ConserFest continues its mission for 2020
The Block Island Times sat down — figuratively — with ConserFest co-founder Cameron Greenlee to talk about how the event will take place this year, given the current restrictions on gatherings and events. Greenlee gave us the scoop on what will happen when ConserFest kicks off on Sunday, Aug. 2:
Q: Tell us a little bit about how ConserFest came together this year? It’ll be a virtual event, so obviously, this year had challenges unlike any other.
CG: After Covid hit, the ConserFest Board began to speculate that the live event was probably not going to be an option. At that point we had two choices: Either cancel the event all together — or put on a virtual event. The board meets once per month all year-round with sub-committees of board members meeting once or twice per month to complete various tasks. We always meet virtually using apps. These apps keep us connected for meetings as well as communicating the nitty gritty in between meetings.
Once we decided that the event would be virtual, there were many decisions to be made. Livestream or recorded? What platform do we use? After a lot of research we decided on using an upgraded version of YouTube. We had to get up to speed on all the tech that goes with putting on a virtual event. (We are still doing that!)
We also began researching how to set up an online store so we can sell our merchandise.
Q: How long does it take to put the event together, and how many people participate?
CG: That depends, and this year has obviously been quite different. During a normal year, we host around 20 to 30 different performers. In 2019, which was one of our biggest turnouts, we counted approximately 500 fest attendees at one point.
This year we hope to have as many as 30 performances for our virtual festival. However, predicting attendance will be very much a wild card.
Q: ConserFest has been around for more than a decade. Can you tell us how or if the ways in which the environment can or should be protected on Block Island have changed in that time?
CG: Things have changed. Concerns for the environment have shifted — worsened in some cases, and improved in others. That seems to be the way of things — change being the ever constant. Here on Block Island though, we have a unique opportunity to continue to promote positive change as stewards of the conservation movement. What seems to be an issue now more than ever is the island’s use and allocation of resources, especially during the busy tourist season. How local businesses are run and the sustainability implemented are all very real concerns for the local community.
Q: What do you see will be the challenges for Block Island in the decade looking ahead?
CG: As available land becomes more scarce to potential home-owners, there will be more concern than ever for how the island continues to be protected, yet still available to everyone that wants to experience its beauty and charm. Also, a founding principle behind ConserFest has always been that we as a local community continue to support each other — as neighbors, as business owners, and as stewards of the island.
Q: Tell us about the programs and organizations that ConserFest has supported over the years. How much do you think you’ve raised since you started?
CG: ConserFest has been very fortunate to take part in a number of important fundraising efforts since its inception in 2007. The acquisitions of the Mitchell Farm and Solviken Property are some of the prime examples of those efforts. ConserFest was proud to be a part of the effort to fight the Champlin’s Marina expansion. The Block Island School scholarship fund has also been a really crucial part of the festival’s recent efforts.
Q: What would you say to young people in terms of how they can relate to the environment and what it means not just for their future, but also how it intersects with their own lives?
CG: This island is so important to so many people — younger and older generations alike. There is a massively positive energy abounding right now amongst the younger gens, and I think it’s realistic to say that we are going to see a lot more young folks taking up the mantle of conservation, environmental awareness, and real community growth. It’s easy enough to remind the younger folks that, without these efforts, much of what they hold dear about Block Island and beyond can easily be taken away.
Q: Tell us about the acts that will be performing this year. How did you round them up?
CG: One of the main topics that came up this year was related to how hard Covid has impacted full-time, touring musicians. Many of our past headliners are national acts that whose touring livelihoods came to a screeching halt. ConserFest has always been about “music on a mission” to bring people of all ages together to learn about conservation and how they can “embrace” their respective “place.” All of our artists have been very generous with their time to support our cause. This year, we wanted to acknowledge that ConserFest would not exist without our artists.
We contacted all of our past artists to ask if they would send in a video for the Virtual Event. The outpouring of support has been forthcoming and some of the bands even waived their stipend in addition to lending their time and talent.
Every year, ConserFest allocates funds from the event to support specific campaigns. This year, one of our campaigns is an artist fund that is available to musicians who have lost income due to Covid. We let all of our past artists know that they may apply to the fund. The fund is open to past ConserFest artists, local Block Island and Rhode Island artists who have lost their income due to Covid.
Q: How can people tune into Conserfest this year?
CG: Simply go to our website: ConserFest.Org
Q: When do you start working on ConserFest 2021?
CG: As soon as the 2020 event is over! Tune-in Sunday, Aug. 2 and Embrace Your Place!