The Tiny House Festival – A HUGE Success!

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July 26, 2016 by Laura

By Rebecca Cook

We all know tiny houses are hot, but on a recent Saturday in Concord they were scorching. And yes, it was one of the dog days of summer, but this event didn’t need the sun to sizzle.

The Umbrella and Miranda’s Hearth held the 2nd Big Tiny House Festival on July 16th. The Umbrella staff estimate that three thousand people attended this swirling, multi-layered, hours-long extravaganza.

The event took off like a rocket at the noon start time, with hundreds of people already thronging the front lawn of The Umbrella, and the pace continued for the full six hours of the festival. Throughout the day, long lines of people were eager to tour the tiny houses on display.

“It’s a very diverse group that are drawn to Tiny Houses,” said Miranda Aisling, the organizer of the event and The Umbrella’s Studio Arts Coordinator/Office Manager. 

The crowd was a mix of all ages, with sartorial styles ranging from bohemian to preppy, sporting more hats per capita than have been seen in Concord since the days of our original Tiny Houser, Henry David Thoreau. The sun may have made people reach for their hats, but it didn’t keep them from spending hours at the festival, touring the six tiny houses, and soaking up the knowledge of the experts, who shared their insights in the “Building Tiny” and “Living Tiny” panel discussions, moderated by Aisling.

“I wanted my life to be simple, and it wasn’t” said panelist Tracey Powell, articulating her reason for designing and living in her own tiny house. When asked what advice she would give others considering going tiny, she said, “Set your goals and find out what is your end goal. There are lots of affordable ways to live.” 
 
And lots of reasons for living in a tiny house. Listening to the panelists who came to the tiny house movement for a variety of reasons, it became clear that tiny houses often express the values of their owners. Financial independence, environmental concerns, and freedom from material constraints were all cited as motivations for going tiny. And while tiny houses have their compact size in common, they can be vehicles for surprisingly different modes of living, even when they’re not literally a vehicle at all. 
 
Most tiny houses are mounted on trailers, but they can be built on foundations where zoning laws allow. Living tiny can be done in petite apartment dwellings, as in the case of panelist Felice Cohen, the author of 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (...or more). “There are two aspects to living tiny,” said Cohen. “One of those is the size of the space. And the other is how you live with your stuff. It’s our stuff that really can keep us from doing what we want to do.”

The panelists addressed a number of practical considerations faced by tiny house dwellers. “Every town has different zoning,” cautioned Ethan Waldman, author of Tiny House Decisions and Tiny House Parking. “Finding a building site is less of a challenge than living in the house,” he advised. Deciding where to locate their home is one more way in which the owners express their individuality. Jana Lembke, who blogs about her tiny house at rosehomeblog.wordpress.com, is building on a family member’s property, while Tracey Powell’s home is ensconced in an RV park that allows tiny houses.

The audience hung on the experts’ words, and when the panels ended, things got even livelier, with a lineup of musicians entertaining the crowd, including those still waiting patiently to tour the tiny houses. A couple of food trucks made sure no one went hungry, and an array of vendors and information booths added even more value to the full afternoon.

Interest in The Umbrella’s tiny house events has grown exponentially. Attendance this year was up an estimated fifty percent from the first Tiny House Festival, in September 2014. No matter the stage of a person’s interest in tiny houses, from the merely curious to the deeply committed, The Umbrella’s 2nd Big Tiny House Festival had a lot to offer.

A lot to see. A lot to think about. And not so tiny at all.