FAIRBANKS — It’s fair season. For most people that means fried cheese curds and Ferris wheels, but for Bernie Karl, owner of Chena Hot Springs and K&K Recycling, Inc, it means geothermal energy and alternate fuels. Those topics and more will be up for discussion at the sixth annual Chena Renewable Energy Fair, taking place Sunday at Chena Hot Springs Resort.
For Karl, the big idea behind the fair, which is free to the public, is knowledge.
“Knowledge isn’t any good if it isn’t shared,” Karl said. To aid in the sharing, the fair will have workshops, with subjects ranging from home hydroponics to an electric car “how-to,” as well as demonstrations, such as a 1925 Ford Model-T that has been converted to run on wood gas. Because nobody learns well on an empty stomach, there will be free hot dogs, lemonade and Hot Licks ice cream, as well as live music for most of the day. There also will be a variety of events geared for kids, including hands-on activities and a petting zoo.
Last year’s fair had an attendance of 1,725 people, according to Karl.
The listed main event of the fair will be a series of keynote speeches, from a list that Karl described as a “who’s who.” The list of speakers includes Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Lt. Gov, Mead Treadwell, who is replacing the advertised Gov. Sean Parnell. Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon said the senator will update attendees on where Congress stands on the idea of geothermal energy and how funding for such projects may have to come from eliminating redundant energy programs.
Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins and Fairbanks Mayor Jerry Cleworth also were listed as speaking but neither were going to make the event. Both men praised Karl, however. Cleworth called him a “local treasure” for his ideas and efforts in recycling and sustainability.
“We should all thank Bernie Karl for the incredible work he’s doing,” Hopkins said.
Other featured speakers include Roy McAlister, president of the American Hydrogen Association; JoAnn Milliken, Department of Energy Geothermal Program Director; and Gov. Benigno Fitial, of the Northern Marianas Islands, a U.S. protectorate. Karl said Fitial could relate to Alaska when it comes to energy cost woes.
“He has all the problems we have, only it’s hot over there instead of cold,” Karl said.
For those whom fuel costs are a serious concern, a free shuttle van will be transporting people to and from the event. The van will stop at the UAF Nenana bus shelter and Tanana Valley Fairgrounds at 8:15 a.m. and 8:25 a.m., respectively. The shuttle will depart the Chena Hot Springs Resort back for Fairbanks about 6 p.m. People needing a ride can call 451-8104, ext. 7 by no later than Saturday.