Bill Fleming builds community through Get Off the Grid Fest

Bill Fleming
OFF-GRID GURU: Bill Fleming's conviction that off-grid living is a community effort led him to establish the Get Off the Grid Fest in 2017. Photo by Tom Harper Photography, courtesy of Fleming

When Bill Fleming and his wife, Jacquelyn Howard, built their off-grid house in Appalachian north Georgia, they learned two things. First, the high interest many rural residents shared in living off the grid wasn’t matched by the available technology in the region; second, no one gets off the grid alone. “Getting off the grid is a community effort,” he says.

With the launch of the three-day Get Off the Grid Fest in August 2017 – coinciding with a total solar eclipse – in Blairsville, Ga., Fleming sought to foster that community by linking people with off-grid interest to people with know-how. The second biennial GOTG Fest, Aug. 9-11, moves northeast to Warren Wilson College’s 16-acre Big Berea Pasture.

Panel discussions, presentations and workshops will explore not only the energy aspects of off-grid living, but also independence in food and health. In addition, three stages will spotlight an eclectic lineup of performers such as Rising Appalachia, Strung Like a Horse and Sol Driven Train.

“Culture is the closest to my heart,” says Fleming, who plays steel guitar. “The best way to build the culture of a community is through music and dance, and we have an incredibly strong line-up. It’s an empowering and joyful event.”

Editor’s note: As part of our monthlong celebration of this region’s commitment to sustainable ways of living and working in community, Xpress is highlighting some of those who are making a difference by taking action on a variety of creative and inspiring initiatives.


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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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