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Learnapalooza Chicago

If I had realized how much time and effort I would put into a festival that offers free learning to the community (a bunch of strangers) I might have thought twice about it, but I know my co-chair, Brian would still have excitedly jumped on board.

In 2010, five strangers dedicated a lot of time and effort to make a brand new summer event, Learnapalooza, a free learning festival. We had no idea what we were doing, or what would happen but with the support (read donations) of friends and family and a lot of trial and error, we were able to make something big happen. That first year 350 strangers showed at 17 places across Wicker Park and between them learned 77 new things all day! Now we want to help others across the city bring this awesome experience to their neighborhood. This is where you, Awesome Foundation, come in.

Let’s get into the details; Learnapalooza invites amateur and professional teachers businesses and local organizations to host free workshops on a topic of their choosing. Anyone who has something to share – and basically we all do – can offer a class during the day-long festival. These classes take place in spaces all around a neighborhood, soaking the community in exciting learning. We take care of all of the class logistics. All we ask from our teachers is to plan and teach a fun, free class. The festival brings neighbors together in comfortable situations, and brings them in the doors of local businesses and organizations. Our success comes in many quotes: “I’ve always wanted to try this,” “I didn’t know this place existed,” “We met at Learnapalooza.”

Now that we know what we are doing (2 years in Wicker Park and over a 1,000 attendees later), it is time for us to share the awesomeness, to take our torch and light the torch of other neighborhoods who can do just as good of a job (or even better) than us. Our goal is to host Learnapalooza in three neighborhoods this year, and the Awesome grant is pivotal to making that happen. How are we going to make it happen? We are going to find neighborhood leads, people who light up at the idea of Learnapalooza, and immediately say, "I want to do that", to manage the project in their community while we provide the support, the know-how, and the boundless enthusiasm. Support will be in the form of best practices, help with teacher, volunteer and marketing outreach, support with the registration system, and the model set by our continuing Flagship festival in Wicker Park.

Funded by Chicago, IL (April 2012)