As November 2016 came to a close, most families were wrapping up their holiday festivities and preparing for the race to Christmas. Walter Kinzie, CEO of Fort Worth-based event planning company Encore Live, was in a Las Vegas hotel with his wife and family. At 3:18 a.m. on Nov. 30, a phone call changed any plans he had made for the end of the year.
“I’ll never forget it. My wife sat up in bed and I could tell she was confused and didn’t know if it was going to be real or not and so I put it on speaker phone — I wanted her to just listen in — and I hung up the phone and she said, ‘This is real, isn’t it?’ and I said, ‘It is,’” Kinzie said.
The call he received informed him that Encore Live was being considered for the role of co-planning the myriad events that precede, follow and occur during the 58th presidential inauguration.
“I made a phone call to our chief operating officer Jason Goodman, who’s with me out here in D.C.,” Kinzie said before meeting with his team for their final run through, “and I recapped the phone call and we got off the phone and he immediately went into planning mode and like 15 seconds later he calls me back and he says, ‘Is this real?’ I said, ‘This is real; it’s happening.’”
Encore Live will be one of the event planning companies on site at the inauguration and they have had a hand in planning and pulling off seven official inauguration events including the Victory Ball, Armed Forces Ball and the swearing-in ceremony itself. It’s no easy feat for any team to accomplish, but Kinzie said his employees, whom he views as family, jumped at this chance of a lifetime.
“We have the best team and the best people I have ever met work for Encore Live. For all of them it was a no-brainer. We have to leave everything behind for a few months in Fort Worth and make sure this goes the way that it needs to go. I couldn’t be more proud of my team.”
The company of about 30 employees was divided in two so their obligations in North Texas could be met, including events associated with the Cotton Bowl. The team sent to the Capitol Building was put to work, pushing through a seven-week period of 20-hour days to make sure every I and T was dotted and crossed. But Kinzie said the stress and strain of that seven weeks gave way to tranquility as the week of the inauguration began.
“If you’re a quarterback you dream about the day you make it to the Super Bowl, and if you’re in my business, this is our Super Bowl,” Kinzie said. “This is the call you want. It only comes around every four years, and there’s a lot of work that goes into making sure that phone rings.”
Encore Live’s track record in the industry is what got them to the inauguration. Their ability to coordinate myriad fundraisers, weddings, corporate events and award shows that occur yearly in North Texas, as well as the rest of the U.S., made them a good fit for the eclectic amalgam of balls and ceremonies that take place on inauguration week.
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And they also made sure to bring their trusted vendors and acquaintances from North Texas with them, including businesses Stage Works USA and Schaefer Advertising and musicians Green River Ordinance and Josh Weathers, who will headline the Armed Forces Ball. Those relationships are a vital part of any event planning company and Kinzie doesn’t take those partnerships lightly.
“I’m working with the brightest minds in this industry and so many great partners and vendors that I’ve never met before but only got to watch their work from afar I’m now side by side with in boardrooms and meetings and helping pull this thing together,” Kinzie said. “We work all over the United States of America and it is never more fun than the opportunities we get to share with our friends and our family in North Texas.”
Kinzie hopes North Texas will be pleased with the job his team does organizing what is arguably the largest and most anticipated event of the past eight years.
“We’re proud to be representing North Texas out here, and we look forward to getting back and re-engaging with our communities and meeting new people,” Kinzie said. “We just hope we make North Texas proud while we’re out here this week.”