Event Preview: TEDxFargo 2017, What Are You For?

by on Jul 17, 2017

EVENT PHOTOS BY J. Alan Paul Photography

As one of the biggest TEDx events in the country, TEDxFargo has continued to impress and inspire people of all kinds, and you won’t want to miss it. We talked to Annie Wood, TEDxFargo co-organizer and Emerging Prairie’s director of community programs, about the importance of the event to the community and what attendees can expect. We also had the chance to chat with two of this year’s scheduled speakers about their upcoming talks and ideas.

Thursday, July 27
9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Fargo Civic Center
207 4th St. N, Fargo

Get your tickets today at tedxfargo.com or visit facebook.com/TEDxFargo for more information on surrounding events and activities.

Since 1984, TED has been sweeping the nation and bringing people together to share ideas worth spreading. For those unfamiliar, TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas and inspiring. Aside from the popular TED Talks videos, it is most well known for TEDx events–local, self-organized events that bring people together to talk about a variety of topics, problems and passions.

TedxFargo 2015

In 2012, Greg Tehven, co-founder of Emerging Prairie, brought the first TEDx event to Fargo with a total attendance of 100 people. Co-organizer and Emerging Prairie’s director of community programs Annie Wood stated that this year, they’re planning to have about 2,000 people in the Civic Center for the event.

“Last year we had right around that same number so we’re starting to think that’s just about the right size for that event. There will also be 150 people who are volunteering the day of, so TEDxFargo continues to be an event where a lot of people in our community pitch in to make sure it happens. That’s something that we continue to be grateful for,” said Wood.


This year’s theme focuses on the word “for” and asking the question, “What are you for?” Wood said, “In a world where so many people are against this or anti-that, we want to try and be solutions-oriented, so we’re asking that question and thought about speakers who could bring a new possibility to our community and who can help solve a challenge or problem in the region.”

At this year’s event, there will be 20 to 25 speakers ranging with 75 percent coming from all over the country and the rest coming from right here in the community. But these aren’t just any speakers–they’re all individuals who were chosen based on this year’s theme and what the event is trying to accomplish in the community.


“There’s a group I like to call the brain trust, and they really came together and said, “Hey, what are some of those things that we want to see in our community? What are some of the challenges that we want to try and help solve?” said Wood. “Something that we really worked toward this year was thinking about diversity–finding leaders and experts in their fields who are also people of diverse backgrounds.”

An Inspirational Experience

“We will also have some fun surprises in the Civic Center. We’ll continue to focus on that attendee experience,” said Wood.

TedX Fargo 2014 presenter

It’s safe to say that TEDxFargo has become known for it’s incredible production quality (thanks to Livewire Entertainment) with almost a festival-like vibe inside the transformed Civic Center. In addition to the annual outdoor local lunch, a new feature that will be taking place this year is a pop-up bookstore hosted by Zandbroz Variety. TEDxFargo has partnered with the local business to go through every single past and current speaker of the event to curate a collection of books or pieces tied to each speaker.

Putting Ideas Into Action

Another unique aspect of this event is that it goes beyond a day’s worth of inspirational speakers. Wood explained that there will be numerous community events, workshops and adventures happening the week of the event to help the community discover. Viewing parties of the talks post-event are also being organized in order to hopefully keep the momentum going with activating certain ideas. Wood also explained that they will be holding a regional workshop after the event to help other communities build and grow their own TEDx events.

tedx 2017 Fargo

“Each of our speakers will likely do one or two events in the community during the week of TEDxFargo,” said Wood. “A lot of our speakers are really willing to give their time to push their idea forward and further into the community and by doing those events, we really hope to create champions in the community who can be those people that step up to the plate to take action.

tedx 2017 Fargo

“TEDxFargo has a goal of being the TEDx event in the world that is best known for activating the ideas in our community. We’re really trying to be intentional about the ‘and then what?’ part by giving people some pathways and opportunities to help put ideas into action,” said Wood. “Between the events happening the week of and then building these tribes around these ideas afterward, we can do more in that arena.”

tedx 2017 Fargo

Wood stated that Fargo falls into the “community lovers” category of TED events. That means that this event is put on in order to help drive the community forward, and that they think about what is right for it. The number of ways for attendees to be involved with this theme is truly extensive, and one can only discover the impactful possibilities that TEDxFargo holds simply by attending.

Chef Gavin Kaysen

TEDxFargo Speaker Preview

Chef Gavin Kaysen gravitates most toward traditional Heartland dishes—the kind he grew up eating and cooking. After graduating in 2001 from the New England Culinary Institute, Kaysen worked at Domaine Chandon in Yountville, California; L’Auberge de Lavaux in Lausanne, Switzerland; and L’Escargot in London, before becoming executive chef at El Bizcocho in San Diego, where he was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs. In late 2007, he joined Chef Daniel Boulud as chef de cuisine of Café Boulud in New York City, where he later earned the James Beard Rising Star Chef award and a coveted Michelin star.

tedx 2017 Fargo

Kaysen returned home to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to open the acclaimed Spoon and Stable restaurant in the North Loop in the fall of 2014. Today, Kaysen helps the next generation of young culinarians improve their skills in the kitchen. He is one of the founding mentors of the nonprofit ment’or BKB Foundation and currently serves as Team USA’s head coach in preparing for the famed biennial culinary competition. Kaysen lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two sons.

Have you ever been to Fargo before or spoken at a TEDx event?
“No to both of those, but I’m excited for both of them.”

What can people expect from your TED Talk?
“We’re going to kind of dive into the idea of creativity. Not in the sense of food, per say, but more in the sense of, how do you create and what does that creation look like when it comes to building restaurants? As an example, how can you be creative with hospitality? We’re going to go through a lot of the statistics with restaurants, what they go through and the realities such as–the national restaurant average is that five to eight cents is made per one dollar, so how do you get creative to make money? We’re going to touch on a lot of those types of topics.”

What made you decide to come back to the Midwest after living and working all over the world?
“I grew up here so it was really kind of happened more organically. It’s not that I necessarily set out to say that I’m going to move back to Minneapolis and when, but it was more–we found this really great space that was an office building and it wasn’t an restaurant. We felt that it would be a great opportunity for us to open up a restaurant here and everything just kind of fell into place and it made sense. And I think for me and my job and what I do for a living is that so often I’m kind of told what it is that I’m going to do next, especially when you’re a young chef, so this was an opportunity for me to pick and choose what I wanted to do.”

What’s a piece of advice that has stuck by you throughout your career that has aided in your success?
“I think it’s hard to define what success is because I feel like I’m still climbing that incredibly tall mountain, but I think humility is a really important part of our business and at the end of the day, we’re hospitalitarians. I cook food every single night. As my five year old would tell you, ‘Daddy you cook food for people at night, you have fun.’ There’s just no more reality to it than that.”

What’s something you think is important for aspiring chefs or restaurateurs to keep in mind when it comes to succeeding in the hospitality industry?
“I think the reality is that you have to have patiennce. What I find kind of interesting and very inspiring is that I’ve been fortunate enough to be around a lot of the best of the business for quite some time, and they truly are what make up our industry. What I think is kind of fascinating about that is the two things I always see out of the people who are even more successful and higher up than I am is that they’re still patient and more than that, they’re still curious. I think those two things, curiosity and patience, is what keeps you there. It seems like when I moved back from New York I became successful in Minneapolis but to be honest, I’ve been cooking for 21 years. So for me, this has been a 21-year journey, not a two-year journey which is what people tend to think it is sometimes.”

The theme of TEDxFargo this year is “for” and really finding ways implement ideas into the community. Do you have any advice on implementing the ideas from your talk into our community?
“I mean, I think what I’ll be talking about is pretty abstract in the respect that it’s not just for restaurants because creativity can be used all around us and hospitality can be used all around you. I’ll give you an example. I was buying a newspaper one day and I said ‘Good morning’ to the cashier and he didn’t look up or say anything to me. I went to give him my money but I pulled it away from him like I was playing with him like a little kid would. He looked up at me like he wanted to punch me, but I was like, ‘I just wanted to see if you’d give me eye contact. Good morning,’ and then I gave him the money. You know? You’ve got to be creative and it’s about hospitality at the end of the day in so many aspects.”

Will you be hosting any adventures or activities outside of your talk at TEDxFargo?
“It looks like I’m doing a round table discussion at a local restaurant, but I’m not sure where or which one yet.”

What do hope for Fargoans to take away from your talk?
“I hope more than anything that they walk away inspired and motivated by the conversation. That’s the goal. I really look forward to the talk.”

Melody Warnick

TEDxFargo Speaker Preview

After 13 years of constant moving, Melody Warnick managed to fall madly in love with her adopted hometown of Blacksburg, Virginia, then wrote a book about how other people could do the same. “This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are” (Viking, 2016) aims to help movers and stayers alike rethink the value of their community.

tedx 2017 Fargo

A freelance journalist for more than a decade, Warnick has written for The Guardian, Reader’s Digest, O: The Oprah Magazine, Redbook, Better Homes and Gardens and many other publications. She still lives in Blacksburg with her husband and two daughters. Find out more at her website, melodywarnick.com.

Have you been to Fargo before?
“I have and I include Fargo in my book. I came to Fargo because I had heard that all of this cool stuff was happening there. Fargo is a place that gets underestimated a lot. I had heard about (Emerging Prairie’s) Greg Tehven and other people who were working really hard to make Fargo a cooler city and the kind of place that people wanted to come to and stay. During my research I came to Fargo and I talked to a lot of people, and I really saw up close that a lot of people who live in Fargo are incredibly passionate about it and are really dedicating themselves to improving it and making it cooler. I actually talk about Fargo all of the time when I do presentations in other cities because I think it’s a great example of a smaller city that has totally turned around its identity because of this, because people have decided to love and embrace where they live and make it better.”

Based on the theme of your book, “This Is Where You Belong,” when did you first realize the importance of loving where you live?
“I came to the realization that loving where you live mattered when I moved to my current town of Blacksburg, Virginia. It was our (husband and family) sixth move and our fifth state in 13 years. I got here thinking that everything was going to be amazing and you know, this would be our own personal Mayberry in this small college town in southwest Virginia. We got here and I realized really quickly that I didn’t like it. It was a little too small for me, it rained all the time and it was very southern. I had been in the habit of when that happens, I would just move again and start plotting the next place we were going to go to. I realized this time that maybe part of the problem was me, and that maybe I needed to do things to actively change my behavior and my thought patterns about my town so that I could love it more.

“I started doing research and came across the idea of place attachment, which is the scientific term for loving where you live and feeling an emotional bond with your place. I began doing ‘love where you live’ experiments that were actions designed to make me feel more attached to my town, and doing those things really did just change how I felt. I fell in love with my town and because of that, I am still really happy here and I feel part of the community. We’ve been here for five years now and we are not planning to move anytime soon. So really, you can change the way you feel not only about where you live but your whole life.”

What are some of those things you did that people can easily implement themselves in their own towns?
“The things that I did in my town were all fairly simple. There’s a lot of research that shows knowing and connecting with your neighbors and trusting them builds up your sense of well-being and your sense of connection in your place. So, I invited neighbors to dinner and took them muffins and things like that. I volunteered. I tried to get politically involved and I joined my town’s citizen’s institute. I tried to become a regular at a restaurant. I went hiking a lot around here, because one of the ways we can feel more connected with our place is to get out in its nature.”

What can guests expect from the TEDx adventure you’ll be hosting that’s separate from your TED Talk?
“On the morning of TEDx, I was asked to do some easy and cool placemaking projects. Placemaking, to me at least, is this idea of doing little things to make your place more livable and more enjoyable. I haven’t nailed down what we’re going to be doing, but it may be something like putting Googly eyes on mailboxes, writing jokes and posting them on buildings or making sidewalk chalk art, things that are totally easy and fun. The idea is to give you a sense of ownership over your place. You’re making something interesting happen there and you’re making it a little bit more delightful for other people as well.”

What is the main idea you hope that Fargoans will take away from your talk?
“One of the things I talk about in my book that really resonates with a lot of people is the concept of the geographic cure, which is this magical thinking that a lot of us are prone to that says, ‘The next time is going to be better and my life will be perfect if I move to this other city.’ It’s kind of that ‘grass is greener’ restlessness sense that can apply to a lot of facets of our lives even in jobs and relationships. Every time we get the slightest bit unhappy, we think we should switch everything up and it will be better. That works sometimes, or it works temporarily. My talk will explore why we feel that way, some of the physiological and biological underpinnings of that restlessness and how we can learn to control those urges toward switching things up all the time. The idea is to give people some tools for seeing their lives and their surroundings/situations in new ways rather than always tending to quit the job, move to the new city and blow up your life. It’s about being happy with where you are right now.”