By Brian Jewell
It was a trio of loves that led Jackie Brisko to the Fireside Dinner Theatre.
Today, Brisko is the traveling face of this favorite Wisconsin group tourism attraction. In her capacity as the theater’s director of audience development, she attends tourism trade shows and other events where she meets tour operators, group leaders and other tourism buyers and invites them to come to performances at the Fireside.
Her enthusiasm for the Fireside experience makes her a great representative for the company and comes from a love of dance, hospitality and tourism that Brisko has developed throughout her life.
Brisko was born and raised in Racine, Wisconsin, a town about 60 miles away from the Fireside in Fort Atkinson. It was as a young person in Racine that Brisko discovered a passion for dance.
“I started taking dance lessons when I was in the second grade, and by the eighth grade, I was an assistant dance teacher,” she said. “I became a cheerleader throughout high school using my dance background. When my old instructor came back to town after college, she reopened her dance studio, and I became a regular part-time instructor at the studio.
“I taught dancing as a part-time thing for almost 30 years. I taught ballet, tap, jazz and other kinds of dance, mostly to kids. I love dance — I think it’s just phenomenal.”
Along with teaching dance, Brisko earned a degree in communications from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. In the 1990s, she took a position in public relations and marketing at a Racine hospital, where her duties expanded beyond normal communications to include a lot of fundraising and event planning.
“I actually ended up working on a lot of their major special events. We did one major fundraiser there every year, where I performed as a dancer for 15 years straight.”
It was at the hospital that Brisko got her first introduction to the tourism industry. Some of the special events that she organized grew large enough to become tourism attractions in their own right, and she began attending GLAMER Chapter Meetings to promote motorcoach attendance at the events. She also served on the hospital’s recreation committee, where she took on the duties of a group leader for several short trips each year.
“I would actually sign up to take motorcoaches full of employees of the hospital to the Fireside,” Brisko said.