ODESSA — In a microbrewery tucked away into an Odessa industrial park, the organizers of Pasco EcoFest met under dimmed lights and gathered around wooden tables and barstools.
With less than three months to go until the sustainability event, organizers and volunteers met up to tweak the schedule, bring on more sponsors, raise a few extra bucks and meet with interested members of the community.
Beers in hand, twins Kira and Kasey Atkinson, the brains behind the local operation, raced around the pub welcoming visitors and pointing them in the direction of a beer sampler. Patrons could vote for their favorite craft beer with a dollar in the tip jar after trying the local flavors. The extra money will go toward the $25,000 needed to make Ecofest a resounding debt-free success.
“We’re tweaking the schedule and getting the details nailed down this month,” Kira said.
“Welcome to our exclusive brewery,” Kasey said to the small crowd gathered around the bar. Big Storm Brewing Company, at 2438 Merchant Ave., No. 103, Odessa, celebrated its one-year anniversary last month and just signed on as Pasco EcoFest’s newest sponsor and partner.
Big Storm Brewery will be the only beer vendor at the November event.
“Anything we can do that’s local, we’re all about,” said the brewery’s taproom manager, who goes by “Chief.”
Pasco EcoFest is a three-day event on Nov. 8-10 that takes place in the western part of the county. This year’s event features Pasco County’s JB Starkey Wilderness Park and Sims Park in downtown New Port Richey. It highlights the local community while providing an assortment of cultural entertainment, and sporting and educational opportunities for all ages.
The goal of Pasco EcoFest, according to its website, “is to acquaint visitors with all that West Pasco has to offer, introduce practical ways to build sustainable communities, enhance the local economy and showcase the vast natural beauty of West Central Florida’s unique ecosystem.”
“This is about pulling all the cool, local places together in Pasco and showing people what’s out here,” said Lia Gallegos. “There’s this huge urban agricultual movement with people growing their own food and selling it, and they want to make their hometown a cool place to live.”
The weekend will be packed with outdoor activities like kayaking, bird watching, native plant walks, hiking, drum circles, live music educational talks and workshops, camping, hoop and belly dancing, a geo-caching challenge, and stargazing, which drew about 1,000 last year, Kira said.
The newest addition to PEF this year is the the LocalVolks on the Lake vintage Volkswagen show and swap meet. The group is teaming up with Bug Jam, one of Pasco County’s largest and oldest events, to give VW fans an entire weekend of volksiness.
The event incorporates the Pasco GeoFest at Starkey Park. On Saturday, Pasco GeoFest Cacher Day will be headquartered at the shelter in the tent camping area in the campground. Participate in a Morning Cache Hunt or Excalibur Orienteering Challenge in the afternoon, and on Sunday, a Family Day will be held at Pavilion A, next to the children’s playground for games, a potluck, a kid’s geocache hunt, the Design-A-Cache Challenge and Create-A-Cache Workshop.
PEF is looking for more local sponsors and vendors, as well as artists for the new “Change of Art” art show.
Kira said the volunteer team is also partnering with Colorado-based “ZeroHero,” an organization that works with local companies to create zero waste events. After all, Kira said, you can’t tout an event as green without following through on it.
The organizers plan a once or twice-monthly meet-up leading up to the event for organizers to wind down with a beer in hand and new friends nearby. They hope members of the community join them to lend their ideas and suggestions.
Most EcoFest activities are free. For more information, including a complete schedule of activities and future meet-ups, visit http://www.pascoecofest.com.