Environment at root of folk fest mission

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Bloomington resident Ryan Zaricki brought his Tesla Model 3 to show to members of the public during this year's 9th annual Ferdinand Folk Fest Saturday afternoon at 18th Street Park. Zaricki talked with visitors about the electric car and answered any questions. "Elon Musk made electric cars cool," Zaricki said. For more photos from the fest, click here.


FERDINAND — From John Denver’s song “Rocky Mountain High” to Pete Seeger’s album “God Bless the Grass,” folk musicians have long evoked environmentalist messages in their music.

It’s only fitting, then, that at the weekend’s ninth-annual Ferdinand Folk Festival, organizers made a concentrated effort to bring in environmentally-minded speakers and educational vendors who spread messages about protecting the Earth for the next generation.

It’s a unique part of the festival, and co-founder Rock Emmert said it has been that way since the first Folk Fest in 2010. He hopes it’s a small step to getting people to think more about the environment and the ways their actions impact it.

“Folk music’s always been grounded in social justice issues,” Emmert said. “And the environmental issues are totally rooted in equality.”

Educational groups and speakers set up tents just a stone’s throw away from the event’s main stage and struck up conversations with interested passerby throughout the day. The vendors discussed the effects of a proposed coal-to-diesel plant for Dale — a move that Emmert said would do further damage to the area’s environment — as well as climate change, recycling, solar and reusable forms of energy and more.

One of the flashier stops in the vendor area was manned by Ryan Zaricki of Bloomington. He ventured down to the fest in his electric-powered Tesla Model 3 — which is one of only 200,000 Tesla cars currently driving on roads — and allowed festgoers to hop inside and ask questions.

Doris Oeding of St. Anthony fills up her water bottle at the Dubois County Solid Waste District tent during the 9th annual Ferdinand Folk Fest Saturday afternoon at 18th Street Park. Dubois County Solid Waste District used jugs of water and reusable water bottles to encourage residents to use those as an alternative to single use plastic bottles. For more photos from the fest, click here.

He started driving it in May after waiting more than two years post-down payment to receive the car, which has an average driving range north of 300 miles on one battery charge.

The studly vehicle bucks the notion that electric cars are wimpy. It can bolt from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds. Zaricki said it’s the car of the future.

He has attended every Folk Fest, and in the past, he used a truck from his solar energy business, Whole Sun Designs, to supply power to the festival’s second stage. He said he purchased the Tesla — which had a price tag of about $60,000 — because of the autopilot features that aid with highway driving and the eventual self-driving mode that will be activated by the company in the future.

“With the solar business, I’m definitely involved in technology of the future,” Zaricki said. “It’s just a natural progression of what I’m already doing to invest in electric cars and the full self-driving capability.”

He’s also excited about the possibility of running his house’s electricity off of the car’s lithium ion battery — which spans nearly the entire underbelly of the car.

More than anyone else, kids seemed to be the most excited to gawk at the sweet ride and hop behind the wheel, even if they weren’t old enough to drive. Emmert said the fest is for them.

“It’s all about the music,” Emmert said of the fest. “And it’s all about the art, and it’s all about the families and children. But at the heart of all that is, what kind of a world are we leaving our kids?”

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