Folks flock to winter ‘Fix-it Fair’

Many of you took our advice, and attended the last City of Portland Fix-it Fair of the season ‚Äì it was packed! But, if you didn’t go, see what you missed–and why you should plan on going next fall ‚Ķ

Lisa Peters, of the Portland Water Bureau, shows Mayor Tom Potter some of the water-saving devices being given away at the Winter Fix-it Fair.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
We don’t take sole responsibility for the crowd that descended on Madison High School on NE 82nd Ave. of Roses for the last “Fix-it Fair” of the season on January 27.

But, we met many readers at the fair. They thanked us for alerting them to this unique, free event.

“At every table here,” commented Mayor Tom Potter, “they’ve told me this is the busiest of all Fix-It Fairs to date.”

Interest in the topics presented at the event, the Mayor said, is on the rise. “I think people are looking at what they can do around their house, and in their lives, to save money and help the environment. And, some of what they learn here can even save a life.”

East Portlanders pack the halls of Madison High, learning how to reuse, recycle, save energy – and money.

“I came here for the great classes, the information they provide,” said neighbor Robert Taylor. “I can’t think of any other city that sponsors a great event like this one!”

The “burger queens” from Burgerville USA make up hot-off-the-grill lunches, served free to the hundreds of participants attending the fair.

Yup, a free lunch
We talked with Gary Walen, who with his crew from Burgerville USA, were making lunch for those at the event. “Did you know we recycle our frying fat into bio-fuel? And, we use 100% “green” wind-generated electric power for our stores.”

Potter said of the restaurant chain, “These are the kind of Portland area companies who have taken a leadership role here.”

Participant Mary Borthwick, here talking with PGE’s John Karasaki about how to insulate her pipes and lower her power bill.

Insulating to save energy
Participants could be seen carrying long, black foam tubes throughout the fair. When we met John Karasaki at the Portland General Electric booth, we found out what they were.

“These tubes are really pipe insulation,” Karasaki said. “It is the correct size to go on the pipe that runs from the water heater to the fixtures which use it. They are easy to install, and save quite a bit of energy and heat loss to the air. We at PGE care about the wise and efficient use of energy.”

Sharing with area residents about the benefits of working with their neighborhood association are Ruth Hander, Madison South Neighborhood Association chair, along with board members Dawn Tryon and Tyler Whitmire.

Neighborhood association represented
“This is a great opportunity to network with neighbors and interact with citizens,” said Dawn Tryon of the “Save Madison South” neighborhood committee.

Neighborhood associations, Tryon said, are what give a “sense of community” to residents throughout Portland. “Here, we’re working with neighbors, and businesses — especially those along 82nd Avenue — encouraging a partnership to increase the quality of life in East Portland.”

Showing a sense of humor, Andrea Lewis of the “Re-Direct Guide” gives us her best “Vanna White” impression. “This guide is important because helps individuals make immediate changes in their lives that will help the environment.”

On the way out, we speak with the show’s producer, Jill Kolek, Office of Sustainable Development, City of Portland. “We’ve had a lot of people come out, perhaps 600 in all. Started out crowded right when we opened, and people have been coming through all day.”

The Fix-it Fairs, held three times a year, are “great because the more people we can empower to save energy, help the environment, be safe and live more efficiently, the better off we all are,” Kolek told us.

Look for Fix-it Fairs next fall
While the Fix-it Fairs are over for this season, Kolek said she hopes the city will continue to sponsor the events, starting again late next fall.

We asked Mayor Potter to comment on the future of the fairs. He told us, “We expect these fairs to continue. The whole idea is to get people to get involved. We’ll eventually get to a tipping point at which more people are interested in environmental issues than those are not.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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