You know that Independence Day fireworks display at the Ulster County Fairgrounds that isn’t happening on the Fourth of July this year? Its early scheduling on Friday, June 30 — in order not to clash with other communities’ holiday celebrations, and to avoid the astronomical costs of fireworks vendors on July 4 itself — turned out to be a great boon for the Town of New Paltz this year. A new company based in New Hartford, near Utica, called Alpine Promotions, wanted to share the town’s booking of the site through the weekend. The happy result of the deal is that Friday night’s fireworks will be the kickoff for the inaugural Tiny House & Green Living Festival, bringing 25 to 30 actual tiny homes to the Fairgrounds, along with alternative energy displays, speakers and sustainability workshops on Saturday and Sunday, July 1 and 2.
The first large-scale event of its kind in the Northeast, the Festival was announced in a press conference and ribbon-cutting at the Fairgrounds on a drizzly Wednesday morning last week by Ulster County executive Mike Hein and Alpine Promotions co-owner Jake DiBari. “There’s a huge buzz about this issue around the country,” said Hein, citing tourism and sustainable economic development as benefits to the region that will potentially receive boosts both from the Festival and from the growing popularity of the tiny house movement. “This is the kind of event that Ulster County wants to host, and this is the perfect place for it.”
DiBari — who worked as a solar energy developer for a decade before starting up Alpine Promotions, and is also a former director of economic development for the City of Rome — agreed that the Ulster County Fairgrounds are ideally situated for the launch of what he hopes to become an annual festival, drawing some 30,000 attendees. And it’s not just because of New Paltz’s easy proximity to the tri-state metropolitan area: “Rest room facilities, showers — it’s a big deal to have those facilities, instead of bringing in lots of porta-potties,” he noted.
After four months of researching possible sites as far west as Rochester, DiBari and his partner approached Ulster County Fairgrounds manager Gary Newkirk, who in turn put Alpine in touch with Kathy Preston, assistant to town supervisor Neil Bettez, who had already booked the venue for the weekend that DiBari wanted. The advantages of “piggybacking” the two events quickly became clear. “We were just in the right place at the right time,” said Bettez. “We’re hoping this will bring more people here to help our small businesses…to see what New Paltz is all about.”
At least some of the model tiny houses to be displayed throughout the weekend will be previewed to the public on Friday, when access to the Fairgrounds is free, organizers said. On Saturday and Sunday there will be a $20 entry for attendees aged 13 and up, with tickets set to go on sale April 1. Speakers and workshop presenters as of this writing will include Andrew Morrison, Deek Diedricksen, Mandy Lea, Alex Eaves, Felice Cohen, Dan Christmas, Maria Klemperer-Johnson, Sebastian Interlandi, Kari Cooper and Bill Rockhill, an Old Forge-based builder whose TED Talk first inspired DiBari to start organizing sustainable building events.
Saying that those who actually reside in the tiny houses on display will have “stories to tell about living a free life, a minimal life,” DiBari characterized the trade show as a “farmers’ market on steroids” that will “celebrate science, technology, energy, art and design, locally sourced foods and much more.” Both Saturday and Sunday’s presentations are slated to wind up with live music in the evenings, according to Alpine’s website at http://tinyhousefreedomfest.com.
Tiny houses are unquestionably trendy and cool. Living in a tiny house fulfills the urge to live sustainably and minimize our carbon footprint; it also forces us to deal ruthlessly with clutter, embrace good feng shui and multipurpose design. But they’re also somewhat controversial, insofar as local zoning regulations and assessors haven’t quite caught up to their popularity, and they can be moved about by owners wishing to dodge property taxes. Noting that tiny houses on wheels are typically “classified as RVs… It’s a way to get around some of the codes,” DiBari acknowledged. “Some are clandestine.” Doubtless municipal officials will find that they have things to learn at such a festival as well.
Persons wishing to set up vendor displays or otherwise partner in the Tiny House & Green Living Festival at the Ulster County Fairgrounds on June 30, July 1 and 2 can find out more by calling (315) 271-7090 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.