Trying to save the world

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115575622312614.jpg’, ‘Photo by Bright Wolff’, ‘How would you like to heat your house with a hair dryer? Vic Cadrej, Rick McCanse and Marko Speigel had quite a few people interested in the concept at the Illinois Renewable Energy Fair, Aug. 12 and 13.’);

“You don’t actually think you can save the world? Do you?” Incredulous as it may seem to many, the folks who put on the Fifth AnniversaryIllinois Renewable Energy & Sustainable Lifestyles Fair last weekend really are trying to do just that. And each in his or her own small or big way had the same goal, from the speakers, vendors to the more than 3,000 people who attended.

This annual event is growing, up from 2,300 last year, collecting more and more brain power, cutting-edge products, outreach organizations and genuinely nice people. Yes, they are focused on improving life on earth, providing organic clothing, health-care and food, so those low wages, over-prescribed dangerous drugs and chemical additives don’t poison us all; providing new technologies as alternatives to coal, natural gas and oil, so pollution, high prices and wars are reduced; and providing means for energy efficiency so what we do have will last at a price we can afford.

How often do this many people come together to show and see work that focuses on the question of the quality of our lives? This good mind set spread smiles and appreciation for the ingenuity that still makes America great and shows how much greater we can become.

The simplicity of the concept of a small group of people doing big things is something most people have a hard time believing in today. However, if you look at the core group of people who accomplished the growth of these five years, your faith will be restored.

Directed by Drs. Bob and Sonia Vogl, the amazing efforts of Jeff and Cilla Green, Mary Jane Schumaker, Birgit and Roland Wolff, Sherry Piros and Lin Vogl take a year to complete and one day to clean up after the fair is over. Then, they start over again for the next year. So many thanks go to the seminar speakers, vendors and the many volunteers and the extra efforts of Brian Green, Tom Cartwright, Rick Rudd, Aur Beck and Rick Jones.

Let’s take a wander around this year’s fairgrounds by memory to see what we could see, besides all those mentioned above (a total of 52 volunteers) running information booths, scurrying to find and set up powerpoint projectors, tents, tarps, tables, chairs, microphones, overhead projectors, extension cords, collect garbage, give directions, answer countless questions, listen to complaints; and find someone to give them a break so they can eat, shop or go to a seminar themselves. And God bless the folks who ran the entry gate and the parking lot because a very few people were really weird, rude, cheapskates or all three—however, most were more than wonderful.

We’ll start from the gate. After paying only $7 for one day or $10 for two days, the vehicle gets parked in the football-field size pasture between the road and the fairground buildings and tents. Some smart people showed up Friday night and camped for the beautiful weekend.

At the information tent, Jeff Green would give you a fair booklet and hawk a few fine quality magazines like Home Power or Backwoods.

Now the dilemma: to go to a seminar right away, or to wander through the roadside vendors leading up to the big livestock buildings full of even more vendors?

The beautiful day decides the matter; let’s go wander in the sun and fresh air, starting with liquid or food for the walk.

Just mentioning a few of their offerings, all along the roadside were: organic sodas and juices from DeKalb’s Duck Soup Coop; fresh fruit smoothies from Red Avocado (all the way from Iowa); tacos or nachos from Oregon’s Riverside Restaurant; burgers from Ogle County Beef Producers; coffee, ice cream, pie and doughnuts from the Ogle County Grange and veggie or organic beef burgers from Rockford’s Choices Natural Market.

The folks from Ducks Soup were really fun, complete with clever kids making change for your purchase. The Grange crew was so friendly and helpful, as was the Red Avocado fellow. Karen King and her family from Choices Natural Market are the joy that makes their grocery store a great place to shop for everything organic.

Off into the vendors’ exhibits. What a list. After all, it takes at least three and a half hours to look at every one—that’s 75 booths—allow more time for questions and more for just blabbing.

Some highlights: it’s a tough choice between Richard Orawiek’s vacuum tube solar hot water heating system and Brandon Leavitt’s flat panel system. In either case, both fellows have a great product, really know their field and are a hoot to talk to about everything from where the market is going to politics. By the way, Leavitt’s company, Solar Service, Inc., has an installation at O’Hare/Rockford Airport’s Moreland Enterprises.

The Dome Education and Gathering Place is always a friendly talk with owners Jessie and Randy Mermel.

Logan Creek Soaps, all the way from Sturgeon Bay, Wis., has great products, and Mike and Lori Johnson are extremely nice and knowledgeable owners.

Larry Dunphy, owner of Books on First in Dixon, always has a great selection of topical paperback and hardcover books for the fair; and is actually open seven days a week as one of the last privately-owned bookstores. His organic and year-round gardening books must be purchased.

Friends of the Fox River are a fine group with great volunteers and display of all their work. Go to their Mother’s Day gathering. Folks up and down the Rock River should go and take notes.

Two firms from Iowa offer excellent make-your-own biodiesel kits; that’s Azure Biodiesel Co., and Flying F Bio-Fuels.

Batteries Plus offered a wind-up powered combination flashlight/AM-FM radio/cell phone charger and other neat gadgets, not to mention huge deep-cell batteries. Check out their store at 1512 E. Riverside.

Northern Sun Merchandising from Minneapolis, Minn., has a wild array of buttons, bumper stickers, t-shirts, posters and bags. A fast seller was a refrigerator magnet that shows a meeting between President George W. Bush and the pope, who had his head cradled in his hand, with the “fictitious” caption, “God, he really is that dumb.”

Allen and Ruth Penticoff even had their 26-foot sailboat and tons of pictures at the fair to promote the Rockford Yacht Club. Yes, we have a yacht club. Call 874-6904.

Land based transportation exhibits consisted of a recumbent tricycle by Allan Pillard of Princeton, Iowa (you almost lie down to ride them, and the gear’s on the front wheel), Toyota Prius hybrids, Saturn sports coupes, electric cars, and cars and trucks that run on regular or biodiesel, grease and vegetable oil. Love that $3+ a gallon gasoline!

Aur Beck of Advanced Energy Solutions had great news. He has installed basic solar systems, complete with software and computers, to track and teach energy data in 16 schools in Missouri (hello, District 205)! The guy has every solar gadget known, and can install any system, as can Dave Merril of SunAir in Byron.

Other busy exhibits were the house you can heat with a hair dryer, because of the huge foam insulation by Vic Cadrej, Rick McCanse and Marko Speigel; the indoor and outdoor furnaces that burn wood and corn; and John Burnhart’s Stone Corner Farm that sells an extensive collection of certified organic eggs and vegetables.

Sustainable Lifestyle Coordinator Lin Vogl put out a phenomenal number of informational brochures and sample products in two tents, one of which was devoted to handcrafted fair-trade merchandise from around the world and sold by the Ten Thousand Villages company.

Those are just some of the exhibits on our little walk; and dang, we’re out of space for this week. We haven’t talked about the seminars. Oh, well. The fair took two days, too. More on saving the world next week. It is a rather big topic. Isn’t it?

From the Aug. 16-22, 2006, issue

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