Wow! What an incredible last few weeks it has been, with the Toast of the Town team producing an incredible stretch of events and conferences around town. But hands down one of the most exciting of them all has been the 2023 Arctic Encounter Symposium. This event has left our team, and we might even say – Anchorage – just buzzing from the 3 days of incredible speakers, informative presentations, dynamic networking, and authentic native entertainment.
The Arctic Encounter Symposium (AES) is the largest professional Arctic event in North America, and provided an opportunity for experts across topics of geopolitics, climate change, energy innovation & finance to meet and discuss the challenges and opportunities that the continued opening of the arctic presents. U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, was one of many featured speakers at the event and expanded on this really well by saying that “As the world prepares for a more open Arctic, The Arctic Encounter Symposium has brought together leaders in the Arctic community with great discussion about the current and future state of the Arctic.”
The Arctic Encounter Symposium is the brainchild of Rachel Kallander, who has devoted her career to ensuring the livelihood of the Arctic. Her passion for this subject is clear, and her valued and steady relationships are what truly bring so much credibility to this multi-day gathering. She and her team have brought this symposium from humble roots to become a powerhouse of an event, and hands down the voice of the arctic community. While this symposium has taken a measured approach to growth, focused on ensuring and maintaining a professional integrity, it has been that balance that helped it to evolve over the years, and will keep this event relevant for many years to come.
For 2023 that growth was evident, as we helped to manage the registration desk, we certainly saw that, as AES drew over 1,000 attendees representing over 40 different countries, and featured over 200 speakers who participated in over 50 sessions. The panelists were from a broad range of industries that included 10 members of congress representing the political spectrum, and included leaders from private industry, nonprofits, university professors, scientists and a majority of the local Alaskan Native Corporations.
It was clear that those in attendance recognized the caliber and high level array of leaders and professionals who convened to collaborate and discuss the issues of the arctic, as they were fully engaged and further encouraged to actively participate in the dialogue. Some of the most notable opportunities came in the form of interactive panel discussions that allowed the audience to engage in Q&A with the speakers, and VIP receptions sponsored by Alaska Airlines that curated intimate networking meetings.
Now To The Fun Stuff…
So this event is legit, everyone involved recognizes that. But it also is just soo cool too. Yes, attendees were glued to the stage because of the speakers and presentations from Alaska Airlines, McKinley Capital Management, Bering Straits Native Corporation, ConocoPhillips Alaska, but also quite literally because it just looked so awesome too! Instead of a more traditional printed vinyl stage backdrop covered with event logos, Toast of the Town assisted AES in creating an array of huge LED screens that projected scrolling images and scenes of the Arctic. It was a much more fitting display for the event and the topics, and the images were just stunning. This along with the uniquely designed arctic ice art piece that was illuminated on stage through the conference, had people’s eyes glued to the stage the entire event.
But there were so many amazing and themed visual touch points spread throughout the event venue and the 3-days of programming. The branded ice sculpture that sat outside the venue, amongst the most beautiful backdrop of the Chugach mountains, slowly melting and changing shape throughout the event. The native dance group that paraded through the registration and reception area, in full native regalia with drumming, gathered everyone’s attention, and drew them into the main ballroom to symbolize the start of the event’s program. The hanging display of sea ice shipped in from Utqiagvik, that was visually quite striking and equally served as a powerful symbol that seemed to speak to the sense of urgency of the event, the topics, and the forthcoming solutions. The exhibitor hall as well had such an engaging energy, filled with more than 50 local organizations and vendors, displaying native arts and crafts for sale.
And of course the Far North Fashion Show to top it all off. The fashion show is probably most people’s (our’s included) favorite part of the event because it is filled with so much energy. It’s a lot of fun as all the event attendees gather together for one of the more collective of the symposium’s events, and also signals the event is wrapping up, which makes for a great time to unwind and socialize. We were especially excited to really help AES level up the fashion show by adding in some very cool components that just made such a difference. First off was the addition of a stage runway, for a true fashion show type experience, and really gave the audience an interactive and up close and personal experience.
Curated by Trina Landlord, the show featured a full lineup of 25 native Alaskan models including 7 native designers including Clara Qaulluq McConnell, Diana Martin, Merna Wharton, Mary Ann Lomack, Alannah Jones, Corrine Danner, and Jackie Qatalina Schaeffer. Their pieces are authentic to the culture and simply amazing, and it was truly an honor to work with them all to be able to share their designs with the world. The grand finale for the Far North Fashion show included an amazing dance piece that was specifically composed for the Arctic Encounter Symposium, led by local native leader, scholar, artist and activist Haliehana. The dance group, Tanam Anĝii Collective, an Unangax̂ performing arts group is a force that gave everyone shivers throughout the Anchorage Museum venue. It was a powerful celebration during the epic 3 days, and an event we are extremely proud to have been able to support.
For more info about the Arctic Encounter Symposium, and to stay tuned for 2024 announcements please visit www.arcticencounter.com.
For more information about Toast of the Town, and information about our event planning, production, and design services, please visit us here at www.toastofthetownak.com