By Rebecca Roush
When there was a story to be told or a message to be delivered at Canterbury Park this summer, digital media producer Ted Pawlicki was there to bring a simple idea to life in a fun and appealing way.
Growing up in Chicago, Pawlicki recalls attending horse races when he was very young with his great grandfather. Later moving to Burnsville, Minn. as a child, Pawlicki started coming to the races at what was then Canterbury Downs with his father when he was just 6-years-old. His favorite memory from this time was attending his father’s work event at the Shakopee racetrack and receiving a $10 bill from his father’s coworker after the man won “big bucks” from a longshot that won a race. “When he gave my sister and me each ten dollars, we were so excited that it felt like he was giving us hundreds,” Pawlicki recalled.
Years later, when Pawlicki was in high school, he began coming to the park to simulcast bet on races with his friends. They would often stay for a whole afternoon, finding their tables “covered in tickets” in the end. Hundreds of wagers and good times later, the same group still makes it out to the track on occasion to relive their “glory days,” said Pawlicki.
These memories are what would spark an interest in horse racing for Pawlicki and would someday bring him back to Canterbury Park for a whole new reason.
After graduating high school, Pawlicki moved on to study Communications, T.V. Film, and Elementary Education at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. It was there that Pawlicki met his wife Nancy during his sophomore year on a volunteer trip. After graduating and completing his student teaching objective, Pawlicki decided that teaching elementary school was not “in the cards.”
Pawlicki soon decided to move back to Chicago with Nancy and take a low-level position with a documentary company. He edited film before making his way back to Minnesota to work for St. Louis Park Junior High School as a video production teacher.
After working at the school for two years, an opportunity opened up in Washington D.C., which is where Pawlicki says his “real career in the media industry” started. It was in D.C. where Pawlicki worked for Bloomberg Media Group, an affiliate of ABC News. He shot, edited, and produced, while also taking on freelance positions at companies like ESPN.
Eventually, Pawlicki and Nancy made the move back to Chicago when an opportunity presented itself. It was there that Oakbrook Productions, an affiliate of The Food Network, was hiring editors and producers for various pilot episodes. After seeing success with the network, Pawlicki then found himself at WGN, a Chicago television network. He worked on a new show called “Weekend Workbench”, a do-it-yourself program, which would go on to successfully run for four seasons. The show won two Emmy awards, after being nominated for three. “It was a very proud moment going up on stage and receiving the awards,” Pawlicki said. “We worked very hard to make the show a success and it was an amazing feeling being rewarded for it.”
When the couple began to raise a family, they decided to move back to Minnesota for a “slower paced life.” It was then that he took on small, freelance jobs in the metro area as well as pursuing the role of being a stay-at-home father.
While having time to be with his two children, Emma (4) and Lucas (7) was a great opportunity, Pawlicki was also in search of a job that would be flexible enough for him to still be involved at home. “After having a taste for freelance work, I don’t think I would do well with a 9 to 5 job,” Pawlicki said. Last spring, the “perfect opportunity” presented itself when the position of digital media producer was posted at Canterbury Park.
After reaching out to his friend and Star Tribune race handicapper Johnny Love to get the inside scoop on the job, Pawlicki heard back about the position. “I was told that I might be a little overqualified, but I believe that even with my experience, there is always something that I can learn,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I am working for a major broadcasting network, a small business, or somewhere in between, I am always going to give it my best to tell the client’s story in the right way.”
It is that passion for storytelling, along with visual appeal that Pawlicki says is the key to making any content great. “Many people argue that anyone can shoot and edit a video, but it is what you do with it that matters,” he commented. “While everyone may be able to use a camera, they may not all have the artistic value that makes top quality footage.”
Now, halfway through the race meet at Canterbury Park, Pawlicki says he has learned a lot about the horse racing industry, as well as new media techniques. “Everyone breaks down races differently,” he said. “It is a cool opportunity to come to work in the press box and hear from different handicappers about how they look into races.”
While attending the races or scrolling through Canterbury Park’s social media, there is a good chance you have seen some of Pawlicki’s work. He has assembled various promotional pieces for Canterbury and its partners. His favorite production included his family taking part in the Park’s Family Day ad. “It was so special to film my wife and children enjoying their time at the races,” Pawlicki said.
“After coming here for years, it is exciting to be able to share how truly special Canterbury Park is.”
Here are some samples from the summer: