Watch TEDx Breckenridge speakers inspire virtually

Diane Schroeder speaks at the second annual TEDx Breckenridge conference Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. The event will be broadcast virtually Tuesday, Oct. 12.
Connor Robinson/TEDx Breckenridge

The second annual TEDx Breckenridge held its in-person event with music, art, yoga and more Saturday, Oct. 2, but that doesn’t mean the conference of speakers is done spreading its signature ideas. A virtual event is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 12, that expands the audience to anyone in the world.

With a theme of expand, TEDx Breckenridge is continuing to bring the independently organized version of TED Talks to Summit County via an accessible price tag, an online broadcasting platform and moving stories.

“Part of TED’s mission is to find the most interesting people in the world and let them share their passion,” event organizer Jill Marek said. “That’s definitely what we’re committed to do and why we brought this to the community. I personally believe it can create a ripple that ultimately changes the world.”

Though the initial conference planned for spring 2020 was postponed to last October due to the coronavirus pandemic, Marek wanted this year’s gathering to be in October again. She feels the shoulder season is a good time to bring locals together in a community event.

“We didn’t want to loose momentum, and there is still uncertainty about when it will be easy to produce an event again, and how long that will be down the road,” Marek said. “For us, it was about maintaining the momentum and just keeping it going.”

After an application process that was open to all, Marek said the pool was narrowed to 22 live auditions before selecting the final 10 speakers. Presenters range from full-time residents, part-time residents, regular visitors or fans of the area and talks cover fields such as science, real estate and music, includiing a talk by Washington-based Jennifer Rae Getz who writes songs about Colorado.

One face that might be familiar to a few locals is Diane Schroeder, a fire station battalion chief who presented to the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District in Breckenridge in 2018. Schroeder has been in fire service for 22 years — 19 in Aurora and now Louisville — and loves the work because of the camaraderie and serving other people.

The single mother was the first woman in her organization to have a baby in 2012 and she’s currently working on a master’s degree in executive leadership. For Schroeder, the TEDx event is an opportunity to share a message important to her: the value of authenticity.

If you go

What: TEDx Breckenridge virtual event

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12, with the video rewatchable anytime

Where: Online

Cost: $10. Visit to purchase

“When you start owning who you are and are genuine, you become a beacon for others and you expand,” Schroeder said. “It’s an infinite mindset versus a finite mindset.”

A fellow of International Fire Chief’s Association Diversity Executive Leadership Program, Schroeder is passionate about equity and inclusion in the workplace — something she is personally familiar with in a male-dominated industry.

“It’s kind of been the heroine’s journey,” she said. “I started wanting to fit in and everyone to like me, and then as everything fell apart in my life, I realized that didn’t work so well, so I might as well be myself.”

In addition to speaking and fighting fires, Schroeder created a blog in 2017,, to share leadership insights.

“Owning who you are doesn’t take away value from anyone else,” Schroeder said. “You can be yourself and still be successful in this career instead of trying to fit in.”

Sherry Hess gives a talk at the second annual TEDx Breckenridge conference Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Hess is the founder of The Flavor Remedy and an advocate for healthy eating.
Connor Robinson/TEDx Breckenridge

Another speaker hoping to adjust people’s mindsets is Sherry Hess of The Flavor Remedy. Hess started her culinary journey in Boulder but then became sick and was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s disease. That led her to make her own spice business that combined healing herbs and tasty flavors.

Though she moved on from spice manufacturing to consulting, Hess is still focused on flavor. Her presentations delve into the importance of sense of taste and how it’s used for more than just enjoying food. She said most people think of healthy food as flavorless, but you can be healthy and have flavor.

“Our sense of taste is really our only innate nutrition-detection tool,” Hess said. “It is what we’re born with to be able to evaluate how food is serving our bodies.”

However, she said people are being deceived by artificial additives when they should seek out naturally grown and raised flavor. She wants folks to expand their taste buds to experience more than salty and sweet, since nutrition can be found in bitter flavors.

Along with discussing bitter beer and cocktails, one analogy she uses is an apple.

“An apple is sweet, but it comes wrapped in a bitter skin,” she said. “That’s where your beneficial health ingredients are.”

Like Hess, local Stephanie Ralph wanted to take part in the TEDx event to share a passion. For the director of the Summit County Library, that naturally is the significance of reading and libraries. Her talk touches on how physical renovations are causing expansion and how the library offers a place for people to expand their horizons.

“(Libraries are) great for this bonding of social connections, and also on a personal level, libraries are places where people can explore and expand and grow in whatever way they choose,” Ralph said.

Ralph joined the library in 2019 after serving as Grand County’s library director for six years. She decided to make libraries her career around 2003 and slowly worked her way up the professional hierarchy. Ralph enjoys how libraries are mostly community funded and democratic in the sense that they support an individual’s goals — especially the essential process of reading.

“Reading is not a task,” she said. “It is an incredibly exciting adventure.”

While not a professional speaker like other TEDx participants, Ralph has presented to boards and staff for her job. She said TEDx Breckenridge was a unique experience and she hopes talks like hers inspire people to follow suit.

“This is a real opportunity to let our community craft our own message, think through what we want to say and to express what we want to express,” Ralph said. “The whole process was extraordinary. I highly recommend local people to kind of at least have a sense of what this opportunity represents.”

Summit County Library Director Stephanie Ralph presents on the importance of libraries at the second annual TEDx Breckenridge conference Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Ralph joined the library in 2019.
Connor Robinson/TEDx Breckenridge

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