Event Innovators 2015: Robert Krumbine

The chief creative officer and senior vice president of events for Charlotte Center City Partners has resurrected the city's Thanksgiving Day parade.

By Mitra Sorrells July 1, 2015, 3:55 AM EDT

Photo: Austin Caine

It’s only fitting that Robert Krumbine is the man who resurrected and now leads Charlotte, North Carolina’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Krumbine, 55, vividly remembers one of the highlights of his childhood in Miami: the Orange Bowl parade. “We were that family that got there as early as you could in the morning and found a place along Flagler Street to set up. I was always fascinated by it,” he says. Krumbine carried that love of entertainment with him as he went on to become a performer and music business major at the University of Miami. Following graduation, Krumbine worked in the event industry in Miami and Washington before moving to Charlotte in 1988.

One of his first jobs was to produce the opening of the city’s new coliseum, and, drawing on his childhood memories, he created a splashy event that made a distinct impression. “I brought the Orange Bowl halftime thinking in and did this hour-and-a-half show with singers and dancers and vehicles inside the building. They’d never seen anything like that, and from that point on, whenever I’d walk into a room, everyone fully expected me to be the guy that’s outside of the box,” he says. Krumbine demonstrated that innovative thinking again in 1994 when, for the city’s hosting of the N.C.A.A. Final Four, he transformed five blocks of empty buildings and parking lots into a temporary entertainment zone of restaurants and bars dubbed the Street of Champions.

But what Krumbine predicts he will be best known for, his “legacy event,” as he calls it, is the city’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Since 2001, ­Krumbine has been chief creative officer and senior vice president of events for Charlotte Center City Partners, a nonprofit that promotes the city’s economic, cultural, and residential development. The parade, which dates back to 1947, was on the verge of being cancelled in 2013 when Krumbine’s boss called and asked him to take it over. That was Labor Day weekend and Krumbine said yes, thinking they would debut the new parade in 2014. Instead he was asked to do it in less than three months.

“I wanted it to be different and interesting. I didn’t just want to copy Macy’s or anybody else,” ­Krumbine says. One solution: an inflatable that is attached to a Segway, what he calls a “Segwalloon.” Krumbine says they’ve become a signature feature of the parade and part of the reason attendance has ballooned (pardon the pun) from about 20,000 people to 100,000 at the 2014 event, with more than 1.5 million watching on television.

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