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Solarfest is a sun-fueled event

Imagine this scene: It is a beautiful July day in the rolling hills and mountains of Southern Vermont. A warm breeze whispers throughout hundreds of acres of plush vegetation, now a sea of vibrant green. The sun beats down, a wonderful and comforting companion to picnickers, golfers, hikers, and campers alike. But today, the sun is more than just a warming presence. Today, the sun is here as a power source for the unique and innovative event known as SolarFest.

SolarFest is a renewable energy festival, held at Forget-Me-Not Farm in Tinmouth, Vt. This annual event offers daily, and nightly, performances from local musicians, workshops dealing with sustainable living, and an array of artistic imageries. The entertainment, ranging from puppet shows to poetry, is suitable and enticing for all ages.

This event has been held annually for the previous 13 years in various locales throughout Vermont. The main focus of this festival is to educate people about alternative energy and sustainable living while offering an abundance of entertainment and interaction.

One of the main proprietors of this festival is one of Castleton’s very own. Laura Daubenspeck, a self proclaimed “super senior,” has been volunteering for this event since she was in middle school.

“I started volunteering when I was in fourth or fifth grade,” she said. “It started on a back road in Middletown Springs. In 2003 [the festival] moved to Green Mountain College before moving to Forget-Me-Not in 2005.”

Forget-Me-Not Farm has been the site of the festival for the last three years. This summer will be the fourth year at the farm, and the success here has been overwhelming, she said.

“Last summer we had about 3,000 people attending the festival throughout each day,” said Daubenspeck. “The summer before, maybe 4,000 people attended total.”

Daubenspeck has become a vital part of the success of SolarFest. She has been involved in vendor coordination and running the VIP tent for years. Last year, she was became a trustee of the non-profit organization. She is currently looking for anyone in the Castleton community who would be interested in volunteering for this summer’s three-day event.

One such volunteer is Natalie Brassil, a Castleton alum and currently the sustainability coordinator at CSC. She has been volunteering at SolarFest for the last two years, and is certainly excited and passionate about the festivities.

“This is an awesome event,” she said. “It’s a grassroots music festival with presentations, vendors for food and clothes made out of recycled material, and a lot of demonstrations about alternative energy. People are coming in and out all day and at least 500 camp-out at night.”

Daubenspeck was enthusiastic about the workshops that occur during SolarFest.

“I think the workshops are helping to bring in more people. Last summer we had about 50 workshops, and we’ll probably have even more this summer,” she said.

One of the most impressive displays at SolarFest is the solar stage which is used for musical and theatrical performances throughout the event. The lighting is all donated by Michael Sorce of Dark Star Lighting and Production and powered by Central Vermont Solar and Wind. The stage is powered entirely by solar power and a recently added wind turbine.

While the upcoming summer’s musical guests are currently in planning, last year’s festival hosted a number of impressive guests. Included in the guest list was the local favorite, Twiddle, who was back by popular demand after performing in previous SolarFests.

Marshall and Melody Squire, the owners of Forget-Me-Not farm, stress that this is not your usual festival. Brassil concurred, stating that “this is a family event! There are a ton of activities throughout the day for children to enjoy like puppet shows and the Kid’s Corner.”

If anyone is interested in volunteering for the event, it may be worth the while.

According to Daubenspeck, six hours of your time will get you a free weekend pass to SolarFest. For more information, keep an eye on your Castleton email accounts because she will be sending out information periodically. Also, you can visit Daubenspeck in the Campus Center where she can often be found working in the mailroom.

For more information on SolarFest, go to www.solarfest.org. This Web site offers a wealth of information about the festivities, volunteers, donors, workshops, performances, exhibits and more.