Fuzzy Fun: The Mascot Hall of Fame to Break Ground Friday

October 18, 2016

The City of Whiting, Indiana invites you to join them (and JRA!) on Friday, October 21st from 11:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m., to commemorate and witness the groundbreaking of the future Mascot Hall of Fame, with an opening set for late 2017.

Mayor Joe Stahura along with City officials, MHOF creator David Raymond, project and design consultants (including JRA), special guest speakers, and a few of our favorite furry friends (including the Phillie Phanatic and Mrs. Met) will begin the celebration with a short ceremony at Oil City Stadium. From there, Mayor Stahura will lead 500 community school students, residents and business leaders on a march to the construction site of the MHOF, at the intersection of 119th St. and Front Street to break ground for all to see.

What was presented to Mayor Stahura as a fun and innovative idea back in 2014 is now on its way to reality, making Whiting, Indiana "the silly, wacky city that could!" In successful partnership with Raymond Entertainment Group and multiple project consultants, the 25,000-square-foot Mascot Hall of Fame will be brought to life as a state-of-the-art interactive family fun zone with a wide range of exhibits, activities and events that celebrate mascot fun. In addition to providing entertainment, the MHOF will serve to educate about the roles, craft and science of mascots, creating opportunities for school groups and complementing state and local curriculums. This exciting new Whiting venue will host the Mascot Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremonies, and other original, memorable mascot interactions and performances will entertain, teach and enthuse children and their families year-round.

Mayor Stahura, the City of Whiting, JRA and beloved mascots in attendance from around the country hope you’ll join us for this memorable event. Can't make it? Stay tuned to our blog and social media channels for photos, interviews and more!

Tags: JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

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The Friday Fives: Superman Capes, Four Leaf Clovers and Punk Rock with Lindsay Ballenger

October 07, 2016

Welcome to Part 2 of our Fall Friday Fives. Today, we're enjoying a get-to-know-you session with industrial design student. Lindsay Ballenger. 

I would advise anyone starting out in a creative career to…

Learn to thrive in critical environments. Good constructive criticism can be a designers lifeblood, if the person in question allows it. It is very easy to feel personal or defensive about work projects, but this is not useful when you are working as a part of a team for the desires of other people. One can flourish as a designer after letting go of personal feelings of ownership, defensiveness, or any other feelings that ties the minutia of a design to one's own sense of worth or pride. Having pride in the work you do is wonderful, but allowing that pride to hinder one’s ability to cater to the wishes of the customer will not serve well in a professional environment. Sometimes, the customer will want something that seems silly, but they are the one paying for it at the end of they day. Roll with the punches and learn that your opinion, while very valuable, is not always the correct answer. And that’s okay.

If I had to wear a superman cape or an American Flyer Goggle set with a matching scarf, I would pick…

...both, every day, for the rest of my life. Please.

My iPod/itunes is full of…

...Mid-late 2000s scene-pop/punk garbage, I love it. I have been on the biggest Breathe Carolina kick this year, and it takes me back to the weirdest time in my life. In that same vein, there is Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, The Hush Sound, Bring Me The Horizon, The Veronicas, Ke$ha, 3OH!3, you remember. All that stuff we listened to back when we thought we hated our parents. I am also desperately in love with Marilyn Manson’s work, especially his most recent album The Pale Emperor. It’s gorgeous, especially his explorations with acoustic guitar this time around. It sounds like a ghost story. it kind of reminds me of how Nine Inch Nails or David Bowie has presented those same emotions in the past. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I really enjoy putting on Thriftworks or oOoOO while I am trying to relax and draw. The atmospheric qualities they have going for them are kickin. Oddly, my favorite genre of music is punch rock, but I am very picky about what I like to the point where I do not listen to a lot of variety there. Send me cool punk rock music.

I beat a creative block by…

...Running away from my problems for a moment. A lot of the time, I realize that my blocks have been caused when I psych myself out over a project, and the very best thing I can do in that moment is to walk away and grab a beer or something. Lunch hour is a great tool for me; if I have a huge looming project that I am freaking out over, I take a walk and go to a nice restaurant to kick back for a minute in a totally different environment. When I come back, I feel very refreshed and energized, and often spot the solution to the problem I have been agonizing over in under ten minutes. It’s all about manually changing my mindset and reminding myself that the world will go on.

My hidden talent is…

...I can spot a four-leafed clover from like 20 feet away. I find them everywhere without even intending to, it provides endless amusement when I am hanging around outside. I used to pick big bouquets of them as a kid to irritate my father who, to this day, has never found one on his own.


We've enjoyed having Mikaila and Lindsay on our team so far and look forward to their remaining time on our team!


Tags: JRA Team

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Bright Lights, Big Ideas - SATE Comes to New York City

October 04, 2016

How should we approach risk as creative professionals? How much risk is too much? How do we inspire our clients and collaborators to step outside of their comfort zone? What do we do when risk meets the realities of budget and schedule?

These are core questions to Experience Design that will be explored at the 2016 Themed Entertainment Association SATE conference, October 13-14 in New York City. SATE stands for Storytelling + Architecture + Technology = Experience, and the name alludes to the collaborative efforts of a diverse group of artisans, technologists and producers in creating themed entertainment projects.

The theme of this year’s SATE, which will be held at the AXA Event and Production Center in midtown Manhattan, is “Walking the Tightrope: Taking Risks That Transform Experiences,” and 2016 SATE Co-Chairs Michael Blau (Adirondack Studios), Chris Conte (Electrosonic) and Traci Klainer Polimeni (Luce Group) have assembled a dynamic group of speakers around the topic of risk: how to address it, how to incorporate it, and even how to embrace it.

In addition to the sessions, attendees will enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences, such as a hosted mixer at 30 Rock, discounted tickets to a Cirque du Soleil show on Broadway, and exclusive networking opportunities. New for this year, a specially ticketed, post-conference SATE Saturday Experience features tours of the 9/11 Memorial Museum and One World Observatory. Through these panels, sessions, and events, SATE seeks to inspire and challenge participants to redefine their relationship with risk, “walking the tightrope” with a newfound confidence.

Co-Chair Michael Blau took time out of his busy pre-conference schedule to give JRA's Clara Rice a preview of what attendees can expect when SATE meets the Big Apple.

CR: Why did you choose risk as your topic? Why was the theme of risk particularly relevant this year?
When the three co-chairs first discussed the conference, we talked about what it takes to create a unique guest experience. (S+A+T=E) This means exploring the phrase “What if?” What if Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew were set in 1850s California Gold Rush? What if we traveled through time and saw Manhattan grow from a small settlement to a major city while riding up an elevator to an observatory? What if you give guests control of an experience rather than have a predetermined outcome? All of these things require taking a risk, stepping away from the expected and norm. And for the themed entertainment industry (museums, theatre, film as well as theme parks) to continue to grow, we need to continue to take chances. Creators must be ready – always – to step out of their comfort zones. Collectively, our industry must take the leap.

CR: What does risk mean to you?
The SATE 2016 theme is “Walking the Tightrope: Taking Risks That Transform Experiences.” I think this imagery describes the balance one needs when creating experiences. If you lean out too far, you can fall. When you are in the middle of the tightrope, you only have three options – go back, push forward or fall. If you fall, did you put up a safety net? Consider if you work the wire without a safety net, then there is more of a thrill, but more to lose. The creator, and the audience, get a heightened experience. Where and how do you strike the balance?

You need commitment to reach a goal. You need a champion – whether it is an individual or team – that drives the process. You need expertise, training, technical knowledge and personal awareness, but you also have to have the faith and strength to take risks. You need collaboration – rarely do great successes happen without it.

CR: What do you think the NYC location will add to the overall SATE experience?
Coming from a theater background, I have always associated NYC with emotional experiences. Years ago, when I first started working in NYC, I learned that the smaller venues (Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway) were the ones in a position to explore cool, new ways to connect with audiences without much financial risk. A successful performance, sometimes, was able to move up the production ladder and get funded for Broadway runs. For the most part, that was the hope and the challenge. We worked to explore new ways to suspend an audience’s disbelief without major repercussions. Producers have always tried to mitigate risk and balance it with the required creativity. It is the healthy tension that is present on every project.

To really answer your question, NYC is a fertile artistic environment, constantly looking for and providing new experiences. It has a vibrant, sometimes dangerous, personality. The well-known line, “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere,” really does hold true. What better place to discuss balance and risk?

Our hope is to have all attendees learn from each other, to be inspired and to explore more creative ways to collaborate. We also hope people will try to make the most of the unique setting and the huge range of experiences available in NYC. Try a new type of food, whisper a secret to someone in Grand Central Station at the Whispering Gallery, see a Unicorn Tapestry at The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park or follow a new interpretation of a love story at the musical Paramour. I could go on and on.

CR: What "nugget" do you want attendees to walk away with?
Sometimes addressing your greatest fears head on, like walking across a tightrope, can get you to the other side… To a better place. But the real story… thrill…experience is the walk itself. Let’s hope it isn’t too windy up there!

CR: Anything else you would like to say about why people should attend SATE this year?
The SATE conference is a forum for creative designers and producers to listen, learn, collaborate, and be inspired. It is also an opportunity to meet and network with like-minded professionals across all forms of entertainment. The hope is to have our guests participate and engage in this very unique two-day conference in one of the most amazing cities in the world.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk a little more about this year’s conference. I am thrilled to have been on this journey with my co-chairs, our segment chairs and the TEA.


For additional information and tickets visit the TEA website. Follow TEA and SATE on Twitter at @TEA_connect, hashtag #TEAsate.

 SATE 2016 is presented by Brogent Technologies, Inc. with generous segment sponsorship from Barco (Storytelling), Chicago Scenic Studios (Architecture), McCann Systems (Technology) and USITT (Experience).


Tags: Guest Blog , Outside the Studio

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The Friday Fives: Taking Art and Inspiration with Mikaila Wenker

September 23, 2016

Mikaila Wenker

Mikaila Wenker

 Autumn at JRA brings more than candy bars on the reception desk or pumpkin spice in the break room - it also brings new co-ops from the University of Cincinnati's world-renowned School of Design, Architecture Art and Planning (DAAP). Loyal readers of the JRA blog know what that means - it's time for another round of Friday Fives. We've asked our new co-ops to answer five questions from a [random] list, plus a bonus: "what is your dream project?". First up - Graphic Communication Design major, Mikaila Wenker.

Best thing about the industry…

My absolute favorite thing about being in design is the fact that I’m not just a designer. For example, a project developing the signage for a new bug exhibit in a museum takes me from designer to bug expert, and that flexibility and constant learning drives me everyday. 

I would advise anyone starting out in a creative career to…

Not give up or make assumptions about fields you have never experienced! My whole life I never thought I would pursue something in the creative field, and then once I saw that design is more than just being a good drawer or artist, it completely changed my perspective. Being open to growing creatively gave me the opportunities I have today, and I am so thankful for it. 

My favorite exhibit/attraction is…

By far one of my favorite places to be is the Cincinnati Art Museum. The atmosphere is so peaceful, and the space itself is so clean and minimalistic that it allows for the art to shine. I could walk around that place for hours! 

I’m reading…

Currently, I am reading Love is a Dog from Hell, which is a collection of poetry by Charles Bukowski. I’ve always enjoyed poetry because it’s short yet contains enough to really make you think. It isn’t very time consuming, so I can quickly move through it whenever I have a chance - like on the bus or during my lunch break. 

If my house had to be made of something edible I would definitely choose…

Chocolate. But I would soon be homeless due to the fact that I’m a total chocoholic. 

What is your dream project? 

Honestly, I just love projects that make a difference. Whether big or small, as long as it has a positive impact on society or makes someone’s day easier/better, I am more than happy to work on it. So I guess my dream is to have every project I ever work on meet those standards!

Interested in learning more about Mikaila? Check out her portfolio, and welcome her to the team!



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I've Got a Golden Ticket: A Cedar Point Adventure

September 15, 2016

This week, we've turned over the blogging reins to Director of Marketing and Business Development, Chloe Hausfeld. Chloe recently attended the Golden Ticket Awards and was eager to share her adventures!


The Golden Ticket Awards are coined as the “Networking Event of the Year,” and I had the privilege of attending them this past weekend at Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio, with Keith James. It’s not very often that there is an industry event so close to home, so that added an extra charm for me. The Golden Ticket Awards are presented annually to honor the “Best of the Best” in the amusement industry.

Here’s a little re-cap…

Thursday, September 8

It’s been quite some time since KJ and I took a road trip together. I dare say it’s been since my glory days on the soccer field where he rarely missed a game. Not much has changed though; we both agree that anything over 45 minutes is too far to drive.

Posing for a car selfie to get the drive started off right!

I loaded up my bag (from my new favorite bookstore in Beijing) with goodies, and we ended up with a relatively smooth ride. We made great time, and were lucky enough to drive along the causeway to Cedar Point and see a beautiful sunset on the water. Not only did we make perfect timing for the sunset, but we also made it just in time to see the kickoff for the start of the NFL season.

My bookworm bag of goodies, and the start to another year of football!

Friday, September 9

I started the day off with a great run with Walter Bowser (Baynum Painting Inc.)

Soaking my feet while getting a beautiful picture of Hotel Breakers

It was time to get the weekend officially started, so KJ and I met at registration.

Packet pick-up

Cedar Point was closed to the public on Friday, but Gary Slade (Amusement Today), and his team, pull out all the stops for the GTA attendees. We started with the guided bus Legacy & Landmark Tour, followed by the Behind-the-Screams Tour; each showcasing different features that the park offers to its guests. The Coasters & Cocktails Reception, in the Valravn Plaza, was one of my favorite aspects of the day. We had the opportunity to take a ride on Cedar Point’s new dive coaster; my voice is still recovering. Not to mention the Exclusive Skeleton Crew performance that we had the honor of witnessing in Celebration Plaza.

Top – Posing with a performer during the Behind-the-Screams Tour, and then enjoying his acrobatics.
Bottom Left – Getting ready to brave Valravn with Joanna Guy (Premier Rides, Inc.)
Bottom Right – Enjoying a beautiful evening at Cedar Point with Nathan Jones (Vekoma Rides)

We paid tribute to a couple of industry greats, Mike Chance (Chance Rides) and Mark Moore (Uremet Corporation) during toasts in their remembrance at the Chef’s Table Food Feast at Lakeside Pavilion. The day was capped with an End-of-Evening Gathering at Surf Lounge.

KJ poses with Jim Seay and Sara Ingram (Premier Rides)

Saturday, September 10

GTA attendees were given exclusive early access to the park on Saturday. The weather was a bit questionable at times, but we made the most of it, and had a great time.

Posing with the “Selfie King” Pete Barto (S&S Sansei)

After an enjoyable morning spent at the park, it was time to get down to some real business…naturally, a group of us headed to Quaker Steak & Lube to catch some games.

It’s a good Saturday when both of my teams win!

The evening began with the Golden Ticket Awards Red Carpet LIVE! for a pre-show of the events to come later on, and was followed by a fabulous dinner in the Lakeside Dining Room.

Lots of laughs at this dinner table
Clockwise from front left – John Andrews (Baynum Painting Inc.), Kimberle Rolle Samarelli (NJAA), Chris Baynum (Baynum Painting Inc.), Ken Kobane (Apex Parks Group), Gina Guglielmi (Intermark Ride Group), Keith James (JRA), Chloe Hausfeld (JRA), Walter Bowser (Baynum Painting Inc.)

The 19th Annual Golden Ticket Awards was held in the Cedar Point Convention Center. The room was certainly filled with people representing some of the most esteemed and respected parks around the world.

Members of Cedar Point’s Bandstand USA perform for the GTA crowd.

The Post-Party was held at the Surf Lounge, where everyone reminisced on the fun weekend, and checked in on when they’d be seeing one another next.

Smiles from Gina Guglielmi (Intermark Ride Group), KJ and me. Until next year!!!

Sunday, September 11

We headed out bright and early to make sure we made it back for game time (if you haven’t noticed a theme from the weekend, I’m a bit of a football fan). It was a tighter game than I would have liked, but I’ll take a Bengals “W” no matter what!

Watching intently with my nephew, Mason

Thanks, Chloe! Be on the lookout for Chloe next week at the IAAPA Euro Attractions Show, and turn in next time for more adventures from her conference world tour. 

Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Outside the Studio

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