The Crestone Eagle, August 2004:

The 15th annual Crestone Energy Fair
story & photos by Kelly Hart

Get ready to save energy, be kind to Mother Earth, and have lots of fun at the 15th Annual Crestone Energy Fair on Labor Day weekend, September 4 and 5, at the Crestone Town Park. There will be plenty to pique your interest, whet your appetite, and please your ear, with alternative energy demonstrations and workshops, a tour of local sustainably built homes, scrumptious food booths, and live music. Additionally, this year’s Fair expects to feature artisan’s booths, a parade, a raffle and an evening community dance.

With the Crestone Peak organization in charge of the Fair this year, we can expect renewed energy and commitment toward making the event lively and successful. Any money realized from the Fair will help Crestone Peak with their effort to provide affordable land and sustainable resources for low-income families and individuals. Promoting energy efficiency is perfectly aligned with their goals.

There are several demonstrations already scheduled. Talmath Mesenbrink will show how he pours adobe floors, and I’m sure he will have samples on hand of the varieties of fine finishes that he is able to create. Nick Chambers will be demonstrating how to cook up biodiesel that can fuel a vehicle, starting with ordinary vegetable oil and other common ingredients. Annike Storm will show how to make beautiful earthen plasters, for both interior and exterior wall coverings. Michael Baron will showcase his famous Aerblock material for building homes. Many others are expected to demonstrate aspects of solar energy, building technologies, water conservation concepts, etc.

Music this year will feature a variety of mostly local musicians, including the lightning fingers and steady beat of Mike Tiernen. The music during the day will prime your ears and bones for the evening dance spectacular that will benefit the Crestone Fire Department.

The alternative home tour is always one of the most popular events of the Energy Fair. This will be conducted on the morning of Labor Day, Monday, September 6. This year the tour will be divided into two groups, so that those homeowners who are gracious enough to invite the public into their homes will not be so overwhelmed by a large crowd, and everyone can see and feel these unique spaces more personally. Quite a variety of alternative building technologies and energy conservation measures will be showcased, along with the remarkable ingenuity and creativity that the owners and builders have lovingly expressed in fashioning these homes.

Bill Sitkin and Chinle Beaver have agreed to show their unusual hybrid earthbag/papercrete home. Bill is one of those Renaissance guys who can do most anything he imagines, and this is evident in their home. The sculptural shapes of the rooms are enhanced by colorful paints and unique inlaid floor and counter tiles made by sawing thin slabs of “Baca rocks”. The structure of the house itself is created by stacking misprinted rice bags filled with crushed volcanic rock up, one on top of the other and laid like bricks. Strands of barbed wire run between the courses of bags to bind the wall together, and then most of the bags are plastered with papercrete (made from recycled waste paper and some Portland cement).

The unusual home of Harun Magnuson and Susannah Ortego, which is made almost entirely with papercrete, fashioned as a huge dome/vault, will be on view. Lovely details, from natural earthen plasters and adobe floors, to fine stone and tile work will delight your eyes. This home is a labor of love that demonstrates how persistence can overcome all manner of obstacles.

Paul Shippee will give a tour of his home, that is still under construction, as an example of rammed earth combined with strawbales. Paul is an engineer, educator, and builder with considerable experience in the field of solar energy. He has pioneered passive solar concepts for several decades, and won the distinction of designing and building the most energy-efficient home entered in a national competition several years ago. Paul will explain why he chose the materials and design that embody his emerging home.

Carter and Connie McClintock will open their home made with Rastra blocks. These are insulated concrete forms that are fabricated with recycled Styrofoam. These forms are stacked up like big Lego blocks, and then filled with reinforced concrete. The house is designed for passive solar heating, and features beautifully symmetrical architecture supported by massive beams. It is also bermed somewhat into the ground on the north side for even more thermal efficiency.

Rebecca Eastlake has agreed to show her home that not only sports the use of a recycled boxcar, but is also completely off-grid for electricity, which is a combination of wind power and solar-electric panels.

Those who join the alternative home tour can also expect to see houses made from adobe blocks, Aerblocks, cob, used tires, and strawbales. Anyone interested in any of these technologies, or just curious about what it feels like to be in a home designed to heat and cool itself naturally, or be powered by renewable electricity, should enjoy the tour.