Papal visit had a local link

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 25, 2008

By Susan Shinn
Salisbury Post
Craig Kolkebeck, our man at the Oscars, returned to town Tuesday from an even bigger gig.
Kolkebeck had an excellent adventure with, well, His Holiness.
Kolkebeck again ran miles and miles of fiber optic cable. This time, it was for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in New York City.
Kolkebeck works for Bexel, a company which provides fiber optic cable for events worldwide. He worked the Academy Awards in February ó in a tuxedo, no less ó and got a call two weeks ago to head to New York.
“If you’re not familiar with the Catholic faith, you don’t realize the magnitude of the visit,” says Kolkebeck, who lives near Salisbury with wife Judi. “When you consider that Catholics believe the pope to be the link to God, it’s a big deal.”
Kolkebeck was involved with two events connected to the pope’s visit: a youth rally on Saturday in Yonkers, N.Y., and the Sunday Mass in Yankee Stadium.
The New York Times reported that nearly 60,000 people attended the Mass, including 530 priests and high-ranking clerics.
Cameras were set up throughout the stadium, including a jib camera that provided sweeping views.
Kolkebeck’s team also provided cables to television stations that brought their own cameras. All the major networks attended the Mass, along with religious networks as well, Kolkebeck said.
As he did with the Oscars, Kolkebeck was part of the team that set up, then struck all the equipment. Again, 16-hour days were the norm.
In the quiet of the Piedmont Players Theatre on Wednesday afternoon, Kolkebeck, who arrived home late Tuesday night, struggled to remember the timetable of the week.
“I’m tired,” he said, more than once.
Kolkebeck works part-time for PPT as a carpenter. He’s also an actor and director. He may just be the only person in town ó save perhaps for the Chik-Fil-A crowd ó who has a cow on his business card.
“Old Fashioned Work Ethics, Reliability and Quality” it reads.
No doubt he worked in New York.
Kolkebeck noted that the youth rally featured many Christian bands, along with Kelly Clarkson, American Idol’s first winner in 2002.
Clarkson sang “Ave Maria” for the pontiff.
“It was the most incredible ‘Ave Maria’ you have ever heard in your life,” Kolkebeck said. “Just unbelievable.”
Kolkebeck saw Pope Benedict close up as he passed by his custom-made popemobile.
“One woman behind me yelled, ‘He made eye contact with me!’ ” Kolkebeck said. “People were just reaching out to him.”
As you may expect, security was especially tight.
“I’ve never been involved in an event with so much Secret Service in my life,” Kolkebeck said. “Once the pope came to Yankee Stadium, it was lockdown.”
Kolkebeck was supposed to float between two different areas, but that didn’t happen.
Kolkebeck noticed that when the priests gave communion, they went all the way up to the stadium’s upper seats.
“It was a pretty incredible sight to see,” Kolkebeck said of the Mass. “He’s one of the biggest icons in the world.”
Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or