NEW PALTZ, N.Y. >> Upwards of 20,000 people are expected to check out 30 different tiny homes at the first annual Tiny House and Green Living Freedom Fest at the Ulster County Fairgrounds.
“We want to shine a growing light on this growing (trend) with an event based on renewable energy and simple living,” Jake DiBari, the event’s promoter, said. “People will be able to go in the tiny houses and meet builders.”
DiBari said so far they’ve sold approximately 5,000 tickets for the festival that features tiny homes ranging from structures that are shaped like traditional homes, but are small enough to be towed like a trailer, to teardrop and airstream trailers converted into homes.
Among the most unique homes are three “schoolies,” a term used by tiny house aficionados to define homes fashioned from second-hand school buses, DiBari said.
“A lot people will rescue one from a junk yard, or buy them off Craigslist,” DiBari said. “They’re able to leave their mark on it create something new.”
The festival kicks off with a night of free activities sponsored by the town of New Paltz that includes performances by Upstate Rubdown from 5 to 7 p.m.; Soul Purpose from 7 to 8:30 p.m., A 30-minute fireworks show at 8:30 p.m., and another set by Soul Purpose from 9 to 11 p.m..
Food trucks will be on hand, and a Saratoga-Springs based firm named Beerstream, will be selling craft beer and wine out of an airstream trailer.
Saturday and Sunday are paid admission days, which feature tours of the tiny homes along with several speakers brought in from all over the country, including experts on living in tiny spaces and renewable energy, DiBari said.
Both days are headlined by DYI Channel star and Hudson Valley resident, Jay Gruen, and HGTV’s Deek Diedricksen of Massachusetts, DiBari said.
“They’ll be speaking on both Saturday and Sunday giving different talks,” DiBari said.
Saturday’s programs include Ashley Fazio’s “Embracing Minimalism” at 10 a.m.; Bill Rockhill’s “Tiny House Building 101” at 11:30 p.m.; Sabastian Interlandi’s presentation on small-scale farm living in the United States at 1:30 p.m.; and Felice Cohen’s “How to Live Large in Any Size” at 3:30 p.m.
Gruen takes the stage at 4:30 p.m. for a one-hour talk on tiny homesteads followed by a question-and-answer session at 4:30 p.m. Diedricksen will present “Building and Design with Salvage n’ Originality” at 5:30 p.m. in the workshop barn.
On Sunday, Diedricksen will host “Tiny House Building – No Rules!” at 12:30 p.m., also in the workshop barn.
An American Sign Language interpreter will be available for talks on the main stage featuring Kari Cooper at 1:30 p.m., Bill Rockhill at 2:30 p.m. and Felice Cohen at 3:30 p.m.
Gruen will give another talk and question-and-answer session on tiny homesteads at 4:30 p.m.
DiBari shared a long list of the strangest things he’s seen turned into tiny houses, including subway cars and airplane fuselages.
“There’s some wild stuff, people have been really creative,” DiBari said. “Not everyone just wants that wooden box with a shingled roof.
“They can show their creativity.”
A tiny house’s modest size makes it easier for someone to build out their dreams, DiBari said. Most people can’t build a 2,500 two-level home on their own, but a house that’s 8 feet by 24 feet is much more attainable, DiBari said.
DiBari works in the solar energy business, and he got into tiny homes when he started installing panels on them along with trailers and RVs,
DiBari said the tiny home movement got started about 10 years ago.
The movement has been driven in large part by trends going on among millenials and baby boomers, DiBari said.
“Young people want to live … free and travel more, and lead a more untethered life,” DiBari said. “Baby boomers are downsizing like crazy.
“These two (demographics) are driving this for now, and we see it continuing for the foreseeable future.”
The movement became more mainstream in the last three or four years with the arrival of tiny house TV shows like “Unplugged” on DIY Channel and HGTV’s “Tiny House Hunters,” DiBari said.
“People are realizing they don’t just need so much stuff to be happy,” DiBari said. “We live in a world where people can stay connected with friends over social media.
“A lot of folks people have a desire to travel, lead a more simple existence.”
While DiBari doubted if more than one percent of the visitors to this weekend’s festival will ever choose to live in a tiny house, he believes they can still learn from this unique lifestyle.
“People that don’t ultimately live in a tiny home get value from the message of our speakers,” DiBari said. “Some of the do-it-yourself building techniques that they’ll learn, the focus on reusing materials instead of pitching them into a landfill.
“People will be able to take a lot away from it in various ways.”
DiBari said he built his own tiny house in Central New York, which he rents out on Airbnb.
“You’re starting to see more and more vacation rental sites with tiny houses,” DiBari said.
DiBari said he looked at sites from New York City to Rochester to host the festival, but he just kept coming back to the Hudson Valley.
“We chose the Hudson Valley, because of a push towards renewable energy and alternate transportation,” DiBari said. “We met with zero resistance from local government, they’ve been tremendous partners in this effort.