An Evening at Morton’s - Six Times the Fun

When I agreed to live blog last year's first An Evening at Morton's community conversation, I didn't have many expectations. The topic was sports in Richmond, which has historically been low on my "pay attention to" list, and my primary job would be sit at the children's table with my laptop, quietly typing away as the adults had a free-spirited discussion about Richmond as a sports town. The arrangement worked well, primarily because Josh Dare of The Hodges Partnership is both an avid sports fan and an exemplary facilitator.

But Josh was unavailable for the second event which turned out to be a lively conversation about arts and culture in the Richmond region, and I found myself in the thick of the conversation while THP's Tony Scida rode shotgun with the live blogging. The group took the reins -- who needs a facilitator when you have Harry Kollatz, David Fisk and Ana Ines Kin g bonding over a bottle of red wine?

The essential idea of An Evening at Morton's has always been the same -- bring a group of people together over dinner at Morton's the Steakhouse to have a topical discussion about the Richmond region. Live blog, tweet and audio record the evening so that others can dig in, weight in or simply listen in.

One thing led to another, and by late summer I found myself facilitating a discussion with leaders from Virginia's higher education system (a seperate project organized by The Hodges Partnership) and back at the table again for the third An Evening at Morton's event, which was focused on Richmond's nonprofit community.

It turns out that 2010 will see An Evening at Morton's moving a bit toward prime time -- with six events starting in February, and with the sponsorship support of, one of the region's top news and information hubs. I've been asked to facilitate all six, which are described briefly below.

One of the biggest changes this year is the addition of to the fold. They'll not only host the live blog of each event on their site, but will provide ongoing context about each topic for their readers and work to generate broader conversations in the community. Since their new Chief Connector is Rick Thornton, who helped lead the Times-Dispatch's popular Public Square events, I have no doubt they will be up to the task.

The remaining usual suspects on the planning side of the table are Morton's AnnMarie Grohs, THPs Julia Webster and Josh Dare, and me. Tony Scida will continue live blogging, and the editor of the acclaimed Downtown Short Pump news site will be live tweeting.

We're in full-on planning mode right now for the February session, which is focused on the business climate in the Richmond region for young professionals. While the tidal wave of layoffs that hit the region over the winter of 2008-2009 hit an older demographic hard, the area's younger professional demographic is feeling the full force of a tight job market. We'll be pulling together a unique group of folks whose job has been to pay attention to and deal with young professionals in the region for the February 23 event.

The other five sessions will follow every other month. In April, the focus will be on Richmond neighborhoods, and we hope to really raise the heat in June with a media-centric panel discussion the state of media (news and other) in the region. August's focus will be on the James River, and October promises a tasty discussion about food and dining in Richmond. We'll close out the year in December with a conversation about transportation.

Keep an eye out in this space or at for details on each event as the dates draw closer.