By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association
The 10th Anniversary Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair is now history. Beginning with inspiration, coordinating 10 annual fairs has been an amazing experience. This one was a landmark in several ways.
When everything is in place for the fair, our attention turns to the weather and its potential impact on attendance. Extreme conditions — whether hot or stormy — translate into smaller audiences.
Friday evening, Aug. 12, we observed a dark cloud to the north. The presence of two trained storm trackers and others with cell phones focused our attention to the huge cloud bank and its potential to wreak havoc on people, property and attendance. Fortunately, as we watched in fascination, the storm passed with no noticeable impact.
Saturday morning, Aug. 13, was clear, cool and pleasant. We were delighted by the fresh start to the day. But by about noon, a severe storm brought a heavy downpour. By afternoon, two more intense storm cells brought strong winds and driving rain. In the evening, one of our storm trackers recommended the amped-up band unplug and head for home.
While the weather resulted in reduced attendance, both exhibitors and visitors spoke glowingly of the event. We can’t speak for all 60 workshops, but they were well attended. Although numbers were down, at least seven states were represented at what has become a regional event.
People thanked us for all of the effort we put into organizing the event, adding that this was the best fair yet. Of course, that thanks extends to the volunteers and presenters who helped make it happen.
A vendor from Wisconsin indicated his honey sales made it a worthwhile venture for him. A nurseryman indicated all he needed to turn a reasonable profit would be another $50 in sales, which was promptly exceeded. Another vendor noticed that people who had visited him in the past returned to add to their supply of garden tools.
Visitors expressed their gratitude for the informative workshops. In addition to bringing new understandings, many presentations were done in an entertaining, stimulating manner, drawing on personal experience. The most numerous favorable comments included those concerning our keynote speakers, Kurt Cobb and Annie and Jay Warmke, and presentations by Lin Vogl and Sherry Piros.
Natural history was covered by Philip Whitford, known as “Dr. Goose.” Many welcomed the trend toward sustainability and self-sufficiency exemplified by the food workshops and the all-day, do-it-yourself sessions by Bob Croteau and Tad Vogl. As one participant commented: “With harsh economic times, people were keenly interested in workshops that addressed money and energy saving and those that helped them think of ways to be more self-sufficient. They brought a wealth of practical information home with them.”
We are fortunate to have generous support from sponsors, volunteers, exhibitors and speakers that have sustained the fair for an entire decade. With the sustainability challenge, another decade of education and action is essential to human and planetary well-being. The presence of Rock Valley College, Elgin Community College, Northern Illinois University and Freedom Field ensures a continued educational effort toward sustainable lifestyles.
Major fair sponsors were the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, Freedom Field and The Rock River Times.
Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Aug. 17-23, 2011, issue