Earlier this year, Eventbrite put out a call to entrepreneurs, innovators, trendsetters, and anyone else interested in building or growing an events business. After sifting through hundreds of event proposals — ranging from music festivals to immersive fitness classes — Eventbrite selected five winners to join the RECONVENE Accelerator, providing direct support to these emerging creators and $10,000 to help fund each winner’s concept.
Who are these talented individuals helping to build community and shape culture while bringing their dream events to life? We’re excited to introduce you to Eventbrite’s 2022 Accelerator winners, and to share more details about the incredible dinners, gatherings, comedy festivals, and block parties that they’re putting together (all of which, you can attend!) in the coming weeks.
Melody Lewis, Indigenous Peoples’ Day Phoenix Fest
Growing up on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation, Melody Lewis (who is Mojave/Tewa/Hopi) became accustomed to making decisions centered around what was best for her community. When she left the reservation to attend college, she quickly realized that her worldview and values weren’t represented in the Westernized systems that she found herself immersed in.
Hoping to offer guidance and training to Indigenous people navigating culture shock, Lewis helped found the Indigenous Community Collaborative in 2019. Other projects she’s involved with — such as the upcoming youth-oriented video series “Rezsponse” and the Cohokia artspace in Phoenix — are similarly focused on uplifting marginalized Indigenous voices.
“Our goal is to increase the representation of Native people in spaces where we’re not normally,” Lewis says. “Because in those spaces, there are decisions made on our behalf that just don’t align and don’t make sense.”
The latest project that Lewis is helping to organize takes the message of representation to the streets — quite literally. The first Indigenous Peoples’ Day Phoenix Fest will bring Indigenous-owned businesses and vendors to the Roosevelt Row art district in Phoenix on October 10. The free, family-friendly event will feature a skateboard competition organized by Indigenous brand Seven Layer Army and outdoor screenings of Native-made films, presented alongside live music, Native foods, contemporary art, and other activities.
Since joining the RECONVENE Accelerator, Lewis has been working with Eventbrite experts to plan a paid VIP section at the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Phoenix Fest. She appreciates having a sounding board for her ideas and the ability to gain knowledge about organizing events that she’ll be able to take back to the Indigenous community.
With the support of that community, Lewis hopes to make Indigenous Peoples’ Day Phoenix Fest an annual occurrence, attracting Native people from across the United States, as well as anyone who is interested in learning about Indigenous culture. “Everyone that comes and visits gets to learn about [Indigenous people],” Lewis says. “It’s about building, understanding, and increasing awareness.”
Larissa “Larz” May, Screen Free Weekend
During her senior year of college, Larissa “Larz” May was busy finishing her studies, participating in internships, and running a successful fashion blog. In spite of the success that her packed schedule and Instagram photos projected, May increasingly found herself cut off from the rest of the world, feeling depressed, and endlessly scrolling through social media feeds.
“Basically, I hit the rock bottom of my life and had to go to in-patient psychiatric care,” May says. “At that point, I had to evaluate the role that technology was playing in my life.”
The eye-opening experience inspired May to found #HalfTheStory, a nonprofit organization that empowers young people to examine their relationship to social media and consider its effects on their mental health and well-being. May has since become a prominent advocate for policy changes that protect young people from addictive social media platforms — all while finding ways for teens to come together outside of screens.
One of the ways that May promotes offline connection is through an event series called Screen Free Weekends. May and her team piloted the concept in August, hosting a pair of events in New York City’s Central Park during the Global Day of Unplugging.
May and her team are busy dreaming up the next Screen Free Weekends event, where guests will be asked to leave their devices at a phone check before joining in on the fun. Attendees will be able to sit down and doodle with a stranger, have a concierge match them with local mental health services, or write letters as part of #HalfTheStory’s advocacy campaign.
Being a part of the RECONVENE Accelerator program turned the usually lonely process of planning an event into a more collaborative one, according to May. She has enjoyed being able to speak with fellow event creators and optimizing her event strategy with the input of others.
The experience has only strengthened May’s resolve to bring events that center IRL connection to young people everywhere. “We hope to see Screen Free Weekends across the globe as a way to fight loneliness for the next generation,” May says. “Think of it as a party with a cause.”
Kate McLachlan & Lee Robinson, Camp Dyketopia
When Lee Robinson first booked fellow standup comedian Kate McLachlan on a show they organized in Denver, they didn’t know it would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship and a lasting collaboration. But soon the duo was bonding over a Barbie-themed deck of tarot cards and plotting a queer comedy show that’s as goofy as it is inclusive.
“Comedy at large is not the most inclusive thing I’ve ever heard of — and often the queer community ends up being the butt of the joke,” McLachlan says. “We heard from a lot of friends that don’t enjoy going to comedy shows because their identity is made fun of.”
The pair’s first Dyketopia show was a DIY affair thrown in a friend’s backyard in 2021; the concept has since grown into a monthly live show (which regularly sells out in just a few minutes) as well as a podcast. In addition to hosting every show, McLachlan and Robinson curate the lineups of queer performers and devise bits like game shows and gay choose-your-own-adventure stories.
For their next act, McLachlan and Robinson are planning a summer camp-themed festival dubbed Camp Dyketopia, bringing attendees to an a queer-owned farm in Littleton, Colorado that will host comedians, musicians, drag performers, and queer vendors alongside activities like speed dating or a friendship bracelet workshop.
Becoming part of the RECONVENE Accelerator has emboldened the duo to expand their vision for Camp Dyketopia, inspired by the plans of other winners and supported by the guidance of seasoned Eventbrite organizers.
It’s also encouraged them to take Dyketopia on the road in the coming year, introducing the show to queer communities in cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. “It’s been that once in a lifetime thing as a comic, where audiences are responding to something that we find really funny,” McLachlan says. “Our success has made me feel very lucky.”
Britt Parrish, Plant.Sip.Vibe
Swipe through Britt Parish’s popular TikTok account, and you’ll see some of the more than 150 plants that fill her house with leaves and vines. But Parish wasn’t always a fountain of houseplant knowledge tending to an indoor jungle — like so many of us, she used to have trouble keeping a supposedly simple-to-care-for succulent alive.
Feeling depressed early in the pandemic, Parrish noticed her outlook improving as she began following plant accounts on Instagram. Entranced by the lush, peaceful aesthetic, she joined the online plant community by documenting her own journey in propagating, watering, and caring for vegetal housemates.
“For me, it was a very therapeutic thing,” Parish says. “Plants and I have a very symbiotic relationship where plants really helped me grow as a person, and in return, I’m helping them grow.”
As plants began overtaking Parish’s apartment in Tulsa, she began amassing a growing audience on social media. Anxious to connect with fellow plant parents outside of a screen, Parish held her first Plant.Sip.Vibe event in November 2021, combining a guided potting session with wine, charcuterie, a DJ, a rare plant raffle, and plenty of time to network with other attendees.
A self-proclaimed “sponge for knowledge,” Parish’s acceptance into the RECONVENE Accelerator has enabled her to fine-tune her event concept with the support of Eventbrite’s experts, as she prepares to host Plant.Sip.Vibe in Dallas on September 10.
While Parish has set down roots in Tulsa, she’s eager to continue finding ways for her event lineup to grow. She’s already planning a nationwide Plant.Sip.Vibe tour for 2023 and is hoping to bring the event to international cities in the future, connecting with plant enthusiasts around the world. “Plants are universal. Everywhere there is a plant; everywhere there is a plant parent,” Parish says. “That’s what’s exciting for me — I will never run out of people that love plants.”
Syd Suntha, All In Together Now: A 36 Course Wu-Tang Clan Inspired Event
While most of us spent the early months of the pandemic baking sourdough and streaming TV shows, Seattle chef and music industry veteran Syd Suntha was busy dreaming up a 36-course meal inspired by hip-hop group The Wu-Tang Clan’s iconic album, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).” Aiming to “bridge the gap between music, art, and food,” Suntha began taking a mental inventory of the local chefs and creatives he could tap to bring his expansive concept to life.
This September, Suntha will present All In Together Now (named after a pre-Wu-Tang group that featured RZA, GZA, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard) in Seattle, teaming up with eight local chefs and a mixologist known for his “Wu-tails.” The 36-course meal won’t exclusively be devoted to food — guests will enjoy 18 tasty dishes, nine beverage pairings (including non-alcoholic options), and nine experiences, such as a cellist performing arrangements of Wu-Tang Clan tracks.
After spending nearly four years developing the event, Suntha credits his acceptance to the RECONVENE Accelerator for “putting a fire under my ass to make this happen.” He’s grateful for the guidance he’s received from Eventbrite’s experts and mentors, who have been there to help support Suntha every step of the way.
Following the inaugural All In Together Now meal in Seattle, Suntha hopes to bring his culinary Wu-Tang experience (and some ruckus) to other cities across the globe — and he’s already cooking up more pop culture-inspired dining concepts, with dishes inspired by franchises like “Lord of the Rings” and “Breaking Bad.” “I just want to meet everyone in the world, do as much fun stuff as possible, and never have a real job,” Suntha says.