Craig Oliver’s foundation in Minnesota’s special events industry are his relationships he’s made in the last 33 years. From his first job in Minneapolis with Allan Elias Custom Catering, where he stayed for nine years, and his combined 21 years at Ultimate Events and AARCEE Party and Tent Rental to the years as an International Live Events Association (ILEA) member, Oliver has made meaningful connections at all stops, proving that relationships are everything.
Oliver has been a member of the ILEA Minneapolis - St. Paul chapter since virtually the beginning. In 1998 when Oliver heard a local chapter was forming, he joined, becoming one of the first 10 members. At the encouragement of one of his bosses at AARCEE Party and Tent Rental to get more involved in the industry, Oliver took on more duties; he served on the board (2002-07, 2015), was elected board president for two straight years (2003-05) and was as an international committee member.
Oliver got the job to set up tents for a George W. Bush rally in August 2004 because he answered his work phone on a Sunday, his day off. Calling was his old boss, Allan Elias, asking him to drive to Mankato to sell the president’s events team tents. President Bush was one of Oliver’s more high-profile clients, but he treats all of his clients with the same significance. “They’re all important for different reasons,” says Oliver. “You’ve gotta give them the same respect as you would anyone else.”
Currently, Oliver is co-chairing the 12th annual ILEA Minnesota Star Awards alongside Jim Leighton, vice president of events and partnerships for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. “[Jim’s] done special events for years and I’m kind of the hard goods guy, so it just made sense. … We knew enough and we knew enough of the players in town to pull it off,” says Oliver.
Naturally, Leighton feels the same way about Oliver: “Craig has been a strong proponent of collaboration in the industry. He takes pride in knowing the events equipment rental business.” Oliver works as a FedEx courier right now, doing what he enjoys the most: engaging with people and customers. FedEx is a stopgap for Oliver for now, who says he’ll get back into special events full time again soon. “The reason I stay in special events is for the people,” he says. “The people I get to work with, the people I get to work for.”