Mr. Zemola founded Chicago Special Events Management in 1988. Since then the company has grown to become the largest producer of special events in the Midwest. This includes nearly 100 runs & walks, street festivals, concerts and sporting events held in Chicago and its suburbs. Among the company's better-known clients are the Wells Street Arts Festival, the Lincoln Park Zoo with its annual run and summer concert series, Northalsted Market Days, the National Criterium Championships of Cyclingin Downers Grove, Custer's Last Stand in Evanston, the Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival, AIDS Run & Walk Chicago and Taste of Lincoln Avenue.
Mr. Zemola has nearly three decades of special events experience. Before starting Chicago Special Events, he founded one of Chicago's first music production companies, West Productions, in 1974. That company pioneered several nightclub and music venue concepts that remains popular both regionally and nationally to this day.
The team of seasoned professionals employed by Chicago Special Events includes specialists in marketing/media relations, logistical planning, sponsorship sales, financial planning, talent buying, crowd control & security, booth sales, site negotiations and many other specialty areas of event management.
Mr. Zemola is also an active member of several Chicago area civic and professional organizations that include the Lakeview Citizen's Council, New City YMCA, and the American Liver Foundation.
Gregory Schmidt - Controller
Greg is SEM's numbers' guy with a keen eye on expenses, bills, payroll and all those accounting responsibilities that keep the company's financial house in order. Holding a bachelor of science degree in accounting from Indiana University, Greg has more than 20 years experience at companies in both Illinois and his home state of Indiana. In fact, he and his wife still live in the same house in which he was born in Chesterton, Ind., and raised their two (now adult) daughters! As befits a financial whiz who lives miles from the city hustle, Greg always enjoys a game of golf during Northwest Indiana's warm-weather months.
Gehrig Peterson - Music Director
Long-time consultant and team member Gehrig Peterson is leading the SEM entertainment division. Gehrig has worked with Special Events Management since 1995, and has played a variety of integral roles in full- and part-time capacities. In recent years he has led the SEM sponsorship division, consulted as a special project talent buyer and has been charged with creating diversity promotions. Gehrig has extensive experience and relationships in talent buying community as well as show promotion, radio station sales and marketing and creating successful entertainment events. Gehrig has over 29 years of experience as a talent buyer in the Chicago market.
Karyn Serota - Media & Marketing Director
Karyn plays several integral roles as the point person for SEM's diverse marketing efforts. Among them are: buying and placing advertisements; serving as the marketing liaison for event sponsors; working closely with SEM's art staff in creative planning; and overseeing all Web-based marketing efforts including maintaining the company's website as well as compiling and disseminating SEM's weekly E-blast newsletter that reaches 80,000 subscribers. A graduate of Illinois State University, Karyn joined the company in 2002 as an event manager for several high-profile runs/walks and street festivals before being promoted to media & marketing director.
Veronica Carrillo - Director of Event Bright!
Veronica is the Director of Event Bright . Event Bright is a department that staffs for all warehouse, street team and cleaning services. Veronica holds MBA in International Business with a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from Keller Graduate School of Management. In her free time, Veronica does volunteer work with children, is an interpreter for international businesses, and teaches Spanish classes.
Steve Bingham - Director of Operations
When SEM decided to create its new operations director position to spearhead incorporating the latest 21st century technologies companywide (i.e., software, hardware, cloud-based systems integration, etc.), the logical choice was to tap Steve's broad expertise. Since joining SEM in 2005, he's worked all sides of the business: from event manager through event staffing. A St. Louis native, Steve earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he specialized in marketing and international business. Before joining SEM, he was a business analyst with human resources/consulting giant Hewitt Associates. Off-hours Steve enjoys music, and ran his first half-marathon in August 2011.
Sean McGahan - Art Director
As SEM's graphic designer, Sean oversees all of the company's visual and creative endeavors. From the design of hundreds of event posters and client brochures to flyers, restaurant menus, advertisements, postcards and more, Sean's artistic skills present a professional look for clients to the outside world. Sean joined the company in 2000 after graduating from Eastern Illinois University with a degree in graphic design. His expertise of the latest design technologies and software are also utilized in Web and Internet design projects for SEM.
Norine Smyth - Sponsorship Sales
Sponsor Chicago is partnering with SEM to combine sponsorship sales efforts. Over a truly illustrious selling career, Sponsor Chicago owner/founder Norine Smyth has done it all: From years in broadcast sales to more than a 15 years in her favorite: corporate sponsorships. A native of Chicago's North Shore suburbs and current resident of the city's Wicker Park neighborhood, Norine's eclectic passions include U.S. Presidential history, astronomy, holistic foods, cooking, the ballet and tending her elaborate garden.
Laura Wilke - Sponsorship Sales
Enterprising, tenacious and being creative. These are just a few skills Laura has mastered in pitching sponsors to help underwrite SEM events. A true Chicagoan, she earned a marketing degree from Northeastern University on the city's northwest side. Her post-college work with the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA), which included overseeing member services, has been an invaluable asset in selling SEM's runs/walks in addition to dozens of street fairs. Off hours, Laura's son and daughter keep her busy although she still juggles a hectic schedule to enjoy concerts of her favorite classic rock acts.
Alan Cervenka - Project/Exhibit Manager
Alan has been an integral member of the SEM family for more than eight years. From serving as the manager of several annual events to having served in the vital roles of the company's volunteer and staffing coordinator, Alan is a talented managerial chameleon. There's very little he hasn't been involved with in all aspects of event planning. More recently, Alan has added the management of special company projects to his ever-expanding list of responsibilities. Prior to joining SEM, Alan came well-prepared to the company as the owner a small manufacturing company.
Andrew Abrisz - Event Manager
Although music is his first love, Andrew found that passion to be synergistic with event production after he managed music stages (and talent) at several SEM-produced street fests. His highly regarded managerial skills led to his being hired as a full-time event manager. An Iowa native, Andrew attended college in Iowa City and has held positions at other Chicago-based event production companies. Off hours, the multi-talented singer, drummer and songwriter spends time pursuing his passion for music which, on occasion, includes mentoring students as well as performing with his alt-country band "The Siderunners."
Joanna Bielecki - Event Manager
The allure of "every day is different" is just one of the many reasons Joanna is passionate about managing events at SEM. A native of Chicago's Northwest Side, where she still resides, Joanna joined the company after working at the non-profit Prevent Child Abuse America. She holds a bachelor's degree in advertising from Bradley University in Peoria. Off-hours Joanna enjoys spending time with friends, bike rides, and is a big fan of catching her favorite indie music acts in concerts around town.
Jennifer Griffin - Event Manager
Although she's lived in Chicago for well over 15 years, Jennifer has a strong affection for her upbringing in Connecticut and New Jersey. A graduate of Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., where she earned a liberal arts degree, her family moved around the East Coast for her dad's work. One constant since college, however, has been a love for planning which led to management positions in the hospitality and hotel industries. It's a background she'll put to good use at SEM. During off-hours Jen, who lives on the city's North Side, enjoys reading, time at the gym, and volunteering at Chicago's PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) animal shelter.
Crystal Mann - Event Manager
An affinity for event planning led to Crystal earn a bachelor's degree in recreation sport & tourism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, only a stone's throw away from her childhood home of Champaign. This, along with summer event planning internships at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art and Citizen Action/Illinois, led to her being hired for an SEM internship shortly after graduating college. Off- hours, Crystal enjoys food and cooking and, if time ever permits, would like to get back to her early-life passion for ballet.
Crini McCarthy - Event Manager
An appreciation of the planning process, and an attention for details, is what attracted Crini (a childhood nickname derived from Christin) to SEM. Couple that with a degree in hospitality management from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and that creates the perfect recipe for managing the company's eclectic mix of events. A native (and current resident) of Chicago's southwest suburbs, she'd eventually like to move to the city. In off hours Crini enjoys cooking (spicy dishes are a fave), working out and music concerts. She also adores animals, and has a passion for animal rights issues.
Colin Pekovitch - Registration & Event Manager
Colin's passion for sports growing up in Chicago's northwest suburbs, particularly soccer, led to his attending Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, where the game was revered and where he earned a degree in sports management. Interning at SEM led to a chameleon-like full-time position where he coordinates online registration details for the company's runs/walks. He's also SEM's point person for run/walk advance pickups as well as on-site registration. Despite this busy schedule, Colin still finds time to play soccer three times a week, enjoys sports and working out, and is a fan of English soccer.
Josh Ruston - Event Manager
With his passion for sports, Josh specializes in managing several SEM sporting events including runs/walks, marathons and cycling races. An Illinois native, Josh earned two exercise and sport science degrees from the University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse: a bachelor's in sport management in 2004, and a master's in sport administration in 2005. No stranger to the SEM family, he interned as an event assistant/coordinator for the company in the summer of 2005. Among Josh's diverse sports-related experience has been coaching youth basketball, soccer and baseball teams. And while attending UW-LaCrosse, he held several event logistic and promotion positions in the school's athletic department.
Amy Sesol - Event Manager
Creating what she calls a "fun experience for people" is but one of the many reasons Amy enjoys her role at SEM. That--and her energetic enthusiasm for all aspects of event planning and production--is what first impressed SEM when they hired her as a summer intern which led to a full-time event manager position. A native of southwest suburban Homer Glen, Ill., Amy earned a bachelor's degree in recreation management & administration from Illinois State University in Normal. Off-hours, she enjoys recreational activities such as volleyball, reading, friends, and spending time with her close-knit family.
Rich Zemola - Event Manager
As a son of company founder/ceo Hank Zemola, Richie has events in his DNA but has carved out his own unique life path. Chicago born and raised, he played football in both high school and at Benedictine University in southwest suburban Lisle where he earned a bachelor's degree majoring in both political science and business & managerial behavior. Richie's easygoing nature belies an intense curiosity about life. Among his many passions: music (he also manages a band), writing poetry and, naturally, politics. Always up for a challenge, he's now contemplating his next move of going to law school.
Johnny Gaskill - Production Manager
It's all about music for Johnny. From staging and sound systems to working with performers, bands and their management, he's the behind-the-scenes guy who makes everything run smoothly at SEM events. Johnny's amazingly hectic schedule also includes providing production, engineering and audio expertise for two of Chicago's top rock stations: WLUP-FM and Q101-FM. But it doesn't stop there! He also has frequent gigs as tour manager for local and nationally acclaimed bands. The Oak Park, Ill., native majored in radio talent production & marketing at Columbia College. And in rare off-hours, in addition writing/recording music, he's equally impassioned about filmmaking, including music videos.
Daniel Oleksiuk - Production Manager
Although his official title is production manager, Dan is better known around SEM as warehouse manager, trade show manager and carpenter extraordinaire. A true chameleon, he pretty much does it all! The Northbrook, Ill., native (where he still resides) earned his bachelor's degree from Chicago's Columbia College in music, business and concert production. But for those who know him, his true passion is for building things. From showcase booths for the SEM-produced Chicago Flower & Garden Show, to intricate exhibits at national trade shows for Fortune 500 clients of SEM's trade show & exhibits division, his detailed craftsmanship is awe-inspiring. During off hours Dan, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine, enjoys sports and music.
Joe Persfull - Exhibit Relations Manager
Joe serves as SEM's liaison with the company's diverse event vendor mix that also includes festival artists. It's a position requiring both an attention to detail and customer service skills. A native of Chicago's southwest side (now a resident of Naperville), Joe earned an associate degree in business administration from the College of DuPage. He spent three decades at United and Midway airlines including flight attendant and passenger service positions. Joe can be described as a renaissance man with passions for aviation, travel, real estate and managerial and handyman skills. He even opened a cozy café in southwest Michigan's Harbor Country (the hamlet of Lakeside, to be exact) that he managed to juggle for several years with a full airline work schedule.
Rosalia Robinson - Exhibitor Relations Coordinator
Rosy coordinates SEM's vendor relations where she plays an integral role as liaison with both event vendors (including those selling food) as well as artists at festivals. A Chicagoland native and resident of the near southwest suburbs, Rosy started at the company in 2010 in part-time administrative positions that evolved into her current role. During off-hours, Rosy's children keep her more than busy. But when she has free time, she enjoys reading and taking walks.
Fred Newton - Communications Manager
Fred has more than 25 years of diverse experience as a writer, editor and marketing manager at newspapers, non-profit associations and for special events. He's truly an editorial/marketing chameleon. Prior to joining SEM, he was a communications manager/editorial supervisor at SmithBucklin Corp., the nation's largest association management firm. His eclectic experience there included managing marketing programs for -- among others -- the entertainment and health care industries and assorted service industry and manufacturing clients. Before joining SmithBucklin, the metro Detroit native started his career as a news/feature reporter for a zoned suburban/city edition of the Chicago Tribune.
Dianne Patterson - Administrative Assistant/Volunteer Coordinator
When you call SEM, chances are the friendly voice you'll hear on the phone will be that of Dianne. She's also the person who will most likely greet you at the reception desk. But Dianne is much more than a friendly voice or face. She also wears other hats including that of general office manager. It's a role that includes coordinating messenger services, sorting through piles of staff mail, tracking delivered packages and other responsibilities to make sure the office runs smoothly. Dianne has been with the company for nearly a decade (including the predecessor company of what is now SEM Exhibits) -- and she's also the proud owner of six cats!
Gary Wilson - Operations
Jack-of-all-trades. Part-time bookkeeper. Office supplies manager. Product sampler. Run/Walk registrar. You name it: Gary does it! Having been with SEM for more than a decade, Gary is the answer man both within SEM's office and on-site at events. And if he doesn't know, he'll point you in the right direction. Gary also works closely with SEM's accounting staff as the behind-the-scenes guy when it comes to paying/processing invoices, billing, making bank deposits and ensuring those event gate entrances and other cash drawers have enough change on hand to weather a summer festival weekend.
Toni Wilkerson - Accounting Assistant
Toni assists Greg Schmidt, SEM's controller, in a variety of accounting areas such as billing, payroll, data entry and accounts receivable. An Iowa native, Toni's eclectic management, accounting and human resources background has included experience in both the hotel industry and with small businesses. A personal passion for all things holistic has also led her to earn certification as a health counselor specializing in such issues as nutrition, diet and lifestyle. And as a fan of self-discovery, among her many free time interests are reading, music, drawing and, of course, healthy living issues.
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