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Monday, May 24, 2010

Chicago Green Festival 2010

This Saturday I attended Chicago Green Festival at Navy Pier.  According to their website, Greenfest is like a "taking a walk through a sustainable community."  To me, it was more like taking a walk through a giant infomercial.

It was my first time attending Greenfest and I had high hopes I'd go there, learn tons of new stuff and really relish being surrounded by like-minded people.  But there were so many high-pressure vendors yelling from their booths, and worse, standing in the middle of the walkway creating a barrier so that you had to listen to their pitch before passing.  My God they were aggressive.  I hate that.  The worst one was selling some small water bottle with a filter built right into it.  This lady was hard core!  As I walked through, she stepped in front of me, blocking me in.  Then she told me the story of the bottle which included some crap about her super hero husband who I think designed the bottle.  I don't know - my eyes glazed over as soon as she started talking.  I guess it's efficient to have a filter right there in your water bottle but I know I wouldn't go to the trouble of keeping a stock of the replacement filters and besides, I was highly annoyed by her tactics.  And there were a lot of vendors just like her!  I sort of found myself peaking down the isle to see if there was any particular booth I wanted to stop at, and plotting how I'd get to them without being accosted by the vendors I wasn't interested in.  As a result, I missed a lot but I was so annoyed I didn't even care.   I wonder what they'd do if I yelled "ShamWow!" at them as soon as they started their pitch?

There were some interesting lectures at the show, but when I attend these things, I always find I'm battling between whether to sit and listen to lectures, or spend my time out on the showroom floor looking for cool booths.  No matter which I choose, I always feel like I'm missing out on something.

The parts of the festival that I did enjoy were the booths who weren't really trying to sell a product as much as teach a concept.  Like Chicago Fair Trade and One Seed Chicago.  And my group did spend a big hunk of time talking to the guy from Seed Savers.  Hearing about the history of Seed Savers as well as how they run their operation was the highlight of the day for me.  Plus, I got a free pack of Sheepnose Pimento Peppers.  Score!  And I did get 4 new plants from a cool vendor whose name escapes me.  I also ordered a t-shirt and renewed my subscription to Mother Earth News who had a very low pressure booth at the show.

I was glad to see some of my favorite vegetarian restaurants like Chicago Diner, Soul Vegetarian and Upton's Naturals serving food at Greenfest.  It was a heck of a lot better than the corn dog type food normally sold at these shows.

Even though Greenfest was different from what I expected, I enjoyed meeting up with some of my favorite twitter peeps.  Xanboni, Alexander_Roman, Copedog, Snarkyvegan, mrbrownthumb, it was great catching up with you.  Let's do it again soon!


  1. You should try the FamilyFarmed Expo next year-- they had a lot of the same vendors, without the infomercial ones (and actually, both of the lectures we went to were like that-- just 1/2 ads for the book or the product; interesting, but annoying.) What I really liked about GreenFest was how diverse the crowd was; much more so than either Family Farmed or the Garden Show.

    But as you say, the great thing about all three of these shows was getting to sit and talk to gardeners and fellow travelers.

  2. Oh dear, a bunch of high pressure salesman all in one place. That doesn't sound relaxing. The planners should try to do something about that next time.

  3. This is the first Green Fest I DID not attend. I've went to the first three. The first year by far was the best.

    I agree with Xan on the Family Farmed Expo, but also felt the first year of that in the cultural center was better and more intimate.

    The thing is the types of people we want to speak to are the most reserved and you have to pull it out of them. Sometimes the best places are farmer's markets. The Empty Bottle has some good folks, but my favorite is this little old organic farming couple at a farmer's market near me in Chesterton, IN.

  4. Just found your blog via twitter this evening, so you have a new reader. Anyway, that stinks that you had such a negative experience with the vendors at the Green Festival. I went on Sunday and no one accosted me, so I wonder if they'd changed their methods by then. Chicagoans are not big on pushy sales tactics, I've noticed. Oh, and I did attend Kevin Danaher's talk about green careers. That was definitely worthwhile.