Alternative energy fair April 19 in Tonasket

TONASKET – As energy costs rise and experts world-wide look for alternatives, an Okanogan Valley group intends to do their part for the planet.

The first Green Okanogan Alternative Energy, Housing and Agriculture Fair (GO) will begin at 10 a.m. April 19 at the Community Cultural Center in Tonasket.

“There is a need for alternative fuels and energy,” said Mikkel Gredvig, one of about eight organizers. “We need to seek out alternatives to the status quo.”

The fair will cover alternative fuels, alternative agriculture practices, alternative energy, eco-housing and a break-out discussion session.

One important aspect of the fair will be a push for recycling, Gredvig said.

“That will be major,” he said. “We need to begin thinking about how to bring recycling to Okanogan County.”

The Methow Valley has a private recycling program, Gredvig said. Republic and Chelan also have some sort of recycling programs, he said.

“We’re behind in not having much here,” he said of the upper Okanogan Valley.

While Gredvig doesn’t expect to come to a conclusion, he does want to see local residents thinking about it.

“That’s what the breakout sessions are for,” he said. “We want individuals to bring their own ideas to the table, rather than have us preaching at them.”

His goals for the first fair are to bring people in.

“The best result I would like to see is to introduce people to the alternatives, get them networking and bring them together to work on the recycling issue,” he said.

Gredvig has advertised the event across the North Valley and into Canada.

Ultimately, seeking out alternatives is about more than one person’s PUD bill, he said.

“If you’re not happy with the status quo, then seek out alternatives,” Gredvig said. “Spend a day or an hour here and see if it can touch you, if it can be incorporated into your life. It’s better for the community, the nation, the planet as a whole.”

It’s also better for the future, he said.

“Think about the children,” he said. “What kind of legacy are we leaving them – huge landfills or something sustainable, not expending valuable resources?”

After the fair, the CCC will put on a dinner with local and organic foods for $7 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. At 7:30 p.m. performance group Sister Monk Harem will host a dance. Admission is $5.

On April 20, the Fair will host a tour of several local home sights that are “off the grid,” including a strawbale house with solar power, a farm using alternate energy to grow crops and other locations, all within about 20 miles of Tonasket. The tour is free. People hoping to participate should meet at the CCC at 10 a.m. to carpool and bring a sack lunch. The tour will last about five hours.

The Solar Shop, in Tonasket and Solar Wind Energy Systems, a similar company in Okanogan, are sponsoring the event. The fair also received grants and sponsorships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Okanogan Family Faire and the Washington State Arts Commission.

Gredvig would like to expand the fair next year if this year proves to be a success.

“We want to get the community involved,” he said. “That’s what the community center is all about – it all plays into each other.”