A weekend behind the mic
Duo takes over emcee job at festival
It was a successful changing of the Maple Leaf Festival guard. The tag-team duo of Knute Pittenger and Bill Gray effectively replaced long-time festival emcee Ron Nelson, but they were left amazed by what he had done.
"I have no idea how Ron did it by himself," said Pittenger. "I really admire the guy because it's a lot of hard work."
Pittenger and Gray took over the announcing duties after Nelson said 23 years as "Mr. Maple Leaf" was enough. What they found out was the job is hard work, but it's rewarding.
"For two days, Bill Gray and I had a great time," said Pittenger. "I hope everyone that came to the Maple Leaf Festival had as good a time as we did. It's the people that make it. The people are the Maple Leaf Festival.
"It went real well. We had people from all over the globe," he said. "We had people come up to the booth from Brazil, the Ukraine and Iceland. That's what makes it interesting. We had a Korean War veteran come up and present a medal. I had a four-year-old tell me exactly how to catch a large-mouth bass. It was just amazing."
Of course, the pair had quite an experience with on-the-job training. There were plenty of first-time stories. They learned quickly that the parade is probably the hardest announcing chore with last-minute changes shuffling the expected line-up. But, there were some big surprises, too.
"One of the amazing things I learned was that more adults get lost during the Maple Leaf Festival than youngsters -- by a long shot, if you judge by the requests we got to help reunite various folks who should have been old enough to take care of themselves," said Gray.
Their job performance gained rave reviews from Maple Leaf officials and the crowd.
"Although we missed Ron Nelson, I think Bill Gray and Knute Pittenger did a very nice job," said Jennifer Hayes, Maple Leaf Festival Committee president.
"I thought Bill and Knute did a good job," said Diane Wagner, another officer of the committee. "That's a hard job up there. They had a fun time with it."
It was a different format with two announcers, but both agreed it worked well.
"I was lucky enough to be close enough to feed off Knute's energy or I might not have made it through the parade -- let alone through Sunday," said Gray. "This guy would have cranked up the mikes at 6 a.m. if I'd hooked him up in time."
Pittenger said about the same and would love to be on the stand with Gray next year.
"If they ask me to do it again, I'd say I'd do it as long as my partner is Bill," said Pittenger.