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What is the Tom Tom Team Looking Forward To?

by: Tom Tom Staff

The Tom Tom Founders Festival family works hard year-round to bring you an intense and engaging week of celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship, with Block Parties, workshops, luncheons, and art thrown into the mix. This year is no different. Here is a taste of what each of us are most looking forward to this year, and think you should have at the top of your list. See you soon!

Paul Beyer

Founder and Executive Director

“I’m looking forward to having incredible, iconic innovators join us in 2018, including Dan Rather, John Cleese, Melody Barnes, and Huffman. It’s so rewarding to see something that I started from my apartment seven years ago turn into an event that draws some of the nation’s brightest thought leaders, shines a positive spotlight on our community, and brings together friends and neighbors for the best party of the year.”


Carolyn Zelikow

Summit Director

“So many great sessions! I’m thrilled to expand my horizons at Tom Tom’s Summits. You can check out my itinerary here.”


Colleen Miller

Programming Director

“I’m just really excited, after months of long hours and hard work, to see the community come together. I’m looking forward to seeing the downtown

mall and Emancipation Park filled with smiling faces. After the events of August 12th, I wanted to be part of something that brought positivity and joy into Charlottesville.  It’s going to feel so amazing when I’m lying on the grass at the Saturday Block Party,  enjoying the start of spring, and celebrating with new and old friends.”


Whitney Kenerly

Marketing Manager

“When we started thinking about our dream list of potential speakers last summer, the first person I shouted out was the astronaut, author, and former Dallas Cowboy, Leland Melvin! I’m so thrilled that he will be speaking at two Tom Tom events this year: sharing personal insights about

overcoming obstacles at Founding Stories and speaking on a panel about inclusivity in STEAM at a Founders Luncheon.”


Madeleine Rhondeau

Speaker & Art Manager

“One of the most fascinating events that draws the most ambitious, charismatic groups of people is the Applied Machine Learning Conference. It is always a blast to program and see what is going on in the world of ‘big data’… there is no shortage of entrepreneurs, practitioners, researchers, and great discussion at the Conference!”


Alex Bryant

Project Manager

“Since Fall, Tom Tom has coordinated with the best chefs, food historians, and cuisine writers to determine what dish is iconic enough to be called Charlottesville’s Signature Dish. It has been an exciting journey and really interesting talking to all of the experts in our region.

Now that we know it’s the ham biscuit, I can’t wait to see everyone bring their version of the dish to our Community Potluck and see chefs compete against one another when they make it at Iron Chef!


Natalie Jacobsen


“As a writer and journalist, I grew up watching Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and the legendary Dan Rather – I can hardly believe that one of the nightly broadcast reporters will be here, live, on stage! It has been incredible being part of the esoteric Tom Tom team who has put together a fantastic media program for the community of Charlottesville at the Summit this year. I am really looking forward to Rather’s discussion on his newest book, What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, and hear his commentary on our country in these trying times.”


Jason Surma

Sponsorships Manager

“What a privilege it has been to work with over 100 awesome local and national

partners this year! Without them this festival would not be possible.

Come check out our second annual Applied Machine Learning Conference and Renewable Energy Track at the Violet Crown on Thursday and Friday. Save your appetite for Saturday morning when we will fill the streets with the sights and smells of the Iron Chef Competition and Food Truck Roundup – it’s going to be delicious.”


Virginia Chambers

Tom Tom Fellow

“I’m most looking forward to the block parties. All the energy built up throughout the

week bursts out at the block parties on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, electrifying Emancipation Park and downtown. There’s nothing like seeing hundreds of community members perusing the wares of Artisanal Tom Tom, eating and drinking from local vendors, and generally hanging out all while listening to fantastic bands. I’m most looking forward to sampling the wide array of food trucks. From Pearl Island’s Caribbean cuisine to Carpe Donut’s delicious doughy confections to Mountain Culture Kombucha’s fermented teas, I can’t wait to try it all!”


Sarah Vanlandingham

Tom Tom Fellow

“I am most excited for the Block Parties on the weekend. The musical line up is always eclectic and diverse, and it’s great to see the community come together and bond over a love of good music and good food. I am also looking forward to Innovators Cup because it’s always really great to see young people building a path towards a brighter future, and I think that giving them the platform and opportunity to use their voice on a public stage to win funding is really valuable.”


Makayla Whitehurst

Tom Tom Fellow

“I am most looking forward to the Youth Summit on Wednesday! This is the third year of the Youth Summit, but we are adding a new component this year – MAKERVILLE! Here, students will showcase a wide variety of projects that they have been working on all year. It should be an afternoon filled with lots of creative, young energy!”




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