Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fostering Festival Entrepreneurship

Reinventing an event, if possible at all, begins with retracing its roots.

If a community is as inventive and creative as Durham, North Carolina there behind layers and layers of subsequent producers and volunteers, you usually find someone such as Katherine O’Brien as one of the original pioneers.

She’s a good part of the energy behind the emergence and success of Durham’s two newest, indigenous and organic events, The Beaver Queen Pageant and Marry Durham when she isn’t applying her creative energies as a gaming entrepreneur or specialist for geographic information systems.

Katherine is the epitome of the people who creative-class-author Peter Kazgeyama labels as co-creators.  They are the people who “produce the interesting, the memorable, the unique, the fun and lovable aspects of our community.”

I know Katherine, aka “Caferine de Nerve” from my former life as a community/destination marketing executive (DMOs.)  Anyone in that field who is serious about drilling down to the essence and soul of a community, if it still has one, needs to find the Katherine O’Briens’ who live there.

Embracing indigenous events should be a no-brainer for DMO executives anywhere but the highest form of flattery anyone in that field can receive is to be embraced by indigenous events as my successor in Durham was this summer as the “dishonorable” judge Chief Beaver Believer” for The Beaver Queen Pageant to benefit the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association.

Showcasing mainstream events gets a community on a list with hundreds of other communities.  But showcasing indigenous and organic events sets a community apart, drawing interest for a far broader audience of potential visitors including those who will ultimately attend mainstream events there.

It is indigenous and organic events that give a community credibility.

As Bob Lefsetz recently blogged, people in the creative industries seem to have lost their sense of innovation.  Some places such as Durham, with innovation and creativity in their DNAs, are naturally appealing to entrepreneurs of all kinds including festival start-ups and need only to look to their own Katherine O’Briens’ for inspiration.

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