“I enjoy entertaining people,” said Kurt Gillins, Vice President of Programs & Communications at Valpo Chamber. “I enjoy seeing people have fun and succeed through connections. It’s amazing to see people really bond.”
Gillins’ pursuit of watching other people enjoy themselves helps weave his own life experiences.
For the Chamber, Gillins hosts networking events and workshops that help build new skills. He also enjoys connecting young professionals with mentors and offering new businesses advertising opportunities.
“I love being able to meet all the people,” Gillins said. “I get to help them grow professionally as well as help them grow their businesses and experience success.”
For the past three years, Gillins has worked with We Create Media to produce monthly videos that feature his humorous take on what’s happening each month. The videos garnered a national award.
“It’s a really big deal for us,” he said.
A couple months ago, when it was only 13 degrees, Gillins filmed a video in swim trunks and a tank top in downtown Valpo.
“It was really a lot of fun, but it wasn’t easy to pretend it was summer in Central Park that day.”
Before taking on full-time fun at the Chamber, Gillins worked at Memorial Opera House, a natural extension of his education and background. Gillins discovered his love of acting in high school, and by chance decided to audition for the show choir at Wheeler High School.
“I discovered performing at that point and then started taking voice lessons and ended up majoring in theater at Valparaiso University,” Gillins said. “I’ve even done some commercials and extra work in Chicago.”
Valpo residents likely recognize Gillins from his yearly performance at the Valpo Parks tree lighting. He is a founding member of JingleTones, which started not as a Christmastime choral ensemble, but as something quintessentially American: baseball entertainment.
“A friend of mine had a request to sing Christmas carols at a White Sox game for their Christmas in July event,” Gillins said. “We did that for five seasons, and as more people heard about us, they wanted us to perform at their events, too. Every Christmas now, we do several local performances.”
“When we first started doing the gig at Sox park, it was incredible to be behind the scenes and out on the field. It was so cool – one of my favorite performances ever.”
Harkening back to his high school days, Gillins always preferred performing, but over the years he’s done more directing.
“It’s just one of those things. I always end up the director,” Gillins said. “I volunteered the first time and it stuck. Then I found other shows that I wanted to do.”
When his daughter Lilly was 5, Gillins directed Beauty and the Beast, and Lilly fell in love with theater – and Disney, too.
Lilly’s affinity for her father’s production of the Disney classic created a full-family enthusiasm for Disney World. Kurt, his wife Patty and Lilly are always looking forward to their next trip.
“It’s kind of our place to go and relax and enjoy being together,” Gillins said. “Lilly has always loved going, and we grew into it because of her. It’s great that we have a 17-year-old who still enjoys being around her parents. We’ll do this as many times as we can.”
Gillins has always cherished watching people enjoy themselves, and none more so than his daughter.
“She’s a good kid, and I credit her incredible mother for that,” Gillins said. “She always loved dressing up as Alice in Wonderland or Wendy from Peter Pan. I’m always going to nurture that bond that we’ve built.”