For Britney Magleby, a pub crawl launched a career.
While a senior at Gonzaga University, with an internship in public relations, she organized a bar-hopping event as a benefit for Great Shape Inc., a nonprofit providing dental and eye care and other services in Jamaica. The crawl was a lighthearted occasion with a serious purpose, and the combination struck a chord with her.
“It was so much fun,” she said, “Just the energy of it I really loved.”
So putting on events is what Magleby, now 29, has been doing since graduating from the Spokane, Washington, school. She has organized weddings and corporate affairs, handled events for a Colorado ski resort and worked at Snow King as conference services manager and banquet manager.
For two years now she’s been at the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. As director of events she’s responsible for networking affairs like Business Over Breakfast and Chamber Mixers; community events like the Town Square lighting in November, the annual Easter egg hunts and the Fourth of July Parade; and destination drivers, including spring’s Old West Days and the Fall Arts Festival, which begins this week.
“Events can do really cool things,” Magleby said “They can make an impact on the community. And at the end of the day they’re just fun to be involved in. There’s a feeling of pride that comes with it.”
One of the biggest challenges of her job, one she actually enjoys, is the “ton of moving parts,” she said. “The phrase ‘herding cats’ is very accurate in that sense.”
Another aspect is making sure the purpose of each event is still valid and that everyone involved in it is excited to be part of it and happy to support that goal. Taste of the Tetons, a long-running downtown food fest, is an example.
“It was invented to drive business to restaurants, but that doesn’t seem like a use anymore,” Magleby said.
The chamber is planning a smaller alternative event that would serve as a platform to discuss what’s going on in the local restaurant industry and support resources that help employees.
“Public events are sometimes invented to do one thing, and then 10 years later there’s not a need anymore,” Magleby said. “So what’s the new need or new goal, and how can we use events to continue to make an impact on our community?
“Just constantly questioning all the events we put on and making sure they are benefiting our community and not hurting it is super important to me.”
Of course the biggest challenge of late has been the novel coronavirus. Since March 2020 the pandemic has disrupted events all over, forcing the cancellation of big to-dos like Old West Days and the Fourth of July Parade, the suspension of Chamber Mixers and the rejiggering of some Fall Arts festivities.
“It’s been really difficult to put so much time and effort into an event that is important to us and then have it canceled and adjusted,” Magleby said of the chamber’s situation since the virus hit. “Something we’ve had to work through is just resilience. ... You do the best you can with what you have.”
If there’s anything positive to say about the pandemic it’s that it enabled the chamber to take a fresh look at things. Business Over Breakfast, a once-a-month networking event with featured speakers on hot topics, for example, moved to Zoom and ended up attracting many more participants. So the chamber will continue to incorporate online options.
People are “happy to tune in while they are eating their breakfast,” Magleby said. “It definitely made it more accessible.
Growing up in Idaho Falls, Magleby became familiar with Jackson Hole’s outdoor adventure offerings. She and her parents and brother skied here and camped in Yellowstone National Park.
She likes to hike and has become a mountain biking enthusiast. Though snowboarding was a big motivation for being in mountain town, the warm-weather activities are now what draw her.
“I do still snowboard, but I’d take the summer over the winter these days,” she said.
Magleby lives out in Hoback with a group of her best friends and their dogs.
“We enjoy our little frat house with the pingpong table and big fire pit,” she said.
And she stays connected to her alma mater.
“I love Gonzaga basketball,” she said. “I go to the bars when they’re playing, and I’m sad when they lose.”
Especially so this past April, when the Bulldogs fell to the Baylor Bears in the NCAA championship.
“I had a tear in my eye for sure,” she said.
Though Magleby is an event planner she’s also an event enjoyer, and two her favorites are coming up.
One is the QuickDraw on Town Square, a Fall Arts festival event at which painters and sculptors create new works in 90 minutes and then watch their creations sell at an auction.
“These artists who are literally world famous ... are creating works of art right in front of you,” she said. “The intimacy, the feeling you’re a part of that piece, you were there when it happened, is incredible.”
And as a lover of Christmas season, Magleby also looks forward to November, when the Town Square winter lights will be switched on during festivities that include Christmas carols and Santa’s arrival. For many locals it’s a family tradition.
“People all the time say, ‘I watched the Town Square lighting when I was a kid; I’m bringing my kids, my grandkids,’” Magleby said.
“Inviting locals downtown to enjoy hot chocolate and see the antler arches light up, that’s a moment to be like, ‘I live here and can appreciate this,’” she said. “I think that’s important.”