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Published: 2003/07/28
by Jake Krolick

Music, Sweat & Bio-Diesel: A Conversation with the Organizers of the Vermont Alternative Energy Festival

Our country uses an immense amount of energy daily. We go through millions of gallons of gas a week to run our cars. Unlimited amounts of power to light our homes. At concerts, PA systems require between 4,000 and 40,000 watts to pump out the sound that we enjoy. Lighting systems require twelve thousand to sixty thousand watts of electricity. That's enough to power a small village for a week. With that being said there are few individuals who are trying to make a difference.

Shane Clarke and Troy Osborne of Environmentally Sound Productions are based in Montpelier, Vermont. They have slowly but surely created a unique grassroots festival that contains some great live music and a perfect atmosphere to educate folks about alternative energy practices. By day, Shane works for Design Giants, Troy's architectural firm, specializing in alternative energy designs. By night, Shane and Troy are festival planners, forming Environmentally Sound Productions (ESP). This is their sixth year producing the Vermont Alternative Energy Festival or VAEF for short.

I recently had an opportunity to talk with Shane and fellow ESP man, Troy. We talked about how it all started. "It started in a much different form, it was just music. It lacked a purpose to us." stated Shane In 1998 they were powering some of the festival with solar and by 2000 the VAEF was born out of bio-diesel.

Bio-diesel is in simple terms vegetable oil. Vegetable oil can power anything from cars to generators. Shane explained how the whole festival is now powered on veggie oil. They use large generators to produce enough power to run all their PA and light systems. Shane can't say enough how it's really the best demonstration seeing the festival running off an alternative energy system.

I asked them what their goals were with this festival. I learned how Environmentally Sound Productions is not only about great music, but dedicated to the awareness of alternative energy sources. Shane told me that "This is so fun! Education through music and exposure to alternative energy practices." We discussed how music became the common thread that pulls people together. "There's no better place than a weekend of music and fun! Why not show some environmentally positive technology."

In a little less then an hour they had opened my mind to many new energy efficient solutions. One of the most intriguing was the new LED stage lighting system they are pushing for. "Engineered by LED Dynamics (LEDDynamics.com) the new LED technology which would require only six percent of the existing power to run. It will produce a brighter more true colored lighting system." LED lights present no fire hazard because they don't get hot. "Less heat equals less power loss" says Troy. The new system combines red, green, and blue LED lights to produce any color you can think of. "With a filter, you shoot for a color. With LED you control exactly what you get."

I asked them to tell me more about bio-diesel so they talked about some of the many speakers and exhibitors that will be in attendance. Bill Magrath of NFA Technoligies will be blending up batches of bio-diesel right on stage. Apparently he's really impressive. I learned that through the weekend Justin Corvin will be converting around twenty diesel cars to cars that run completely on veggie-oil. In fact, there is a sign up to have your diesel car converted over the weekend. Justin is a pioneer in bio-diesel and has driven a grease car across the country. Joshua Tickell may also be in attendance. He wrote the bible for grease car owners called "From the Fryers to the Fuel Tank."

Passion comes pouring out of Shane and Troy as we talk. They are so excited about what they do and hearing that is great. I learn how both grew up in what they call the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I can even hear a faint twang of New England exposing itself as we talk. They are both huge Strange Folk fans and ended up getting connected with Reid Genauer. He was friends with Eric Bigglestone and Jim Frye, two of the other VAEF organizers. "Reid is really into conservation and he backs what we're doing one hundred percent. You really should hear him talk, it's quite moving." It does not surprise me as I thought that many bands and fans in this scene share similar ideals to those Shane and Troy are working to get across in their festival. "We want good talent that has a good message" says Shane. This holds true with a lineup like Reid Genauer and the Assembly of Dust, Percy Hill, Aaron Katz, Seth Yacavone, former JGB members Rick Redington with Bob & Marty, and others. They are all playing this festival because they support what it represents.

The festival turnout has grown each year and Troy says that they expect 1200 to 1600 attendees. "We want to keep it small to keep the personal touch about it." They are leery about what happens to a festival when it gets large. Shane says "They lose something when they grow too big."

I asked Troy what festivals he enjoys and what he has pulled from them. The first festival he talks about is the Bread and Puppet Festival that used to be held in the Northeast Kingdom. Troy says "The Bread and Puppet was great. It was like a huge circus of sorts with some real political performances. But then it got too big and was out of control." Troy tells how the same thing happened with another favorite festival of his. "The Vermont Reggae Fest lost something as it got bigger. I don't want our festival to loose its small charm."

We talk about the Nibbling Farm that the festival will be held on and Shane explains how the field that he uses is completely surrounded by woods. "I want people to get the feel that they are away from all outside power sources. From the field, you can see no telephone or power lines anywhere." The stage was designed by Shane who is a natural artist as well. He uses trees in it's' construction to further enhance the natural setting.

Shane and Environmentally Sound Productions have made this festival happen year after year. It hasn't been easy and they have had to scrape by and struggle. I love how Troy's real old Vermont attitude comes out "...making this festival a reality has taken a ton of chainsaw gas and sweat." He has obviously worked hard to make it happen. If you are able to offer a little "chainsaw gas & sweat" of your own you can hang flyers for them. This and about fifty bucks will get you a VIP camping spot literally behind the stage. This festival is a call out to all who want to experience the way life should be.

The Annual Vermont Alternative Energy Festival will be held at the Niebling Farm August 22-24. The festival is a mix of great live music with alternative energy education through guest speakers, exhibits, and ultimately a killer stage of music.

Reid Genauer will headline Friday and Saturday night. Opening for Reid and the Assembly of Dust on Friday Night will be the Aaron Katz Band. On Saturday the Following bands will share the stage: Gordon Stone, Seth Yacovone, Lucy Chapin, Flowting Bridge and many more. There also will be a rare appearance by Percy Hill.

Exhibits will feature Wind power, Solar electric & hot water, Geothermal heating, bio-diesel & Veggie Oil Powered cars, Furnaces, & Generators, and many other renewable and energy efficient Applications.

The Niebling farm is located 2 miles off Exit 4 I-89, on the south Randolph road in Randolph Center, Vt. Tickets are on sale now for $40 until July 31st. They are available online at vaef.com as well as through the Flynn ticket line. Tickets will also be available at the gate for $55. For more information visit www.vaef.com

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