Renewable energy expo this weekend

Marianne Gillespie and Dianne Colwell

There is help for those energy problems that seem to suck the money from the wallet.

The first Central Illinois Renewable Energy Expo is coming to town, ideally situated in the middle of eight to 10 Central Illinois counties at Three Sisters Park, Saturday Sunday.

Rich Draeger announced this special program designed to educate and entertain families about opportunities for renewable energy at a news conference at the park March 11.

Draeger credited Gary Sutton, expo coordinator and member of the Peoria County 4-H and Extension Foundation, with the promotion to partner with various energy-related businesses and civic groups to join together for this event.

Sutton and Gene Pratt, marketing director for the park, have planned a two-day opportunity to bring exhibitors with first-hand knowledge and demonstrations in wind and solar power, geo-thermal, fuel cells, electric hybrid vehicles and vehicles that run on E-85.

“Every time you turn on your radio or TV, you hear something about energy consumption,” said Sutton.

“Many, if not all of us, would like to know more about how to save money on heating, fuel, electricity and so on, so we thought the expo would be a great opportunity.”

Pratt said the expo offers residents a chance to get more acquainted with products available to them.

For example, he said, some residents may be interested in solar panels, which are not like their grandfather’s years ago.

Some residents may be interested in putting wind turbines on their home to save money on utilities. Another invention is a solar-powered water heater, in which a panel on the roof of a home helps heat a resident’s water supply.

Roger Larson, of the University of Illinois Extension service and a Three Sisters Park advisory board member, said his association’s mission is to know how to work with partners as needed and demonstrating renewable energy opportunities.

TRICON, Better Built and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Peoria County 4H and Extension Foundation are title sponsors.

Exhibitors scheduled to date include: American Lung Association, Midwest Green Energy, Bradley University Student Environmental Coalition, Peoria County Recycling, Nation Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Trillium Dell Timberworks, GM and Better Built/Tricon.

The energy expo will have exhibits inside and outside, as well as half-hour presentations each day on renewable energy topics.

Saturday’s presentations include information about renewable energy, energy efficiency, green restoration, composting, infrared thermography and more.

Additionally, Jerry Price, chief mechanic and driver with the McKone-Price Racing Team, will talk about The Great Race 2008: New York to Paris and answer questions at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Dr. Rich McKone, who has an office in Chillicothe, has partnered with Price, of Plymouth, Wis., to convert a 1967 Aston Martin DB6.

The British sports car, also featured in James Bond’s “Goldfinger,” can run on five different types of fuel.

The car will be on display both days.

Other vehicles will also be on display, including GM’s line of hybrid vehicles, in conjunction with Riverside Chevy-Olds.

Also to give a presentation is the city’s consultant, Tom Tincher, about the Illinois River from 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is $5 per day, with kids 12 and under free. Saturday hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Concessions will be available.

Sutton said he was pleased with the early support and interest for the event, which was patterned after an event in Oregon, Ill.

The goal, he said, is to have 3,000 people attend the first-year event, and then make it annual.

The event is hosted by the Peoria County 4-H & Extension Foundation and Three Sisters Park.

For more information, visit the Web site, contact Pratt at 274-8837, or Sutton at 282-4839.

Optimists’ Kite Day

Children may learn about wind power as they have the opportunity to fly a kite on the Chillicothe Optimist Club’s special Kite Day Saturday in the vast area at the park. Hot air balloon rides are available about 1 p.m. for a fee.

Entries for the coloring contest for children may be picked up at the Town Gallery; however, most will be distributed through area schools’ Friday folders.