LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk
Former New York tech executive scouting Douglas County sites to host the 'Woodstock of our generation'
Lawrence is used to seeing funky buses. On one end of the spectrum, there’s Lyle Lovett recently parking his posh bus in the Journal-World parking lot because he was making a downtown Lawrence doughnut run. On the other end, there’s the plethora of 1970s VW buses that leave a trail of smoke that smells very much like the 1970s, if you know what I mean. Residents in recent days, though, have noticed a new type of bus in town. It has a version of the word “gratitude” painted on its side, and the man inside it is intent on talking to you about your dreams.
You have heard of the Field of Dreams, I assume. Well, this old RV that is showing up on Lawrence streets could be called the Bus of Dreams. In a twist, though, the driver is looking for a field. I’ll try to explain.
The driver and owner of the bus is a former high-flying New York technology executive by the name of Stephan Cesarini. He was a co-founder of the company that became ReachLocal, a business that helps small businesses advertise on the internet. It went from a startup to a publicly traded company on Nasdaq.
I have verified all that, but I really don’t know much more about Cesarini. I met him because renowned artist and local resident Stan Herd encouraged me to do so. Herd told me Cesarini was driving around the area looking for a spot to host the Woodstock of our generation. And Herd said Cesarini is intent on holding the major music and cultural event in Kansas.
Indeed that is what Cesarini wants to do. He’s looking for at least a 750-acre parcel of land to hold what he hopes will become a one-of-a-kind music festival. Herd had him touring sites in the Flint Hills, but he wants something closer to Kansas City. Douglas, Johnson, Jefferson and Miami counties are all places he’s scouting.
Cesarini envisions a huge music festival that would attract top artists from many genres. The event would be free to attend and would draw tens of thousands of people over many days. Cesarini, though, hopes to use the event to launch an even bigger idea. He plans to launch a for-profit venture called 8 Billion Dreams.
The mission of that organization is basically to get every human on earth — about 8 billion people — to declare their dream by 2022. He actually carries note cards around, and people write their dreams on them. Cesarini’s organization will have a platform — think websites, job boards, investment circles, relationship sites and other such functions — that will help people achieve their dreams.
He wants the event to be in Kansas because its central geographic location is good from a travel standpoint. Its “center of the U.S.” status also is good from a symbolic standpoint.
He ended up in Lawrence, in part, because he said he is friends with former Lawrence-based musician Jeffrey Goldford, who put him in touch with others in the Lawrence arts and culture scene.
Cesarini said his main efforts now revolve around finding a land owner who shares his vision for the event. Cesarini said he’s looking for a landowner who is open to leasing space for the festival, which he said would be run in a way to minimize the environmental impact to the land. But it does need to be a piece of ground that can accommodate a lot of people. How many? Cesarini was hesitant to say.
“I don’t want to scare people, but I do want this to be the Woodstock of our generation,” he said. “There will be a great pilgrimage to the heartland.”
People interested in talking with him about land can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How this large event would get funded is something I’m still a bit unclear about. It was unclear to me how much money Cesarini may be investing in the venture, but he did explain parts of the business model. While the concert would be free, the company that is putting on the concert — and which would own the 8 Billion Dreams organization — would be a for-profit venture. Cesarini said he’s confident he’ll find many investors for the effort, both through his connections in the tech world and also through a change in federal law that allows private companies to more easily solicit small investors through crowd sourcing.
Cesarini is likely to face some skepticism. He gets extremely excited about what the simple act of people sharing their dreams can accomplish. He even thinks it could be the key to promoting more harmony in our political system. He thinks by people sharing their dreams it will help disparate groups realize they have more in common than they think.
“We want the same thing for our children,” he said “Right now what we are getting out of the political system is a lot of rhetoric that doesn’t bring people together.”
But Cesarini understands some people are going to think the idea sounds a little too far-fetched. But that’s OK. He knows what is possible. Since he started traveling the country about seven years ago, he has asked more than 10,000 people about their dreams. Many have stayed in touch. He takes it as a sign that people are hungry for something different.
“We can solve so many of our problems outside of politics, outside of beliefs that divide us,” he said.
Who knows? Maybe the vehicle for change is a funky bus.