Sept. 2, 2013   Festival Seekers, KIRAN MALIK-KHAN

FORT MCMURRAY, AB –  Summer brings with it a bevy of community events. However, choosing a recreational event for children four years apart can sometimes be borderline challenging. What appeals to one can surely be boring for the other, and vice versa.

Fortunately, Sustainival has something for everyone, including hard-to-please teens.

The world’s first green carnival, which runs completely on waste vegetable oil – Sustainival was held in Fort McMurray over the long weekend from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.  The behemoth festival was held at MacDonald Island and became the talk of the town.

Both my 13 and nine-year-old sons couldn’t get enough of the rides, which ranged from perennial favourites like the Ferris Wheel, Motorcycle swings and Airplanes to the topsy-turvy Tilt-a-Whirl, and Zipper – both of which were new to me, and intriguing as attested by many festival-goers.

What made the event all the more remarkable was that the rides and games were run on vegetable oil, which was converted to biodiesel. About 2,500 litres of used vegetable oil was gathered from the Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre, Earls and MacDonald Island Park. The process of converting waste vegetable oil to biodiesel took place in the Flower Power mobile featuring special machinery.

Ambreen Ehtisham, a Fort McMurray resident for more than seven years enjoyed the event with her family, and likens it to the fun of the Calgary Stampede.

“Sustainival was tons of fun not only for our kids but for the whole family. We were planning to spend only a few hours there, but ended up spending the whole day – going from one ride to another, because the kids were not willing to leave.

“It was an awesome experience, and almost seemed like a mini-Stampede had arrived in Fort McMurray; and I hope they come back next year,” said Ehtisham.

It truly did feel like a big-city event. Organizers estimated 20,000 people attended the festival, peaking on Saturday with more than 12,000 attending on that day alone.

The turnout Saturday was boosted by the debut of The Green Beast eco-challenge, an Amazing-Race-styled competition at the midway, which involved 800 competitors doing their best to win one of $15,000 in prizes.

It was fun to see youth, and non-profits running around to find clues, and racing to complete the crossword puzzle vying to secure funds for their respective groups.

Organizers reported participants spent about seven hours completing the crossword puzzle for prizes; speaking of which, The Green Beast grand prize, a seven-day all-inclusive trip to Mexico won by a local couple.

The good news? We’ll see more of Sustainival. Organizers say it’ll be back next year – bigger and better. Fort McMurryites can’t wait to take in the fun once again while championing environmentally friendly efforts at the same time.

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