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.
But today the Entertainment, Sport and Promotion Management (ESPM) graduate who recently produced and managed a two-day country music festival known as the Delta Country Jam, credits his Northwood experience as being the catalyst to event management success as president and founder of Harbor Entertainment.
With the festival headlining superstar Tim McGraw and other country megastars, over 15,000 fans traveled to a twenty-four acre stretch of a former Tunica, Mississippi plantation where Dedo and his team had orchestrated the construction of a small ‘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 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 a sport and entertainment management graduate who has used the tools supplied to him from our program, and is making a career out of them on a much higher level. Therefore, 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 to 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.
And 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.
Northwood University is committed to the most personal attention to prepare students for success in their careers and in their communities; it promotes critical thinking skills, personal effectiveness, and the importance of ethics, individual freedom and responsibility.
Private, nonprofit, and accredited, Northwood University specializes in managerial and entrepreneurial education at three full-service, residential campuses located in southern Florida, mid-Michigan and northern Texas. Adult Degree Programs are available in seven states with many course delivery options including online. The DeVos Graduate School offers accelerated, evening and weekend programming in Michigan, Texas and Florida. The Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity and Enterprise provides system-wide expertise in family enterprise, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and new business development. International education is offered through study abroad and in Program Centers in China (Changchun and Wuxi), Malaysia and Sri Lanka.