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11 August 2010

Found at the Renewable Energy Fair

Previously, I had written tons on what I found at the Renewable Energy Fair at Ogle County Fair Grounds in Oregon, IL, 2010 being its ninth year. This year could be the same, except so many issues are vying for space on the wetware -- my brain, that is, not to mention that scarce American resource called Time.

To mention some fellow exhibitors, which I have not done previously, either because there was too much going on or they were new this year:
  • Pam Wheelock, "head honcho" of purrfectplay.com, came again with her offering of organic cotton toys and more.  I recalled that she and her husband live in Indiana and he, like myself, works in Chicago.  Unlike me, he commutes daily from Chesterton!  And, he has told me that the train is packed daily with people even sitting on the steps leading to the exit door, not at all like the picture of a comfortable commuter train with everyone sitting in a seat, reading their news or catching some shut-eye.  Pam remembered me, because of our earlier discussion and how I suggested he find a studio apartment or even a room in someone's house for the weekday gig.  She gave me a gift for our guest cat Sylvie (or Sylvia) who has a great aversion to the outdoors and cat collars.  I had bought her an organic cotton and silk collar last time and she disdained to keep it on, even when I told her she looked like a princess.  The gift was a organic cotton stuffed toy in the shape of a carrot (no dye but with cute yarn leaves).  Thank you, Pam!  Our cat Fanei played with it briefly, but Sylvie couldn't be bothered. I think it's their loss, as the carrot is fun-looking!
  • Cool Hats with hand-made fashions by Ann Hansen from St Paul, MN, is a long way from home.  They had classy straw hats that sold well for the sunny Sunday that made its way through the morning rain, as well as African-styled straw carry-alls and BYO Bags -- nylon mesh bags for the produce you buy (that's a great idea, but I forgot to get one).  Larry got a straw hat with a leather band for "only $8 (his words)."  Men should think about having a hat for every occasion, as wsj.com notes, although I believe part of the hat etiquette should be that a man takes off his baseball or seed corn hat when sitting down to eat!  I was looking for a spring hat (and I don't mean a baseball cap!) and found a pretty green canvas one with cool striped piping and lining, as well as a great winter black one.  The brim of the black hat was fashioned from fabric decorated with gold embossed celestials (star, moon,...).  They were both sold to me at half off a reasonable price, so I feel like a thief or at least, a real bargain hunter (which I have never been accused of being). One can never have enough hats.  Ann sells mostly at fairs, and probably won't come back to the Renewable Energy Fair at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, IL -- way too far away, but please check out where she might be and if you're ever in the Twin Cities, call her homebase and she would be happy to show you what they have. 
  • And, last but not least, Russ Rybicki of Progressive Asset Management/Financial West Group in Urbana, IL, who also markets heavily through participation in alternative lifestyle fairs, comes every year to the Renewable Energy Fair, sitting alongside Books on First to hawk socially responsible and "green" investing,.  He presents the case that you can feel good about your drive for return, by investing in companies which make products in an environmentally responsible way and may even be making products for the environmentally responsible, such as Church & Dwight, best known as maker of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda as well as Trojan condoms, but also scrubbers for coal-burning plants.  He attends fairs for gay/lesbian celebration, 4-H, ecology, ... and has created quite a niche for himself, and because attendees come from everywhere -- from Chicago to Cedar Rapids, IA to Milwaukee, WI to Dixon, he now has quite a geographically-spread client base (especially when one is driving around each summer weekend, enjoying traffic on four-lane highways, and then, fielding questions about the "deep recession" as well as hearing comments like, "Don't waste your time with me; I'm out of work.").
It is an expensive proposition to attend the Renewable Energy Fair, so I am glad to see so many who are serious about the subject, which has expanded to include utilizing principles of permaculture in gardening, canning garden vegetables and raising chickens.  While we do bring in books especially for this fair, we had a host of titles that sold well, which we carry in-store.

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