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The Greatest Fair on Earth

Posted by kevinwolz on June 24, 2010

Last Thursday through Sunday, I attended the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s (MREA) Energy Fair in Custer, WI…the largest renewable energy fairing the world. It was truly an amazing experience. I attended the fair with our county’s chief sustainability organization, Sustain Jefferson, as well as an energy-focused subset of that group, the CSE (Community Supported Energy). I learned so much, met fellow activists, and absorbed inspiration.

The 10-hour days consisted of a constant rotation through educational workshops, countless exhibits, esteemed speakers, and Sustain Jefferson’s own exhibit. It was exhausting yet enlightening.

The over 200 workshops rotated through 15 massive tents. Topics ranged from “Passive Solar Design” and “Battery Basics” to “Urban Permaculture” and “Bountiful Backyards.” My favorites included “Humanure” and “Root Cellaring,” and there were plenty more that I sadly missed. It’s during first exposures like this that I get so engrossed and totally fail at taking notes…that’s why repeated exposures are so necessary to proper education.

Next on the circuit are the hundreds of exhibits throughout the fairgrounds. To my disappointment, most of the booths were the “sell stuff” kind. Unfortunately, I’m just not in the market for PV or wind turbines at the moment. However, there were also some really neat “teach stuff” and “do stuff” booths, best of which was a 30-foot tall, stainless steel ethanol distillery created to promote local, small-scale ethanol production. Right on.

The fair’s keynote speaker was Bill McKibben, today’s foremost climate activist and founder of 350.org. Bill is leading the action to fight climate change and gave a truly inspirational speech. I left really pumped up to plan something big for the upcoming “Work Party” on 10/10/10. Check out the website for more info.

Finally, perhaps my largest involvement at the fair was dedicated to the CSE portion of Sustain Jefferson’s own booth. Our booth was definitely the epitome of the “do stuff” variety and was probably one of the best exhibits at the fair. The CSE is dedicated to local, small-scale, sustainable energy production, and has started numerous projects to put that in action. Consequently, our main priority at the fair was to educate people on how all these alternative energy systems worked so they could do it themselves at home. We displayed each of our current alternative energy systems, including a Charles 804 Ethanol Still, a Downdraft Stratified Biomass Gasifier, an Anaerobic Digester, and several Rocket Stoves. Do stuff. Use local energy. Achieve sustainability.

By night, the mood changed a bit. Activities shifted to conversation, fun, and collaboration. While enjoying the band, everyone discussed the day’s activities and schemed about future projects, ideas, and even life goals. With participants ranging from the Modern Mormon to the Dreadlock Dude, the atmosphere was ripe for innovation.

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2 Responses to “The Greatest Fair on Earth”

  1. Victoria Johnson said

    KEVIN; YOU CONTINUE TO AMAZE ME WITH YOUR GRAND VARIETY OF INTERESTS AND KNOWLEDGE. YOU ABSORB SO MUCH OF WHAT YOU SEE, WHAT YOU HEAR AND GO FORTH TO PUT INTO ACTION WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED. FANTASTIC. XXX AUNT VICKIE

  2. Ellen said

    Kevin, you were a major contributor in staffing our booth, and it was greatly appreciated! I will add (having held ground on the left side of the booth) that we drew lots of interest in our Food for Thought film series, our gardening workshops, farm tours and the Earth Victory garden system. 🙂 I enjoyed talking to you about your possible future ventures. the current pres – Ellen

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