Celebrations of Conservation

Tucson definitely has a lot of sun—but we don't have a whole lot of water, a resource that's seemingly getting scarcer each day.

So ... how do we take full advantage of the sun, while treating water like the precious, scarce resource it is?

This weekend is the time to find out—when two different but complementary events, Solar Rock and the Water Project, will converge.

Solar Rock is a 100 percent solar-powered outdoor festival aimed at educating the public about renewable energy, climate change and sustainability—all while making that education process fun. The event, at Himmel Park, will feature live music; speeches and presentations by scientists and local leaders; food; kids' activities; and educational booths. Everything will be powered by an onsite trailer, provided by local solar-power company GeoInnovation, outfitted with solar panels, battery packs and inverters.

Musicians playing at the festival are slated to include Drama Club; singer-songwriter Leila Lopez; bluegrass band Run Boy Run; children's singer Bruce Phillips; high-energy world-beat group Spirit Familia; and the winner of this year's Arizona Daily Star Battle of the Bands, Soñar.

The theme of Solar Rock this year (its fourth) is the goal of making Tucson a national player in the solar-power game, economically and politically—"promoting Tucson as the solar city in America," as event organizer Torey Ligon puts it. City Councilman Rodney Glassman and Bookmans founder and CEO Bob Oldfather will speak about investing in Tucson as a solar capital, while Brooklyn Pizza owner Tony Vaccaro will talk about the economic gains his restaurant has achieved since installing solar panels—not just through electricity-bill savings, but also through increased popularity with customers.

"Here in Tucson," says Ligon, "it's in all of our interests to embrace solar energy as the way forward. My hope is that every year, this event encourages more people to put solar on their houses, and that business owners understand solar is not just the environmental thing to do, but something that can be a positive thing for them financially."

Past Solar Rock attendees can again experience some favorite activities: a "free meet" where people can trade household items, hands-on science experiments and demonstrations by the Physics Factory, and even valet bike parking. A new feature will be the Speakers' Corner, a booth with a lineup of speakers talking about solar energy.

Another new feature of Solar Rock will be participation by the folks at the Water Project, the weekend's other big conservation event. Over three days, the Water Project will promote conservation and responsible development with businesses, city and county agencies, organizations and individuals.

The Water Project will kick off Friday evening at the Screening Room with a string of water-themed films by local filmmakers—nine very short pieces, plus one 90-minute documentary, Blue Gold: World Water Wars.

On Saturday, the Water Project will be at Solar Rock with vendors and volunteers; folks from the project will also give a short movement-theater performance, with puppets, at 12:20 p.m. At 12:30 p.m., a film program for kids and adults called "Messages of Water" will take place at the Himmel Park Library.

According to Water Project director Jodi Netzer, the festival's "big day" will be Sunday, starting with a cross-cultural interfaith water ritual at Sabino Canyon, made up of songs and reflections addressing water's intrinsic value. After lunch, the festival will move to the Armory Park Center for an "enviro-vendor fair" featuring conservation-related vendors and booths, a movement-theater workshop led by Netzer, and a panel discussion on water-policy issues. The event will also include a roundtable brainstorming session with 10 different water experts.

The Water Project will wind down with an after-party at Armory Park Center with food, live music and dancing—followed by an "after-after party" at People's Imports.

Netzer hopes the event, like Solar Rock, will be equal parts education and entertainment.

"The growing reality is that there's not enough water to sustain the population," she says. "This is an opportunity to get engaged with water issues ... so people have the opportunity to not just be bystanders—and to have fun."

Solar Rock takes place from noon to 6 p.m., Saturday, March 27, at Himmel Park, 1000 N. Tucson Blvd.; visit solarrock.wordpress.com for more information. The Water Project is a three-day event at various locations; a complete schedule can be found at www.waterprojectfestival.org. Both events are free.

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