Valerie Durham has served as the executive director for FreedomFest since 2015, bringing together her background as a libertarian, a marketing and project manager, and a professional dance artist. Training as a dancer since the age of three in ballet, jazz and modern, Valerie is one of a few master artists in the world who specializes in the art of Isadora Duncan, known as mother of modern dance. Valerie has performed professionally in New York as well as around the United States and in Europe with Isadora Duncan repertory and her own original choreographies. She is the founder of the Isadora Duncan International Symposium and spearheaded the first digital archive of Isadora Duncan’s life and legacy. With a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance and a bachelor’s degree in public relations, Valerie has worked in marketing for Phillips Publishing and run her own business in marketing, multimedia, and project management. She currently serves as the Montgomery County chair of the Libertarian Party of Maryland.
Michael Beas, CEO and Founder of Raver Magazine had the unique opportunity to interview Valerie Durham before FreedomFest 2021, this is what she shared up with us.
Over the past ten years what have been the highlights of the FreedomFest in your opinion?
The success of the Anthem Film Festival (celebrating its 10th anniversary this year). It’s the world’s only 100% libertarian, fully juried film festival. It’s a major attraction at FreedomFest and has given libertarian filmmakers and films a major venue.
We’ve also started attracting very interesting speakers from outside the liberty world – George Foreman, William Shatner, Kevin O’Leary (Mr. Wonderful from Shark Tank) and so forth. This has created a lot of interest and helps foster the less-divisive, more united spirit of FreedomFest. We can all come together over Captain Kirk!
I understand 2,000+ people are attending this year, is the most you have ever had? And in your view why do people go to FreedomFest?
We are on track to have our biggest year ever, with maybe even more than 2500 people. The last time we had this many was the year that Donald Trump showed up as a newly declared presidential candidate. At the time, we accepted him as a speaker because of his success with The Apprentice. We had no idea he’d go on to become president!
Tell us about some of the speakers coming this year, and who are some of the speakers that you are personally looking to watch?
We are excited to welcome a lot of new names to the FreedomFest stage, including JP Sears (can’t wait to see him in person! He’s hilarious), Dave Rubin, Jo Jorgensen, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Naomi Wolf, and Mark Meckler among many others. We have some favorites returning as well like Tom Woods, Larry Elder, Sen Mike Lee, and James O’Keefe. I’m looking forward to hearing from Phyllis Young, the sister of Russell Means and a Lakota chief, as well as John McWhorter, the Columbia professor.
What are some of the special opportunities and for field trips or activities that you’re offering this year to both the speakers and the guests attending?
This year we are hosting a bunch of cool excursions to take advantage of the amazing landscape around Rapid City, including Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Deadwood and Custer State Park. These are “bucket list” level excursions – some people wait their whole lives to go to Mount Rushmore alone! We also think the downtown Rapid City is going to be a bevy of activity after the conference day ends – there are tons of great restaurants, bars, breweries, and even outdoor music festival where people can gather!
Are there any social events that are designed to get people to get to know one another and exchange ideas?
That’s kind of every single second at FreedomFest! The exhibit hall is an especially great place to hang out and get to know people. We have so many terrific think tanks, grassroots organization and non-profits coming – it’s awesome to get to meet the folks from The Atlas Society or the Foundation for Economic Education or the Libertarian Party. There’s an attendee breakfast each morning, and coffee breaks, plus our big Welcome Reception Wednesday night which is super fun!
It takes an army to put on an event of this size, what are some of the keys to your success that you have had to overcome along the way and how do you find the time to manage so many activates and events especially in a Simi Post Covid world that we are all living in?
It’s been more challenging to plan this year than ever before – there are so many holdovers from last year when we had to cancel at the last minute. This year we are in a new state, in 15 hotels, in two different venues, and have basically taken over an entire town! Plus, there’s so much interest! So, we’ve maxed out every single meeting room in The Monument center, and have more than 260 speakers coming, with 150 sponsors – more than we’ve ever had before!
What is the one take away that you hope young people who attend the event can apply in their lives?
Those solutions are possible when we come together to really listen and learn from each other, instead of name-calling and being divided.
After the dust settles from the event itself what is the one thing that you plan to do for fun to celebrate?
I’m making a new dance choreography! I’m also a dance artist, and when things get busy with FreedomFest, I don’t have much time to dance. But once FreedomFest is over, I’ll let loose creatively in a completely different way. I love that I have two things in my life that I find fulfilling and creative!
Come to FreedomFest 2021
People can register at reduced rates at FreedomFest as young professionals (30 and under), graduate students and high school/undergraduate students.
Visit: www.freedomfest.com for all the details.