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Twestival to raise money for Zero Ceiling

Twitter-based charity event to take place Thursday



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Social media enthusiasts from the Sea to Sky region and elsewhere will gather tomorrow night (March 24) @ the Whistler Brewing Company in Function Junction for the first ever Whistler Twestival Local, one of several such events taking place around the world.

Organized jointly by Amber Turnau, social media strategist for Whistler Blackcomb, and Michelle Leroux, owner of Reine Communications, the event invites the public to gather for a charitable cause. Proceeds from the event will go to Zero Ceiling, a Whistler-based organization that helps disadvantaged youth access opportunities for outdoor recreation and employment training.

Speaking in a phone interview on their way back from the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, Turnau and Leroux said the idea to organize a Twestival came from Maureen Douglas, a Sea to Sky-based communications professional who was in contact with a Twestival coordinator who wanted to see an event in Whistler.

Douglas contacted Turnau and Leroux, both of them fervent social media enthusiasts, and the event unfolded from there.

"They were looking to do a Twestival in Whistler and were looking for people engaged in social media to organize it," Turnau said in an interview. "It's a great opportunity we couldn't pass up."

The first-ever Twestival was held in London, England on Sept. 25, 2008. A few friends were sitting in a pub after a football game and started talking about bringing together a group of friends who worked in the PR industry that they'd met on Twitter.

Together they came up with the Harvest Twestival. Promoting the event online, the friends booked a big venue, hired a band and set up a website. Within two weeks the friends put on an event that was sold out with 250 people and raised money for The Connection, an English charity aimed at helping out the homeless.

The Twestival has since gone viral, popping up in cities as varied as Auckland, Barcelona and Ulaanbataar, Mongolia. The Whistler Twestival is merely one of more than 160 Twestivals to take place on March 24.

Every Twestival adheres to a strict set of rules. It must take place on March 24. Local events must be run 100 per cent by volunteers and teams are always looking for more help. Each Twestival sends all of its donations to a charity project within the community.

In Whistler, the event being held at the Whistler Brewing Company will feature Big Mountain Rhythm to get the party started; a silent auction; raffle; grab bag fundraiser.

DJ Foxy Moron will also be DJing at the event after Big Mountain Rhythm goes up and Paintertainment's Candy Girls will entertain patrons alongside live art shows where you can get creative with blank skis and snowboards, with assistance from Whistler-based artists.

"We're getting some older skis and snowboards and they're going to be painted white," Leroux said. "The artists will be using their own mediums to paint them and express themselves, and then we'll have some art markets available for the guests to draw on."

Asked about their fascination with social media, both organizers said they enjoy how it allows people to connect easily through online channels. For Leroux's own communications business, it helps spread a message for her clients and convey it directly to consumers.

"You can learn so much when you plug into the right people and follow what they're saying online," she said. "When you're using tools like 4Square, you're getting tips from other people on the restaurant you're going to. As we're travelling across the country, we're relying on all these other tips people are leaving."

For Turnau, the fascination stems from the impact social media has had on the way the world now communicates. By way of example she cited Egypt, where the recent uprising against Hosni Mubarak was fomented largely through online channels.

"I think it's just a new communication tool," she said. "I love the fact you can check with someone all across the world. It's opened my eyes to a new way of networking."

Alfred Hermida, a professor of online reporting at the UBC School of Journalism, said social media serves as a "really powerful way" of connecting people, thus helping to raise money for initiatives such as Zero Ceiling.

"You can use it to target a particular group, they can spread it within their social network," he said. "Because it's a network, every time you connect to somebody, you can connect to the people they're connected to."

Tickets for the Twestival are available through and they cost $10. There are only 150 available so get them fast if you want to go.



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