While first dipping his feet into the entertainment management field as a sophomore at Northwood University Florida back in 2002, Drew Dedo likely had no idea that he’d be responsible for conceptualizing and developing one of the largest music festivals in the country.
With the festival headlining superstar Tim McGraw and other country megastars, over 15,000 fans traveled to a 24-acre stretch of a former Tunica, Mississippi plantation where Dedo and his team had orchestrated the construction of a ‘mini city,’ employing more than 200 locals while keeping area hotels and casinos full.
“My first real event was produced at Northwood as part of a class project under the leadership of Dr. Dennis Bechtol,” recalled Dedo of Northwoodstock, which was a seven-hour concert he’d produced as student operations manager featuring continuous tunes from several up-and-coming bands. “That event started the entire focus for me. And my college internship, combined with the lessons we had in class relating to event planning and risk management instilled the fundamental roots that continue to grow my company into the enterprise that it is today,” said Dedo, who founded Harbor Entertainment in 2005.
“Drew is an Entertainment, Sport, and Promotion Management graduate who has used the tools supplied to him from our program to make a career out of them on a much higher level. He epitomizes the opportunities one can create, thanks to the knowledge gained from the curriculum,” said Dr. Dennis Bechtol, Chair of Northwood’s ESPM program.
“I first learned of the Delta Country Jam opportunity from a Nashville talent agent friend who recommended me for the big break, so my first step was to work directly with the talent agencies, and put together an attractive line-up and event proposal,” said the South Florida native who credits creative director, Kasey Lowry, and his entire Harbor Entertainment team for its expertise and ability to successfully compete in the challenging market.
“There aren’t a lot of small production companies generating large festival format shows due to competition from big corporations with buying power, so for us it was all about reputation. Everyone from our runners to our production managers played key roles in the success of the show,” said Dedo, “We were fortunate to confirm a stellar lineup headlined by Tim McGraw on Saturday and Billy Currington on Friday,” added Dedo of the performers, which also included big names like Randy Houser, Jerrod Niemann, Kelly Pickler, and more.
The scope of the job included much more than procurement of talent and construction of the site. In addition to overseeing creation of the temporary ‘city,’ Dedo, a licensed pyrotechnician applied his knowledge of audio, lighting, special effects, and custom staging toward capping off each night’s performances with full firework shows.
“Our biggest goal is to establish memorable, long term relationships with the artists, ensuring that they feel comfortable from the moment they arrive to when they depart. And with that in place, the event flows well and the reward comes from seeing it all come together from the first truck rolling in, to the last rolling out,” he smiled.
- Suzi McCreery