It took two years of preparation, two dedicated men and a shared vision for a greener planet to make Rochester’s first annual Greentopia Festival a reality.
As indicated by the name, Greentopia is a festival with a theme of environmental consciousness. Its primary goal was “that everyone in attendance leave with at least one new ‘green’ idea that you can incorporate into your daily life,” co-founders Lewis Stress and Michael Philipson said in a statement printed in the festival’s pamphlet. Greentopia also served as a fundraiser for Stress and Philipson’s other project, GardenAerial, which aims to transform the High Falls area of Rochester into a floating arboretum. By hosting Greentopia in High Falls, Stress and Philipson hoped to bring more attention to the area for this purpose.
The festival began with opening ceremonies on the Honest Tea Music Stage, which included speeches from Lewis, Stress, Monroe Community College President Ann Cress, Sen. Joseph Robach, Sen. George Maziarz and Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks. It was clear that the county and state governments were just as excited about Greentopia as the co-founders and attendees.
Soon after, bands began to play on the main Honest Tea Music Stage and in a smaller tent in the food court. The bands featured were incredibly talented and varied in genre. Many were family-friendly soft rock, such as This Life — highly reminiscent of Third Eye Blind — and Still Saffire — an all-girl band with vocals channeling the Cranberries, plus a tastefully thrown in trumpet. There was also a highly energetic Beatles cover band, Mr. Mustard, which closed out the festivities on Saturday, as well as several other local favorites such as Funknut, The Bob Squad and Shaded Passion.
In an old building overlooking the falls was Wegmans Recycled Art Exhibition, which featured local artists using recycled materials to create art with a statement. The Best in Show award was Alexis Macdonald’s “181 Days,” which consisted of 181 shelved jars full of the trash the artist would have disposed of daily. Her piece “allows the viewer to visualize their own participation in the waste crisis that we face today,” as she said in her artist’s statement. For those interested in fashion, Goodwill hosted the Extreme Fashion Show, where runway models displayed designer pieces made of recyclable materials.
Movie screenings and speakers were also abundant. In ROAR nightclub on Commercial Street, several popular sustainability-oriented films were shown, including “Everything’s Cool,” after which director Judith Helfand used Skype to answer questions from the audience about the filming process. Speakers included film directors, activists, actors, professors and businesspeople.
In addition to the variety of artistic aspects of the festival, 100 sustainable businesses and organizations from all over New York gathered to spread their environmental ways. Businesses like One World Goods and Arteco sold their recycled and fair trade jewelry and accessories from all over the globe. Companies like Beyond Green and Hip Green Pet showcased their all natural cleaning and pet products respectively. Clothing company Eagle Ray Traders featured hand-dyed Boho-style skirts and dresses, and a percentage of their profits support a school in Bali. Mooseberry Soap Co. sold their organic soaps and representatives were available to cheerfully explain how easily they are made. Alternatives for Battered Women showcased recycled lingerie made for their tenants. Several nonprofit organizations were also present, including Lollypop Farms, the American Diabetes Association, Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate New York and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc.
local or sustainable, or both. Options ranged from Snow Daze — shaved ice flavored with all-local fruit — to Flippin’ Birds, which sold freshly grilled Cornish Game Hens topped with rice. Vendors such as Abundance Cooperative Market, Noto Fruit Farm & Cider Mill, Honest Tea, Odwalla, Prairie Organic Vodka, Sammich! and Heron Hill Winery were also featured.
Greentopia made sure to appeal to every age group with a wide range of activities. The YMCA held free Family Pilates sessions for anyone to participate in.
The Kid Zone was a huge success, featuring recycled crafts, a dirt pit for “gardening,” demonstrations by Seneca Park Zoo, including live animals and grown men dressed in green fairy costumes.
While their children learned how to live sustainably on an accessible and enjoyable level, parents could enjoy a free wine tasting, where several local wineries and breweries showcased their sustainable alcoholic beverages.
In hosting the festival, the environment was always kept in mind. Every sign and banner displayed this message at the bottom: “This sign will be recycled or upcycled after use.” There were also carefully labeled waste centers, with receptacles for composting, recycling and throwing away trash. Volunteers were stationed near the waste centers to instruct festival-goers on where to put their garbage.
Overall, the Greentopia Festival was an incredibly successful event. Not only did it educate Rochester citizens about sustainable living, but it also provided a very enjoyable and affordable experience for its vendors, volunteers and attendees.
Kullman is a member of the class of 2014.