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Messages from the President

Celebrating Fifty Years of Fabulous - August

By: Anna Tanski, President & CEO | August 1, 2016


Professionally speaking, August 19, 1991 literally marked the first day of the rest of my life. Nerves and butterflies abounded as I reported to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center as the newly hired convention sales manager.

Following brief co-worker introductions my boss handed over a shiny set of keys, printed floor plan and instructions to walk around and familiarize myself with the facility. The sheer size of the complex was a bit daunting but I set out on a self-guided tour, knowing I’d eventually find my way back to the office.

Meandering through hallways deep in the bowels of the building I started to become acclimated to the overall layout of the DECC and quickly realized navigating wasn’t nearly as challenging as I anticipated. Two hours later I circled back to the business office eager for the opportunity to begin representing the beautiful, impressive venue to clients.

Certainly there are spectacular centers in cities across the country, but it’s the people within those walls that set the DECC apart. Joyce Benedict was the matriarch of the original Duluth Arena Auditorium, working out of a construction trailer until the doors opened August 6, 1966. Joyce dubbed herself the “sweet old lady” but was tough as nails. Originally hired as the secretary to the executive director, it was quickly apparent Joyce was more than capable of running the show however, in that era, women were not typically tapped for such a role. Joyce was the rudder that kept the DECC on course during several trying times. Her no-nonsense style and deeply rooted commitment ultimately lead to the naming of Symphony Hall’s Mezzanine in her honor.

Joyce is one example of many dedicated employees who strive to make the DECC a facility in a category of excellence others strive to achieve. This crew is the heart and soul that ensures every meal is served to perfection, every concert rocks to the max, every meeting is planned with precision and every customer’s expectations are exceeded.

During my fourteen years at the DECC, I was fortunate to work from a position knowing every detail of a convention would be tended to with the same level of care I promised would be delivered. I had total confidence each meeting room would be set up correctly, exhibit hall would be opened (often at the crack of dawn) food would be delicious and service would be exceptional.

The team never disappointed. Fluidly stretching to accommodate individual client requests even if there were multiple events occurring within each section of the complex. A scenario that played out over and over again and continues to this day. A tremendous amount of coordination behind the scenes is required to master the logistics that produces the ultimate customer experience.

Loyalty runs exceptionally deep at the DECC. Many staff have been there for decades, including executive director Dan Russell. His vision shaped multiple expansions of this community gem and his leadership helped establish many careers, mine included. I am grateful for having had the opportunity serve alongside so many talented colleagues. The DECC holds a special place in my heart as it does for so many others fortunate enough to have shared this experience.

Join the 50th Anniversary community celebration August 6th during an open house 3-6 pm. It's the perfect opportunity to toast 50 fabulous years of the DECC!