ST. GEORGE — Utah had its own Nomadland Saturday at Washington County Legacy Park.
Van Fest USA held Southern Utah’s first “Van Life” festival all day and into the night, hosting so-called nomads who live in their vehicles.
Much attention has been given to the lifestyle after the film “Nomadland” won the Academy Award for Best Picture on April 25.
The festival brought nomads of all kinds from across the country to the fairgrounds. Visitors toured well over 100 custom vans and buses that have been converted into residences.
Billed as a “Parade of Homes for Van Life,” the festival featured workshops from industry professionals, influencer meetups, a live concert, food trucks and vendors.
As previously reported in St. George News, most often these nomads choose to live in their vehicles rather than get forced into it by dire circumstances.
Many of them raise their families in vehicles as well.
Jeff Bertucci and his wife Shannon raise their children Izzy, Giovanni, Luciano and Ariana in a 1997 Bluebird Flatnose bus. The vehicle is 30 feet in length with 200 square feet of living space. They’ve been living full-time in it as a family for the last two years.
“My wife and I have always wanted to travel,” Bertucci said. “It is a blast! It is so much fun to be able to go wherever we want to travel and have our home with us.”
He added that being able to work remotely allows them to enjoy a nomadic life.
The Bertucci children learn lessons and gain perspectives they would never get a chance to experience in a more sedentary lifestyle.
“They learn about the world,” Bertucci said. “The things they have seen so far in their short lives compared to what I saw can’t even compare. Different people do things different ways, and they learn to do it successfully.”
Life on the road requires one critical skill.
“We adapt, often,” Bertucci said. “And we just always make it work.”
David Clausen and his wife are so-called Nomadland surveyors. They do a couple of surveying and mapmaking jobs per year and that enables them to live in a custom Chevy van.
“This was my grandfather’s van, and when he passed on my grandmother said I have to have it,” Clausen said.
While the pandemic forced many people into homelessness, it also created a whole new world for people who want to experience the freedom to move around.
“More and more these days, you see people are able to work at home and I think the pandemic opened that situation,” Clausen said. “Whether a remote office or a mobile office, people are figuring out ways to live in their vehicles.”
Walking through the festival on Saturday, there were almost as many dogs as there were people.
“I think dogs like being nomads too,” Bertucci said.
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