Earlier this year, Mayor Greg Fischer and his econ-dev guru Ted Smith decided to embrace IdeaFestival in hopes it will become a fall bookend event to the Kentucky Derby in the spring.
That idea shows serious signs of coming to fruition.
For the first time in its six-year history in Louisville, IdeaFestival has sold out all-access passes as well as Thursday and Friday day passes, said festival founder Kris Kimel.
Saturday day passes are still available, but a number of Thursday and Friday sessions are sold out. (Check the schedule here.)
That kind of demand two weeks head of the four-day event “caught us by surprise. It’s a pleasant surprise. But I’ll say this … we’re scrambling!” Kimel said in an interview this afternoon.
He estimates as many as 14,000 people will pass through the various 2012 presentations and events, up 40 percent from last year’s 10,000-person attendance.
About five individual sessions are sell-outs, wth IdeaFestival organizers working on overflow seating options.
IdeaFestival runs from Wed., Sept. 19 through Sat., Sept 22 and includes at least 25 events.
With more than 40 speakers, IdeaFestival’s agenda brings together emerging and well-known influencers from a variety of disciplines, including science, the arts, design, business, film, technology, education and more.
IdeaFestival speakers will come this year from around the world, Kimel said, including India, Germany, Tanzania, Syria and Great Britain.
The majority of events are at Kentucky Center for Performing Arts on Main Street downtown. There are also IF events at the Speed Art Museum on the campus of the University of Louisville and in NuLu, just east of downtown.
Kimel attributes the increase in attendance to his staff’s work to build awareness of the event during the past three years, and to a growing appreciation for what IdeaFest has to offer.
“It’s one of those events that’s hard to ‘get’ until you’ve been there,” he said. “It’s easy to understand a film festival. But IdeaFestival is a little more difficult to appreciate until you have experienced it. But now, from all the people who have experienced it, we’re starting to get traction.”
Finally, Kimel said, Louisville is starting to a tap into the importance of, and appreciation for,events built around innovative and critical thinking.
“They thought we were just making this up,” he said.
About IdeaFestival: Founded in 2000 in Lexington, Ky., IdeaFestival is a celebration for creative thinkers and the intellectually curious. It’s an eclectic network of global thinkers and one-of-a-kind innovators bound together by an intense curiosity about what is impacting and shaping the future of the arts, business, technology, design, science, philosophy and education.
The conference is held every fall in Louisville at The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. The Kentucky Center is an intimate and historic venue that houses artworks by such 20th century masters as Joan Miró, Jean Dubuffet, Louise Nevelson, John Chamberlain and Alexander Calder. The setting, thought-provoking sessions and informal tone make IdeaFestival a truly unique experience. Those who attend leave the event with interesting new ideas, a better sense of connectedness, an expanded network of relationships and lasting inspiration to help create change in the world.