Sunshine sustains annual festival of music, food and vendors

Sam Norton

A&E Editor


Since its discovery in 770,000 B.C., when humans in modern day Israel learned how to make fire, energy has become an integral part of our survival.

But when scientists discovered in the 1980s that burning fossil fuels is having a catastrophic effect on global climate change, they searched for a solution: solar energy, according to

Per square meter, the earth receives about 1,366 watts of direct solar radiation, and it has been estimated that the total surface area required to power the world with solar energy is only around 366,375 square kilometers, according to

Emily Fedorko / Photo Editor Berkelee-based band Midnight Snack plays at this year’s Keene State College Solar Festival. Their new album, The Explorist debuts on May 2, 2013.

And now Keene State College is doing their part to raise awareness about the environment through events put on by the Campus Ecology Club. On Saturday, April 27 the club hosted this year’s Solar Festival on Oya Hill. This year the annual solar-powered music, art and education festival was co-sponsored by the Sustainable Product Design Innovation Club.

This year, Sunweaver provided the solar power needed to sustain the festival via a 1971 Ford School Bus equipped with 800-watt solar array, 60-kwh battery bank and a pair of 2,500-watt inverters, according to the company’s website.

Taylor Mauck, president of Sunweaver, states on the company’s website that, “Efficient use of energy is an admirable goal, but what does it gain if the electricity is used to perform a task that can just as easily be accomplished without electricity? Why design an award winning energy efficient solar home of 2,000 square feet [or often, much larger] when most of the world’s peoples live successfully in spaces of 1,000 square feet or much less? In our examination of the way we relate to and use energy, we need to reevaluate our society.”

Emily Fedorko / Photo Editor  Top: Courtney Thorpe accompanies Brian Casey and his band Snails for Ruben in this year’s Solar Fest.

Through this sustainable energy, Sunweaver was able to power a festival that featured five headline bands: Powerloaf, The Calerpittars, Midnight Snack, The Jauntee and Rubblebucket, and four “tweeners”: Snails for Ruben, The Dragons, More Mammals and speaker Karen Seaver.

According to Molly Alderman-Person, public relations for Campus Ecology, the club started planning this music festival back in November with a budget of $13,000.

“We looked at the bands we have had for other fests like Harvest Fest and picked the ones that people enjoyed the most. We talked to a lot of the e-board members about who they wanted to see,” Alderman-Person said.

As a result, bands such as Midnight Snack, who performed at the fall 2012 Harvest Fest, and Rubblebucket, who performed at the 2011 Solar Fest were able to take the stage yet again at KSC.

Jack Johnson, vocals, piano; Mike Johnson, guitar; Peter Brownlee, bass; Brad Bahner, drums; Zack Kardon, guitar; Brian Phillips, trumpet, vocals; Zoe Gelinas, vocals, glockenspiel; and Devin D’Amato, saxophone vocals, of Midnight Snack, who has their first album, The Explorist, debuting on May 2, formed at Berklee College of Music. At this year’s Solar Fest, the band performed songs from their new album in addition to covers of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s “Home” and “Waiting in Vain” by Bob Marley.

Jack Johnson described the band’s music as “psychedelic rock mixed with reggae.”

However, when it comes to creating their music and writing lyrics, Johnson described it as a collaborative process. Johnson said he develops the raw structure of a song and will pitch it to the band, who as a group will develop the music that will showcase the lyrics.

Along with music, vendors share their products with students and attendees.

But Solar Fest was not just a chance for headliner bands to perform, but it was also an opportunity for local musicians to debut their music.

Headliner bands such as The Calerpittars, featuring Dan Kuhn, Andrew Reynolds, Joey Mintel and Sean St. Germain; and Powerloaf featuring Dave Pastore, Nick Votruba and Jeff Hall also played at this year’s festival.

Alderman-Person said that the best part of Solar Festival is the sense of community it builds among the college students.

“Everyone comes here, and they all sit and dance together, and there’s a bunch of different activities; it’s really nice to see everyone on campus coming here and hanging out,” she said.

However, this festival was not only a chance for local bands and headline bands to perform; rather, it was also an opportunity for local organizations and KSC clubs to showcase their work. This year, organizations and businesses such as The Eye of Henna, Strangers Helping Strangers, the KSC Fair Trade Club and The Pulsera Project were some of the vendors present at this year’s show.

Donald Pearson, of Strangers Helping Strangers, said that the organization, which has been around since 1995 will be donating all of the canned goods they collect to the Keene Community Kitchen.

Since 2009, Strangers Helping Strangers has been collecting canned goods at KSC’s Solar Festival.  In the spring of 2009, Pearson said that Strangers Helping Strangers collected a total of 200 pounds worth of food to donate.

“It [Solar Festival] brings an opportunity to get involved, and it gives us an opportunity to network a lot,” Pearson said. In addition to the vendors and musicians that were present at this year’s festival, KSC’s Sustainable Product Design Innovation (SPDI) Club helped Campus Ecology plan the event.

Curtis Butler said that in efforts to revamp the image of the SPDI Club, he wanted to get involved with Solar Fest as a way to show the public how to look at future technologies.

The Calerpittars perform at Solar Festival on Saturday, April 27.

In order to do this, Butler said he developed the idea of showcasing six hybrid cars, all of which are from local car dealerships, during the festival to show college students the multiple ways in which we can contribute to sustainability.

And Campus Ecology has shown that all it takes is a little bit of sunshine and energy to make steps towards a more sustainable future.

Sam Norton can be contacted at


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