While countless conferences and festivals have been cancelled this year due to the pandemic, Andria Friesen says cancelling the 2020 edition of the Sun Valley Wellness Festival and Conference wasn't an option.
"For crying out loud," said Friesen, president of the festival's board of directors. "If there's ever a time for us to figure out a way to get the best and the brightest and to get the information to everyone possible, it's this year."
Among this year's featured presenters are experts on sleep, developmental psychology, grief and Dr. Seth Cohen, Chief of Infectious Disease and Travel Medicine at the University of Washington and a recognized national authority on COVID-19.
Friesen visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the high-profile presenters and how this year's conference will move to a virtual platform.
“We could not cancel. There are so many events throughout our state and the country that have cancelled. And we certainly talked about it in our board meetings; but the bottom line is, we're wellness.”
Read the full transcript below:
GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning, I'm George Prentice. The Sun Valley Wellness Festival and Conference is the longest running conference of its kind in the world. And this, its 23rd year, will feature a number of its speakers addressing the current pandemic. AndrIa Friesen is the president of the board of directors for the Sun Valley Wellness Festival, and she joins us live via Zoom from Sun Valley. Ms. Friesen, good morning.
ANDRIA FRIESEN: Good morning, George. Thank you so much for sharing part of your morning with me.
PRENTICE: Absolutely. I think it's fair to say that in years past some folks might have heard Wellness Festival and thought lifestyle, but this year, 2020, wellness is, well, it's survival. Isn't it? I have to assume that the critical nature of the pandemic has brought on a sense of urgency to your event.
FRIESEN: It absolutely has. And for that reason, we could not cancel. There are so many events throughout our state and throughout the country that have canceled. And we certainly talked about it in our board meetings, but the bottom line is, we're wellness. For crying out loud, if there's ever a time for us to figure out a way to get the best and the brightest and to get the information to everyone possible, it's this year.
PRENTICE: And to that end, I'm thinking that people are anxious for facts and for data. And I have to assume that you'll put that out front and center.
FRIESEN: Indeed. Dr. Seth Cohen is one of our featured speakers. He is absolutely on the front lines of the coronavirus. Dr. Cohen is at University of Washington Medical, every day on the front lines. He's done many things, but he's also credited for designing and setting up the country's first drive-through testing site. The title of his presentation is, COVID-19 Past, Present and Future.
PRENTICE: How might attendees gain access this year? I'm assuming it's virtual.
FRIESEN: It is indeed, sunvalleywellness.org, and you'll be prompted, through how to get your virtual pass, all of the speakers, and then also meditation sessions and movement sessions. And you don't need to watch any of them live if it doesn't work for your schedule. You'll have full access to all the content through September 7th.
PRENTICE: Also on your list, and I know it's a pretty long one, very impressive, Dr. Matthew Walker, author of the bestseller, “Why We Sleep.”
FRIESEN: Exactly. Yeah. International rock star on sleep. A quick story on him and another speaker we have: a grief expert, Nora McInerny. These are the two speakers that we booked; contract signed, sealed, and delivered, pre COVID. I'm not exaggerating. Two weeks after we signed these speakers, Ted, of TED Talks, released their list of the top TED Talks. Dr. Walker and Nora McInerny are in the top five, so their speaker fees went through the roof. But we super lucked out there in being able to have them. A week or two or three later, we're introduced to COVID-19.
In the time since then, both of these speakers have become national and international voices on COVID. Dr. Walker, for example, the role that sleep plays in your immune system. Nora has gone deeply into grief with regard to isolation and sequester and fear. But what she also shared in a recent conversation, is that when you have been experiencing isolation, fear, et cetera, for an extended period of time, physiologically, your body brings up past grief. But you don't know that because it's unconscious, so you're just getting heavier and heavier and heavier. And it's very easy for a downward spiral to begin.
I mean, I was on the phone with her for 10 minutes, and I really felt better. My enthusiasm, as well as the entire board of directors, with the content and the relevant topics that we're bringing to this conference, this is our time to shine, and we're going to pull through.
PRENTICE: She is Andrea Friesen, president of the board of directors for the Sun Valley Wellness Festival and Conference. And you'll find a link to that on our website, which is boisestatepublicradio.org.
Andrea, stay safe, stay well, capital W. Stay Well and best of luck with this year's event.
FRIESEN: George, thank you so much.
Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren
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