activities included exciting educational sessions as well as just plain play.

To entertain campers, we asked The Giving Tree Band to stay on Saturday evening. Entertainers and entertained alike enjoyed the relaxed session. Our Sunday band, Prairie Wolf, played many old favorites.

Excellent food from vegetarian and slushies to steak sandwiches, organic hamburgers and Mexican satisfied a variety of appetites.

Once again, volunteers, coordinated by Sherry Piros, played a key role in making the fair a success, performing tasks from setting up tables to collecting entry fees and providing answers to a myriad of visitor inquiries. Jeff and Brian Green filled their indispensable role of preparing and taking down program spaces in addition to giving workshops. MJ Shoemaker, Cilla Green and Chris Wagener made sure the office ran smoothly.

Each year brings the challenge of retaining the best presenters from previous years and finding new topics and speakers to keep the program growing and developing. Some “old timers,” including frequently featured Hans Detweiler, Brandon Leavitt, Chris Schneider, Michael Vickerman and Mark Burger, have been with us since the first event.

All of the sessions had reasonably sized audiences; many were crowded. There were more last-minute program changes than in previous years, but when a major speaker failed to arrive, two competent substitutes covered the topic. We owe a special thanks to Mark Burger and John Root for filling in for Paul Fenn. Burger has now skillfully filled in for both California no-shows. In addition to the expected sessions on solar, wind, biomass and housing, presentations on organic eating and ecologically safe gardening rounded out the program. A session on post oil health care was a special eye-opener.

We upgraded the audio-visual component of the program with a technical expert to be sure the power point projectors were properly set up and operating. Recording the many presentations kept Mike Proctor and his competent assistants busy.

A substantial addition to one of the pole buildings allowed most of the vendors and displays to be housed under one roof. The beef barn addition is dedicated to the memory of Ron Baker, a popular high school agricultural instructor who succumbed far too young to cancer. He was a school friend of our son’s and a former graduate student of ours.

A special seminar Friday focused on Renewable Energy Business and Investment Opportunities. For a first attempt, it was gratifyingly successful.

Dr. Bernd Steinmuller brought insights into Europe’s and Germany’s progress with renewable energy and efficiency. His ideas on energy efficient housing were illustrated by a new display called the One-Watt House, designed and built by Marko Spiegel. The first home of a new subdivision based on these principles, under construction south of Oregon, will be a featured field trip at next year’s Fair.

The general consensus was that this year’s Energy Fair was bigger and better than ever. We expect it to continue in this direction. Plans are being made for next August’s event.

From the Aug. 23-29, 2006, issue

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