Concert gives city something to cheer about

I am writing this letter to give a “shout out” to the entire team at the SOEC for a job very well done with the recent Toby Keith concert.

As a member of the mayor’s advisory board on the South Okanagan Events Centre, I’m well aware of the challenges faced by the SOEC and the efforts being made to improve the operation.

So, at the invitation of general manager Dean Clarke, I spent a 14-hour day at the SOEC, greeting the convoy of people and equipment as they arrived from Prince George; observing the entire “load-in,” as the 56-unit video screen was built and hoisted into place; climbing onto the catwalk to closely observe the “upriggers” who straddled the steel beams and arranged for the heavy loads to be properly lifted; and having lunch with truckers who had driven all night through the snow and fog to arrive at the SOEC right on time (and who proclaimed our Ovations food service as “wonderful, the best we’ve had on our entire trip”). I then spent several hours listening in on the sound checks, the security briefings and the backstage production planning.

It was, to my very untrained eye, a symphony of well-orchestrated chaos. For example, at 11 a.m. Saturday, there were a dozen or more trucks lined up outside the SOEC, each loaded with speakers, amplifiers, instruments, tools, monitors, you name it. Then the production chief called the team together and after a quick briefing, 60 or so sets of hands unloaded those trucks, wheeled everything to its proper destination, and other hands quickly unpacked the contents and arranged them on, around or above the stage, according to some grand, unseen, but clearly prearranged plan.

And while it took every bit of eight hours to fully unpack and build and test and finalize the preparations, at exactly 7 p.m., the show went live… just as planned. And after a great performance, in front of an appreciative, almost-sold-out crowd, those same crew members showed back up and knocked down the stage, packed everything up, and around 11:30 p.m., sent the first truck into the teeth of a snowstorm, towards Abbotsford for another show, while the SOEC crew spent a few more hours getting the facility ready for another Vees hockey game.

Every citizen of the South Okanagan can be proud of the efforts put forth — and more importantly, the great results produced by — Dean Clarke, Sally Pierce, Kevin Webb, Mary Richards and many others behind the scenes. Lots of local residents are taking home a paycheque as a result of this event. And more than 50 per cent of our ticket buyers came from somewhere other than the South Okanagan; and spent their money, not just on tickets, but on beer, wine, soda, hot dogs and T-shirts, as well as hotel rooms, restaurants, and who knows what else.

The hundreds of thousands of dollars directly invested in and around the Toby Keith event created an even bigger multiplier impact in the local economy. That’s a win-win for everyone. And that’s why I look forward to welcoming the next top-drawer entertainer to town.

Mark T. Ziebarth