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D.C. Area Resident Celebrates Birthday With A Conference

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Emily Goodstein is celebrating her 30th birthday with a conference.
Emily Berman
Emily Goodstein is celebrating her 30th birthday with a conference.

Emily Goodstein has always been known for throwing great parties. When she was in fifth grade, her parents hired a jeweler to teach her and her friends how to make their own beads. Then, there was the year she and some girlfriends got dressed in their finest and held a tea party. In her 20s, she'd organize huge potluck picnics or throw an '80s-themed dance party, or hire a chef to teach a group how to make a new cuisine. These were good ideas. But for her 30th birthday, she'd need something great.

"I feel like, you only turn 30 once, and I wanted to make sure it was worthwhile," she says.

The idea came to Goodstein in a flash. She loves conferences; she has a lot of hobbies that her friends are always asking about, so why not create a place for all of her friends to gather, and choose activities they think are fun?

"I'm sure that everyone thought I was kidding, and people thought it was this weird idea," she says. "But I decided to go for it, and I don't do things halfway... Go big or go home, right?"

Planning conference activities

Goodstein met with event planner Ilana Knobel at a café in Dupont Circle. She proposed her birthday conference idea.

"At first, it was a crazy idea, but it's so appropriate for D.C.," says Knobel.

She agreed to take on the event as a thesis project for her degree in event planning at George Washington University. Goodstein was glad for the help. "It's nice to have somebody to keep me grounded. For a birthday conference, the options are endless."

The two sat at a table, laptops back to back, working out the details for a session on competitive board games. The conference will include other sessions on flower arranging, yoga, massage technique, and even though it'll be held indoors, Goodstein's dad is teaching a session on sailing.

The only real requirement for a breakout session is that Goodstein like the idea. Their planning led to more offbeat sessions, like a session on the ins and outs of the Minnesota State Fair.

"Two friends that live in Minnesota... they're doing a session about the fair," explains Goodstein. "There's a lot of food on sticks, there's also a gigantic Karaoke sing-along!"

A birthday with a bigger message

While most of the sessions are feel-good or downright silly, Goodstein is building in a healthy dose of social justice.

"I have a friend who just passed away, and she was on the board of an organization called Jews United for Justice," she says. "We devoted a session to an issue that they're working on."

The conference will be held downtown in a venue that can hold about 100 people. Friends are flying in from all over the country for the conference. But registration is open to the public, and Goodstein says she's looking forward to meeting new people.

"I make friends at the grocery store," she says. "I like the idea of shrinking the world. I like walking down the street and running into people I know, and I think it's about being an informed active participant in your life, and not letting life wash over you."

Sure, the Conference is kitschy and ironic, she says, but her message is sincere.

"I think people focus completely on their jobs and don't do anything else," she says. Although I love my job, why spend your whole week working when there are cookies to be decorated, flowers to be arranged, and cards to be made?

It might be the most unconventional birthday celebration around, but like any good party, there are only a few tickets left.

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