DULUTH — Ryan Kolquist estimates it’s been about 20 years since he last saw a show at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
“I know it was Snoop Dogg,” Kolquist said. “I couldn’t even tell you the year, but I know it was him and I know I went with some high school friends.”
Snoop Dogg last performed at the DECC in 2002 on his “Paid Tha Cost to be Da Bo$$” album tour.
Now, Kolquist is set to return to DECC in a few weeks, but this time not as a concertgoer. The Duluth native, who spent the intervening years working in the entertainment industry in Florida and Idaho, returns to his hometown with a concert he hosted. He is now the head of his own production company, RJK Entertainment, which is responsible for the concert of Granger Smith, LANCO and Lainey Wilson scheduled for April 2 at the Amsoil Arena.
“I’m really looking forward to coming back to my hometown and bringing something sorely lacking to the region,” Kolquist said. “This will be the first country concert to be held at the Amsoil Arena in quite a while, possibly since 2019, so that’s pretty special.”
Kolquist was born and raised in Duluth, but moved to play hockey during his college years. He returned as a junior to Duluth Central High School, where he graduated in 2000. Kolquist went on to play hockey at the University of Minnesota Crookston. After graduating, he decided to head south to Florida, where he got into the entertainment business.
“I had my first contact with a management company, managing artists,” Kolquist said. “I soon realized, however, that managing artists wasn’t much fun. It’s a bit of a big headache. But doing events was something that came to me quite naturally. So I moved on. on that side of things.”
When he decided he wanted to pursue his career in the music business, Kolquist returned to school and earned a master’s degree in entertainment business from Full Sail University, graduating as valedictorian from his class. He moved to Idaho to pursue his dream of starting his own entertainment company, which soon became RJK Entertainment.
“I do everything from these outdoor concerts in large pavilions to private events for Fortune 500 companies where they transport 150 people from around the world,” Kolquist said. “I started out in smaller venues of 300 people and eventually grew to hold events for thousands of people.”
Kolquist met country artist Granger Smith during the 300-person venues era. As the two continued to be successful in their careers, they kept in touch and worked together on several occasions.
“I was doing shows with guys like Granger for very little money at the time. But I saw what they had, so we kept doing business as we grew,” Kolquist said. “I try not to just be this promoter looking to make a quick buck and get it over with. I try to really build a relationship with the artists as we go along.”
Lainey Wilson is another artist that Kolquist knew before rising to fame with her first Billboard No. 1 country hit.
“We were actually at her first pavilion gig when she got her first number 1,” Kolquist said. “It’s a promoter’s dream, that’s what we live for: to see these artists succeed like that.”
Kolquist is also looking forward to his first gig in Duluth as he can finally partner with the Hermantown-based nonprofit Never Surrender started by his family members, which raises awareness and funds research into the disease. by Lou Gehrig. They began the effort after her uncle, Kevin Kolquist, died of the disease in 2007. The nonprofit organization will receive a portion of the proceeds from the concert, and members will be there to spread information.
“It’s something that’s close to my heart because for about 20 years I couldn’t be home for the fishing derby or the snowmobile fundraising tour,” Kolquist said. “I’ve always had my own events, so it’s finally time for me to be able to do something to give back to them.”
After the April 2 concert, Kolquist said he planned to return later this year with another show and to return several times a year.
“Since I started this company back then, it has been my intention to always return to my home country and bring my expertise with me,” Kolquist said. “I hope people enjoy the show and look for us when we come back this fall and bring more great music to the area.”
Tickets are available for $35 to $50 through Ticketmaster. For more information, visit decc.org.