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If the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated one thing, it’s that crisis creates both limitations and opportunities.
Making the San Antonio CityFest 2020 ideas festival virtual will allow it to be free to all, achieving a goal of accessibility set by Editor and Publisher Robert Rivard since the festival debuted in 2018.
“San Antonio needs fresh thinking and new ideas, in short, innovation, to remain a city on the rise, and this third annual CityFest is the San Antonio Report’s contribution to building the energy needed to propel us forward,” Rivard said.
“For five days we will bring together some of our community’s most committed leaders along with people from the region and across the country. These virtual sessions, free and open to all, will bring into focus the many challenges and opportunities we face in the coming year.”
CityFest 2020 will run Oct. 5-9 with a daily slate of panel discussions, presentations, and performances. The festival will kick off with a conversation with Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff on leadership during a crisis.
More than 50 thought leaders, civic activists, and governmental representatives from San Antonio and beyond will address the CityFest theme of “Urban Resilience” through multiple lenses, including education, transportation, business and development, social justice, and public health.
The festival’s culminating keynote speech will be delivered by Somava Saha, a doctor and public health practitioner and advocate, who “has dedicated her career to improving health, wellbeing and equity through the development of thriving people, organizations and communities,” according to U.S. News & World Report.
San Antonio Report events manager Laura Lopez extolled Saha’s expertise in connecting people and resources. “What makes Dr. Saha an engaging keynote speaker is she truly understands how to create sustainable and generative change in communities. The pandemic forced change on us and has also caused people to rethink the value of relationships with one another.”
In the four days of programming prior to the keynote, San Antonio Report journalists will moderate panels on a wide range of topics, with civic leaders addressing not only how the pandemic has affected the city and region but looking toward a post-pandemic future of recovery and growth.
Featured panelists include San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Marina Gonzales and Sweb web development agency founder Magaly Chocano on pivoting businesses during a pandemic; tech entrepreneur Graham Weston on taming the pandemic through testing; 80/20 Foundation Program Manager Thu Nguyen and Executive Director Alexandra Frey on San Antonio startups; and city managers from Austin, Dallas, El Paso, and San Jose, California on how the pandemic has affected their budgeting and operations.
The arts and culture sector will be represented by performances sprinkled throughout the weeklong event, Lopez said. Featured performers will include singer/songwriter Nicolette Good and Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, San Antonio poet laureate. Borderland storyteller Brandon Seale will lend insight into his deep research for his podcast series on Cabeza de Vaca’s fraught adventures in pre-colonial America, which included translating for himself the original 1555 document authored by the conquistador.
“If anyone has seen our virtual programs this year, they know that we have stayed up to date and relevant on timely topics that have impacted our community,” Lopez said. “CityFest will be a summation of those impacts so far, and a look at what’s to come following the pivotal 2020 election.”
The festival requires registration via Eventbrite, and attendees are encouraged to download the Whova mobile app while registering “to unlock optimal engagement and networking opportunities,” according to Lopez.
The online events platform was chosen for its dynamic networking capabilities, Lopez said. “At an in-person event, you can bump into someone or see a familiar face, and that’s how you get networking.” But through Whova, “we can build customizable profiles for attendees to virtually network with other people on the platform.”