Tucson Prepares for National Plug-In Day on October 16

By · October 07, 2011

Bob Oldfather and Nissan LEAF

Bob Oldfather, owner of Bookmans Books and a longtime supporter of electric cars, at a Tucson event for the rollout of the Nissan LEAF. Tucson's parade for National Plug In Day will begin at Bookmans’s Campbell and Grant location.

A few weeks ago, Alexandra Paul posted an article on PluginCars.com, promoting National Plug In Day on Oct. 16. The event, a cooperative effort involving Plug In America, The Electric Auto Association and The Sierra Club, will feature a series of electric car parades in more than 20 cities across the United States. What a neat idea, I thought. That’s when I innocently responded to the article, to simply ask if anybody in Tucson was working on a local effort for National Plug In Day.

It didn’t take long for an email to show up in my inbox from Paul Scott—a long-time EV advocate and a LEAF salesmen in Santa Monica—introducing me to several local EV people that I had never met. Unfortunately, the people on the list didn’t have the bandwidth to take on the Plug In Day project. So, with a bit of friendly persuasion—mostly coming from Paul—I reluctantly agreed to head up the Tucson effort, soon to be named Tucson Plugs In 2011.

One of the names on the list, Jerry Asher, was destined to become my valued assistant. Jerry, who is already connected to the diverse local population of EV owners, advised me to “put boots on the ground” and get things started. (He’s on the road, so couldn’t join in right away). We accomplished a lot via email before we ever shook hands, however, and when we finally did met in person a week or so later, the Ben & Jerry team—for EVs not ICE cream—got down to business.

I fell back on my skills earned from a broadcasting career and as a former music concert promoter: knowing how to not only structure a public event such as this, but to hype it on a grass roots level and knowing who in the media to contact to get the word out. I’m also an amateur graphic artist and knew that a poster of some sort would eventually become a valuable promotional tool. Actually, I also found it to be great therapy in the early days of this project to work through a poster design on the computer, all while silently ruminating to myself, “How the hell am I going to pull off this parade thing?”

Momentum Builds

Tucson Plug In Poster

My poster for the Tucson Plugs In 2011.

I shouldn’t have worried too much, though. I was soon pleasantly surprised to find that most local people who I talked to shared my enthusiasm for the project and many were even willing to help in some capacity or another. Even though I only had about a month to put it all together, it was going to be easier than I thought.

One key factor in making Tucson Plugs In 2011 more than “just another EV parade” was the happy coincidence that our proposed motorcade route was going to pass in very close proximity to a rather large annual street festival—Tucson Meet Yourself—which takes place on that same weekend. I got in touch with their organizers to see if they could take us under their wing. I’m happy to report that the festival’s director, Mia Hansen, went out of her way to make us feel right at home and helped put me in touch with key City of Tucson Special Events officials, whose cooperation was also critical to the planning stages.

The other major local collaborator that provided support was Bookmans Entertainment Exchange. Bob Oldfather, owner of a regional chain of used book and media retail establishments, has long championed the idea of electric cars and his contact in management, Michelle Armstrong, rolled out the proverbial red carpet for us. Bookmans, in fact, was the first to install EV charging stations in Tucson at two of their stores. So it’s quite fitting that their Campbell & Grant location will be our parade starting point.

Finally, the process of putting this event together locally has allowed me to make several new long distance friends at Plug In America and The Sierra Club. Plug In America’s web site, in fact, is THE key promotional clearinghouse for all cities involved with National Plug In Day. Please take a look at what is being planned for all these locales. If you are lucky enough to live in or near one of these cities, make sure to attend and support the National Plug In Day event on October 16th nearest to you. I’ll let you know how it turned out here in “The Old Pueblo.”

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