By Andrew Bates, Today staff 

In its second year, a sustainability festival wants to put Fort McMurray through its paces.

Organizers announced Monday that the second-annual Sustainival will take place at MacDonald Island Park August 30-September 2. The festival presents a carnival midway fueled by turning waste vegetable oil into biodiesel. This year it will also use the carnival for a physical challenge it hopes will motivate people to both compete and learn a thing or two.

“We arrange it into a giant course, almost as if you were standing on a board game,” said Joey Hundert, founder of Sustainival. “You have to hit every ride, every game, every physical challenge. Conquer them all, and tucked into each one is a clue.”

The clues will allow participants to solve a puzzle called the Green Beast. Solve the Beast, Hundert says, and you will be entered to win grand prizes like mountain bikes, scooters, activewear and environmentally-focused merchandise, as well as a secret grand prize announced closer to the event.

Hundert says that last year’s edition of the Sustainival was a success, but expects the Green Beast, which will only take place on the Saturday of the event, to be the most effective at communicating the sustainable goals of the festival.

“When they come to the midway, they can read signs, they can talk to our staff and volunteers,” Hundert said. “(But) we wanted to put people through a multi-layered story and have them go through an adventure.”

The event, which Hundert said has been planned over two years with consultation from race and competition experts, is also expected to be a challenge. Participants can collect pledges for local non-profits before attending.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever ridden 25 carnival rides back to back, but it takes something,” Hundert said. “It’s not like rolling out of bed, there’s endurance involved.”

The press conference Monday featured a scooter race through an inflatable track pitting Mayor Melissa Blake and Kevin Scoble, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s environmental services director, against local area kids from the Justin Slade Youth Foundation.

“That race was one of the most challenging I’ve been in in a while,” Blake said. “I lacked balance in every respect, as suspected. I didn’t hurt anyone so that’s a good sign.”

Blake said the festival furthered the municipality’s goals of being a leader for sustainability in the north because it helped to raise awareness of the steps it’s taking.

“It’s a great enhancement to communication the regional municipality would like to reach every citizen … In ways that we couldn’t hope to achieve otherwise,” Blake said. “People who will go to carnivals and participate in fun events like the Green Beast wouldn’t necessarily come to our open houses and hear about the plans that we’ve got in place.”

Nexen and Suncor announced $30,000 each in sponsorship, and the festival has partnered with public and Catholic school boards to canvas students to participate in the Green Beast. (Blake says she will be getting her children to participate in the event in her stead, as Councilor Christine Burton did for the press conference.)

“The bottom line is, it’s just going to be a lot of fun,” Blake said. “People are going to come not for the education, or for the sustainability so much as they’re going to come for fun.”

Does the event actually make sustainability cool? “Yeah, I guess so,” said Jurnee Bird, 16, with a shrug. Bird was one of the volunteers in the scooter race from the Justin Slade foundation. “The games seem fun. I actually want to go into it, because there’s prizes.”

Non-profits in town can contact the festival to be added to the list of possible donors participants can collect pledges for, and participants can register at cf0.eef.myftpupload.com.

andrew.bates@sunmedia.ca

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