Coachella Preview: Global Inheritance Puts Senior Citizens on Reengineered Golf Carts as Part of Earth-Conscious Programming

By Alesandra Dubin April 13, 2009, 5:23 PM EDT

Global Inheritance will race reengineered golf carts on the Empire Polo Field grounds during the Coachella festival.

Photo: Todd Doherty

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is an event known for continual reinvention. To that end, Global Inheritance, the nonprofit that comes up with and executes Coachella's environmentally friendly programs, has a few new tricks up its sleeve for this year's festival, which kicks off Friday at the Empire Polo Field in Indio.

The “18 & Up” program (which makes a play off the 18 holes on a golf course) brings together engineers and artists to reeningeer and decorate golf carts to use wind, solar, ethanol, and biodiesel instead of standard fuel as a means of educating concertgoers about alternative energy sources. Artists will decorate the carts with themes built around festival artists such as M.I.A., Franz Ferdinand, and Amy Winehouse, whose presence was announced, and then not surprisingly to anyone familiar with her track record, later stricken from the festival lineup. Every morning before the festival grounds open, Global Inheritance will host races in the carts, creating something of a spectacle. ”We're going to have senior citizens driving around in the carts playing a round of golf,” said Global Inheritance executive director Eric Ritz. ”We thought [about doing the stunt with] either celebrities or senior citizens, and we thought seniors were a lot less [attitude] to deal with and a lot more fun.”

This year—furthering the golf theme—Global Inheritance's returning “Energy Factory" interactive exhibit will include a setup where guests can pedal bikes to power TVs and a DVD player showing Caddy Shack; for every 15 minutes they power, guests will be eligible for a raffle ticket for a chance to win a golf cart.

Global Inheritance's 10-for-one program, which invites guests to exchange 10 empty water bottles for one full bottle, will be back. The “Trashed” recycling program, which invites artists to design colorful recycling bins, will also be back for its sixth year at Coachella.

The bins and bikes will be on site at the polo field through Goldenvoice's Stagecoach country music festival, which takes place the following weekend. But it's the Coachella festival-goers who are really responsive to the programs, Ritz said: “The Stagecoach crowd is not that excited about free water. At Stagecoach, people have been working their asses off [at work] and they're there to have fun and relax in lawn chairs. Whereas Coachella is more like a scene—they're much more involved with the music, art. It's a great chance to hit people who are interested.”

Global Inheritance began loading in on Friday, about a week ahead of the festival, and estimates it will use more than 100 people, most of whom are volunteers. “There are maybe a handful of people we're paying—everybody doing the golf carts and recycling is doing it for free. Everybody's making a sacrifice. We're definitely not making money on it—we're doing this because it's always a great way to start the summer and it allows us to really do some cool things. It's a labor of love for everybody. We have some people who take their vacation days to build stuff on site. People enjoy it, [even though] it's tough—it's not a cake walk, it's not for the weak. The people who are doing it [just] for tickets usually decide it's not worth it after one year.”

As for the specifics of the financial arrangement with Goldenvoice, Ritz said, “Our budgets always vary. To be honest with you, we asked for an amount and [Goldenvoice was] fine with it. One year, after the festival wrapped, they gave us an additional [sum], because the festival did well. They're really great about taking care of us. Our plan now is [to] work smarter, don't be greedy.”

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