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New World F.E.S.T. - NOT  

As of September 1, 2011, ALL 1,875 retail establishments are prohibited from providing light-weight, single-use plastic carryout bags to customers at the point of sale. MORE

By Melonie Magruder
Lookout Staff

October 11, 2011 -- The New World F.E.S.T., scheduled for this last weekend, had been billed as a “Festival of Eco-friendly Science & Technology” that embraced “Cool Science, a Smart Future and the Greening of the Planet.”

The vibe, however, was not so sustainable. Festival activities were shut down mid-day Saturday and completely cancelled for Sunday, a result festival organizer Howard Mauskopf attributed to poor attendance, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

The eco-friendly festival had promised environmental speakers, film screenings, cutting-edge science exhibits – including ecology-minded robots, organic food vendors, kiddie activities and live music from some three dozen performing groups. The weather couldn’t have been more inviting on the beach – sunny and temperate.

The crowds just didn’t show up.

Paul Scott, founder of Plug-In America and a local proponent of electric vehicles, was on hand along with Morgan Wyenn, a project attorney for the National Resources Defense Council. Scott said that “perhaps three” festival attendees showed up for his scheduled lecture.

“I ended up chatting with the lady from the NRDC, but no one was there to listen, let alone take part in any kind of Q and A,” Scott said. “I don’t know why no one showed up. The weather was perfect. I felt bad for the vendors.”

In fact, many vendors were alarmed at being left with printed “food tickets” customers had purchased on site, rather than actual cash for the products they sold on Friday and Saturday, according to the Times.

Bird Pick Tea was one of the vendors startled at the abrupt closure of the festival on Saturday. Owner Lan Ong said that she was hoping to introduce her shop, newly opened at Santa Monica Place, to locals at the festival.

“My manager, who was manning the booth, called me mid-day Saturday and told me festival organizers said they had to shut down right then,” Ong said. “We were really disappointed. This festival seemed like it would attract exactly the kind of customer we want to reach.”

Ong said she wasn’t sure if or how much she would be reimbursed for
participation fees from the festival organizers.

That the festival saw such an anticlimactic end was puzzling to city officials as well.

Andrew Basmajian, communications coordinator for the Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment, said “multiple problems” contributed to the abrupt closure on Saturday.

“Basically, everything (festival organizer) Howard assumed would happen this weekend didn’t happen,” Basmajian said. “It’s true, the festival was re-scheduled from its original planned weekend last summer. But Santa Monica usually really supports this kind of thing. Could it be the religious holiday? Maybe.”

Sunday evening marked the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the year for Jewish people. Normally, observant Jews fast, refrain from work, and spend the entire day in prayer services.

Basmajian noted that vendors on Saturday were just trying to “cut their losses” as it became evident that attendance was not going to pick up.

According to the Times, vendor Kate Tevebaugh of Santa Monica described the event as “a complete disaster.”

Calls and emails to the Festival office and to Mauskopf’s office at Live Media Events Inc were not returned.

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