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Tom Tom Festival Honors Jefferson’s Legacy

Published on Cavalier Daily

Charlottesville will host its fifth annual Tom Tom Founders Festival starting April 11.

The weeklong festival brings bands, artists and founders to nearly 60 venues in Charlottesville “to celebrate and empower the founders of creative, civic and entrepreneurial projects.”

To date “the Festival’s attendance has exceeded 78,000, and featured 260 bands, 224 speakers and dozens of artists and installations,” according to the festival’s website.

Tom Tom Festival project manager Celia Castleman said the name of the festival, in honor of Thomas Jefferson, is intended to pay homage to the former president while still remaining light and whimsical.

The festival’s celebration of founders of businesses, ideas and creations is intended to reflect Jefferson’s intellectual curiosity as a polymath, Castleman said.

“Founding is a major theme throughout the entire Festival. We celebrate ‘founders’ of businesses, ideas, creations,” Castleman said in an email statement. “Thomas Jefferson was a polymath and we think of the Festival in the same sense.”

Castleman said the festival focuses on four main tracks: art, food, innovation and music. However, there is also an emphasis placed on the way these tracks interact and overlap.

“There isn’t a boundary between an entrepreneur and an artist and a foodie and an athlete … they flow in and out,” Castleman said. “So the tracks we have … overlap and intertwine.”

The festival celebrates successful entrepreneurs, artists and explorers who, like Jefferson, took risks, Castleman said.

“At the Founders Summit, our audience hears inspirational stories from the nation’s top thought leaders and hopefully learn both pragmatic lessons in how to start something as well as spark new ideas and partnerships,” Castleman said.

The festival’s stylized buffalo logo is also a nod to Jefferson’s legacy and is inspired by the buffalo hide Meriwether Lewis and William Clark gave to Jefferson after their expedition to the western United States.

Pete Caramanis, one of the original members of the Tom Tom Founders Festival advisory board, said he was drawn to festival director Paul Beyer’s vision for Tom Tom “because of its attempt to connect the Charlottesville area with [Jefferson] beyond simply honoring his past accomplishments.”

“Mr. Jefferson was certainly an innovator and valued innovation and continual progress,” Caramanis said in an email statement. “This community has always celebrated his innovation, but not always done the best job of celebrating present day innovation as Jefferson would have wanted us to.”

Caramanis said Jefferson’s quote from an 1816 letter to John Adams — “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past” — is a “Tom Tom tag line.”

“The Tom Tom Founders Festival, in the spirit of Mr. Jefferson and his and our dreams of the future, celebrates the innovators of our community and puts Charlottesville back on the map as a place of innovation as it was in Mr. Jefferson’s day,” Caramanis said.


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