"We have all the answers now in terms of technology, clean water, clean air, transportation, building, education [and] social issues," argues SolFest organizer Belle Starr. "We have those answers, and it's just a question of accessing them." It's also a matter of disseminating them to a sometimes environmentally heretical public, a task that SolFest Southwest has eagerly shouldered. Spreading the good news in the Valley this weekend are 75 workshops, several speakers, dance performances by groups including hip-hop troupe Nebellen, and musicians such as Sistah Blue, MP3 queen Emily Richards, Turning Point, and Annie Moscow.
"We are kind of a combination trade show and conference and celebration," Starr explains.
SolFest, now an annual affair in Northern California, got its start in 1996 as the event launching the world's first Solar Living Demonstration Center. This year marks SolFest Southwest's Arizona debut as an educational powerhouse for issues including renewable energy, green building and organic farming. "The event is about embracing ecological literacy," Starr says.
That translates to workshops titled "Ancient Seeds for Modern Needs" and "Rot Is Hot: Desert Composting." Though the schedule includes yoga and a Native American blessing ceremony, SolFest has a mainstream quality about it as well. "We have everything," Starr says, "from retrofitting your house for solar and energy efficiency and green building, to feng shui of interior design with an ecological perspective.
"It's going to be uplifting," she continues, "and people will walk away from the weekend thinking, 'This is not about doing without. This is about having an enriching experience on the planet.'"
SolFest Southwest takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 17, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 18, at WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 North Pima Road. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, free for children under 12, and $20 for a family of four. Call 1-928-649-8180 or visit www.solfestsouthwest.org. -- Elizabeth Exline
Train of Thought
All aboard the Artrain USA
The iron horse trampled native culture as it thundered across the land. Fitting, then, that it now carries the native perspective across America. Artrain USA makes Tempe its first stop on a four-year national tour displaying "Native Views: Influences of Modern Culture" from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday, April 17, and Sunday, April 18. The traveling exhibition presents works by more than 50 native artists. Catch Artrain USA off Mill Avenue between First and Fifth streets, parallel to Farmer Street. Admission is free, thanks to the City of Tempe and the Heard Museum. For more information, see www.artrainusa.org or call 602-251-0255. -- Kim Toms
Author makes an appearance at Changing Hands
Depending on your perspective -- or your political persuasion -- five big lies in three years might not seem like such a big deal. But if you're a Bush hater, like author Christopher Scheer, you might be asking yourself, "Only five?" A staff writer for the liberal news Web site Alternet (www.alternet.com), Scheer co-wrote The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraqwith his brother Robert and Alternet senior editor Lakshmi Chaudry. Scheer stops at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 South McClintock in Tempe, at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 15, to discuss Five Biggest Lies and sign several dozen copies. Call 480-730-0205 for details. -- Joe Watson
Cool, The Engines
Vintage automobiles take a road trip
It's a Bentley P. Diddy would die for. A 1938 model, valued at more than $1 million, is just one of 55 vintage sports, touring and racing cars set to participate in the 14th Annual Bell Lexus Copperstate 1000. The four-day, 1,000-mile event, in which drivers tour scenic northern Arizona, revs up at the Phoenix Art Museum Sunday, April 18, from 8 to 10 a.m. Spectators can view the rallye cars, as well as entries from local car clubs (on display until noon) at a free kickoff party. Phoenix resident and rallye grand marshal Lyn St. James, the second woman to race in the Indy 500, will attend. See www.copperstate1000.com. -- Susan Tully
Festival celebrates the East among us
While some think multiculturalism is dead, our global senses tell us that the planners behind the Asian Festival 2004 have done a kick-ass job of bringing the Orient to the desert. From Friday, April 16, through Sunday, April 18, the festival features some of the best ethnic cuisine -- Thai, Pakistani, Korean and Indian -- that the world's largest continent has to offer. While Chinese spring rolls and Cambodian salad are sure to please the palate, the food isn't all the festival has going for it.
A fashion show of traditional costumes and demonstrations in Mendhi, the ancient Indian art of body painting, serve as the backdrop to lessons in kung fu, tae kwon do and t'ai chi ch'uan from local masters. Dance troupes and a pounding band of Japanese taiko drums are joined by Asian songs and an orchestra. A "Children's Wonderland" of arts and crafts and Chinese calligraphy expose the kiddies to Asian culture, and an "Avenue of Cultures" allows each Asian community to showcase its own diversity.
Opening ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. at Patriots Square Park at Central and Washington; festivities run until 2 p.m. Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 602-307-0050 or visit www.aaaa-az.org. -- Joe Watson