The First Annual OZY Fusion Fest
July 2016. New York City, Rumsey Playfield, Central Park
Ozy Media, in partnership with presenting sponsor, Fusion Media, launched the inaugural OZY Fusion Fest, a fresh and unique addition to New York’s busy Summer festival calendar. Billed as “TED meets Coachella” and “Aspen Ideas + Burning Man,” OZY Fusion Fest was an experiential festival of ideas that presented music, current affairs, humor, politics, technology, food, art and social interaction in one memorable day and evening. Although Ozy.com was founded in 2013 and boasts a rapidly growing base of over 20 million monthly users, OZY Fusion Fest was in many ways OZY’s coming out party, a chance to celebrate with its diehard readers, and to introduce itself to an entirely new group of fans.
On Saturday, July 23, 2016, over 2,000 attendees descended on Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield to enjoy over ten hours of thought-provoking and highly entertaining programming. By the time doors opened at 10:30AM, it was 90 degrees in the shade, but a line had already formed of eager guests waiting to get inside.
Once guests entered, they were emerged in the completely transformed Rumsey Playfield. In addition to the main stage, a series of large tents each adorned with custom signage, designed with a colorful graffiti splash and furnished with colorful seating and displays. Individual spaces included the Town Square Stage, Chef’s Tent, Good Sh*t Bazaar, Intel Theater, Virtual Reality Theater, a VIP tent and an Ask OZY station in addition to food & beverage kiosks and open air activity spaces.
On the main stage, the day kicked off with author and thinker Malcolm Gladwell, delivering an electrifying and very personal speech on the state of College Admissions in the U. S. Hint: we have a lot of work to do. Columbian musical superstars Choquibtown then brought their Latin / Caribbean grooves to the crowd followed by a hilarious conversation with Broad City’s Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, moderated by WNYC’s Phoebe Robinson. As the afternoon cooled and the sun set the audience danced and sang to hour long sets by Grammy Award performer Andra Day, Wyclef Jean and Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am.
Across the field, the Town Square Tent provided a more intimate setting and an opportunity for many deep discussions. OZY founder Carlos Watson led a series of interviews with political heavyweights and thought leaders. Former Chief of Staff and republican strategist Karl Rove weighed in on this year’s Presidential election followed by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker who discussed the Black Lives Matter movement and his views on the most urgent issues facing the incoming president. Editors Cole Bolton and Ben Berkley of The Onion led their own political panel discussion in their unmistakably irreverent style. Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, sat down with Laurene Powell Jobs, founder of the Emerson Collective and will.i.am to discuss their visions for the future of philanthropy in education. HBO rising comedy star Issa Rae delivered a multimedia comedy set while other Town Square participants included Grover Norquist, Island Records & Golden Eye Resorts Founder Chris Blackwell, Judy Smith, Beatbox House, artists Kazuhiro Tsuji and Zaria Forman and more.
For the foodies in the audience, Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Chopped and founder of Butter Restaurant in New York City, led a series of live cooking demos, curated discussions, and food samplings in the Food and Beverage Experience tent. She was joined by her friends Miroslav Uskokovich, celebrated pasty chef at Gramercy Tavern, as well as Benjy Kirschner, sommelier & owner of Wilson Daniels wine. Chef Guarnaschelli also curated the menus provided by Summerstage concessions managed by Brooklyn Flea’s Smorgasburg, allowing guests to purchase items that were exclusively available to OZY Fusion Fest attendees.
In between stage programming, guests meandered through the Good Sh*t Bazaar, a live version of OZY’s online content vertical, where unique vendors and products were showcased alongside prized pieces of art, including Kazuhiro Tsuji’s famed (and giant) Abraham Lincoln head sculpture. Vendors included the Ugly Fruit Guy, a rock n’ roll celebrity stylist, a digital photo booth and a register to vote station. Lounge furnishings situated in the center of the Bazaar provided guests with a shaded area to relax while waiting for the next program to begin.
And those lucky enough to have purchased a VIP ticket were able to enjoy a stage-side lounge complete with hosted beer, wine, and food.
As if all of the above wasn’t enough, guests had the opportunity to screen original films and content by the likes of Bill Gates in the Intel Theater, walk on Mars via a VR experience, watch artworks created live in an open air art zone and reimagine what future high schools might be like via the XQ Super School Project.