Thursday, December 7, 2023
Home Production Best of Awards 2019 Hall of Influencers

2019 Hall of Influencers

By M+E Staff

Principal and Founder
Knox Executive Productions

What’s your background? I grew up in a small town on an 80-acre farm in Michigan. After graduating with a degree in advertising/PR from Grand Valley State University, I followed my older sister to Seattle.

How long have you been in event production? Over 30 years now! When I went to college, there was no event management or recreation degree, and now special events, celebrations and civic gatherings are an integral part of our culture. The more time we spend in front of screens, the more important it is to have live experiences with a shared human connection.

You’ve been involved in so many of Seattle’s iconic celebrations. Do you have any favorites? I have truly loved every one of the celebrations I’ve been part of over my career. Being part of a highly creative, passionate team that brought us Bumbershoot, Summer Nights at the Pier Concert series, and Teatro ZinZanni was a game-changer for me. And I loved producing Seafair because it provides so much personality to our city and allows families and friends to celebrate Seattle’s quintessential summers with pure joy. We took things to a national level with the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, and it was momentous for my team and me to produce the opening ceremony in Husky Stadium with a live ESPN broadcast on ABC.

But one of my favorites would have to be producing the 2014 Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl Parade with just two-and-a-half days’ notice. Seeing nearly 1 million people gather in downtown Seattle to cheer on their home team, and experiencing what it’s like when vendors, city leaders, agencies and partners all just say, “Yes, let’s do this,†was a career highlight.

Do you have any “ridiculous†requests that you managed to pull off? One week out from a large and complex donor recognition event, the client said, “We should do a scavenger hunt!†It seemed ridiculous at first, and it was hard to make sense of its purpose while developing clues in the 11th hour. But when we learned the back story around the idea, suddenly it had real context, which inspired the planning and promotion of it and contributed to its successful execution.

Favorite memory about your work and the impact it has had? I love that my work creates memories for people. I love hearing people recall an iconic music moment at Bumbershoot, like when the finale of the Jimi Hendrix Music Festival occurred, and lightning was striking in the distance, creating a surreal and spiritual experience. Or when someone could swear a Blue Angels pilot flew so close, they could see his eyes, and it made them so proud of our country. Or having someone volunteer for Special Olympics and having such a powerful experience with the athletes, they came back to volunteer even when they weren’t signed up. Events can leave a legacy, and it’s the producer’s responsibilities to ensure it is a positive one with lasting impact.



The Workshop

What is your background? I grew up in Flint, Michigan, and went to the University of Arizona and Evergreen State College.

How long have you been in event production? 37 years. Events are the only thing I’ve ever done professionally.

You have been involved in so many of Seattle’s most iconic celebrations. Do you have any favorites? It’s hard to pick one over the other. I was part of the original Bumbershoot team in the ’80s and helped to build it into one of the world’s great arts and music festivals at the time. I created the Fourth of July Fireworks show on Lake Union and the Summer Nights Concert Series on Pier 62/63. I was on the organizing committee for the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) meetings in Seattle—that was a very interesting look behind the scenes at an international, legendary experience.

I produced WOMAD USA Festival for Peter Gabriel and the All-Star Games stadium ceremony for Major League Baseball and the Seattle Mariners. And I’ve produced the New Year’s Eve fireworks show at the Space Needle since its inception.

I designed and managed the grand openings for the 520 Bridge, SR99 Tunnel and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, as well as the Sound Transit System launch and Capitol Hill and University of Washington station grand openings (plus many others).

Do you have any “ridiculous†requests from clients that you managed to pull off? Grand openings are always difficult because you’re fighting against construction schedule deadlines, untested building and system operations, unknown audience flow and attendance interest, and very nervous clients who need the event to be a positive promotion and not create any negative press.

For the EMP grand opening, our team oversaw the festival at the Seattle Center, the concerts in the stadium and the audience entry experience into the museum. We kept having to add staff, systems and resources week after week leading up to the event because the plan was so massive.

Peter Gabriel insisted on helicoptering onto the WOMAD festival site during the event. This was nearly impossible.

For the WTO opening reception, we were virtually cordoned off by local and federal police while surrounded by protesters who pledged to stop the event. The Ministerial Dinner was the same situation, and the closing reception was canceled the day before because of safety concerns. And my entire team was tear-gassed as we arrived for a President Clinton foreign trade meeting.

Favorite memory from your years in production? The best thing about producing large live experiences is when the celebration evolves into community joy. The grand opening for the SR99 Tunnel and closure of the Viaduct is a good example of this: a very harmonious celebration that opened up the inner workings of these large construction projects for public engagement.

The Benaroya Hall grand opening festival day was planned for 10,000 people and over 30,000 attended. We adapted, and everything went smoothly, although our lines to get in wound through downtown Seattle over a six-block area. But we adapted to accommodate.

Favorite quote? One year when I was working on the Pike Place Market Street Fair, a transient man walked up to me at night while I was measuring the site and said, “You know, you can’t measure the world.†He was right, and I never forgot the wisdom, although it hasn’t stopped me from trying.


Chief Executive Officer

Portland Rose Festival Foundation

What’s your background? I was born and raised in Spokane, Washington, and attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.

How long have you been in event production? My professional career started in the sports industry, with my early years working in minor league baseball and then with the Seattle Mariners. I ended up in Portland, Oregon, as a direct result of the Portland Rose Festival. I accepted a position with the Rose Festival as sponsorship manager back in 1998 and have not looked back since, rising to the role as CEO, where I have led the organization for 15 years.

What is your favorite part of the Portland Rose Festival? My favorite part of the festival is walking the streets of Portland prior to the start of each of the three parades. There is something special about the electric atmosphere prior to the beginning of Rose Festival parades where thousands gather for the event, and the streets are filled with people. I have such an overwhelming feeling of pride knowing that the Portland Rose Festival Foundation gives the gift of celebration to our community in the form of world-class parades.

What’s the craziest thing that has happened at the festival? Producing three full weeks of high-profile, large-scale outdoor events under constantly changing variables like weather can be defined as crazy. Financially, most of our entire year’s efforts are laid on the line in a business plan that you are hoping works based on great decisions, good planning and a little bit of luck. That in some people’s minds is crazy. We at the Rose Festival call it just another normal and exciting year at the Portland Rose Festival Foundation.

Do you have a favorite memory from your years with the festival? My favorite memory of this year’s Portland Rose Festival was in the middle weekend of the festival known as “Starlight Weekend†because the Starlight Parade is sandwiched in the middle on Saturday night. This memory is filled with a sense of huge achievement as we managed our most ambitious week of special event activity in years. Within our control, we produced three RoZone concerts, including our most popular Countryfest show, a morning charity walk, a 5K run (the Starlight Run) and one of our most popular events, Starlight Parade. Especially memorable was the fact that we produced the Starlight Parade, Starlight Run and a RoZone Concert at the exact time the Portland Timbers had their home opener featuring their debut of the renovated Providence Park. Downtown Portland was busting at the seams with people but in a good way. It was a celebratory atmosphere all over the downtown core.

Favorite quote? “Every setback has a major comeback.†I can’t recall who gets credit for that quote, but I have it written on a small note pad on my desk as a reminder for when things get tough.