By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 29, 2015 at 9:03 AM Photography: Sarah Laux

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Last week, peered behind the scenes at Summerfest to see how the big names get booked for the Big Gig.

As the 11-day music blowout was about to get underway, we caught up with the Big Gig's associate entertainment director Vic Thomas to learn a bit more. Tell us about how long you've been at Summerfest and what you do there.

Vic Thomas: I started at Summerfest in 1974. The same year that I graduated from high cchool. (As) the associate entertainment director I am involved with all phases of the entertainment at Summerfest. (I'm) responsible for contract and negotiations with artist staff and management, booking of acts, and plans, procedures and coordination of entertainment staff.

OMC: How has your job evolved over the years?

VT: When I first started in 1974, I was a gopher: Go for this and go for that. I did a variety of roles over the years: hospitality, stage manager, security, etc. I became full-time in 1990. Now I feel more like a troubleshooter/problem solver for any area of the entertainment department. Because of the digital age, we all have to be tech savvy to keep up with the touring groups and all of the innovations in the music industry.

OMC: What's the biggest challenge you face each year as you work to create the lineup?

VT: To be fresh and exciting and to top last year’s entertainment line-up.

OMC: What's the booking that you're most pleased about this year.

VT: Esperanza Spalding! We don’t do a lot of jazz artisst, especially someone so critically acclaimed, young – she's 30 years old – and diverse: female, Hispanic, African American, Welsh and Native American. So it's very rewarding to me that she will be performing at Summerfest.

OMC: What is your life like during the run of the festival?

VT: Grinding! Usually I’m on the Summerfest grounds by 8 a.m. I check on all of the stages prior to opening and then once we open, check on the stage managers and the entertainment / street performers at all of the stages. Lots of walking! There's a 4 p.m. staff meeting every day. Then other meetings and more walking to all of the stages until all of the headliners are on. I try to get out and get home and get about 4-6 hours of sleep and then back to the fest the next morning to start all over again!

OMC: How do you survive?

VT: How do I survive? Lots of adrenaline, caffeine and energy drinks! Also, it is easy to feed off the overall energy of the Summerfest patrons and the Summerfest staff!

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.