.Futuristic ‘Popup Village’ Calls Healdsburg Home for June

Another group I’ve heard throwing around the word “solarpunk” in recent months: the organizers of a monthlong “popup village” planning to take up residency in Healdsburg next weekend and stay for the entire month of June. The event is called Edge Esmeralda — a mashup of the names of the two out-of-town orgs behind the vision, Edge City and the Esmeralda Land Company. If you have a Sonoma County address, you can get a discounted ticket here for around $200. Locals in Healdsburg have had trouble making sense of the whole thing, thrown off by what some of them are calling the “word salad” of new-age lingo on the Edge Esmeralda website — but after speaking to organizers a few times, I think I’ve more or less wrapped my head around it, so I’ll do my best to explain. Basically, a group of 150-plus people will pay around $2,000 each (plus lodging costs) to attend daily talks, salons, workshops and “unconferences” at Healdsburg venues — like the Raven Theater, the CraftWork co-working space and the Community Center — led by experts on topics like AI, crypto, biohacking, space exploration, renewable energy, geopolitics and all sorts of other trippy stuff. This core group of village “residents” will stay in existing Healdsburg hotels like Hotel Trio, the Dry Creek Inn and H2Hotel (so no new infrastructure) and will be joined by hundreds more visitors and speakers who pop in for a day or two at a time, according to organizers. The ultimate goal being to re-envision the way society and community can work, no less. You can check out the full programming calendar here. To me, this whole concept also seems like an attempt by the global internet tribes invested in these particular futuristic topics to hang out face-to-face for a sustained period. The ticket price includes nightly dinners where everybody comes together to eat local farm-to-table type fare; daily morning runs; camps and classes for kids, as well as a “babysitting club” to make childcare easy; a series of hackathons for coders; a central spot for “sauna, cold plunge and daily workouts” at Hotel Trio; and “adventure days on weekends.” (Therapy sessions and blood tests/consults to “improve your biomarkers for longevity” are on the menu as well!) So that everyone can get to these events from their hotels without cars, organizers say they’ll be putting shuttles into rotation and renting out “used beach cruisers” to attendees. They’re hoping most people will walk and bike along the Foss Creek Pathway, a nature trail that runs the entire length of Healdsburg. “We planned all of our venues around a 7-minute bike path,” they said in a recent newsletter. “We’re calling it Serendipity Lane, because it’s where you’ll bump into fellow attendees between sessions and go for walks with new friends!” (This same pathway has also been the site of multiple violent crimes in recent months, a trend often pointed out by local critics of the Edge Esmeralda event when making the case that organizers are out of touch.) Another intriguing aspect of the Edge Esmeralda experiment: It’s being modeled off the “Chautauqua” gathering in upstate New York, which Esmeralda Land Company founder Devon Zuegel used to attend as a girl with her grandma. That, too, was a summertime popup village of sorts — famous for democratizing education, science and culture outside of a costly/elite university setting. Back in the day, there were also “traveling Chautauquas” that would set up shop in rural U.S. communities. “Our hope is that Edge Esmeralda is a place that supports and nurtures the next generation of people who can make such a positive impact on the world,” Zuegel told me over email — “whether it’s through physical technology (medicine, materials science) or through social technology (urban planning, childhood education, etc).” Down the road, once the Healdsburg popup experiment plays out, Zuegel is even hoping to find a site to build a permanent Chautauqua-esque community in California, perhaps just north of us in Mendocino County. Might not be a bad place to land for the climate apocalypse. (Source: Healdsburg Tribune & Edge Esmeralda)


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