• 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.”

You may not have seen her name among Chicago’s James Beard award nominees or caught in the buzz of another trendy eatery opening, but the ripples of Rita Dever’s culinary creations have made an impact far and wide. After cooking around the world, the Pacific Northwest native put down roots as Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ (LEYE) associate partner and corporate chef where she collaborates in the company’s test kitchen to innovate new dishes for all LEYE restaurants.

 

Denver native Keisha Makonese’s passion for planning events dates way back. Her latest gig as director of sales and corporate events at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum began nine years ago. In this role, Makonese helps oversee an average of 150 private events at Wings Over the Rockies each year, from making meetings for 20 people to annual dinners for 2,000 fun and interactive experiences.

 

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better champion of Amarillo than Hope Stokes, director of brand management for the Amarillo Convention & Visitor Council. Born and raised in the Texas Panhandle city, she graduated from nearby West Texas A&M University and her first job in the tourism industry was as an intern at the council. Stokes shared with us her love of her hometown.

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