Tiny House Fest built in Brattleboro


BRATTLEBORO — Tiny House Fest Vermont started as a simple musing about the future.

"I was thinking about trying to find ways to be creative about the prospects of retirement," said Lisa Kuneman, festival co-organizer. "The tiny house festival represents an opportunity to have a conversation about housing that people want to be having that's not happening anywhere else. When you're talking about houses, attainability may or may not be part of the conversation. When you talk about affordable housing, people think poverty. But there's a whole range of people in between that don't feel there's a conversation happening about housing and trying to make a life. It's exciting. It feels like it's happening."

Flat Street will be closed to traffic on Sunday, Sept. 4., from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. as it will be turned into a Tiny House village, according to a press release. New designs from Tiny House Crafters and Jamaica Cottage Shop – a transformed school bus and modular homes – will be on display. Speakers are lined up throughout the day.

More information can be found at indiegogo.com/projects/tiny-house-fest-vermont# and facebook.com/tinyhousefestvermont. The first site features crowdfunding donation options in $20 to $30 amounts that come with perks. Several workshops occurring throughout the week of the event require monetary contributions but the festival on Flat Street is free.

Kuneman had been talking with Erin Maile O'Keefe, another festival co-organizer, about the feasibility of living in a tiny house. O'Keefe has gone to workshops and is building her own. Both women have backgrounds in facilitation and creative placemaking.

"We were just talking and thought, 'Let's make this festival.' Because there's just so much to talk about, so much to understand," said Kuneman. "It's one thing to have a tiny house. It's one thing to navigate where to put that and know what the possibilities are."

Betsy Hall also helped with organizing the festival. She's a development assistant at the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust. The event is separate from that organization.

The three women started booking speakers. And people "got right on board," said Kuneman.

"We had interest from all kinds of people looking at different angles of sustainable living and possibility in the future," she said.

Brattleboro Planning Director Rod Francis will discuss zoning around the tiny house movement. Solar technology and trailers specifically made for tiny houses will be showcased. Tiny house builders and writers, Ethan Waldman and Lina Menard, are coming. The festival also will feature representatives from Rich Earth Institute and Building Green Panel. And a video from the Green Economy Innovation Hub will be shown at the Latchis Theatre.

LineSync Architecture, of Wilmington, will debut its Wheel Pad at the festival. It's billed as an "eco-friendly 200-square-foot accessible bedroom and bathroom module that can be temporarily attached to an existing home."

Yellow Barn, an international center for chamber music based in Putney, is bringing out its Music Haul. Think "music venue on wheels," stated a press release.

Kuneman said a group between the ages of 18 and 65 has been coming to the Facebook page dedicated to the festival.

"It's a pretty big spread," she said. "The housing needs conversation is meant to reflect the range of visits we have."

The goal is to get 400 attendees. A grant from the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance helped make the event happen.

In an effort to support downtown businesses, there will be no outside food vendors.

"Restaurants downtown are making special menus for that day. We're really excited about featuring Brattleboro," said Kuneman. "People can come. There are activities that don't require a pass. Vendors don't require a pass. The passes get people into an express line to get inside tiny houses and under the tent for the speakers and panels."

An hour at the end of the talks will be dedicated to "community space," where people can weigh in on what they heard. Also, there's a dance party from 8 to 10 p.m.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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