• No Rain on Tony Michaels' Parade

     
    POSTED June 12, 2020
     

Tony Michaels is no stranger to navigating choppy waters. The CEO and executive director of The Parade Company, which puts on traditions like America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Ford Fireworks, took the helm of the Detroit nonprofit during tough times, at the height of the financial crisis. “2008, 2009, are you kidding me?” says Michaels.

Before heading such institutions, Michaels was CEO of Big Boy Restaurants. He’d effectively spent his entire working life there, starting at age 14 in various restaurant roles with Elias Brothers, which held the Big Boy trademark. “I just kind of grew up in that company.”

“As the company was headed toward financial trouble … I was made CEO,” he says. “My job was to keep the brand going and find a buyer.” With Elias nearing bankruptcy, Michaels found that buyer, getting a signed letter of intent for the purchase the same day it filed for short-lived Chapter 11. “I ran the company for seven more years and we were booming.”

Having served on The Parade Company board, Michaels moved into the organization’s top spot in spring 2009. “We cranked it up and really improved this organization, so many facets of it,” he says. “The whole idea was, make everything great and we will get more sponsorship and we’ll be able to do more really great things.”

Broadcast in 185 cities across the U.S., America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was voted by USA Today readers the “Best Holiday Parade” in both 2018 and 2019. “There’s something very, very special about the parade,” says Michaels. “We’re in our 94th year and that is just such a tradition. There’s a million people lined up on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.”

Michaels says bringing those people together makes his work worthwhile. “When you see the faces of the kids and the families and the camaraderie on that day. … Everybody’s together, everybody’s taking it in and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

For Andrea Mokros, Minneapolis-based public relations executive and independent event consultant, the last decade has been a whirlwind. From serving as special assistant to President Obama and director of strategic planning for then-first lady Michelle Obama, to welcoming newcomers to the Bold North as the vice president of communications and events for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, Mokros shares the key takeaways that inspire her work today. 

 

Nickole Kerner Bobley describes her childhood in The Woodlands as charmed. Summer days were spent exploring the community just north of Houston. One of her favorite activities was watching the installation of The Woodlands’ iconic public art. She and her friends would sit in awe, perched on their bikes, as the giant cranes carefully positioned the sculptures in place. It had a lasting impact on her. “I attribute my adult love of art to where I lived,” she notes.

 

Originally from Ontario, Heather Odendaal got her start in event planning early, serving as her high school’s head of social events. She ended up on the West Coast, courtesy of her studies at the University of British Columbia, and launched her career in Whistler, working for the resort in marketing and events. Today, she’s CEO of Bluebird Strategy, a boutique event planning firm, and CEO and founder of WNORTH, a global community of women who have their sights set on the C-suite.