IDEA Week officials looking for participants for next year

MICHIANA — With plans taking shape for next year’s IDEA Week, a Niles representative is encouraging Berrien and Cass county entrepreneurs, musicians and residents to get involved in the event.

IDEA Week is a festival led by Notre Dame’s IDEA Center. Barkley Garrett, the executive director of the Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance, began volunteering to serve on the events committee for the IDEA Center this year.

“[IDEA Week] is a huge event. It draws thousands of people. It’s a series of programs, speakers and activities all related to technology, innovation and entrepreneurship,” Garrett said.

The festival is modeled after South by Southwest and also includes competitions, prizes, musicians and a chance for businesses and entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas, products and skills. The vast majority of the events at IDEA Week are free to the public.

This year’s inaugural event took place April 20 to 29 and saw the participation of speakers from TV shows, like “Shark Tank” and “Myth Busters,” to name a few. The Chainsmokers were the headlining band. Throughout the week, more than 18,000 people attended.

The next IDEA Week will take place April 8 to 13, 2019. While the events take place in South Bend, Elkhart and the University of Notre Dame campus, Garrett said IDEA Week is an opportunity for Berrien and Cass County residents to get involved and represent southwest Michigan.

“There’s absolutely opportunities for them to participate in a variety of ways,” Garrett said. “We certainly want to have everyone from school-aged children to high school and college students and adults coming to the event. We want to make sure we get the message out that everyone is welcome.”

Garrett said there are also opportunities to involve Berrien and Cass county innovators. He encouraged those interested in speaking on panels, musicians who want to perform or local talent acts. Basically, he said, any innovator is welcome to share their ideas and connect with others and the greater Michiana region.

“It’s easy for people to draw the line at the state line and say, ‘ok, I’m only part of the South Bend, Elkhart community of 500,000 people,’ or ‘I’m only part of the southwest Michigan community of 250,000 people,’” Garrett said. “What we are trying to do is erase that line and realize, ‘ok, we are part of a much greater community of 750,000 people combined.’”

Already, some plans are in the works for IDEA Week 2019. Organizers of the event announced this week that country music star Tim McGraw will be a headlining performer. McGraw will take to the stage on April 13, 2019, at The Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, at the University of Notre Dame. Ticket costs are listed online.

Garrett encouraged those interested in participating, volunteering or who wish to inquire more to reach out and contact him at SMEGA, at (269) 683-1833. He encouraged innovators to get in touch as soon as they can, because event lineups are already being created.

General admission for IDEA Week is free, but those interested in attending will be encouraged to register once an official lineup is in place. Innovators pay a $35 fee to participate. A description of costs is available at ideaweek.com.

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