Appleton Estate Rum Tour to Pour Out a Blend of Experiences

December 05, 2016

Woody, earthy, balanced, sweet and complex. These are the words often used to describe the world's premium rums. But they can also be used to describe the Appleton Estate Rum Tour, which recently broke ground in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. 

Appleton Estate has the distinction of being Jamaica’s oldest sugar estate and rum distillery in continuous production and is the producer of many of the world’s most premium rums, including the Appleton Estate 50-year-old Jamaica Independence Reserve.

The Appleton Estate renovation project includes approximately 23,000 square feet of new building construction, as well as an expansive outdoor tour of the Estate grounds, distillery, and aging house that highlights the history, ingredients, and process of crafting premium rum. In addition to the outdoor exhibits, guests will also enjoy a welcome theater, “Estate only” custom tasting experiences, a restaurant and lounge area with traditional Jamaican jerk fare, photo opportunities, and a retail store that features exclusive rum offerings. JRA is providing complete planning, design and project management for this attraction, which is scheduled to open in October 2017.

Ready to book your flight (or fill your glass)? Be on the lookout for more updates as construction progress, and check out our Facebook page for more groundbreaking photos. 


Tags: JRA Journeys , Project Spotlight

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Emerging Trends in Immersive Design: A 2016 IAAPA Presentation

November 28, 2016

JRA VP Shawn McCoy presents

JRA VP Shawn McCoy presents "Emerging Trends in Immersive Design as part of Museum Day at the 2016 IAAPA Expo.

For the sixth year in a row, JRA Vice President, Shawn McCoy re-capped the blockbuster attractions of 2016 with Thinkwell Principal, Cynthia Sharpe as part of "Emerging Trends In Immersive Design" at the 2016 IAAPA Attractions Expo.

In their presentation, Shawn and Cynthia discovered that guests are craving community as much as personalization, quiet as much as noise, a step back to simplicity as much as modern technology. The result is an ecclectic mix of "Best of the Best" case studies, from London to Chicago, from a hilltop in Barcelona to the phone in your hand. While the techniques may differ, all of these projects aim to tell stories in unique and compelling ways. 

As usual, the session played to a capacity crowd, to the point where dozens of eager audience members were turned away at the door (fire codes - not our fault!). If you were one of them, or if you couldn't make it to Orlando, you're in luck! Shawn was kind enough to record his presentation over the slide deck, so click below and enjoy. 

If you are interested in a PDF version of the slide deck and script, please email Clara Rice at


Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team

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Independence Plaza Wins Big at IAAPA

November 22, 2016

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) has honored Space Center Houston’s one-of-a-kind exhibit Independence Plaza with two Brass Ring Awards: first place Best New Product for Displays and Sets and the Impact Award. The international awards were bestowed Wednesday, November 16 at the IAAPA Expo Brass Ring Awards Ceremony.

“We are extremely honored and appreciative that our world-class exhibit received the most prestigious attractions industry award from our colleagues at IAAPA,” said Space Center Houston’s President and CEO William T. Harris. “The exhibit complex would not have been possible without the exceptional support and expertise from JRA as well as the incredible generosity of NASA, Boeing and our community making it an unprecedented learning experience for generations to come.”

Image courtesy IAAPA

Founded in 1918, IAAPA is the largest international trade association for permanently situated amusement facilities worldwide. The organization represents facility, supplier and individual members from 99 countries. The IAAPA Brass Ring Awards recognize outstanding new products and services developed by IAAPA’s manufacturer and supplier members operating in an attraction.

The awards are divided into categories, and the Displays and Sets Award recognizes excellence in the theming and design of an exhibit or attraction. The Impact Award is one of the most prestigious of the Brass Ring Awards program. It is awarded to a category winner that, in the opinion of the judges, had or will have the most impact on the amusement parks and attractions industry. Independence Plaza is the 11th JRA-designed project to win the Brass Ring Best New Product Award and the first to receive the Impact Award.

Since opening in 1992, Space Center Houston has welcomed more than 18 million visitors and currently hosts 1 million visitors annually in its 250,000-square-foot educational complex. It is one of Houston’s top destinations, the area’s No. 1 attraction for international visitors, the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center and the only Smithsonian Affiliate in the greater Houston area.

Earlier this year, Space Center Houston unveiled its largest project since opening – the $15 million Independence Plaza. Visitors can enter the original shuttle carrier aircraft, NASA 905, and the shuttle replica Independence mounted on top. It is the world’s only shuttle mounted on a shuttle carrier aircraft and the only one allowing the public to enter both.

Multiple exhibits grant a rare glimpse into the historic shuttle era and describe its impact on current and future exploration. Fitting Space Center Houston’s educationally focused mission, the exhibits explore problem-solving concepts, possible career paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and examples of innovation from the shuttle era.

JRA provided complete planning, design and project management for Independence Plaza and is honored to be bestowed with such a distinguished recognition.

About the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation

The Manned Space Flight Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit science and space learning center with extensive educational programs. Space Center Houston is the cornerstone of its mission to inspire all generations through the wonders of space exploration. The center draws 1 million visitors annually, was called “The Big Draw” by USA Today and generates a $73 million annual economic impact in the greater Houston area. Space Center Houston is Houston’s first and only Smithsonian Affiliate and the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center. More than 100,000 teachers and students from around the world visit the center annually to take part in extraordinary learning opportunities. For more information, go to

Congratulations to all of the 2016 IAAPA Brass Ring Award Winners!

Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

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Chloe's Autumn Adventures Part 2: Making a Splash in New Orleans

October 25, 2016

For Part 2 of her Autumn Adventures on the Conference World Tour, we travel with Chloe back across the Atlantic to the city of jazz, beignets and the 2016 World Waterparks Association Show.


Funworld Magazine has already dubbed 2017 “The Year of the Water Park.” At JRA, we are seeing a ton of waterparks coming up in our overall master plans, and our clients are becoming more and more interested in them in general. With that said, we figured it was time for us to head back down to the World Waterpark Association Show in New Orleans to check out the buzz.

Tuesday, October 11

I arrived late in the day on Tuesday, but made sure to get to town in time for dinner. I got settled in at the hotel, and then went to a charming dinner at Square Root with Walt Bowser (Baynum Painting), Marc Gran (Cedar Fair), Mary Jane Brewer (Recreation Engineering Inc.), and Trevor Leonard (Six Flags White Water).

Walt (Baynum Painting) and I exploring.

Wednesday, October 12

Walt (Baynum Painting) and I decided to tackle the show floor with one another. There was a happy, laid back feel to the show that was refreshing for a newcomer. It was extremely welcoming, and so great to see lots of familiar faces.

Couldn’t be happier to see these two; Gary Slade (Amusement Today) and Michael Turner (Neptune Benson).

After several hours wondering the show, seeing familiar faces, and meeting new people, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the evening event.

Snack before the reception…my life has been forever changed by Drago’s charbroiled oysters.

The WWA Annual Reunion Party was held at the hotel. In true New Orleans fashion, the music was fun, and the people were having a great time.

Happy to catch up with Alice Mathu (IAAPA), Michael (Neptune Benson), Franceen Gonzales (WhiteWater), and Deb Eicher (Scruffy Dog).

Thursday, October 13

My long time friend (since I was 5 long time), Tess Schuster, moved to New Orleans years ago. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast at one of the Ruby Slipper’s before I headed to the show floor.

My kindergarten buddy.

Day 2 of the trade show was another great opportunity for networking with old, and new friends. As a usual exhibitor, it was a nice change of scenery for me. Being able to see what a trade show floor truly has to offer, without having to rush my way through it, brings a whole new flavor to the experience. I gained knowledge about the industry, and became more excited about JRA’s potential.

WWA trade show floor.

LOVE this girl…Emily Colombo (WhiteWater).

The closing reception was held at the Pat O’Brien’s On The River. The event was packed, the networking was great, and no one wanted to leave.

Left – The one and only George Sells (Water Technology Inc.).
Top Right – Close up with Deb (Scruffy Dog) and Richard Jackson (IAAPA)

Bottom Right – Hanging with some of the WhiteWater crew; Paul Chutter, Steve Heke and Scott Haycock.

Friday, October 14

I was lucky that my cousin from Chicago, Kyle Judge, was in town for an annual trip with some friends at the same time as my trip. We were able to catch up for brunch before I headed to the airport.

Enjoying the company at one of my favorite spots in NOLA, The Court of Two Sisters.

After one of my favorite Uber rides of all time, I made it to the airport in time to catch Paul (WhiteWater) for a quick goodbye and re-cap of the week, before I was on my way myself.

I just love getting home to my 80lb. lap pup

Thanks Chloe! Check back with Chloe on the final stop of our 2016 Conference World Tour, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo in Orlando, Florida. 

Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team

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Conference World Tour 2016 - Chloe's Autumn Adventures Part 1

October 21, 2016

To continue what has been a whirlwind fall conference season, Director of Marketing and Business Development (and birthday girl!) Chloe Hausfeld offers recaps of her two recent journeys. First up - last month's IAAPA Euro Attractions Show in beautiful Barcelona, Spain.


I had a short stint at home after a great weekend at Cedar Point for the Golden Ticket Awards, and then it was off to Barcelona, for IAAPA’s EAS. The fall is a busy time of year for industry events, and I have no complaints. It’s always a treat when you don’t have to wait months to see such great people again.

Friday, September 16

There was a nice little group of us that headed out on Friday afternoon together. Shawn McCoy (JRA, Vice President) and his wife, Kim McCoy, were great company for our “James Clan”. We made our usual pit stop at Natalie’s candy shop for booth snacks, and then were on our way. After a brief layover in ATL, it was smooth sailing to Spain.

Sweets, from Natalie’s, to get us through those siesta hours.

Shawn, being the gentleman that he is, gave Kim his upgrade. Between that, and me kicking KJ out of his seat so I could sit next to Mom, the ladies had a nice flight to ATL
Next stop…SPAIN!

Saturday, September 17

We arrived early Saturday morning…the pool lounge chairs became entirely too comfortable, so I decided to take a run to wake up.

Could have worse views for my morning run.

After a brief (unplanned) detour, Michael Turner (Neptune Benson), and I made it to the convention center for the IAAPA Manufacturer and Supplier Committee Meeting. Committee Chair, Sascha Czibulka (Intamin Worldwide), called the meeting to order, and the group spent the next several hours discussing hot topics in the industry. The meeting was capped with a fabulous dinner, on site, with some of the wonderful members of the IAAPA staff.

RAC Carroll (Jeff Ellis & Associates) and I, ready for some serious deliberation.

Sunday, September 18

First thing was first…time to check on the booth. The trade show floor was busy, and, from the look of the booths being built, it was going to be a great show.

First stages of the JRA booth, and our surrounding main aisle.

After a long walk, I was ready to do some sightseeing with the group. Gina Guglielmi (Intermark Ride Group) set up a fabulous day for us throughout the city. We fit more than I could have hoped for in the afternoon that we had and had the most beautiful day.

Incredible view of the port from Castell de Montjuic, and of the city from Jardins del Mirador. Then, there’s me, just posing with some of my new friends.

Castell de Montjuic

Pretending to be an Olympian at Estadi Olímpic Montjuic Lluis Companys.

Outside of the National Art Museum of Catalonia, and views of, and from, the Font Mágica.

Taking in a little Gaudí at the Sagrada Familia, Casa Milá and Parc Guell.

Top Left - They certainly don’t make hospitals like that anymore.

The other three pictures are from the magnificent St. Mary of the Sea church. Thanks for an unforgettable day Gina!

In true fashion, Shawn and I had our priorities and were in need of a sports’ bar…the Bengals were playing the Steelers. You can look up the score yourself though.

Cheering on my orange and black with Kim McCoy, at Belushi’s. Nice find, Shawn!

Linda Round (JRA, Marketing & Business Development) was lucky enough to visit with family that lives in Barcelona that day. After the Bengals game, we did some catching up with our friends from S&S Sansei, and IAAPA.

Never a dull moment with this group!

Monday, September 19

Linda and I headed over to the convention center to check on how the booth was progressing. We collected the JRA crews’ badges, and event tickets, and put our sponsorship brochures together, with the help of our wonderful booth project managers. We dropped the brochures off to the fabulous Emily Popovich (IAAPA) and were ready to do some exploring.

Linda with our amazing project managers from Artzfusion, Trixie and Pauline.

We were lucky enough to make it to a late afternoon tour of the Sagrada Familia. What an incredible place.

The time of day made the lighting even more magical than we could have imagined.

The best way to see is a city is to walk it…right? So, we decided to walk back to the hotel. It wasn’t the straightest route, but we saw a lot!

Top Left - Passeig de Lluís Companys
Top Right – An archway in an old convent
Bottom Left – El Born Centre Cultural I de Memória
Bottom Right – Port of Barcelona

Caption: There aren’t many people that I enjoy exploring more with.

We had a fabulous dinner…courtesy of our friends from Sally Corporation, and then found some more friends back at the hotel for a nightcap before the first day of the show.

Caption: Pete Barto (S&S Sansei), Ash Smart (Harbour Park), Linda Round (JRA), Tim Timco (S&S Sansei), Lauren Weaver (SALLY Corp), and Me

Tuesday, September 20

“Game Time”…ready for the show to start. Karen Staley (IAAPA), and her team sure know how to throw a party. Start to finish, Day 1 was exciting.

The Opening Ceremony was as exciting as ever, and the perfect way to get everyone ready to start the expo.

The show floor was busy, and it was great seeing clients and friends from all over the world. We could already tell that EAS 2016 was going to far exceed that of EAS 2015.

JRA CEO Keith James and I manning the JRA booth.

After a busy day, it was time for the evening event at Parc d’Attraccions del Tibidabo. Although the bus ride up and down the mountain was a bit sketchy, it was well worth it to see such a magical place, with even more magical views.

Top – Welcome signs for IAAPA guests from Tibidabo
Bottom Left – Dan Schultz (JRA COO) and me posing with a view
Bottom Right – Welp, James’ will be James’

Wednesday, September 21

Day 2 began with the Leadership Breakfast. JRA was one of the sponsors of the event, and Keynote Speaker, Carlo Bonomi, Owner of PortAventura, did not disappoint. It was a great way to start the day.

Getting ready to give out tickets to the night’s futbol match!

It was another great day on the trade show floor. The time was passing quickly, and that’s a lot to say considering the heels I was wearing.

Nothing but smiles from Shawn, Linda, and Dan at the JRA booth.

For me, Day 2 of the trade show ended with the IAAPA Young Professionals Forum and Reception, lead by fellow IAAPA YP Task Group Chair, Ash Smart. The rest of the JRA crew headed to the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Party at L’Aquárium.

Top Left – The Officers of the IAAPA Board address the crowd at the IAAPA YP Forum; Andreas Andersen (Liseberg, Second Vice Chair), Paul Noland (IAAPA President & CEO), John McReynolds (Universal Parks & Resorts, Chairman), Hank Salemi (Six Flags Great America, Treasurer) and Greg Hale (Walt Disney World Resort, First Vice Chair)
Top Right – The panelists of the YP Forum; Jakob Wahl (Europa-Park), fellow IAAPA YP Task Group member, Neva Heaston (Wild Wadi Waterpark), Jeroen Holman (Vekoma), and Ash
Bottom – Fellow IAAPA YP Task Group member Will B. Morey (Morey’s Piers) and I having a little fun with the reception sign.

Thanks to my friends at Morey’s Piers, I was lucky enough to go to the Barcelona FC v. Atlético Madrid futbol match. As a former soccer player, this was a huge treat for me, and one that I’ll remember forever.

99,000 of my closest friends!

I couldn’t let my WhiteWater friends down, especially after hearing what a great party they threw all night. The night ended with lots of laughs, and a great time.

Fabulous selfie with Will (Morey’s Piers), and some of WhiteWater’s finest; Anthony Marinakis, Paul Chutter, Chris Perry, and Emily Colombo.

Thursday, September 22

Day 3, the final day of the show, confirmed signs of a great EAS with heavy foot traffic, and great meetings. After a busy day, it was time to box up the booth collateral, and get some rest.

Here’s to a great EAS, and an hour on the beach with my Mama.

We always finish a show with a team dinner, and La Rambla did not disappoint. The theming in the restaurant was fabulous, and created a wonderful atmosphere.

Dinner and a show

Thursday was the start of an annual festival in Barcelona, and there was an incredible digital mapping experience on a historic palace, called the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalonia. Couldn’t have asked for a nicer evening to finish off the show.

The show was impeccable, down to the sound track.

Friday, September 23

Instead of heading home as planned, I was lucky enough to get a last minute ticket for the IAAPA Post Tour. So, Friday morning, I headed to Madrid for some more fun.

We were being hosted by Parques Reunidos all day, and began our tour at the Madrid Zoo and Aquarium. As an avid animal lover, we couldn’t have started in a better place for me. It was a beautiful day, our hosts treated us amazingly, and the animals seemed happy as could be.

Selfies with some of my favs…
Top Left – I named this one Leonard.
Top Right – Sandwiched by the rock stars that make these things possible, Diane Williams and Karen Staley (IAAPA).
Bottom Left – Cindy Emerick Whitson (Dynamic Attractions) and I, posing with the three bears.
Bottom Right – Mika Nur Faezah (JN Entertainment &
 Leisure Consultancy) and me, happy we were on this side of the shark tank.

After the Zoo, we headed to Parque de Atracciones. The rides were fantastic, and the staff was wonderful. But, the true highlight (for most) was the haunted house. The evening ended with a fabulous dinner reception, and a performance capped by members of said haunted house. To say that they were good at their jobs is an understatement…I had to jump from the door onto my bed that night because I was certain one of them had followed me home.

No caption necessary…

Saturday, September 24

Parque Warner was the first stop for us on Saturday. We started with the adorable Scooby Doo dark ride, met several characters throughout the day, road some bada$$ coasters, and saw a spectacular stunt show. We were also hosted to an incredible lunch reception that provided unlimited amounts of delicious food.

Do they have anything but beautiful days in Spain?

Pete (S&S Sansei), Cindy (Dynamic Attractions) and me posing with some friends.

Braving the water ride.
Top – Lauren and Chris (SALLY Corp), Will (Morey’s Piers), Ash (Harbour Park), Pete (S&S Sansei) and Cindy (Dynamic Attractions).
Bottom – A couple Morey’s (Morey’s Piers), a few Hales (Disney), Johnny Mac (Universal), and me

They weren’t all smiles with me after the second water ride…

Rockin’ in Bedrock with my girls Joanna Guy (Premier Rides), Betty and Wilma.

Top Left - Our hosts posing with members of the Justice League and our IAAPA President and Chairman.
Bottom Left – Action from the stunt show.
Right - Karen (IAAPA), the REAL Wonder Woman, posing with Batman, and her twin.

Looks like I have a room whenever I want to move in…LET’S GO!

After our great day at the park, we headed back to the hotel for some free time in Madrid. We decided to head to the Museo del Prado, and then did some walking. Mom and Dad extended their EAS trip as well, with a weekend in Madrid. We couldn’t be in the same beautiful city and not see them, so, the Weavers and I headed to the Palace Hotel to catch up with them. After meeting up with some of the group back at the hotel, several of us headed to dinner, and a night out in Madrid.

Ready to explore with my girls Mika (JNE&LC) and Lo (SALLY).

San Jerónimo el Real, Museo del Prado and the Palace Hotel

I can’t imagine a better group to happy hour with.

Top Left – Me, and my sister from another mister, Lo (SALLY).
Top Right – Speaking of that other mister…there’s my other dad, John Wood (SALLY)
Bottom – I keep some fabulous company; Megan Noland, Amanda Allison, Lo (SALLY), Karen (IAAPA) and Diane (IAAPA)

Sunday, September 25

Albeit not the easiest, but a crazy morning at the train station got us to Seville. We went straight to Isla and Agua Mágica Sevilla, had a lovely lunch, followed by a tour of the parks. You could certainly tell that the guests were having a great time, and we enjoyed watching them.

Mágica is the perfect word to describe this place.

I caught these two in perfect fashion. Lo, channeling her inner jaguar for game day, and Pete...obviously taking a selfie (I just had to be a part of it).

We headed back to the hotel to get freshened up, and then it was time for our final reception of the post tour. The atmosphere was magnificent, the food was mouthwatering, and the company was unsurpassable. It was truly the perfect way to end the trip. The IAAPA crew is never finished though, so we had to head out to explore a bit of what Seville had to offer. The night ended on the patio of a quaint café, with some of the best people from around the world.

Undoubtedly humbled to be standing with these women; Denise Beckson (Morey’s Piers), Bonnie Sherman Weber (Six Flags Magic Mountain), Franceen Gonzales (WhiteWater), Star Hudspath (the First Lady of IAAPA), Catalina Arteaga (Former First Lady of IAAPA), and Joanna Guy (Premier Rides).

Caption: Seville, Andalusia, Spain…I like you A LOT!

Top Left – Gerardo and Catalina Arteaga (Fantasilandia)
Bottom Left – Diane (IAAPA), Jim Seay and Sara Ingram (Premier Rides)

Monday, September 26

After a REALLY early flight out of Seville, and a terribly long connection at CDG, I finally made it home!

That face!!!

As I said, Mom and Dad extended their trip for the weekend, and had a fabulous time as well…

Well deserved time for two, for my two favorite people <3

The recovery time was a bit longer than usual after this one, but time well spent with friends is always worth it.

Just a couple weeks later, and it was off to New Orleans for the World Waterparks Association show! Check out our blog tomorrow for Part 2 of my Autumn Adventures as the 2016 Conference World Tour continues. Adios!

Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Outside the Studio

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