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The Anti-McMansion 

click to enlarge The Big Blue Model from Liberation Tiny Homes will be featured at the Tiny House & Green Living Freedom Fest in New Paltz.
  • The Big Blue Model from Liberation Tiny Homes will be featured at the Tiny House & Green Living Freedom Fest in New Paltz.

In a world that proclaims that bigger is usually better, there is a growing number of people choosing cramped quarters and adventure over the suburbs and a mortgage. At around one-sixth the size of a typical home, tiny homes are taking the world—and cable TV—by storm. The structures might be small, but the Tiny House movement is not.

The Ulster County Fairgrounds in New Paltz will be the temporary home for tiny homes, campers, and the green-minded curious masses for the Fourth of July weekend. The Tiny House & Green Living Freedom Fest takes place Friday, June 30 through Sunday, July 2, and includes speakers, live music, food trucks, kid activities, and tiny house vendors.

Event Organizer Jake DiBari, who worked in the solar industry for a decade, came up with the idea after working on projects for remote and mobile tiny homes. "The idea was to create a festival that celebrates sustainable, tiny, and green living," Dibari says.

Event coordinators looked for places to host the event everywhere between Rochester, Albany, and New York City before settling on New Paltz. "It's such a progressive community that values sustainable living," he says. "It's a very eco-conscious place and we thought the event would thrive there." Along with the shared environmental values, DeBari felt the Ulster County Fairgrounds were the aesthetic ideal. "It's a big open space with beautiful views of the Shawangunks, and amazing facilities and electricity," he says. "We couldn't ask for anything better."

Speakers—which include regular guests on HGTV and the DIY channel—will be giving talks on Saturday and Sunday on a solar-powered stage. The topics will range from code and zoning issues, minimalistic living, sustainable gardening and growing, and everything "Tiny Living" in between.

One of the speakers at the event is Mandy Lea, a freelance landscape photographer who travels full-time in her tiny teardrop trailer. When the daily grind of her "life in the city became too much, she decided to launch Mandy Lea Photo and give into her perpetual wanderlust. "Eventually I decided to stop bottling up the nagging desire in my gut to 'escape,' and chose to make myself happy," Lea says. "I took my passion and career to the road."

Lea says that any hardships you experience while living tiny are far outweighed by the pros that come with simplifying your lifestyle. "When you get rid of your belongings and keep only those things that matter most to you, you begin to focus only on those things that matter in your life," she says. "You stop wasting brain power on frivolous efforts. You focus on building relationships with people that matter to you and, in my case, building a relationship with myself."

Though DiBari knows the lifestyle is not for everyone, he believes people are attracted to tiny houses because they realize they don't have to live beyond their means. "They would rather use their hard earned money to travel and have experiences rather than being tied down to a $3,000-a-month mortgage," he says.

Along with having fun, DiBari hopes those who come to the festival will find other people who have common interests to collaborate with. Not only can they share their love of sustainable, tiny living but they could potentially create something new for themselves or the Hudson Valley. "Just about anything can happen when you get friendly, eco-conscious people in a room together," he says. "I'm really excited to see what comes of it."

The Tiny House & Green Living Freedom Fest features free activities on Friday, June 30; ticketed events on Saturday, July 1 and Sunday, July 2.

—Carolyn Quimby

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