ST. LOUIS – St. Louis and its award-winning Saint Louis Science Center have won a national competition to host SciFest 08: International Science Festival/St. Louis. Festival organizers selected St. Louis from a list of cities that included New York City, Boston and San Francisco. Local experts predict the festival will bring an estimated 90,000 visitors to the city and $4.7 million in tourism revenue in its first three years.
“St. Louis’ selection from such an impressive group of cities is a testament to the quality of scientific research and development happening in Missouri,” said Doug King, President and CEO of the Saint Louis Science Center. “It’s also a unique chance for our region’s citizens to have a little fun with science and technology, talk to scientists on the cutting edge about what they are doing and why, and potentially impact scientific discoveries and policy at a national level.”
Monsanto Company is the presenting sponsor for SciFest 08 and has pledged to support the festival at the same level for its first three years. In addition to Monsanto, Pfizer, Inc. has committed to multi-year support for the project.
SciFest takes place October 9 – 13, 2008, at the Saint Louis Science Center. Public conversation, debates, hands-on workshops, and exhibits form the core of the festival, and events feature content beyond scientific statistics and facts. Dynamic in content, many presenters utilize music, comedy or drama. SciFest, to be held annually, is produced exclusively in the U.S. by the Science Center in partnership with Cheltenham Festivals International; the Cheltenham Science Festival is the model for SciFest.
“The festival will present science in a way that many people have never experienced,” said Naomi Joshi, Executive Director, Center for Science, who is serving as the Program Director for the event. “Events include entertaining subjects, like the science of dating, and tough and timely issues, like stem cell research and climate change. It will be real, it will be fun, but most important, the festival provides an opportunity for all of us to be entertained, engaged, and informed about issues that concern or intrigue us.”
One confirmed presenter for the festival is Mark Lewney, the 2005 winner of FameLab, an American Idol-esqe UK television program for scientists instead of singers. Mark is a physicist who plays rock guitar to explain the physics of rock and what this reveals about our universe. Other proposed sessions sport the titles, “Extreme Weather and Climate Change,” “Science of NASCAR,” “The Seven Rules of Dating” and more.
Due to the timing of the festival, less than one month before the 2008 election, organizers plan to facilitate discussions on the science and environmental platforms of the state and presidential candidates, as well as issues that are likely to be hot topics in the political arena, including climate change, bio-fuels, renewable energy sources and others.
Winning the competition for SciFest in St. Louis was an enormous regional effort, King said. In addition to sponsors like Monsanto and Pfizer, local media partners include the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, KETC/Channel 9, Emmis Radio and St. Louis Commerce Magazine. The Convention & Visitors Commission and the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association (RCGA) are active supporters, as well as the Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri Botanical Garden and the Academy of Science-St. Louis.
Mayor Francis Slay hailed the festival as a critical tool to “highlight the importance of science and technology to our economic development and the positive role it plays in our future.” St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said, “The St. Louis region is a perfect choice for this event. St. Louis County believes in the important value of public engagement with science. It is, in fact, critical to participate in the world at large.”
“Washington University faculty, students and staff will become engaged in the festival which has great potential to improve the perception of St. Louis as a great American city for people interested in science,” said Chancellor Mark Wrighton.
Missouri Botanical Garden President Peter Raven predicted SciFest will be a “major success,” and Jeffrey Bonner, President and CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo, said the project “has my enthusiastic support and we look forward to this collaborative effort among the ZMD institutions and the City of St. Louis.”
The Cheltenham International Science Festival has been very successful, drawing more than 26,000 visitors over five days last year alone, the majority from destinations more than two hours away by car. The St. Louis RCGA has estimated the American festival will draw similar numbers, growing each year.
“Something that attracted us to this festival is the fact that it strives to make science fun for people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds,” said King. “We hope, in turn, the festival will encourage more people to participate in scientific dialogue and inspire more U.S. students to pursue science-related careers,” said King.
King noted SciFest will elevate the national and international reputation for the region’s science and technology fields. “This is yet another category where St. Louis will grow as a destination for ideas,” he said.
Though the official schedule is still being completed, Joshi said there will be something for everyone, from those fascinated by the advances in science and technology to those who never knew they could have fun with science. The final schedule and information on ticket sales will be available in August.
“Advances in science and technology are changing our world every day. It’s thrilling to be able to offer this insider’s look at what the future might bring,” said Joshi. “Ideally, we should all have a say in what lies ahead.”
Thank you for your interest in covering the Saint Louis Science Center. We ask that you include the full names of our institution: Saint Louis Science Center, OMNIMAX Theater, and James S. McDonnell Planetarium when writing your story.
Saint Louis Science Center
The Saint Louis Science Center is one of the top five science centers in the United States, serving 1.2 million visitors annually. Recently named one of America’s most visited museums by Forbes Traveler Magazine – the only museum in Missouri to be named to that list – the Saint Louis Science Center complex includes a four-story OMNIMAX® Theater, the air-supported EXPLORADOME, the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, and the state-of-the-art Taylor Community Science Resource Center. The goals of the Saint Louis Science Center are to educate, inspire and motivate visitors of all ages and engage the community in public dialogue about science-related issues of the day. For more information about the Saint Louis Science Center and its programs, visit slsc.org
Cheltenham Festivals hosts four internationally renowned festivals in Jazz, Science, Music and Literature that each boast enviable reputations as leaders in their field. With programming that features the most up-and-coming, controversial and entertaining international performers, the festivals have justly earned their place at the centre of the UK’s cultural scene.Cheltenham Science Festival is a five-day celebration of science, engineering and the arts which seeks to respond to public interest in scientific issues by creating opportunities for participation in dialogue and debate. A rare opportunity for the public to come face-to-face with the world’s leading scientists and thinkers, it annually brings together a record 26,000 members of the public and over 300 speakers to explore, discuss and celebrate science.