Parties. Music. Food. Tours. Film. Sports. Mural painting. And did we mention parties?
The three-day True North “tech for good” conference, which soft-launches Tuesday, May 29, with an official kickoff the next morning, is a deep dive into technology and its prevailing culture – a frank discussion about where tech goes from here.
But it’s also a festival, an opportunity for the wider local community to engage with the tech community and an opportunity for conference visitors to get a taste of Waterloo Region beyond the boundaries of the event’s (impressive) main venue at Lot42.
So it’s a showcase, but it’s also an invitation, once the work is done, to step out and play.
“The festival is going to be so much awesome,” says organizer Briton Burgio, Communitech’s Project Manager of Events.
Burgio says the festival’s activities, officially titled #TNDTK – or, True North Downtown Kitchener – have been crafted to appeal to young and old, with an emphasis on giving those who aren’t part of the day-to-day tech community an opportunity to see “behind the curtain,” get a feel for the companies, their work spaces, the culture and to take part in a celebration of what has become a key pillar of Waterloo Region’s economy and identity.
“But it’s also an opportunity to simply kick back, let off steam and have some fun,” says Burgio.
“We’re all about fun.”
The program kicks off on Tuesday evening with the Why Waterloo Tour, a curated hop-on, hop-off, bus event that stops at two local tech offices, Vidyard and Catalyst 137, and moves on to the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, the Kitchener Public Library, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and finally Shopify, one of the biggest, fastest growing, technology companies in Canada.
One of Shopify’s two Waterloo venues is located in the former Seagram Distillery, and its stop will fittingly include a whiskey tasting opportunity, as well as locally sourced ice cream and a variety of organic, cold-pressed juices.
Other festival highlights include a launch party on Tuesday at the Communitech Data Hub in Waterloo, an open-air concert Wednesday night at Kitchener’s Carl Zehr Square featuring Toronto all-female band The Beaches, and a screening of the movie ‘Dream, Girl,’ which tells the story of five female entrepreneurs and the odyssey of their companies.
But that just skims the surface. Restaurants and hotels are taking part, with drink and meal discounts and sidewalk entertainment. There’s yoga at Victoria Park, mural painting at Young and King, ballroom dancing at the True North Lounge in The Walper Hotel, and yet another party Wednesday night at the Kitchener Market.
The Walper, by the way, is the venue to visit to try the exclusive True North cocktail, the Borealis.
One of the more unique events is a class entitled “Resistor Case,” at the Critical Media Lab at 44 Gaukel St. It’s an opportunity to create a do-it-yourself pouch with a velcro fastener to encourage responsible smartphone use. The event description playfully notes that the event involves “therapeutic use of a hammer.”
A complete listing of all activities and their cost (if any) is available at the festival website. The site is searchable by day and venue.
Drinks and food are available at many of the venues.
“I think the big thing is just come, explore it for yourself,” said Burgio. “There’s something that anyone in a family and anyone in the region can come out and enjoy.
“We’re not just a tech community. We’ve got great culture, great art, great music and fantastic food.
“This a celebration of everything our region has to offer.”