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Life in the Spotlight

A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Jenifer Krizmanic-Wilson

When we watch special events, like the Olympics, the last thing on our minds is the people behind the stage right? We look for the athletes and the entertainment, whether we know much about the sport or not. Well, Ogden Dunes resident, Jenifer Krazmanic-Wilson was one of those head directors, working hard on making events like a Rolling Stones concert and the Vancouver Winter Olympic games fun, entertaining, and running smoothly for the public.

She is from Ogden Dunes, but after high school she needed to leave the small town life for a while. She set out for Chicago to work on the production side of the music industry.

After eight years working for an old-school producer, she realized she would never rise in the “boys club” company she found herself in.

So she packed up and went to San Diego, where there was a bigger market for production crews.

She found herself working the bottom of the ladder jobs for a promoter who produced all of the San Diego shows and had a contract with the events held at the Hollywood Bowl.

“My first show ever was The Rolling Stones,” she said. “I was behind the scenes pushing cases and being a stage hand. I loved the idea of working really hard on the pre-production show, seeing that it was put up successfully, then it was performed on successfully and it was taken down successfully and completely gone and ready for the next show. It was a whole different thing, always changing.”

Growing up helping her dad in the shop and at home, Wilson quickly learned she was pretty handy with tools and mechanics, yet she did not want to go onto construction.

“Production manager is what I ultimately wanted to do,” she said. “I liked pushing cases and learning one of the trades, like lighting and sound. I did not want to be one of the girls who got stuck in the wardrobe department as an assistant. I wanted to be backstage and wearing a tool belt and putting trusts together.”

It was after that first show was done and The Rolling Stones band members were packing up when Wilson knew this was business to be in. She didn’t care about the performers; it was the successfulness of the show that she loved, yet when Keith Richards asks you to play cards…

“The first show, it was a full moon in San Diego and I was looking up and thinking, “I am a little girl from Indiana and I am looking up at this full moon on this beautiful night at a Rolling Stones show at my first gig..’” she remembered saying to herself. “Somebody came up and said in an English accent, ‘Hey, what you lookin’ at love?’ and without looking over I said, ‘Oh my God, look at the f*** moon.’ Whoever it was chuckled and said, ‘Ah, it is beautiful, isn’t it?’”

Turns out Richards was next to her. Embarrassed for cursing, but knowing he didn’t care, she accepted to play cards that night with the band.

There are several funny situations involving celebrities and athletes, she added, recalling another event with Jack Nicholson hiding in the bar.

She was with the company for eight years, moving up to managing her own shows. She enjoyed the big productions the most, where 20 to 30 trucks rolled in for a day then rolled out 24 hours later toward the next city.

She switched from music to sports when she and a group of people were brought onto ESPN to expand the X Games, which at the time only covered sports like hunting and fishing and were not doing any live performances, just production for a TV audience.

For the next several years she was working on the production crews of the X Games, finding herself in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Games, producing everything from entertainment when people parked and walked to the stadium, to the announcements, speakers, and live footage during the events. She also did the Paralympics games.

After the 2002 games, she and her husband Nathan moved back to Northwest Indiana and had their first child Flynn.

“I was ready to be out of it,” she said, touching on the long work days and post-production work that took place at 2 a.m. in the morning. “I was ready to settle downs and raise my babies.”

A few years later, the two decided to move to Portland, where they had a second boy named Hudson and it was there she somehow agreed to her old boss over dinner that she would take her job back for the Vancouver games in 2010, producing for all the snow events.

The family, plus Wilson’s mother who was brought along to watch the kids, moved to Vancouver, and during the games she gave birth to her third boy Bowen, named for Bowen Island in Canada.

When she was finally done with work, it was the acceptance into the Discovery Charter School that made the decision that the Wilson family would move back to Indiana.

“We both have moved around a lot, and we have entertained the idea of moving different places, but we love the dunes, and this area,” she said. “We have files and files of research of other places, but we always came back to knowing you can’t beat this area.”

You just cant beat the proximity to Chicago’s cultural center, to the lakefront and the untold beauty of the nature found in the area, she said, which is why now back in Ogden Dunes, she is taking on preserving that nature.

She alone is working on creating a master plan for the town of Ogden Dunes, for the upkeep of the area. She is working with other locals and the historical society to get her work established in the code books.

It is a lot of work, but it combines her love of the area, nature, and her own passion to put on and produce. Though it is not a concert with Keith Richards, she is still producing the information and work needed to keep her town running smoothly and beautifully for years to come.

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