Dallas, Texas, United States
|Alma mater||Bishop's University|
|Occupation||General manager (1998-2015)|
|Employer||Canadian National Exhibition Association|
|Predecessor||Bryan Tisdall (1989–1997)|
|Successor||Virginia Luby (designate)|
|Children||Four from a previous marriage, two step-children from his wife's previous marriage|
Born in Texas, Bednar was trained in theatre and business in Quebec, initially working with summer theatre programs including Shaw Festival. Joining theatre production company Livent in 1989, before it was spun off into its own operation, he managed Toronto venues the Pantages Theatre and the North York Performing Arts Centre, and the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in New York City during major productions including Show Boat and Ragtime. He was chairman of the Yonge Street BIA during the initial planning of Yonge-Dundas Square.
Bednar was hired by the Canadian National Exhibition Association during a time of multi-million dollar losses for its event, the Canadian National Exhibition. He made a variety of operational and programming changes over the years, notably repositioning the fair's role in the age of the Internet. He is very present in media for the CNE, including during negative situations. He formally became a Canadian citizen in 2000, at a ceremony in the Automotive Building, during the fair.
Early career in theatre
Bednar was raised in Dallas, Texas, son of a petroleum engineer. He notes he attended the State Fair of Texas while growing up. He moved to Quebec in 1970, to major in theatre and minor in business at Bishop's University. He remained in Canada to marry and became a landed immigrant. He worked at the Quebec City Summer Stock Theatre and Festival Lennoxville, and repaired telephones for Bell Canada. He became general manager of Canadian Mime Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake, eventually becoming director of operations for the Shaw Festival.
Joining theatre production company Live Entertainment Corporation of Canada, Inc. (Livent) in 1989, while it was still a division of motion picture exhibitor Cineplex Odeon. Originally the assistant general manager of the Pantages Theatre, he became its general manager. In 1993, he moved to the North York Performing Arts Centre to prepare it for Show Boat. Livent opened its production of Ragtime in North York in 1996; Bednar was involved in its production. As of 1997, Bednar was again mentioned in the press as general manager of the Pantages Theatre. and general manager of theatre for its parent company, Livent. From 1997 to 1998, near the end of his time with the company, he spent a year in New York City preparing the Ford Center for the Performing Arts for its opening and that of Ragtime; he had worked on the production previously in Toronto. He was scheduled to oversee the remake of Chicago's Oriental Theatre into the Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre.
Bednar was president of the Yonge Street Business and Residents Association as of 1996, when the City of Toronto approved a public square at Yonge and Dundas, later known as Yonge-Dundas Square. It was part of a larger Yonge Street Regeneration Program.
Canadian National Exhibition
As of 1996, Exhibition Place had a $2.3 million loss, which reached $4.1 million in 1997, as a result of severances to five departing executives: operations general manager, general manager (administration), and personnel director, along with two chief general managers. While the Canadian National Exhibition Association itself turned an operating profit of $332,000 for the 1997 Ex after a lose in 1996, their share of the severance packages reduced that to $70,000. Bednar learned of his hiring in mid-February 1998, with the placement public announced in April. When asked, he commented that he would be paid less than predecessor Bryan Tisdall. He admitted in 2013 that, before becoming employed by the Exhibition, he didn't regularly visit.
Bednar joined the organization with the 1998 fair "all planned and well on the way," and refused to discuss what direction he'd take the event. He would later wince publicly at the previous administration's Boomer pavilion at the 1996 CNE, which included a booth for arranging your own funeral. The CNE strayed from its policy of running promotions only on weekdays, allowing two corporate partners to offer admission discounts for the middle Saturday of the event, including some free admissions. While this led to a 7% rise in admissions, gate receipts "plummeted"; Bednar suggested the day went "awry". The resultant crowding and traffic gridlock rippled out, discouraging admissions in the final week. While revenues and attendance are cited in the media, the fair also has a "family fun index", based on behavioural research.
Bednar has cited the rise of the Internet as a factor in refocusing the CNE on "community celebration", as opposed to the future. Bednar-era introductions include the SuperDogs show (since 2000), and nostalgia performers at the Bandshell for the CNE's "traditional audiences". In 2010, Bednar told the Star: "If it's a good memory, we can't live up to it; if it's a bad memory, we can't live it down." He has stated the CNE's maintenance of agricultural-related programming is important to increase public awareness of local agriculture. Behind the scenes, Bednar has overseen the addition of
Bednar has featured heavily in the Ex's public profile, including in response to negative events, like a children's inflatable ride accident in 2001. Food Building vendor Epic Burgers and Waffles' cronuts were tainted by Staphylococcus aureus toxin in 2013, a result of third party maple bacon jam. Bednar was a constant during media relations, telling the Toronto Star that "you have to confront these things head on. There's no point in trying to hide behind excuses or covering up or any of that kind of stuff." He notes the fair has credibility with the public, maintained by this upfront approach.
As of 1998, Bednar was said to be "on the verge of applying" for dual Canadian-U.S. citizenship. He passed the Canadian citizenship test in June 1999, but it was suggested he should delay his personal swearing until a CNE. He became a Canadian citizen at the 2000 CNE, during a Citizenship Ceremony in the Automotive Building. The Citizenship Oath was administered by Bill Withrow, C.M., longtime director of the Art Gallery of Ontario and great-grandson of John Withrow, the CNEA's first president.
Bednar is an antique car buff and as of 2009 owned a 1952 Chevrolet pickup truck. a 1952 Chevrolet Suburban, a 1962 Buick LeSabre, a 1995 Mazda Miata, a 1988 Chevrolet S10 Blazer, a 1979 Harley Davidson golf cart and a 2004 BMW 325xi sport wagon. Bednar has recounted how as a boy at the State Fair of Texas, he was most interested in the new cars on display. He considers himself "a bit of a carpenter."
In 2001, he commented that he had always wanted to "do radio", and suggested that he might after he retire.
- Gedeonova, Alena (24 August 2000). "New Canadian at the helm of Canada's fair". The Toronto Star (Toronto ON). p. B02.
- "Best friend a bacon milkshake ever had". The Toronto Star (Toronto ON). 30 August 2013. p. GT4.
Titled in print "CNE manager takes the hot seat — and the hot ride"
- "New boss keen to buff up the CNE". The Toronto Star (Toronto ON). 8 May 1998. p. B3.
- Crawford, Trish (19 May 2012). "Ragtime comes home". Toronto Star (Toronto ON). p. E1.
- Oakes, Gary (7 March 1997). "Man duped theatre with royal ruse, trial hears". The Toronto Star (Toronto ON). p. A22.
- "Man posing as Egyptian heir duped singers, trial told". The Globe and Mail (Toronto ON). 7 March 1997. p. A8.
- Moloney, Paul (28 April 1998). "$1.4 million paid in Ex severances". The Toronto Star (Toronto ON). p. C3.
- Ross, Ijoema (11 December 1996). "City approves Yonge St. facelift". The Globe and Mail (Toronto ON). p. A15.
- "Ailing downtown core could get $150m treatment". Daily Commercial News and Construction Record (CBCA Complete)ISSN 0317-3178.
David Bednar, chairman of the Yonge Street Business and Residents Association, is delighted by the proposal. He said it will make the intersection somewhere to go--a destination--instead of being someplace to get through.(Toronto ON: CMD Group): A1, A7. 12 December 1996.
- "Correction: Bednar named to manage CNE". The Toronto Star (Toronto ON). 29 April 1998. p. B2.
- Taylor, Bill (25 April 2001). "For CNE boss, 18 days of fun are year's work". The Toronto Star (Toronto ON). p. B5.
- "Crowds larger, but CNE back in the red". The Toronto Star (Toronto ON). 16 October 1998. p. B1.
- O'Neill, Susan (30 July 2009). "David Bednar Tries to Measure the Fun While Hosting a Million People at Canadian National Exhibition". BizBash (New York NY). Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- DeMara, Bruce (14 August 2008). "The Ex steps back in time; Mickey Rooney, Tony Orlando are on the bill as CNE banks on nostalgia to draw its 'traditional audience' back to the lakeside fairgrounds". Toronto Star (Toronto ON). p. E1.
- Daubs, Katie (4 September 2010). "Keeping the grand old lady young". Toronto Star (Toronto ON). p. GT1.
- Thiessen, Stephanie (3 August 2004). "Fair ambassador gets set for competition at CNE". Canadian Champion (Milton ON). Retrieved 5 November 2013.
- Barahona, Federico (20 August 2001). "Children's ride closed after two injured". The Toronto Star (Toronto ON). p. B2.
- "In the Industry". Canadian National Exhibition. Toronto ON: Canadian National Exhibition Association. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
- "William J. Withrow, C.M., C.D., M.A.". The Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
- Gentile, Petrina (29 July 2009). "The CNE's general manager has a stable of classics". The Globe and Mail (Toronto ON). Retrieved 5 November 2013.
- Cuthbert, Pamela (29 August 2012). "Grease lightning". Maclean's (eLibrary Canada) (Toronto ON).