IT WAS THE EARLY 1980s, and for some, their special event careers were starting out small.

“As a jack-of-all-trades ‘party planner’ in 1982, many were the days I'd spray-paint props in the morning, cook for eight hours, make centerpieces at night and, with a few hours' sleep, get up the next day to coordinate a flawless event — or so they thought,” recalls Sharon Jansen of Special Event Business Advisors, San Clemente, Calif.

For others, the possibilities already seemed big.

“In 1982, I was beginning to glean that there was uncharted territory in the world of events, which at that time were known as dinners, awards evenings or possibly ‘theme parties,’” explains Andrea Michaels, president of Extraordinary Events in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Working with John J. Daly Jr., CSEP, “we integrated entertainment with decor and cuisine to make sense of events and create excitement. Oh, that first walkway of stars and that first 40-foot lighted Hollywood sign!”

The worlds of party rental, party planning, design and technology were beginning to fuse into a new profession — special events. And in 1982, Special Events Magazine was born to chronicle and champion that profession.

EPIC EVENTS

For many special event professionals, the greatest events of the last 20 years show a powerful integration of elements. And to many, the Olympics ceremonies are the best of the bunch.

The 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles “closed a gap between theatrical productions and special events that existed up to that time,” notes Cindy Symans-Hassel of Tarzana, Calif.-based S & R Events. As a result, “Instead of thinking small-scale, we created total event environments and crossed over a multitude of mixed media and technical applications from other industries to do so. To this day, I can find something in the Olympic ceremonies that is innovative and can be modified for events on a smaller scale.”

For Paul Creighton, CSEP, vice president of Orlando, Fla.-based T. Skorman, the ceremonies of the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, were “a masterpiece of creativity and spectacle. The sophistication of the performance and the degree to which it was produced simultaneously for the live audience and the worldwide TV audience was masterful.”

The evolution in the complexity and reach of special events underscores changes in the event profession itself — changes both large and small.

Jeff Volkman, senior party director for El Segundo, Calif.-based Regal Rents, remembers “back in the '70s we had tent sidewalls that closed with grommets and lace lines. Then we went to zipper sidewalls — which eventually would rust — then on to Velcro — yea!” Other boons: “Velon to cover everything from trash cans to frame poles, and to swag tents — and what about zip ties? We used to gang chairs together with wire and one-by-twos — now, we just zip 'em!”

On the broad scale, “Twenty years ago, this really wasn't an industry,” says Bruce Goldberg, founder of Portland, Ore.-based Bruce Goldberg & Co. “Yes, there were meeting and event planners, caterers, florists, etc., but I really don't feel that any of these groups thought of themselves as part of a combined industry. The '80s was a decade of excesses heralding an era of over-the-top private and corporate parties, weddings and fund-raisers. It was during this era that chefs first became celebrities, and it was only natural that people who knew how to throw a decent party would follow suit. I think the events that emerged out of New York and L.A. during this period really set the pace and ultimately — through media exposure — inspired a whole generation to look at planning, catering and designing parties in a whole new light — as a very serious business. The very nature of some of theses events forced planners to expand their own creative and geographic boundaries, and in turn exposed them to the need for networking within their own industry.”

Some changes have made the event profession tougher: increased competition, economic slowdowns, shorter lead times. But on balance, the event industry has grown bigger and better.

“I believe the industry has developed an image of professionalism, and we are now viewed as a true industry and career choice contributing to the economy of our respective markets,” notes Chris Blumke, president of Denver-based Decor 'N More. The development of a code of ethics under the International Special Events Society is another positive, she notes.

“We now have professional organizations and universities teaching students how to be professional event planners,” adds Cheryl Fish, vice president of Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage Events.

But Patti Coons, CSEP, reminds event pros that some things never change. During a visit to a famous resort in the Canadian Rockies, Coons, head of Orlando-based Patti Coons Consulting, asked the general manager why the old ballroom had such a strange, narrow loading ramp. He explained that the ramp was built to stage the product launch of a new car — a product launch in 1915 for Henry Ford's newest model.

PROFESSION WITH PASSION

For all the time and toil that a career in special events demands, doing anything else is unthinkable for many.

For Janet Elkins, head of Los Angeles-based EventWorks, “I enjoy the network of people — friends, colleagues, even competitors — that I have gotten to know over the years. The industry is really like my family, and so I've always felt that if I left, I'd be losing a part of myself.”

“Producing special events allowed me to combine many of my interests into a career choice — fine art, design, live theater and performance, and hospitality and entertaining,” says Janis Dinwiddie of Dinwiddie Events, Newport Beach, Calif. “It has allowed me to be part of creating memorable, enjoyable and valued experiences for a broad audience — the rich and powerful, visitors from around the world, underprivileged children and their families, and reformed gang members turned businessmen. I cannot think of a more stimulating, diverse and rewarding profession.”

LET'S GET THIS PARTY STARTED

The birth of Special Events Magazine

The launch of Special Events Magazine was “truly half a vision and half luck,” says Tim Novoselski. That lucky vision grew from a little insert created in 1982 into the premier magazine serving the event industry today. The Special Events imprimatur now represents a multi-million-dollar enterprise including the magazine, its Web site and its trade show, The Special Event.

Back in 1982, Novoselski and his wife and business partner, Denise, headed Los Angeles-based Miramar Publishing, turning out three trade magazines. The company's flagship was the venerable Rental Equipment Register, founded in 1957, which serves rental equipment dealers. The Novoselskis had already spun off a successful magazine from RER, creating HomeCare Magazine in 1978 to address the needs of dealers in home health care equipment. But Tim Novoselski saw a new niche coming into its own.

Although rental dealers were increasingly adding party items to their inventories — tents, chairs and the like — “The party rental industry was treated as a second-class citizen,” he recalls. “Nobody paid it any attention whatsoever. So we decided to become more involved and look at party rental as an industry. At first we didn't know what we had or how it would evolve, but we knew we had something.”

The true strength of Special Events rose from Novoselski's ability to see beyond the party rental business itself to the profession that it stood for — special events. “I took my first step into the industry from party rental per se, but immediately we saw the relationships within the industry — the party planners, caterers, lighting people, florists. We said, hey, this is an entire industry — and not a tiny industry — but nobody is getting all these interests intertwined. It made sense to put it all together.”

The Novoselskis put it all together with Special Events, which made its debut as a quarterly insert in RER in September 1982. Special Events blossomed into a stand-alone monthly publication in 1984.

The Novoselskis took what Tim calls “the biggest gamble” in 1985 by staging their first trade show — The Special Event — at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. “A trade show isn't like a magazine, which you can adjust to accommodate the number of ads you sell,” he notes. Instead, he recalls waiting at the start with Denise, both dressed to the nines, for attendees to show up. “We had committed to all these rooms, we had all these hors d'oeuvre, and we weren't really sure who would come,” he says. “We stepped outside for a drink and I thought for a moment that I'd blown it, but we'd tried and we would have a hell of a party that night. Then, within 10 minutes, people started filing in, wave after wave of people. I thought, ‘My God, they came!’”

In those early years, others would tell Tim that he had blown it. “There was a lot of arguing and second-guessing of relationships as the industry evolved,” Novoselski says. “The rental dealers were disgruntled with the caterers, and vice versa. I heard, ‘Tim, this will never work — there are too many different components. This industry is too darn small — you're just wasting your time.’ Then after a couple of trade shows, we watched people get up and accept their Gala Awards.”

In the end, “We proved it — this was an industry,” Novoselski says. Without Special Events, “these different components of the industry were not going to get the recognition and respect that they deserved. It's heartwarming to know that what we did made a difference.”

1982

Special Events Magazine makes its debut as a quarterly insert in the trade magazine Rental Equipment Register. Its tagline: “The magazine for people who really know how to throw a party.”

1983

The musical “Cats” opens on Broadway.

1984

Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia; Summer Games in Los Angeles. Filmmaker David L. Wolper orchestrates the opening and closing ceremonies, for which he wins a special Emmy and an Oscar.

The theme song from the movie “Flashdance” wins a Grammy.

1985

The Special Event show makes its debut in San Diego. Admission is free. Gretchen Poston (above), former White House social secretary, is keynote speaker.

1986

The Special Event, Palm Beach, Fla.

Special Events Magazine presents the first-ever Gala Awards, honoring the Top 10 Events of 1985.

Liberty Weekend, the 100th anniversary celebration for the Statue of Liberty in New York Prince Andrew marries Sarah Ferguson.

1987

John Daly (above) arranges flowers for the Pope's visit to Los Angeles.

The Special Event, Dallas

The late Tommy Walker, creative director for the 1984 Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, is awarded the Gala Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The International Special Events Society is founded.

Liese Gardner is promoted to editor of Special Events, a post she will hold for more than 10 years.

1988

The Special Event, Los Angeles

Rental expert Karl Levin (below) wins the Gala Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The Super Bowl XXII halftime show by Radio City Music Hall Productions features 88 grand pianos.

Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Alberta; Summer Games in Seoul, Korea

1989

The Special Event, New Orleans

The Berlin Wall comes down.

Rental expert John Luft (below) wins the Gala Award for Lifetime Achievement.

1990

The Special Event, Houston, Texas

The late Bob Jani, Super Bowl halftime producer, is awarded the Gala Award for Lifetime Achievement.

1991

The Special Event, San Diego

In order to keep guests from defecting to off-site parties, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences holds the Governor's Ball on site at the Oscars ceremony, staging the gala dinner under a huge tent at L.A.'s Music Center.

Elizabeth Taylor marries for the eighth time.

1992

The Special Event, Orlando, Fla.

Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France; Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain

1993

The Special Event, New Orleans

Balloon designer Treb Heining (left) wins the Gala Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The Super Bowl XXVII halftime show by Radio City Music Hall Productions features Michael Jackson.

1994

The Special Event, San Francisco

Event producer Andrea Michaels and rental expert Dan Shideler win the Gala Award for Excellence.

Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway

1995

The Special Event, Orlando

Event designer John J. Daly Jr., CSEP (above), wins the Gala Award for Excellence.

1996

The Special Event, Phoenix

Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta

1997

The Special Event, Las Vegas

David Arms and Richard Aaron, CSEP, CMP, win the Gala Award for Excellence; Andrea Michaels (above) receives Special Recognition.

Time Magazine celebrates its 75th anniversary.

The movie “Titanic” is released.

1998

The Special Event, Dallas

Lighting designer Ray Thompson (below) wins the Gala Award for Excellence.

Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan

1999

The Special Event, Orlando

Special Events Magazine founders Tim and Denise Novoselski win the Gala Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The world celebrates the new millennium.

2000

The Special Event, San Diego

Carol McKibben, CSEP, wins the Gala Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia

“Cats” closes its Broadway run after 7,485 performances.

2001

The Special Event, New Orleans

Dr. Joe Goldblatt, CSEP (below), wins the Gala Award for Lifetime Achievement.

9/11 rocks the event and travel industries.

2002

The Special Event, Phoenix

Event producer Steve Kemble (above) wins the Gala Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City

Special Events Magazine celebrates 20 years of success.