August 28, 2017
40 Under Forty: Behind the scenes

40u40: I'll distract the cops, you get the photos

Erika Sidor
After much debate over whether to feature only four of the 40 Under Forty winners, instead of the Group of 40 photo at Union Station, this image became the cover of the Aug. 21 print issue because of the enthusiasm in the photo and its introduction to the concept of the new Worcester.

This story is the first in a series of 11 describing the photos behind this year's 40 Under Forty awards, where rather than shooting all in the images in one location, WBJ took the winners to 11 properties around Worcester, showcasing the new developments of a city on the rise.

When the 40 Under Forty group known as Team Burns Bridge wrote me with the idea of using champagne and sparklers for their photo, I wanted to encourage their passion, so I simply replied, "I.LOVE.IT."

In my mind, though, I was thinking, "Just how illegal is this?"

Erika Sidor
After the photo shoot was complete, Johnson, Njoroge, Akman and Wagner stayed on the bridge to take various photos and videos for social media.

The great and terrible thing about my favorite recurring feature of the year is there are 40 winners. If I want anyone other than their family, friends and coworkers to read all the profiles – and see the collective talent bolstering the up-and-coming economy – we need a way to keep readers engaged page after page while still allowing the individual winners to shine. Just like last year, our solution was to break the winners into 10 groups of four and take creative photos showing off their personalities. This year we took it up a notch, spreading the shoots around the city, tied to Worcester's revitalization.

Any time you throw four strangers into a photo shoot, the results will be mixed. I encourage them to interact beforehand, but those interactions tends to be limited to outfit coordination. Team Burns Bridge (Maryann Johnson, Ryan Wagner, Asmar Akman and Milka Njoroge), though, took it to the next level, meeting for three hours on a Saturday to discuss what to do.

Erika Sidor
This photo is a favorite of 40u40 winner Ryan Wagner, who wanted to showcase the sails of the Burns Bridge, as sailing is one of his hobbies.

I was already slightly worried about the Burns Bridge photo, as we would climb onto the median of the bridge in Shrewsbury with multiple lanes of traffic on either side, with a straight drop into Lake Quinsigamond immediately behind the Worcester sign. If any passing police officer got concerned for our safety or our impact on motorists, the photo shoot would be quickly shut down. As the photographer and my partner in (maybe) crime, Erika Sidor, pointed out, sparklers are still illegal in Massachusetts (really!) and champagne would violate open container laws.

After feeding their enthusiasm, I talked Team Burns Bridge out of the sparklers, and we decided to use alcohol-free champagne. Still, to any cop, we would look like booze-fueled maniacs spraying champagne in the middle of a state highway. My instructions to Erika were simple: if the police show up, I'll talk to them for as long as I can while you and the winners quickly take the photos.

Luckily for us, no cops came by. I still don't know if we did anything illegal; we really were just drinking grape juice in a public right-of-way easily accessible from the sidewalk.

Regardless, judging by the results of the photos, it was all worth it.

- Brad Kane, editor

Check out the profiles for all the 2017 winners of the 40 Under Forty awards

Asmar N. Akman – Akman Enterprises Inc.

Brendan Aylward – Unified Health and Performance

Greta Bajrami Campoverde – Golden Group Construction Corp.

Kathryn Behan – UMass Memorial Healthcare

Heather Belair – Bay State Savings Bank

Neil Callahan – R.H. White Construction

Michelle L. Cote, Esq. – Law Offices of Richard S. Ravosa

Julianne Dahrooge – Chan & Dahrooge Financial Group, LLC

Patrick J. DiGregorio – Veterans Inc.

Justin Dufresne – VHB, Inc.

Courtney Ross Escobar – Doucette & LaRose, LLC

Robert Fecteau – BirchTree Bread Co.

Hilary Gardner – The Davis Cos.

Avra Hoffman – BirchTree Bread Co.

Maryann C. Johnson – Oak Hill CDC

Kevin G. Johnson – O'Connor, Maloney & Company, P.C.

Heather Mangione – United Way of Central Massachusetts

Jay Merrill – Clifford & Rano Associates

Meghan E. Montaner – The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts

Edward Murphy – Baystate Investment Fund

Joy Rachelle Murrieta – Main IDEA

Dr. Milka Njoroge, PharmD – Century Homecare, LLC

Jim Notaro – Fidelity Bank

Andrew B. Palumbo – Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Kevin Peterssen – United Bank

John T. Pitcavage – Endless Energy

Julia Randall, M.D. – Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center

Keith Reardon – Commonwealth Consulting Group, LLC

Giselle Rivera-Flores – The Learning Hub & IgWorcesterMA

Patrick T. Royce – UniBank

Jamie Salois – Atlas Distributing

Lindiana Semidei – Raices Latin Dance

Jody Staruk – Consigli Construction Co., Inc.

Francisco Torres – Town of Westborough

Abel Travis – Hanover Insurance Group

Elizabeth Tripp – Hanover Insurance Group

Alexis G. Vallejos – Columbia Tech

David Viens – Bowditch & Dewey, LLP

Ryan A. Wagner – Robert Fine & Associates

Meet this year's judges


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