June 28, 2013

For the past nine years, I’ve been living and breathing opening ceremonies production. I oversee every aspect of the weekend, support the event director and ensure the team delivers the product that was promised to the client for all 32 opening ceremony productions during the year.

Here is a look at a typical schedule for the team on-the-road producing each opening ceremony:

Thursday: Setup day

All day Staff arrives and makes sure all assets have arrived. I touch base with the track staff and client.

Friday: Build day

7 a.m.       Team begins building the opening ceremonies stage

9 a.m.      Back-to-back meetings begin

9:30 a.m.  Meeting with NASCAR and track to go over show’s logistics

10:30 a.m. Meeting with pilots for the race flyby

11:30 a.m. Meeting with TV crew to coordinate audio and timing

12:00 p.m. Audio team works on placing the final touches on the setup

Saturday: Race day

7 a.m. All hands on deck today

8 a.m. Finish prep and any other meetings first thing in the morning

1 p.m. JHE staff meets and reviews the day’s run of show with the announcers and show staff

6 p.m. We’ve practiced until its perfect – it’s show time. JHE sets up the stage on the front stretch and the show begins, complete with VIP and driver introductions, the national anthem and the command.

6:30 p.m. Show ends and we remove the stage from the field. Work begins immediately to re-brand it for Sunday’s show.

8:00 p.m. Meet with Sunday entertainment acts, review the script and prep for the next day’s rehearsals.

Sunday: Race day

The day is fast and furious, with a lot to accomplish in a small window of time.

6 a.m. Sunday starts bright and early. Before the gates open, the team sets the stage, manages sound check and runs through the run of show

7 a.m. Stage set

8 a.m. Sound check

9 a.m. Run of show

10 a.m. TV Exhibition Run (30 minutes)

10:15 a.m. Track Services Meeting – Pit Road

10:30 a.m. Final practice (an hour and a half)

2:30 p.m. Gates open

6 p.m. Show starts and we are moving as quickly as possible to set the stage, produce the show and strike it before the command.

7 p.m. Show is complete. The stage and hauler are broken down and packed up for the next event, which can take anywhere from three to 10 hours depending on the size of the show.

What most people in the stands don’t realize is the amount of planning a short show like this entails. We typically begin brainstorming for the show months in advance and a year in advance for the bigger races like the Daytona 500 and Sprint All-Star Race. There are so many moving pieces to each production that the biggest challenge is typically figuring out how to move each piece of the stage around fans and bystanders while making sure we load-in, hit our cue and load-out on schedule. It’s a unique experience each weekend and I know there is no other company who could put on a better show than JHE does.

– Baxter

Ryan Baxter, NASCAR, opening ceremonies, pre-race, Daytona 500, Sprint All-Star Race