Erika Papac at the Santa Barbara Bowl

“It’s what I always wanted,” says Erika Papac about working as box office assistant for the Santa Barbara Bowl, where she’s been full-time since 2008. “It’s a magical place to be part of. I love music and especially live music.”

She’s also a well-known visual presence due to her “eye-catching” fashion sense. “When I’m up on the terrace, I like being complimented,” says Erika of her concert fashion choices, which are inspired by the evening’s headliner. Some shows are easier than others. “For Katy Perry, I had pink sequined bell bottoms and a purple wig,” she says.

Tim McGraw was her first concert at the Bowl, but she started her volunteering during the Mariachi Festival in 2000, when she was 20 years old. “I started as the Cox Camera Girl,” she explains. “Cox would provide point-and-shoot cameras capturing people having a good time.” After two years, she moved to concessions. In 2004, she became a cocktail server at the McCaw Terrace, and then got into the box office in 2006 as a temp. “You can say I’ve been climbing that ladder,” she says.

She was born on the South Side of Chicago, and moved to California’s Central Valley when she was six, living in Turlock during her formative years. She came to UCSB to study psychology. “I had had rocky experiences as a child,” she explains. “I hadn’t gotten a chance to have an adult set of ears growing up, so I wanted to be that for other people.”

Erika’s dad was in prison until she was 17 and her mother struggled with addiction. When her mom was in rehab, Erika moved in with her 5th and 6th grade teachers, Glen and Terri Blackley. “They’re my people,” she says with pride. “They saw potential in me that they didn’t want wasted. They gave me an exceptional upbringing.”    

In 2006, she started dating her husband Tucker Papac, who worked at the Bowl through Signature Parking. “There was lots of catching each other’s eyes for a while,” she recalls. “One night I saw him at the back patio of the Wildcat, and that was it.” They have a six-year old named Keylee. In 2012, Tucker was offered a full-time position as the Bowl’s Venue Operations Manager.

Tucker is not flashy at all, but Erika says he loves the way she dresses. “My wardrobe is pretty awesome,” she asserts. “I’ve managed not to wear the same thing twice.”  

Her biological mother, Yvonne, relocated to Santa Barbara after Erika got pregnant and now shops for her. “She’s really great as my daughter’s grandmother,” Erika says. “And when my mom started shopping for me, my outfits become more noticeable. They became a conversation piece, outlandish pieces. I like being flashier.”  

People attending the Bowl are caught off-guard in those rare occasions when Erika decides to just wear jeans. “A girl’s gotta take a night off once in a while,” she concedes, laughing out loud.

Erika Papac answers the Proust Questionnaire.

Who do you most admire?

Glen and Terri, my guardian (angels) that raised me from age 11 and influenced the best parts of me. They are the most selfless human beings with the biggest hearts. As an adult, I strive to model myself after them. 

They don’t speak negative about people and they see the good in most situations. If the good can’t be seen immediately, they will hang out and listen a bit more, until the good is found. They have great integrity and have been positive influences on countless people’s lives. They never want to be recognized for their good doings. 

I don’t believe they were looking to bring a 6th grader from their class into their home, but they did without a second thought. They were in their early thirties, and took on the biggest challenge of their lives. And they excelled at it. They are good people.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I married my best friend, the love of my life, and together we are raising a well-adjusted little girl that we feel will make a significant contribution to society. A bold statement, I know. But I can’t help but feel blessed to have found a really good person who does the right thing and is the voice of reason in all conflicts, to stand by my side and go through this thing called life with me. People struggle to find love all around us. 

What do you like most about your job?

It’s honorable to be part of an organization that has been a pillar of our community for over 80 years. Being on the team that throws some of the biggest events in town is definitely my dream position. I’m lucky enough to call some of the people I work with family. We’re a special crew that works really hard for a majority of the year, and really knows how to have fun while doing it. 

Working here at the Santa Barbara Bowl, every day is different. Different touring artists come through, different solutions resolve different customer service issues, a variety of patrons come by the box office to buy tickets, and share their life stories. 

At the end of the day, I love being a part of people’s stories. Whether it’s through seeing their favorite band with them, helping them to get tickets to a sold out show, or being a sound board while they go off about an experience they had, good or bad, I love representing this place!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Beach day! That moment when all your gear is set up, the warm sun is out (no wind), and you are surrounded by family and great friends. Dogs are happily digging in the sand, and your kids and their friends are chasing each other laughing out loud. Reggae is playing on the Bose speaker, and you have a few bottles of Margerum rosé chillin’ in the cooler. That first moment when you dive into the ocean and all your worries float away — that’s happiness! 

What is your greatest fear?

I have a hard time disappointing people. I value myself as a good person, and I never want to let people down. My greatest fear is losing face in my community for whatever reason, and disappointing everyone that has ever believed in me. I never want to give husband or my daughter any reason to give up on me. And I’m deathly afraid of spiders. All shapes, sizes, and colors terrify me.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Travel! We love to take four to six week vacations to tropical destinations and faraway lands. Immersing yourself and your child in a foreign country, and attempting to live life alongside the natives for weeks on end is exhilarating! You learn a few words of a new language, eat food outside of your comfort zone, and meet people with a way of life that is so less needy than yours. I would take those extravagances over new shoes any day!

What is your current state of mind?

Emotionally and mentally grounded with a huge side of eager anticipation! Our concert season is about to start this week — 28 announced shows with more to come spanning thruough October. I’m traveling to Paris for six days followed by a work conference in Vegas. My little girl has her first dance recital and will be finishing up kindergarten! That’s all in the next six weeks! Life gets really really busy and days and weeks start to zoom past.  Spring has sprung!! 

What is the quality you most like in people?

I enjoy spending time with happy people who like to laugh a lot. People that have a lot of respect for themselves and others, compassionate people that are loving, kind, and accepting to all humans. These are they type of people I want to surround myself with so my daughter picks up on those inspiring qualities.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Negativity, dishonesty, being unkind, and disrespectful are hard for me. And people who don’t smile! I usually can’t stomach that vibe for too long.

What do you most value in friends?

Man, I’m lucky to have some of the greatest friends in the world. Some of these friendships span 20-plus years because I value their intelligence (including street smarts), their support, and loyalty. These people are brutally honest at times and can give me side cramps from being so funny. Laughing together is one of our favorite pastimes, and is so so important.  Their confidence and sense of adventure is one of a kind.  

What is your most marked characteristic?

I would say my positive outlook on pretty much everything. My general disposition is happiness. That can always be noticed with my smile.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

My coworkers count daily how often I say “Complete task at hand,” “With all due respect,” and “Cool beans.”

Which talent would you most like to have?

Loving listening to music and being surrounded by it as much as I do, I would really like to be able to sing, and read music! I can’t carry a tune for the life of me. Also, surfing! I just can’t understand how people stand up on a board and ride waves!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

To be more disciplined when it comes to working out and eliminating certain foods from my diet. When I set  goals on how many days I will go to the gym, I usually find I’m pretty flexible on that. And chips and salsa. I would like to eat less.

Where would you most like to live?

I would like to try Madrid, Spain or Positano, Italy. I traveled to both places when l was younger, and oddly enough, I have not made it back. I loved the food, and since you need food to survive, I think I could make it work in either of those countries. Until then, I will continue to settle into Santa Barbara. After 21 years here, I’m pretty happy to call this my home.

What is your most treasured possession?

A strand of Black Tahitian pearls with matching bracelet and earrings. My husband gifted it to me on our wedding day in Moorea. I never grew up with family heirlooms, but I treasure this necklace because I hope to pass it on to my daughter one day. Also, I have about 10 photos of me from birth until about age 8. I’m not quite sure what happened to the others before these came into my possession at a young age. But I guard those with my life!  

Who makes you laugh the most?

My six-year-old daughter cracks me regularly. She’s at such a witty age, such sass and class all wrapped up in an inquisitive kindergartner. Actually kids in general are really funny and I love swapping stories with my friends that are parents.  

My co-worker makes the most hilarious faces! He can talk with one eye facing out and the other facing up, and the things that come out of his mouth. I die! He sure knows how to perk up any fallen spirits.  

I love watching people dance off beat, but in their mind, they have rhythm. I’m not laughing at them, but with them in their joy!  

I like to laugh — frankly it doesn’t take much. I laugh at myself pretty often. I’m pretty jumpy at times, and simply someone walking around the corner in our office will sometimes make me jump three feet in the air. Once I hit the ground, I’m dying laughing at myself.

What is your motto?

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. 

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I had a hard time with this one but my gut told me to go with Florence Griffith Joyner. I admired her from when I ran track as a teenager through my adult years as a runner. Her strive for perfection paralleled my athletic adolescence. Her influence has followed me because she had such a personality and such drive — no one was going to slow her down.

She still holds the world record for the 100m and 200m that was set in 1988. I’m not trying to break her records, but I never want to forget her fire, and her one of a kind colorful running outfits. She had such style!!

On what occasion do you lie?

Any occasion to keep the spirit of Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy alive for my imaginative daughter. 


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