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Themed Entertainment: Blue Sky Adventure at TEA’s SATE Conference


by Steve Thorburn, TEA President

We used those 120 minutes to apply our powerful “left and right brains” to develop concepts for the future of a small town on the California coast. The charrette process was new to many and familiar to others.

George Wiktor deserves to be singled out for special praise before I go any further with this recounting – he did a truly amazing job briefing us on this little town, which really does exist – he took on the character of the town’s real-life mayor and portrayed him quite convincingly.

This “Blue Sky Adventure” portion of our conference was a very refreshing exercise and chance to apply the things we’d been discussing at length the day before: placemaking, design, architecture,   technology, branding and of course, the main course – storytelling. It gave us all an opportunity to interact in  a different way from the usual trade event shmooze, and to observe one another’s working styles. It was one of the ways in which this year’s SATE dramatically departed from the format of last year’s SATE – one of the ways TEA keeps this gathering fresh and relevant is to re-invent it a little bit every year, in a reflection of the way we all are obliged to renew and refresh our own perspectives and experience on a regular basis to do the work we do.

In the subsequent wrap-up sessions, one or two of us from each group presented the results of their  group’s pow-wow, followed by some summary remarks.

Among the new faces we encountered at SATE were Maggie Green, graphic designer with the exhibits division at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. She was attending with two of her colleagues, on the heels of their having designed and opened a new exhibit, Ocean Commotion.

While the attendee reviews were mixed concerning this year’s SATE, I feel the event was a resounding success in that we had new TEA members interacting shoulder-to-shoulder with the old guard, while the speakers were challenging us all to keep our bars high and our standards higher. We’re learning from each other, and to facilitate such learning and interaction is a big part of TEA’s mission.

A number of people departed today for Amsterdam to attend the EAS show next. TEA executive director Gene Jeffers was among them. My own flight, tomorrow morning, will take me to my company’s North Carolina office for a real-life Blue Sky Adventure in the making. After my two days at SATE I feel invigorated and ready to face another year.

The full program for today’s SATE meeting is below. Signing off from Orlando…

The Blue Sky Adventure

We take you on a virtual visit to Moss Landing – a quaint fishing village on California’s Monterey Bay. We’ll tell you the Moss Landing story, give you a sense of its color and character, and then split you up into creative teams. Your mission: create concepts that harness the power of Moss Landing’s authenticity and guide its evolution as a visitor destination.

9:00 – 9:15  Welcome to Moss Landing: “Mayor” George Wiktor

9:15 – 10:15 Panel: The Creative Approach to Moss Landing – Guiding Princ

Featuring our guides for the adventure, the Blue Sky Pilots:

Larry Tuch (Story and Themes), Jeff Mayer & Karen Armitage

(Architecture & Place Making), Chick Russell (Experience Design), Linda Smith (Strategy & Branding)


10:30 – 12:30 Breakout Group Sessions

Each group will be tasked with one of the following concept development missions: Place Making, Experience Design, Branding

Breakout Group Facilitators: Karen Armitage, Jeff Mayer, Rick Rothschild, Chick Russell, Steve Snyder, Linda & David Smith, Larry Tuch, George Wiktor

1:30 – 2:00 Breakout Group Concept Presentations: Place Making & Branding

Breakout groups report on their creative concepts for place making and branding for Moss Landing. 

2:00 – 2:30 Facilitator Panel: Concept Review and Commentary

The Blue Sky Adventure facilitators identify the most attractive and viable concepts presented by the Place Making and Branding breakout groups.

2:30 – 3:00 Breakout Group Concept Presentations: Experience Design

The breakout groups tasked with creating experience design for Moss Landing present their creative concepts. Concepts may include a wide range of possible venues and visitor experiences ranging from themed attractions to outdoor recreation as well as informal learning environments such as museums and discovery centers.

3:45 – 4:45 Exploration, Inspiration, Application – Moderated by Kile Ozier

Panelists: Phil Hettema, The Hettema Group

Colette Piceau, It Ain’t Shakespeare 

See also:

Electrosonic Helps Florida Aquarium Create an Ocean Commotion

What The Experiential Design Industry Can Learn from Today’s Gamer Culture

Transitioning from Corporate to Independent in the Themed Entertainment Business

Themed Restaurants: Chad Emerson Interviews Steve Schussler

Themed Entertainment : Getting Interactive at the London Transport Museum

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Rachel Reed

Rachel Read

Rachel is Finance Director. She has a degree in engineering from Cambridge University and qualified as a Chartered Accountant at Deloittes in London. She worked in finance in industry for twenty years. She oversees our news and also manages our events.

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