Annual PBS Nerd Walk is ultimate celebration of 'nerd-dom'
Eight, Arizona PBS invites everyone with a passion to put on their horn-rimmed glasses, grab their wands, tie their capes and march the streets of Tempe with a “community of nerds” at the annual PBS Nerd Walk, Oct. 19.
“Being a nerd is no longer about bad sci-fi or math jokes," says Bob Beard, promotions and events coordinator and “Nerd-in-Chief” at Eight, who is currently writing his master’s thesis at Arizona State University on nerds and nerd culture.
"Nowadays, everyone's a nerd for something, and the Nerd Walk celebrates that. It's a place for people to come together and share their niche interests – united around the idea that it's cool to be smart and it’s okay to be really, really enthusiastic about the things you love.
"Plus, it's hard to shove us in lockers when we're traveling in packs,” Beard jokes.
Eight’s annual Nerd Walk, in its third year, started in 2011 as Eight’s contribution to ASU’s Homecoming Parade. The PBS Nerd Walk provides a safe and welcoming place for children to be who they are and meet others with similar interests, according to parents who attend with their families. In fact, participating has even had a profound effect on some of the youth in attendance.
“My son is picked on regularly for being a nerd, and after the last walk, he came up with a way to quiet his peers,” explains Nerd Walk participant Tia Heath of Tempe. “When being taunted he smiled and said that being a nerd gets him into parades and opens chances he wouldn't get if he wasn't a nerd.”
Heath adds, “After the first walk, my son began to have confidence about being a nerd. Seeing everyone together helped him realize that there are plenty of amazing people like him, and that there is no shame for his passions – something I was trying to teach him, but unable to fully show him in the local community.”
Renee Brunner VanAusdal, mother of two and resident of Queen Creek, remembers feeling unwelcome growing up because she was a nerd. She praises Eight, Arizona PBS for helping her children and others express their unique brand of "nerd-dom."
“I was teased, scoffed at, bullied and ignored, because I was more interested in reading than fitting in,” she said. “I don't know how I would have made it if I didn't have a nerd community to help me feel like I belonged. So I wanted my kids to see me embracing that nerdiness. I wanted them to know that it was okay to be themselves and be interested in different things.”
Kelly McCullough, general manager for Eight, Arizona PBS, sees this event as part of the promise that the station has made to serving the local community.
“No other media enterprise more completely covers all the topics that inspire America’s brainiacs than PBS," McCullough says. "A big reason this campaign is so successful is that Eight delivers what the passionate nerd culture seeks – the seriousness, credibility, variety and depth of content. It’s like a one-stop shop for nerds of all kinds and topics to be better informed about whatever it is they’re into. Everyone’s a nerd for something and our viewers know that their interests are taken seriously at PBS.”
Beard hopes the PBS Nerd Walk teaches everyone to be proud to share what they love. “Intense fandom – for any topic – is powerful,” he adds, “and that enthusiasm is infectious (I’m looking at you "Downton Abbey" devotees). Our passions define us, perhaps more than anything else – that’s what I find fascinating. And I’m pleased that Eight can play a role in convening the community, tapping into and hopefully also inspiring the breadth of collective knowledge everyone is individually ‘nerding out’ about.”
As part of the 2013 PBS Nerd Walk, fans of the station are invited to:
• Enter a video competition by creating their own videos (on mobile devices, Instagram or other apps), sharing what they are a nerd for. The top four finalists will have their videos shown at Eight’s Superheroes event, Oct. 15, and be in the running for the honor of becoming 2013 Nerd-in-Chief.
• Sign up for event updates at www.azpbs.org/nerd.
• Register to participate in the 2013 PBS Nerd Walk taking place Oct. 19.