They started meeting seven months ago, starting with bi-weekly meetings and then weekly meetings for the two months leading up to the event. Not including individual meetings as well. Literally, 100+ hours of intense brainstorming, planning, stress and exhaustion.
This isn’t the first time, either. This is Fargo’s sixth TEDx event. It continues to get bigger every year, spanning from a few hundred attendees to over 1,800 current sign ups this year. Besides the 30 planners, countless more get involved as speakers, vendors, volunteers, and entertainment.
Why, year after year, do people sacrifice for this event? Why does it matter?
Matt Gantz, a past TEDxFargo attendee and Concordia alumni ’14, sees value in the identity events like this bring to a community.
“Communities need to be known by the things that happen within them,” he said. “Although TED events are by no means unique to the Fargo area, the members of Fargo who build this day of events make it memorable.”
He shares a similar sentiment with Cathryn Erble, a three time past TEDxFargo attendee and a co-organizer of the 2014 TEDxYouth event. Greater than the event itself, she says, is the eye-opening experience that comes from engaging with passionate people.
“I always come away with a greater appreciation for the Fargo community as a whole,” she said. “I think any time people can come together and think critically about their community, and incubate new ideas, it’s beneficial.”
This year Annika Nynas, a past TEDxFargo organizer and events planner extraordinaire for Emerging Prairie, took on a new role as Director of Events. Here in the office she’s known for holding high standards for events without compromise. For TEDxFargo she has shown no different. We’ve watched as she put in extra hours, from brainstorming ideas for adventures, to managing conflicts, to writing newsletters. Right now, she’s managing a whole fleet of volunteers as they transform the Fargo Civic Center.
Her motivation? Learning.
“Learning invigorates my brain,” she said. “For me personally, I get really energized learning new things. But I think it’s so important for us as a city to be learning.”
It’s hard to educate an entire city; but events like TEDxFargo bring the city together to do just that, Nynas said.
“It really encourages critical thinking and creative thinking,” she said. “It encourages people to take the reigns on leading the best life they possibly can.”
Backpedal a bit to the first TEDxFargo three years ago, and the scene in Fargo-Moorhead was much different than today. There was no Emerging Prairie. There was no 1 Million Cups. There was only inklings of the booming startup scene that has since landed North Dakota coverage in publications like Bloomberg News and Delta Sky Magazine.
In that way, TEDxFargo truly is more than an event. For this city, Nynas said, it has served as a catalyst, a turning point that began to bring Fargo to life.
“It re-ignited the potential that Fargo has, that the individuals in our city have,” Nynas said. “It takes all these brilliant ideas from around the globe, and brings them to our city. It creates this really cool tie between us, and something larger than us.”
For Gantz, who has since moved from Fargo to take a job in Minneapolis, these events are what he remembers. They are what give Fargo a name.
“This is what community members will remember and talk about,” he said. “For some who move out of the area, these events are ones they brag about in their new communities.”
These events, Fargo, are something we can be proud of.
Photos courtesy of J. Alan Paul Photography.