By Steve Urbon
November 06. 2015 7:17PM
NEW BEDFORD — Organizer Dolores Hirschmann had been concerned that the TEDx event she was planning wouldn’t draw enough people to fill the Zeiterion Theatre’s 1,200 seats.
Attendance was not a problem. People from all walks of life, including many students, packed the house.
All Friday afternoon and into the evening, attendees listed to 17 speakers who had won an application process, paying close attention to the stories of hope, uplift, new ideas and determination.
TEDx talks are a localized version of the original TED events, highly popular on YouTube, which are held once a year and cost $7,000 to attend. TED licenses local organizers for free, and the local talks — hundreds, if not thousands around the world — have the look and feel of the originals for only $20 or $30 admission.
Three years ago the inaugural TEDx New Bedford event was limited to 80 attendees at the Whaling Museum auditorium. It had Hirschmann wondering whether scaling it up would make it less intimate.
That was hardly the case. The audience sat in rapt attention to one speaker after another, some of them later on getting a word with the speakers during occasional breaks.
Hirschmann served as master of ceremonies and the speakers, all of them, delivered their messages clearly and looked relaxed even though some had initial jitters.
“Their passion shines through,” said Lauren Lemieux of Acushnet, a friend of Hirschmannn and an assistant volunteer event organizer. For those in the audience, she said, “This will last well beyond tonight.”
The original motto of the TED talks (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is “ideas worth spreading,” ideas like that of kickoff speaker Zoe Hansen-DiBello, 29, of Dartmouth. With a grant from the Marion Institute, she and students’ families have been building community gardens at the sites of the city’s schools, “where there is a lot of land.”
Beyond teaching students and their families how to grow their own food, the gardens, built in raised beds, have been attracting students and families in by the dozens. They are serving to connect families to their children’s schools like nothing else has.
Remarkably enough, while a fence around gardens was considered, no fences were built and there have been no cases of vandalism at the nine schools that built gardens this year, said Hansen-DiBello.
Her goal, she said, is to eventually have a community garden at every school in New Bedford, which will then work their magic on involvement of families in the schools.
The TEDx New Bedford talks will soon be available on YouTube, said organizers.
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By Steve Urbon