RE-fest recycles message, draws steady following

Published 6:46 am Monday, September 21, 2009

Artists sold handmade goods, vendors offered local food and nearly 30 exhibitors promoted eco-friendly products as the second annual RE-fest was held Saturday at Riverland Community College.

“The main purpose is to raise awareness of issues surrounding global warming and carbon emissions,” said Kelly Lady, energy services consultant for Austin Utilities. “And to educate people about positive actions they can use at home or at work.”

Saturday’s event was a day-long free celebration that offered a message of clean energy, conservation and green living.

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It was a collaborative project of Austin Utilities, Owatonna Public Utilities, Riverland Community College and Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

“We’ve been very steady, and as the day goes on, I’m sure it will pick up.” Lady said.

While Lady said final attendance numbers won’t be ready until Monday afternoon, RE-fest has drawn a consistent following two years in a row.

“We had more than 1,600 last year,” Lady said.

This year’s exhibitors included Jen Haugen, dietician for Hy-Vee, who promoted buying locally-grown products, including wine from Cannon Falls.

“You can have a whole meal,” she said.

Brianna Gabrielson was promoting Austin High School’s Going Green Club.

The AHS junior said she joined the club because she loves nature, animals and the earth.

“And I’ve really become a recycling freak,” she said. “It’s just really becoming a passion.”

The exhibitors also included Jaye Adams, who was pitching her Norwex Enviro products she sells from her home.

The microfiber cloths and other items are supposed to make house cleaning possible with just water, eliminating the need for chemicals.

In addition to the exhibitors, food vendors and the artists, festivities also included an eco-friendly car show, storytelling and music, all within a backdrop of unseasonably high temperatures.

“The exhibits are good, and we’ve done the activities,” said Alexa Dolan Peterson, who brought her three children. “And it’s beautiful. It’s great weather.”