Vermont Business Magazine Tiny House Fest Vermont 2019 is rolling up the highway from Southern Vermont to the Mad River Valley, home of co-presenter Yestermorrow Design/Build School. The weekend of October 26–27, 2019 will kick off with a local tour of tiny houses on Saturday. On Sunday, exhibitions and presentations will occupy the buildings and grounds of Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vermont.
The yearly Fest serves up opportunities to explore creative housing solutions, and how we live in relationship to community and the environment. This year’s presentations will continue to hone the Fest’s focus on what the festival’s presenters call “enoughness”—minimalist design, craft and technology—as well as maker skills, shared spaces and policy. Cofounder Erin O’Keefe explains, “When we choose to build small, the process requires deep thought into what is most essential and precious to us and our family. We can be conscious about what we will not compromise.”
With its roots in Brattleboro, Tiny House Fest Vermont has been a gathering since 2016 not only for people who are focused on living in smaller spaces, but also for makers, innovators, builders, designers, researchers, and policy makers. To date, the Fest has drawn up to 8,000 people to downtown Brattleboro to view houses on site, see presentations and exhibitions, have a speed review of their own designs, create in a kids’ maker space, and attend a tour of small and tiny houses in Windham County.
The move to Warren is motivated by a presenting partnership with Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, VT, established in time for last year’s. Yestermorrow Director, Charlotte Potter describes The Mad River Valley Area as home to an eclectic community of architects, makers and adventurers. “For almost 40 years Yestermorrow has helped empower individuals to build objects, homes and habitats that reflect their ideas and values. The festival is a fabulous tool to help the school expand this conversation to the greater region with an invitation to tour the area and experience its creative history.”
The first year, Tiny House Fest Vermont was to be a small event in downtown Brattleboro, organized by friends to highlight the local community of innovators. The response from presenters was enthusiastic, and thousands of inquisitive and motivated people showed up to get answers to questions and find like-minded others. According to Fest co-founder, Lisa Kuneman, “The nearby food coop cafe turned into an ad hoc meeting space for people from Massachusetts who wanted to talk about creating a tiny house community of their own.”
Each year, the range of tiny house demos on site has grown to include demos of a range of approaches to building tiny, from the high-performance Vermod to the romance of a vardo—a model of mobile living space originally fashioned to be drawn by horse. The number of presentation stages has grown from one to three, organized by theme: technology and innovation, community connection, and personal stories. In year two, representatives of Yestermorrow Design Build School arrived to present, and left with a plan to co-present the Fest the following year.
Yestermorrow presented the nation’s first Tiny House Fair in 2013, and it has pioneered coursework for the layperson since 1980 at its campus facility in Waitsfield, VT, more recently throughout New England. The school launched a Tiny House Design/ Build Certificate Program last year that filled up almost as soon as it was announced.
Kuneman points out, “We’ve focused the Fest on creative solutions that serve a broader range of housing needs than those offered by the traditional market. Attendance has gone through the roof—showing that interest is massive.” Over time, interest in creating smaller living spaces is leading citizens to conversations about housing needs and community values as they encounter zoning rules and state regulations that define the legal limits of building practices. The housing crunch, and interest in environmental impact has resulted in review of local zoning rules in some places.
Attendees, exhibitors, vendors, and sponsors can learn more about the fest by visiting the Tiny House Fest Vermont website at tinyhousefestvermont.com for an overview of what to expect.