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The Rochester ShareFest: Swaps, Workshops, Hugs and a Little Rain

A three-day showcase of Rochester, New York’s sharing economy, the Rochester ShareFest that took place May 2-4, included swaps, repair cafes, upcycled art, music lessons, seed sharing, food, bike repair and even a thunderstorm which cut the activities a bit short.

Organized by RocShare, an organization founded by M. Andre Primus with a mission of “aiding and abetting the sharing economy revolution in the Flower City,” the ShareFest spanned numerous locations and organizations across the city, demonstrating the breadth, depth and interconnectedness of the sharing movement.

Even hugs were part of the Rochester ShareFest!

When all was said and done, nearly 200 people participated and countless more heard about, and were turned onto, the growing Rochester sharing movement. Here’s a day-by-day breakdown of the ShareFest activities:

Day One

  • Cooperative Living in the City, a presentation by the Little Flower Community, Rochester Public Library - Lyell Branch
  • Learn to make homemade music on the Appalachian dulcimer, Rochester Public Library - Charlotte Branch
  • Seed sharing, Phillis Wheatley Community Library
  • Bike repair and sewing machine repair clinic, Rochester Public Library - Lincoln Branch
  • Potluck hosted by Ecohouse, a student cooperative
  • Seed sharing, Rochester Public Library - Arnett Branch
  • ShareFest event with artist Steve Durpey, Rochester Brainery
  • Friday Night Drop It Or Swap It, A.K.A. Take My Stuff So I Don’t Have to Throw it Out!, Rochester Greenovation and Rochester Burners

Local organizations showed up to connect with the public and each other.

Day Two
This event was a Washington Square Park gathering where people learned about Rochester's sharing economy and met the people and organizations involved. Activities included free hugs, collaborative and upcycled art, swapping, and more. Organizers encouraged people to get proactively involved. Promotional materials read, “If you really want to get into the sharing spirit, bring some gifts that you can give or barter with other people! Your gift can be anything from index cards with your favorite recipes, to cherry tomatoes you grew, to your ukulele playing, to hugs or high fives! Just keep it small enough to carry around, and be creative! If you just bring the gift of showing up, that’s okay too!”

Free music lessons kept the ShareFest grooving.

Day Three
ShareFest Conference: This was a chance to meet the local sharing economy activists working to help people spend less, create more, and share what they have. The event was featured presentations, breakout discussion groups and a potluck. Among the organizations presenting were Little Flower Community, R Community Bikes, Ecohouse, Lots of Food, In The City Off The Grid, Greenovation and branches of the public library. The stated aim of the conference was “to introduce the city's sharing organizations to each other and to advertize the sharing economy to the city.”

The bike repair contingent gets a beach cruiser prepped for the road.

Some of the responsibilities and challenges that Primus faced were designing fliers, writing a blog post on how to throw a sharing event, getting city approval, working out how many tables and tents were needed, and “innumerable other things.” Primus and his fiancé were the core organizers and much of it he took care of himself. He addressed the shortage of human power by encouraging groups to organize their own smaller events which left less for him to do and more for participants to experience.

One of the areas Primus is going to work on for next year is funding. Shareable paid for banners which are being upcycled into bags and wallets by EvenOdd but he paid the city fees and for much of the printing himself.

For those planning similar events, Primus stresses that advertising is key. He also advises maximizing face-to-face interactions in the planning process and to get a team together early.

To keep the sharing momentum going, RocShare is holding a Really Really Free Market later this summer with some of the same organizations that participated in the ShareFest. They’re also organizing a weekly Meetup to continue the conversations.

Looking back, Primus deems the ShareFest a positive experience for the community and the organizations involved and he’s already thinking about next year’s ShareFest.

“Every single organization involved thanked me for organizing the event and expressed a desire to be involved with more RocShare events and next year's ShareFest,” he says. “I count that as a success.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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