Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Walters was 'big champion' for Winnipeg

Cancer claims promoter who brought Junos, Grey Cup to city

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Whether he was working with rock stars, cultural icons or sports personalities, Kevin Walters never seemed out of place.

Who is going to fill that place is the question being asked around town as the veteran Winnipeg promoter died Monday after a nearly year-long battle with stomach cancer.

The 54-year-old was responsible for some of the biggest events on the Canadian calendar coming to Winnipeg, including the Grey Cup in 2006 and the Juno Awards in 2005 and 2014, as well as countless local festivals and concerts.

If you wanted advice on any particular element of the entertainment industry, Walters was happy to give you a hand. After all, he had done pretty much everything. During his 30-year career, he had been a DJ, managed Night Moves nightclub, booked acts for the Hungry I Agency, started his own artist management and production agency -- Twin Productions -- and was the merchandising manager for the Barenaked Ladies.

He also had a long career managing sound-recording programs at Manitoba Film & Music.

Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president of venues and entertainment for the MTS Centre, who worked with Walters during the past 25 years, said his friend took a turn for the worse about a week ago, which surprised many people because he had been showing steady signs of progress with his treatment.

"He was Winnipeg's most well-regarded and visible person in the national (entertainment) industry. People from Victoria to Newfoundland knew about his abilities and that he was a real big champion for Winnipeg. When he said, 'hey, this event would be great, I can make this work in Winnipeg,' that was accepted as fact," he said. "He had a skill, a knack and a way about him that he was able to do what agents, promoters and artists needed and make them feel good about the process."

Ian Low, Vancouver-based executive vice-president of talent for Canada for Live Nation, which brought Paul McCartney to Winnipeg last summer, described Walters as a "great, easygoing guy."

"He was a friend first and a guy that you loved hanging out with and loved doing business with. He had a great heart and I can't think of many people who cared more about the projects that he worked on than him," he said.

Donnelly said Walters was always involved in Winnipeg events, whether it was the Junos, football, Homecoming 2010 or cultural events.

"It might strike somebody as odd, but for him it was fully appropriate. Who else would you want handling it? Besides, he was a great guy," he said.

Donnelly recalled many times having a lineup of people before one of his shows and, even though Walters was coming to sit in the audience, he'd help marshall people in line without being asked.

"I have 1,000 recollections of him pitching in at my events and he never hit my payroll. I probably owe him some money. A lot of money," he said.

Four years ago, Walters contacted the people at Guinness World Records about what he was convinced would be the largest-ever social during Homecoming 2010, an initiative that brought thousands of expatriates home to celebrate all things Manitoba.

About 35,000 people attended socials in 63 communities throughout the province on May 15, 2010.

He was told Guinness had no such category. No matter, said the executive director.

"We are claiming the title without fear of contradiction. I think we can safely say this (was) the largest social ever held," he said.

Walters is survived by his wife, Ginette Lavack Walters, executive director of the Festival du Voyageur.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2014 A2


Updated on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 10:12 AM CDT: Corrects reference to Manitoba Film & Music

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