Mini donuts and rides are sweeter with alternative energy
Inspire. Community. Learn. Play. Goal. Accessible.
These are all common words in Joey Hundert’s lexicon. They illustrate an ideal in a rationalized mindset and became the fuel for the concept of Sustainival, the world’s first—and so far only—green carnival.
But it was two specific and unique words, without explanation of their source, that slid together like linguistic tectonic plates in Hundert’s mind and are responsible for Sustainival becoming a reality.
“Out of nowhere, sitting on the couch one day, the two words ‘biodiesel gravitron’ literally just popped into my head,” says Hundert, Sustainival’s founder who had this epiphany in 2006 and ignored it a few years until he decided it was too cool to not explore. “As I plumbed this idea, I found there was a whole carnival sitting there wanting to happen.”
Hundert didn’t set out to run a carnival, it was simply an answer that materialized after working 15 years with various sustainability ventures, and continually asking the question: “How do you inspire and educate a few hundred million people in an accessible way?”
“At some point, sustainable technology will be available and it will be people’s behaviour and patterns and fears that will be the limiting factor, not the technology,” he says.
Originally from Cherry Hill, New Jersey and raised in Ontario, Hundert’s aunt and uncle coaxed him to Edmonton to help create a wellness centre in the old Charles Camsell Hospital with his uncle’s development company. Once here, the first people he met were the folks behind the renowned North Country Fair who became fast friends and helped him set roots.
“Coming from New Jersey with no such thing as a wicked, laidback Canadian music festival, it was heaven,” says Hundert. “It had a profound impact on me. I would go on to be a part of and create hundreds of festivals from that point on, all from meeting the North Country Fair crew.”
With some borrowed capital and a solid support network, Sustainival came to life Jan. 29, 2011 at Edmonton’s well-intended, but unsuccessful Freezing Man Festival, organized by the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.
“They lost a bunch of money on the concert, but we got four rides in there running on waste vegetable oil,” says Hundert, who—with only a high school diploma—accepted a position that same year as Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School.
Hundert decided to up the ante for his next show and took 20 rides to Little Rock, Arkansas, which attracted a quarter million people. But only so much growth was sustainable as a one-man show. Back in Edmonton with Antoine Palmer the groundwork for a longterm and formalized organization was laid and Fort McMurray—Palmer’s hometown—was chosen as the community to embed in next.
“Antoine and I became fast friends finding similar life philosophies and a real thirst for the deeper mysteries,” Hundert says of Sustainival’s co-founder, who moved from Fort Mac to Whistler, then Vienna where he was a practicing monk for 10 years. “Then Florida and then back to Edmonton in 2007 where he and I met and fell into deep bromance with one another.”
One of the most important lessons Hundert and Palmer learned was that quality really did triumph over quantity. It was the biggest show with the most attractions and community partners that had the biggest and longest-lasting impacts. They scaled back from a dozen shows a year to just Fort McMurray for a couple of years where Sustainival has been completely embraced by and woven into the fabric of the community.
“We’ve helped to change the conversation around sustainability in Fort McMurray,” says Hundert, whose last Edmonton show was was in 2012 for the Fringe Festival’s 30th birthday. Sustainival used the back third of the site for almost 20 rides and a waste vegetable oil-powered dance lounge.
“Anywhere we go, we turn to dozens and dozens of community partners who are already doing cool stuff that relates to sustainability, from technology and transit to food production, and pull them into the show, give them a space, give them a way to engage the public,” says Hundert. “It takes a long time. Sustainival gets woven into a community, it doesn’t just pop up in a parking lot.”
The biggest draw at Edmonton’s Sustainival this year will be The Green Beast Challenge where “you have to ride every ride and play every game, run every physical challenge and do everything we ask you to and then complete this puzzle,” says Hundert, adding there are hundreds of prizes including an electric drift trike. “We don’t ever want it to feel like people are being educated. And we don’t want them to feel taught, too, that’s not the the point. It’s that they pick up on stuff, there’s just the right amount of ability to have a little ‘A-ha’ moment in the middle of your fun.”
Thu., June 8 – Sun., June 11
151 Karl Clark Rd NW, $30 in advance, $45 on site
Free admission to the site. Cost for rides, and some games and attractions $30 in advance or $45 on site (sustainival.com).
Servus Corporate Centre, South Edmonton Common, 151 Karl Clark Rd. (sustainival.com)
Thu. June 8 – Sun. June 11
Opens at 11 am every day and closes at 11 pm, except Sunday when it closes at 6 pm.
More than 40 classic rides from Skymaster to Scrambler, House of Mirrors to Himalaya.
Expanded midway with greasy indulgences like elephant ears and mini donuts, well-loved games—Shoot Out the Star and the Bottle Ring Toss, and street performer-style entertainment and music.
Electric drift trike race track, the Watt Hour Challenge bike race and yoga.
Green homes exhibit, green car show (Sat. and Sun. only), showcase of local environmental groups and initiatives.
Green marketplace selling environmentally friendly and creative local products.
Biodiesel and canola demo, wind turbine building, ecogadgetry, exhibits on greenhouses, conservation, geology and more.
The Green Beast Eco Challenge