In 32 days, “the world’s largest crowdfunding festival” will once again flood the streets, parks and buildings of Downtown Jacksonville. During One Spark‘s first two festivals, we witnessed murals splash drab Downtown facades, historic vacant buildings burst with life, new businesses find their wings and creative energy pulse through the heart of our city.
Ready for round three? With one month to go (the festival runs April 7 – 12 this year), we chatted with One Spark CEO and co-founder Elton Rivas about what to expect during One Spark 2015.
Creator registration officially wrapped Feb. 25 with more than 550 Projects from across the globe registered this year. Project categories are art, education, health and science, music, social good and technology. And you can start browsing the list early – the app launches later this month.
“The single biggest change for One Spark attendees this year is the ability to receive rewards from Creators that launch their own true crowdfunding campaign at One Spark,” said Rivas. “Attendees – and anyone in the world for that matter – can now receive rewards for their contributions to One Spark 2015 Creator Projects, just like online crowdfunding platforms such as kickstarter or indiegogo.”
As in the previous festivals, the One Spark team recruited some of the top speakers representing innovation, entrepreneurship and art to share their knowledge during the 2015 festival. To allow Creators time to hear from these idea leaders, One Spark decided to extend the festival an additional day and set aside the first day for the Speaker Summit on April 7. Bonus: like last year, tickets to the speaking engagements are open to the public.
Following the daytime Speaker Summit, the popular (and free!) Opening Ceremony will officially kick off the festival at 6 p.m. in Hemming Park. The band Echosmith, which had sell-out shows on their recent world tour, is the ceremony headliner.
New this year, One Spark will also host its first 5K on April 11. The course will run through the festival footprint and is open to all ages. “We thought it would be a fun way for people to see the whole festival layout when it’s a little quieter in the morning and also reach a new audience that maybe hasn’t experienced One Spark yet,” Rivas said. He’ll be one of the participants lacing up his sneakers that day.
To experience all the festival has to offer, the One Spark team encourages attendees to plan ahead and get out there early to make sure you have time to see everything that piques your interest. The festival map is already available, pointing out the pitch decks, the One Spark lounge, Food Village and beer stations.
“The best way to attend and experience is to approach One Spark like Disney World and plan your experience ahead of time,” Rivas said. “What kind of Projects do you want to see? What music do you want to hear? What’s the most important speaker to learn from?”
You also don’t want to miss the Creator Music Stage and One Spark Pitch Decks, he said, where you can hear Creators perform and pitch their Projects to a larger audience. And the fun doesn’t end at sundown – One Spark After Dark is stacking up an incredible list of musicians, ready to rock Downtown after Creator showcase hours end.
Also new in 2015, One Spark will expand its Food Village to four blocks instead of two, which will allow for more food vendors and shorter lines. It will span Forsyth Street from Hogan to Main streets and Laura Street from Adams to Bay streets. Plus, many Downtown restaurants, cafes and coffee shops will be open for extended hours during the festival as in years past.
BE ON THE LOOKOUT
Sunday, March 29, the event preview will run in The Florida Times-Union. Plus, other One Spark media partners will begin to roll out their special sections as well.
“Arbus will have the art experience,” Rivas said. “Advantage Business Magazine will look at the small business experience. EU Jacksonville is highlighting the music experience. First Coast Magazine is putting together both the family and millennial experience. Jacksonville Magazine is focusing on the education category experience. 904 Magazine is looking at the health and science experience.”
Miss grabbing one of the publications on a newsstand before April 7? All of these resources will be available at the One Spark headquarters on Bay Street throughout the festival.
THE BIG PICTURE
But what does this all mean for Downtown in the long run? From where we stand, One Spark has proved to be a tremendous asset to Downtown as an events destination, and moreover, each year shows others that big ideas can develop and thrive Downtown.
“I think One Spark has undoubtedly brought people Downtown that haven’t experienced all that Downtown Jacksonville has to offer,” Rivas said. “The best news about that is that we’ve also heard they return throughout the year for other events, business reasons and entertainment.”
So get ready, Jacksonville. Browse the website. Start recruiting your One Spark posse. Reserve your spot at the Speaker Summit. Dust off those tennies for the 5K. One Spark and Downtown await.
“If we are able to continue the massive positive perception shifts about Downtown within the community as a byproduct of One Spark happening,” Rivas said, “we’ll definitely celebrate that as a win!”