Offerings more than double in second year of Tiny House Fest

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BRATTLEBORO — The do-it-yourself ethos of the tiny house and minimalism movements is only one part on display at the second annual Tiny House Fest.

"We said certainly we're going to look at housing and community spaces, but where do we see creativity and equity?" said Lisa Kuneman, festival co-organizer.

The festival is meant to "ignite the community in meaningful conversations about attainable housing, sustainable living and community resilience," according to a press release.

Last year saw about 5,000 attendees. With more offerings this time around, organizers hope to see that number jump.

The main event of the weekend is the Tiny House Fest Street Fest on Sunday on Flat Street in downtown Brattleboro.

Also on Sunday, The Kids' Makerspace will be held in the former Sanel building on Flat Street, with help from the River Gallery School and Oak Meadow. Children will be creating their own tiny house designs, with miniature versions to follow.

During Galley Walk in downtown Brattleboro on Friday, tiny house exhibits will be free and open to the public.

On Saturday, the Brattleboro Retreat is hosting the Tiny Houses for Change Workshop, where trainers from Equity Solutions will talk about how tiny houses and their occupants relate to American housing and the economy. The event is open to the public and has a suggested sliding-scale donation.

On the morning of Monday, Sept. 4, local house tours will be given in Brattleboro and Guilford. Maps will be handed out for finding "tiny, small and efficient dwellings." Adventure Passes can be purchased on the website for $25. Only 150 of these passes will be sold.

Erin Maile O'Keefe, festival co-organizer and head of programming, said the number of attractions has more than doubled in size since its inception last year.

"So it's just more volume and more communicating with lots of individuals, which is great," she said. "We have a lot of really thoughtful people coming to the fest and I'm excited about the conversations that will ensue."

Where last year's village of tiny houses only had 11, this year is expected to have 20. Also, more attention will be made to "creative placemaking" and "public space making," said O'Keefe.

"So much of what people are saying about living in big houses includes the experience of less connection with community and with nature," Kuneman said. "A lot of people who are downsizing are doing it to feel more connected."

That, she said, begs the question of how public spaces should be used.

"Parklets," which were recently featured in a New York Times article, will see parking spaces made into public spaces that are inspired by ideas from youth.

O'Keefe's tiny house is part of the Monday tour. It's called the Paper Boat House, on wheels and located next to their home in West Brattleboro.

"We were ready to have a well-designed efficient space that really works well with us," O'Keefe said, referring to her husband and herself. "We were also ready to downsize."

The couple hopes to move into the tiny house in the fall.

O'Keefe, who has a background in creative placemaking, saw a special potential in siting the festival on Flat Street.

"I feel like Flat Street is a wonderful resource and could use a whole lot of love, and this is a way to demonstrate how to activate that space," she said. "In addition to that, the partnerships we form throughout town demonstrate also our deep intention for mutual benefit of the town. So we really want restaurants and shops to benefit from this, and to help various non-profit organizations meet their mission."

No outside food vendors will be at the festival. Last year's event was said to bring many attendees into local establishments.

Organizers are also hoping to again see a regional crowd, with residents from nearby towns on the New Hampshire and Massachusetts border joining locals and other Vermonters.

The town's Preston Lot will be closed to parking from 7 p.m. on Saturday until 7 p.m. Sunday.

To visit the Pop-up Tiny House Village and Makerspace, an Experience Pass costs $5 for kids and $10 for adults if purchased in advance on the website. The price goes to $15 for adults on the day of the events.

For access to the two stages, where more than 50 presenters will engage in panels and discussions on Sunday, the cost of a Learn Pass is $25 in advance and $30 on the day of the event. Due to limited space, only 750 of these passes will be sold. This part of the event will be accessible for those with disabilities.

Presentations will include "Resilience and the Tiny House Movement," by Alex Wilson of Building Green; "Rebooting the Bike in Vermont: New Technologies and Designs Towards a Bicycle Transportation Revolution," by Dave Cohen of VBike; "Lower Whetstone Project: Flood Mitigation and the Development of Public Spaces," by Brattleboro Planning Director Rod Francis; "Tiny House for Change: Class Equity and the Tiny House Movement," by Angela Berkfield; "Integration: How Can Reimagining Our Housing and Public Spaces Make for a Stronger, Healthier, More Equitable Town,," by Emilie Kornheiser; "What's Old, What's New and What's Next: Vermont Housing Policy and Possibilities," by state Sen. Becca Balint, D-Windham District, along with Vermont Housing and Conservation Board Director of Policy and Special Projects Jennifer Hollar and Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development Commissioner Katie Buckley; and several more.

More information can be found at tinyhousefestvermont.com.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.

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