From its origins, I was certainly around the Philly Geek Awards, organized by a volunteer group surrounding the local culture blog Geekadelphia, run by a handful of my friends. But it was mostly from afar, sometimes speaking and being silly with them.
In 2016, as sometimes happens with volunteer efforts, the annual black-tie-meets-cosplay event was thrown into jeopardy, as several of its organizers had moved away in a sudden and similar cycle. It had no one to lead its organization, so I volunteered our team to keep the tradition alive. It was a real risk for our organization and the brand overall, but it felt important to keep the event moving. We pieced it together, with a rushed venue relationship and tricky catering limitations, and though it was far from perfect, we kept the tradition alive.
This weekend our Technically Media team, with the support of a volunteer planning committee, brought the event back to what it was meant to be — a highly produced, sold-out celebration of passionate subcommunities with civic pride in spades.
First a moment of thanks to those who make it happen: the lesson for a civic-minded award show is you need volunteer spirit.
There’s longtime organizers Mikey and Allie Ilagan, who serve as volunteer planning committee brand zealots. They’re dear and longtime friends who help whip together the kind of volunteer support that is necessary for putting together an event at the quality level it has been with the (meager) budget it can manage. This year was the first with String Theory School, which just might be the longtime venue that the Geek Awards had for a time with the Academic of Natural Sciences. (A civic-minded awards show like this has very little likelihood of funding itself without in-kind and supportive partners). Many other volunteers helped to make the event possible, like master designer Steve Rivera and Sarah Prashun, who helped rally several of the cocktail hour nerd presenters (insectarium, science museum, etc.) to make the event special. I also think about our own special team at Technically Media, who is able to bring real, professional events production experience to the event, notably my dear friend Alexandria Leggett.
— Andrew Kramer (@Philly_Kramer) August 27, 2017
This combination of professional production and civic volunteerism led more than one longtime attendee to say this might have been the best event yet.
- The nominee and selection process: Mixing together the years-long tradition with some added rigor from our team made this year’s winners feel wide-ranging and serious. The competition was fierce.
- Volunteer spirit with professional finish: The awards always had excellent production value. I think the mix of our team with longtime organizers gave it even more shine. (Steve Rivera’s design in particular was outstanding. Look at that animation that kicked off the night).
- People believed in the event: It’s incredible to see the range of winners. From a scientist who built an artificial womb and called it “the best award he ever received” to leaders of the Black and Brown Workers Collective giving a moving and defiant call for equity, the event matters because 250 of the smartest people in Philadelphia get into a room and believe that it matters.
— Suzie Nieman (@suzienieman) August 27, 2017
Find coverage from KYW here, Philly.com preview here, review here, PhillyVoice here and Billy Penn, which partnered on a cosplay contest, here. Also, we got a wonderful writeup from former Geek of the Year Ather Sharif here.