Focusing on the details
To make a good concert great, Club Regent program manager's priority is keeping performers and fans happy
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/10/2019 (1201 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Kelly Berehulka likes to be prepared — as evidenced by the pages of notes he’s typed up in preparation for his interview with the Free Press.
He’s also a people person, someone who converses easily and makes an effort to put others at ease. Whether he was born with those traits or picked them up along the way, both have been a boon to his career as an event planner and promoter.
Berehulka, 48, is the program manager for entertainment with Casinos of Winnipeg and has been booking shows at Club Regent Event Centre since 2000.
“This is a career that takes your entire life to build relationships,” he says. “And that’s why your reputation is so important when you work with people. It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”
In the early days, he was responsible for booking the concert bowls at Club Regent and McPhillips Station Casino, which at that time were both retrofitted bingo halls. Club Regent’s new Event Centre opened in 2014 and under Berehulka’s guidance, the 1,400-seat theatre has become known as a place to see big names in an intimate setting.
He has brought in musical acts like Burton Cummings, Trooper, Randy Travis, Pat Benatar and Bret Michaels and comedians such as Lewis Black, Jo Koy and Margaret Cho, but the first event he ever hosted was of a much smaller scale.
Berehulka grew up in Brandon and decided his Grade 6 class needed a party to mark its upcoming graduation from elementary school to junior high. His neighbourhood corner store sold 45s for 10 cents each. He hauled in his collection of Foreigner, Irish Rovers and Bay City Rollers records and borrowed the record player from the school’s music room.
“We closed the blinds, moved the desks and we had our own noon-hour dance,” Berehulka says, laughing. “We put our biggest friend at the door to keep the Grade 5s out and that was our own little graduation party that we made for ourselves.”
He got his first taste of event promotions during university, when he worked at the only movie store in town. He was a member of the business club at Assiniboine Community College and would sell tickets to the group’s socials and events at the movie store.
“I call that my ‘TSN Turning Point’ job because everyone in Brandon went there, you got to know so many people, and in a business where you have to make so many connections, that job was the beginning of climbing the ladder.”
Berehulka did promotions for the City of Brandon and then came to Winnipeg in 1999 to work for the Pan American Games.
In his work at Club Regent Event Centre, his goal is to make an artist’s day go off without a hitch — something that requires a lot of planning and people.
“I book the shows, but there’s an entire team behind co-ordinating the details,” he says. “We might have a concert loading out at 1 a.m., followed by a grad ceremony at 9 a.m. All the credit to our co-ordination and operations teams to make complicated transitions happen over and over.”
Here’s the rest of the interview, which has been edited for length and clarity:
Eva Wasney: What’s something about your job that might surprise people?
Kelly Berehulka: It’s not as simple as opening up a directory and calling up a certain act and they show up on a certain day. You look at hundreds of shows each year just to program 80.
EW: What has been a highlight for you with a musician or a band?
KB: Launching the new Event Centre with Huey Lewis and the News. I spent three years working on getting that show and that’s music that I grew up with.
On the way to a conference in Toronto, an agent and I made a stop at Fallsview Casino (in Niagara Falls) because he represented Kevin Costner. So, we went to go see him and his band and we sat talking baseball and music with Kevin Costner for 45 minutes after his show. And that was a surreal moment — you’re in that time and place and you’re just trying to absorb it.
EW: Do you get starstruck?
KB: You don’t really get starstruck because you’re there to do a job and they’re there to do their job. You might catch 15 seconds with an artist to say thank you, or you might know someone well, like Dallas Smith or Jo Koy, who you’ve worked with numerous times and you get to sit down and chat about the show or their career. I appreciate all the moments, though.
EW: What was the first concert you went to?
KB: David Lee Roth (in 1986) — I wanted to be Diamond Dave. I was 16 and just amazed by the spectacle of it all. My Grade 12 year was full of trips to Winnipeg for Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Kiss, Motley Crüe.
EW: Where does your interest in music come from?
KB: I’m part of a big Ukrainian family, both my parents must have 50 first cousins, so when I was a little kid, every summer was going to Ukrainian weddings with a Ukrainian band every single weekend. Me and all my little cousins would be sitting on the edge of the stage when we were five years old, watching my uncles play guitar or accordion and watching an entire room of people having a good time.
EW: What is your favourite restaurant in Winnipeg?
KB: When I get friends coming in from out of town, I take them to Falafel Place for breakfast with a double order of potato pancakes.
EW: What’s your other favourite venue in Winnipeg besides the Event Centre?
KB: I love going to the Burt, the Burt is majestic and I love going to see a band I like and standing at the back of the room. The Times Change(d) is also a place I like taking friends from out of town to show it off. There’s so many great little venues in the city.
EW: Favourite album of all time?
KB: Van Halen, 1984, and the Tragically Hip, Fully Completely.
EW: Have you seen any good movies in the last year?
Kelly Berehulka: If I see Goodfellas or Shawshank Redemption on TV in the afternoon I’m stuck and I’ll watch it all the way through. Or Stand By Me — I don’t know how many times I’ve seen those movies.
I can’t get enough of music bio documentaries. I love the stories behind the songs and bands and think I’ve seen every music documentary on Netflix. Alan Cross’s Ongoing History of New Music is my go-to highway podcast. I must have watched the Eagles’ Netflix documentary at least three times and will again.
EW: What is your favourite way to de-stress outside of work?
KB: It’s important to decompress because you go through a whole day during an event dealing with all the variables. I love to cook; I want to cook every single Facebook recipe I see. I’m on my fifth barbecue smoker. Smoking some ribs on a Saturday afternoon at Clear Lake, it just slows down time.
EW: Do you have a family cabin out there?
KB: Yeah and I try to get away to the lake as much as I can. A lot of friends go up there because I’m from Brandon. So we’ll meet up there and go golfing and just sit around and barbecue.
And renovating. I’ve been renovating my house for the last two years so I feel like I’ve been in a non-stop renovation pattern, going home from work and grabbing the hammer and doing demo last year and then rebuilding.
EW: That’s something you find relaxing? Because not everyone would find renovations relaxing.
KB: It was. My dad and grandpa were both carpenters. What it did was it made my house better for hosting and for cooking.
EW: Do you have any Ukrainian dishes you’ve learned from family?
KB: I don’t. I rely on my mom as my perogy supplier.
EW: Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy?
KB: I never, ever belong onstage, but I play a little bit of guitar.
EW: You are a sports fan, what teams do you cheer for?
Kelly Berehulka: I’m from Brandon and I follow the Wheat Kings very closely, and I went to a lot of games because that’s the event of the city. But since the Jets came back, I’ve been a season-ticket holder. I hang on every goal — we’re going to have a turnaround season this year. I’m one of the rowdies of section 310.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 9:08 AM CDT: Formats text