My Excellent E-Town Experience

Last week I was fortunate to spend two days at e-Town,

“an intensive two-day Edmonton festival of ideas for entrepreneurial-minded people who get excited by innovation, change and disrupting common thought.”

from the e-town website

I first read about it in August. It sounded really interesting and I wanted to take part. Instead of attending as a participant, I choose to volunteer which allowed me to participate in the event, help out, and see the behind the scenes story of what it takes to pull everything together. It was very well organized.

Connecting with Commander Hadfield, right here in E-Town

My astronaut hero, Chris Hadfield, provided the opening keynote address on Thursday evening, and with a little creative scheduling of my chauffeur duties I was able to attend about half of his presentation.
Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 7.55.56 PM
The venue was great. @CmdrHadfield spoke in a small hall at the Shaw Conference Centre.

He was on a simple stage backed by several adjoining screens. The images on the three right-hand screens had a background that rotated and looked like the view from the orbiting space station. Other screens changed to emphasize what he was talking about. Those at the bottom displayed images of equipment (Star Trek style) that pulled the whole set together.

Cmdr Hadfield & The Great Lakes
Cmdr Hadfield & The Great Lakes

He talked about his favourite place to take photos onboard the International Space Station and how the travel speed of the space station made setting up photos hard. He shared several photos he took from space, some of which which I originally saw in his tweets.

He detailed his trip to the International Space Station with astronauts from the Russian Space Program, his experiences in space, and his return to earth. He also talked about the effect that his fame had on popularizing science and the work that NASA and the Canadian Space Agency are doing. Students and teachers around the world are talking about science and art because of his open learning practices.

I need to talk to him about a business idea – weightless sleep pods. His description of how well he slept in space when strapped into his sleeping bag sold me.

Fantastic Barenaked Ladies Concert

When I returned to eTown after driving my daughters to their evening activities, the Food Truck Festival was underway. There was an interesting and diverse crowd and the moon was rising over the North Saskatchewan River. People were eating, drinking and networking. There was a fly-over by a UFO, or at least a very cool remote control aircraft.

Food Truck Festival at Moon Rise
Food Truck Festival at Moon Rise
UFO Fly By
UFO Fly By

My volunteer duties weren’t very difficult. When the concert was about to start we ushered the crowd from the deck back inside. We answered questions. And at the end of the evening, we helped move signs around and get set up for tomorrow. The stilt walkers had left but Nicolai stopped juggling and picked up his whips to help us move the crowd along.

Nicolai helps move the crowd along
Nicolai helps move the crowd along

The Barenaked Ladies concert was in a small, intimate venue with round candle-lit tables and enough room to dance or stand and watch the ladies perform. I had a spot up front, to the right of the stage that had a great view.

The Barenaked Ladies
The Barenaked Ladies

The performance was great, with the crowd singing along to most of the songs, dancing and taking photos and videos. The highlight for me was when Chris Hadfield joined them on stage to perform the ISS Is Someone Singing with the Barenaked Ladies. After they sang (with a lot of help from the audience) Ed Roberts told us that it was the first time they had performed the song for a live audience. The last time it was performed Chris Hadfield was still on the space station. Christopher Nash has a video of them performing together on his blog.

Chris Hadfield and The Barenaked Ladies
Chris Hadfield and The Barenaked Ladies

What a fantastic night, Chris Hadfield and The Barenaked Ladies. And that wasn’t all that was going on at e-Town, it’s just the ones I attended. Nichola Dorherty shared this great synopisis of all of Thursday’s e-Town events in this Storifify.

The Fun Continued on Friday

On Friday there were more keynote speakers, salons, breakout rooms, and much more networking. My favourite salon was the official E-Town Lemonade Stand staffed by local elementary student entrepreneurs.

Photo by Joveena Holmes
Photo by Joveena Holmes

Nichola Doherty’s compilation of the tweets from the second day show the vibe of the event.

I listened to a die hard hockey fan Guy Kawasaki’s 10+ Rules for Innovation, although I got a little distracted mid-talk because I started to live tweet Guy’s insights and forgot that I was in the middle of a game of Zombies vs Twitter so I spent a few minutes dodging zombies.

I did a shift at the registration desk, checking in delegates and answering questions. I sold CDs for Martin Kerr while he entertained the crowd.

The final keynote address was by creativity expert David Usher, who in addition to being a famous musician is a creativity consultant for Cirque de Soleil. He sang, and talked, and even posed for a photo with an enthusiastic audience member in the front row.

I loved his ideas about innovation and pushing the envelope. Near the end of the talk he jammed with the heartbeat of an audience member as precussion. It was haunting, check out EmmaBrook9’s video.

It was a fantastic experience. All around me I saw people making connections, and talking about ideas. I listened to some great talks, and music and met some great music.

My new friend Paula Assence enjoyed the whole event, but her favourite part was meeting both The Barenaked Ladies and David Usher.

Paula Assence and David Usher
Paula Assence and David Usher

The first ever e-Town Festival was a huge success. I can’t wait for next September 11-13, and the next iteration.

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