Eight Arizona PBS has been geeking it up for years, but it’s only been the last couple years that they’ve been making it official with the annual homecoming ritual of the Nerd Walk. Now the Arizona-born, geek-chic concept of the “PBS Nerd” is being embraced by the pledge drive set beyond the Valley — this spring, PBS trademarked the logo design, which features the iconic PBS head donning horn-rimmed glasses and is the work of Eight’s promotions and events coordinator Bob Beard. But it all goes back to the Nerd Walk, which is gearing up to rise again Oct. 19.
“Being nerdy is no longer about bad sci-fi and math jokes,” Beard said in a statement to his friends here at Nerdvana. “We live in a time where everyone’s a nerd for something – and at Eight, Arizona PBS we believe that’s something to celebrate.”
The Nerd Walk itself will soon be replicated in other PBS stations’ communities, according to Beard. And his nerd cred is unimpeachable: Recently he was invited to speak at the PBS national conference on the phenomenon, and he also spoke at TEDx Phoenix earlier this year on the topic of nerd culture, which is the subject of his Master’s thesis at ASU.
This fall’s third annual Eight Nerd Walk got some heroic promotion at San Diego Comic-Con, where PBS street teams distributed 15,000 PBS Nerd buttons and collected a gallery of hundreds of photos of “PBS Nerds” putting their geek credentials on display, and an estimated 4,200 fans waited in line as long as 12 hours to get into the packed Ballroom 20 at the San Diego Convention Center for the panel on PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery Sherlock series and the upcoming PBS documentary Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle (more on that soon from Nerdvana’s Bob Leeper).
Without any significant promotional effort its first year, the Nerd Walk drew 180 participants, and nearly tripled that the second year. This year they’ve got Bookmans and Wonka’s NERDS candy, the Arizona Ghostbusters and Yelp on board as sponsors. Why so much love?
“Public television is the one entity in contemporary broadcast media that can commit to in-depth explorations of both mainstream and obscure topics, so we saw this as an opportunity to put a face to all of those diverse interests and passions,” says Beard. “The Nerd Walk is 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 OK to be really enthusiastic about the things you love.”
If you want to register for the Nerd Walk, head over to www.azpbs.org/nerd, where you can also vote on a T-shirt design and enter a video competition to be featured in Eight’s Superheroes event Oct. 15, or possibly be named 2013 Nerd-in-Chief.