Jim Ablard is a corporate event producer at JHE. He’s a good one, too. But the theater still pulls hard at his heart.
Since middle school the Maryland native has been involved with the performing arts and technical theater. In fact, his degree from Catawba College is in Technical Theater.
He and his wife Denise were married on the stage in the Hedrick Little Theatre at Catawba College. The wedding was laid out as a play in two acts and his bride actually had a costume change before the wedding vows.
And the honeymoon? “It was to London for one week. Since we both have a love for the performing arts we spent the week seeing everything from Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre to the original production of ‘Cats’,” said Ablard, a founding member of Actors of Tomorrow, a non-profit committed to providing quality children’s theatre in Cabarrus County.
Common threads run through Ablard’s JHE duties and his theatre background.
“I assist clients in determining the best way to get their message across to an audience by utilizing the technologies available to them from within JHE. These can include lighting, sound, video staging and scenic,” said Ablard.
He is one of the first points of contact for new clients at JHE and he says “understanding the client expectations when they cannot verbalize what they see in their heads can be challenging.”
Ablard and his wife Denise have two children, a boy and a girl. In addition to his involvement with Actors of Tomorrow, he is also active in the Boy Scouts and is a Webelos assistant den leader.
Q & A:
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned at JHE? Being Flexible. Understanding that there will always be change in the industry that I work. Whether through corporate consolidation or merger, new technologies or even internal restructuring the end goal is to provide the best service to our customers that I can.
What is the biggest myth about your job? I sit at a computer all day doing nothing.
What is the insider secret to your job? The old sales mantra that the customer is always right applies to what I do. The only difference is that they do not know that is most of the time. It is our job to interpret the concept and convert it to an activation that meets or exceeds their expectations.
What’s your secret to success? There are no strangers, just friends you have not met. I am always talking to people about what JHE can do. There isn’t a departmental division when talking to a perspective client. Sometimes pitching a NASCAR style activation will spark a corporate client’s interest for a trade show display. You never know what will draw a potential customer in.
What is your personal definition of success? As I have gotten older the definition has changed. What used to be important had a monetary value and that value has changed to Time. Spending more time with family and friends.
Things People May Not Know About You
My runner-up career (and why?) was… Working in theater. Still do as a volunteer for Actors of Tomorrow, a youth theater education program. (actorsoftomorrow.wix.com/aotnc)
I start my day by… Drinking coffee and then I drink some coffee…..
My ultimate stress reliever is… shut off the world and watch TV
My biggest pet peeve is… “It cannot be done”
I spend my weekends… with family and friends or camping with my son in Cub Scouts
I don’t leave home without…my phone
Compelling TV binge… DIY, HGTV, History Channel, Smithsonian Channel
My most recent splurge was…A hammock
My favorite vacation yet (and why?)… My honeymoon to London, England for one week. Since we both have a love for the performing arts we spent the week seeing everything from Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre to the original production of Cats.
My favorite movie is… Blazing Saddles or any other Mel Brooks Movie
My favorite quote is… The Dalai Lama — 'When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.'
No one knows that I am… An open water certified diver
Anything else interesting people should know about you?
My wife and I were married on stage in the Hedrick Little Theatre at Catawba College.
Our wedding was laid out as a play in two acts. My wife even had a costume change before the formal wedding vows.
We designed the entire event, Video projection, Stage Lighting, (3) camera video record. Everything was timed out in great detail until the reception. At which time we realized during our first dance that we had no clue what was to happen next.
Catawba University, Hedrick Little Theatre, acting, actors
Tim Kurek is an invaluable member of the video engineering team at JHE Production. With the 2016 event season heating up, we took the opportunity to learn about the senior production coordinator’s favorite places to experience while traveling, his best travel tip and more.
What’s your favorite city to travel to? Baltimore inner harbor
What’s your favorite eatery on the road? Really enjoy local cuisine. I always ask the locals for a good place.
What’s the best hidden gem you have found while traveling?Sliders Bar and Grill in Baltimore, they have great baseball history and the best crab cakes. DJ's Deck Daytona Beach has great seafood and scenery.
What’s your best travel memory so far? Pasadena, California, for The Rose Parade, Rose Bowl Game and national championship. Michigan State beat Stanford in the 100th Rose Bowl Game.
What’s your typical purpose for travel? Event technician
Where do you find out about the best places? I mostly talk with the locals. They seem to know the best spots, Other than that, I go with diners, drive-ins and dives.
What’s your best travel tip? Always pack for warm and cold weather. The weather is always unpredictable!!
Travel Tips, video engineer, production, on the road, Rose Bowl Game, national championship, event technician
NBA player Russell Westbrook says what JHE event planners think, “I'm never satisfied. I'm always trying to get better and learn from my mistakes.”
In a recent meeting with the client services team at the 28-year-old JHE Production Group, one seasoned event planner stated that at the end of the project or event, she rarely appreciates the final result. In large part, she is already looking at how to do it differently the next time. In her words, she is “never fully satisfied.”
Minus striving for perfection, what other challenges do JHE’s event planners face? The team outlined its top list of obstacles.
JHE has developed a reputation as the go-to source for producing events when it’s 1)hard or 2)on short notice. When either factor is in play, the timelines make event planning challenging. In addition, the pace is different per event and per client.
Unlike experiential activation, most special events don’t lend it to being set up in advance of being on site. The planner doesn’t see the finished product until it’s assembled at the final venue.
Which leads us to the next challenge … the planner must have a vision for the overall product and be able to “see” how the parts and pieces fit. Since no event is ever the same for JHE, the team of 37 years of combined experience often builds an event concept from the ground up, there is no standard or model to copy.
The last and likely most relevant challenge is despite the best of intentions, obstacles will occur. It’s imperative that an event planner remain exceptionally flexible and solution-minded.
On Wednesday, Dec. 9, members of the JHE corporate meetings team set out for 7100 Forest Point Boulevard in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The mission of the day was a press conference organized by public relations agency Demoss. The press conference and community event was a celebration for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse.
Operation Christmas Child is the world’s largest Christmas outreach, delivering gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 124 million children affected by war, poverty, natural disasters and other crises in more than 150 countries and territories.
With the annual shoebox drive nearing its end, VIPs like evangelist Franklin Graham and Governor Pat McCrory attended the event. A children’s choir from United Faith Christian Academy and the Tommy Coomes Band joined in the special occasion as well.
To prepare for the event, JHE’s team consisting of Drew Long, Mike Mehesan, Joel Mullis, Chuck Sloop, Jimmy Wenz, Jason Sendlewski, Nick Iorio, Jim Ablard and Kim Casanova provided a stage for the band and choir; the necessary audio and switching capabilities for the PowerPoint and videos. A stage wash lighting effect also was incorporated. Since the presentations took place in a large warehouse, all of the event assets were “flown,” meaning hung from above. When event equipment is flown including most cabling, the hazard of a guest tripping in an active space is significantly reduced.
The event was a success with nearly 1000 in attendance including local news media. JHE was honored to support Operation Christmas Child this holiday season.
First established after World War I and known at that time as “Armistice Day,” Congress recognized a need to honor those who have served. Following the mobilization of World War II and the Korean War, the commemorative day was renamed as Veterans Day, a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
According to the 2014 Census Bureau, there are an estimated 21.8 million veterans of the United States armed forces.
In a world where more than 90 percent of us will never understand what it’s like to take an oath to protect this country or face an enemy, we owe so much to these brave men and women.
JHE honors six employees for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
To showcase our pride for JHE’s veterans, Smith, Autrey, Picado, Moore and Dozier shared details on their time in service, deployments and more.
An eight-year veteran at JHE, Greg Smith has acquired nearly three times that experience serving in the U.S. Navy. The Cryptologic Technician Technical Chief Petty Officer was deployed 10 times over the course of his 21 years in service. Smith was deployed in support of battles including Operation Nimble Archer, Operation Prime Chance, Operation Earnest Will, Operation Praying Mantis, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Gulf War, Operation Southern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Autrey was an E-3 Army Specialist that was a crew member aboard an M1 Abrams tank. He was based out of Fort Knox, Kentucky.
JHE’s newest addition, Susan Picado, proudly served in the Army from 1982 to 1984. She was an E-3 Private First Class and stationed in Fort Jackson, South Carolina for basic training; Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana for schooling; and then Fort Sill, Oklahoma. During her time, she was a Target Acquisition Specialist and also served as a legal clerk.
JHE’s senior director of touring, Gary Dozier, also committed 11 years to serving our country. Deployed for Operation Desert Shield, Operation Vigilant Warrior and Operation Joint Endeavor, the United States Air Force E-5 Staff Sergeant traveled the world in support of his work. He also was based at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, Shemya Island in Alaska and at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado.
JHE’s Audio Engineer Steven Moore served in both the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force. As a Technical Sergeant in the Air Force, Moore was stationed at Travis Air Force Base, California; and Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia. While in the Marine Corps, he attended boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. Then, orders took him to Little Creek Naval Base, Virginia; Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia; Marine Corps Base in Hawaii; and Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina. Moore was deployed twice during Operation Enduring Freedom to Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Africa and other military bases.
JHE salutes our employees who gave their all and the millions of brave men and women who donned a uniform and badge of courage to serve this homeland.
Veterans Day, United States Air Force, United States Marine Corps, United States Army, United States Navy
The Beach Boys icon Brian Wilson said it best, “Summer means happy times and good sunshine. It means going to the beach, going to Disneyland, having fun.”
While JHE’s crew enjoys the last days of summer, many have flocked to the water for a little rest and relaxation. Several were willing to share their favorite summer vacation spots and childhood vacation memories with you.
Erin Nosker, sales manager for the 600 Festival Association and Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance, is most passionate about Charleston as her summer destination. Founded in 1670, Charleston is the place to be for “food, wine, water and history” according to Erin.
Ben Salisbury and James Raven also recall happy memories from their childhood vacations. As a kid, Ben and his family frequented Lake George, New York, which is located at the southeast base of the Adirondack Mountains.
James would go to the beach every summer to stay with his grandma in Cape San Blas, Florida. Bordered by the pristine waters of St. Joseph Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, there are miles of uncrowded white beaches to enjoy as a youngster.
Evelyn Stone, a member of JHE for five years, recalls one unforgettable cross-country trip when she was 12. “We take off - four kids, a station wagon and a pop-up camper and made our way to Yosemite National Park. Throughout the trip, we saw Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, the Grand Tetons, Redwood Forest, Yosemite, Death Valley, Hearst Castle, Carlsbad Caverns, Tijuana, Grand Canyon, Albuquerque, Amarillo, New Orleans and home again. It amazes me that I have been able to see so many of the historical sites in this country. Someday, I would like to take that kind of trip again, but this time maybe in a RV!”
Amy Lilly and her husband found paradise in Panama City Beach, Florida. Due to its sugar-white sandy beaches, Panama City Beach claims it has "The World's Most Beautiful Beaches." The couple fell in love with its clear blue water.
Jacqueline Gafrarar, general manager of the 600 Festival Association, found her favorite place in the world thanks to JHE’s travel expert Michael Ann Gosby ... Turks & Caicos and the island of Providenciales! According to Jacqueline, “The most beautiful beaches are on Grace Bay, and I’ve never seen sand so soft and water so blue. As with most Caribbean islands, the vibe is very relaxed and the food is amazing! Speaking of food, my favorite restaurant on the island is Coco Bistro. You dine on the back patio of an old house under the palm trees. The setting is beautiful. You can also walk down the beach for some great snorkeling, no need for a boat trip to take you to a reef. The Princess Alexandra State Park runs along Grace Bay, and there is a protected area with buoys that you can snorkel around. It’s definitely a place everyone should visit!!”
Culture, HR, Summer, Employees, People First, Summer Travel
When we envision the summer, we think of hot dogs, pool parties and beach vacations. And, there is usually one summer treat or snack that we long to savor as the temperatures rise. As JHE enjoys the last month of summer, we asked this very question to the team. What’s your favorite summer treat?
What did Dan Mott, our avid runner say? Icy Pop
He enjoys them after a long run, and in his words, “it is glorious. Instant brain freeze though.”
Corporate events’ Kim Casanova is passionate about Vietnamese coffee. “Nothing is better than getting strong iced coffee to put some pep in your step!”
While Lunchbox travels the country in support of the NBC partnership, a “nice cold Vanilla Caramel Drumstick or Candy Crunch ice cream” brings back great summer vacation memories.
JHE’s Brandon Steagal loves all types of food. While he doesn’t have one favorite summer time treat, he does enjoy watermelon.
JHE’s "people first" approach has built a unique culture founded on hard work, an unrelenting commitment to excellence and over-delivering on each client’s vision. To our partners, the JHE team is known for a make-it-happen mindset, its charitable endeavors, integrity, candor, motivation, innovation and reliability.
JHE President Jay Howard is passionate about putting people first and promoting our unique culture. Thus why we chose to highlight a personal side of the team as the last month of summer is celebrated. So, we took to the aisles of JHE and asked employees several summer-related questions.
The first up is an easy one. What’s your all-time favorite summer movie?
Jamie Fair, a logistics manager on the transportation team, quickly answered with “Grumpy Old Men.” He actually likes watching this movie all year, but it has a great fishing scene during the summer that he especially enjoyed.
The 1985 classic “Summer Rental” featured John Candy as Jack Chester, an air traffic controller that takes his family to the beach, and it quickly takes a turn for the worst. This topped the list for JHE’s Paul Nolasco, CrossFit fanatic and an experiential activation touring manager.
Michael Ann Gosby, JHE’s quintessential travel guru, immediately recalled the 2005 film starring Ice Cube, “Are We There Yet?”
However, the one that tops them all was chosen by Ann Nestor, senior manager of client services … “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Ann claims that her dad is 100 percent Clark Griswold and was happy to share a photo to let you decide for yourself.
“There are so many times throughout the movie where my sister and I can say, ‘That is so Dad.’ We actually started calling him Clark on a trip to the Virgin Islands in 1999, when he made us walk a mile through the woods to tour historic sugar plantation ruins, and then walked even further across a rocky beach where he made us snorkel through thousands of jellyfish. He even used to dress like Clark – short shorts, polos and big glasses.”
For two weeks, the JHE team was home, but that didn’t mean rest. The team had 27 events in two weeks around the Charlotte region.
Events kicked off Thursday, May 14 in Concord for the 600 Festival Association’s Haulers on Union event which featured NASCAR haulers parading down Union Street en route to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
That Saturday, NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race opening ceremonies were once again a highlight for the JHE team. Considered both the most hectic and most exciting minutes of the year, the team incorporated live music, digital elements and pyrotechnics for a show that matched the excitement of the race.
The Coca-Cola 600 opening ceremonies were only one week later, honoring veterans and those who lost their lives protecting our freedom.
In between the two weekends at track, JHE was on-hand to help with the Valvoline Little 600 at GoPro Motorplex; execute the three-day street festival Circle K and Kangaroo Express Speed Street presented by Coca-Cola which featured NASCAR driver Q&As, live music and 40 sponsor displays; and numerous special events and corporate meetings.
May once again proved to be a month that showcased all of JHE’s expertise. Thank you to our partners for the incredible opportunities and to our staff for their tireless effort to bring these visions to life.
opening ceremony, special events, live shows, NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, 600 Festival, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Coca-Cola 600
As home to two races this month at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Charlotte and Concord are the place to be for NASCAR fans nationwide. Only a pitching wedge away from the track, JHE’s team shares their “don’t miss” places for visitors (and locals if you haven’t checked these out yet!):
The Daily Press in NoDa (3227 North Davidson Street, Charlotte, NC ): “At night, it’s a venue (The Evening Muse) but during the day they have the most amazing (and usually local) coffees. They basically make coffee like bartenders make craft cocktails. For example, their ‘Barista Bloody Mary’ is a Kenyan coffee iced pour over, lime and cilantro essential oils, rosemary, pepper corn and grapefruit bitters, shaken and topped with tomato powder, lime and cilantro. And way cheaper than a mixed drink (all are $5)!” –Kim Casanova, corporate events coordinator
Fahrenheit(222 South Caldwell Street, Charlotte, NC): “I highly recommend the restaurant Fahrenheit at the top of the Sky Condos in uptown. It’s on the 21st floor so it has phenomenal views of Charlotte whether you eat inside or on the patio by the fireplace. On top of that, the food is amazing; unique and not overpriced. Great for a romantic dinner or a more upscale night out with friends. Try the lamb sliders … you won’t be disappointed!” –Brook Horn, manager business development
Amelie’s French Bakery(2424 N. Davidson Street, Suite 102, Charlotte, NC): “This place also deserves a shout out because it’s so unique and is always in high demand. It’s situated on the edge of uptown Charlotte in NoDa which is an artsy section of town. It is open 24 hours a day, has delicious fresh bakery items as well as soups, sandwiches and drinks. The décor is ‘French kitschy’ to say the least. Everyone has to check it out at least once although I don’t know anyone who has only gone once!” –Brook Horn, manager business development
Jake’s Good Eats(12721 Albemarle Road, Charlotte, NC): “A must eat while in the area. It’s an old gas station with drinks in mason jars and “shop rag” napkins. It also was on Guy Fieri’s ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.’ All of their food is delicious!” –Jacqueline Gafrarar, general manager of the 600 Festival Association
Panthers Tailgate: “If you are in town during football season, a must do is the 652 tailgate for all Carolina Panthers games.” –Lauren Livesay, event services senior manager
If you haven’t already, make sure to purchase your tickets to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. And make plans to visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame and attend the five, family-friendly 600 Festival Association events taking place around town!
Charlotte Motor Speedway, Charlotte, Concord, NASCAR Hall of Fame, Speed Street, 600 Festival Association, 600 Festival
This past weekend, 29 JHE employees converged on Talladega Superspeedway to execute seven different events including the Freightliner Hauler Challenge, Big One on the Boulevard, Chase Rice infield concert, Aaron's mobile tour, Freightliner hospitality with a Jeff Gordon meet and greet, the FOX Sports 1 stage and opening ceremonies.
Talldega Superspeedway, NASCAR, opening ceremonies, Jeff Gordan, FOX Sports 1
Six team members led by Lauren Livesay were responsible for opening ceremonies at track including Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series and Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Sunday included a pre-race concert produced by 4 JHE team members by Old Crow Medicine Show, a tribute to Steve Byrnes, wrestler Bill Goldberg kicked off driver introductions, Jeff Gordon's children Ella and Leo served as Gradn Marshals and a USAF flyover.
Two team members were on-site to manage the FOX Sports 1 stage.
The rest of the team (10 members) were 2,300 miles away in Long Beach, California executing IndyCar opening ceremonies.
Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR, opening ceremonies
With only seven seconds to make a first impression, JHE understands the need to make it a good one. From sporting events to festivals, JHE’s live shows team knows how to wow the crowd in seven seconds or less.
Since the company’s inception, JHE has specialized in producing extraordinary opening ceremonies for NASCAR and other sports entities. The producer of 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series opening ceremonies, JHE’s live shows team knows how to set the stage for a show that parallels the intensity of the competition while dazzling fans and clients.
Each opening ceremony is different, utilizing a variety of services including concerts, pyro, lighting, technology, flybys and more. By combining each element, JHE creates a standout show that wows its partners and fans alike.
Since his first visit to the Daytona 500 in 1991, it has changed dramatically. JHE’s senior director of transportation, Terry Hodges, sat down and shared how the race, track and traffic has changed in the past 24 years:
In 1991, even the Speedway was different. With only one tunnel, we used to have to drive over the race track to set the haulers and park on the backstretch of the track. I was 21 and wide eyed working on the marketing and promotions team for Dale Earnhardt Jr. During race week, you would set up at the Ocean Center and constantly run back and forth to and from the track. Traffic wasn’t nearly as bad so it was possible.
After seven years with the team, I started working for Racing Radios, the two-way radio communication provider for NASCAR and their teams. I was installing helmet kits for each driver; drilling holes and running wires for their microphones. It never made me nervous until I found out that the crazy paint jobs inside – crossbones, skulls and more – cost $5,500. Not many people knew this even existed because you couldn’t see it unless the helmet was in your hands. I got to see some really cool stuff!
After that, I worked as a NASCAR official for four years and was responsible for inspecting each car. It was a long two days; working from 6 a.m. to midnight. Teams tried to get away with the craziest things – golf ball tape, sterno and drop-down panels to name a few – to make their cars go faster.
My first race at JHE was the hardest our team has ever worked in our lives. It was the year we acquired both The Sprint Experience and moved our corporate offices to Harrisburg, North Carolina. For three straight weeks, every single JHE team member worked from 5 a.m. to midnight. A lot of people thought we couldn’t do it but we got to Daytona and pulled off every single project seamlessly.
Today, it is always the “getting to Daytona” part that is most difficult. Once we get to track, we get our “sea legs” (a Navy term) and the adrenalin always pushes us to where we need to be. The look of pride everyone’s face at the end of the race is the absolute best feeling and nothing beats that.
Every year though, I am amazed at the track’s sound. My favorite memory will always be the sound of the track. You arrive at 5 a.m. and it is still dark and eerily quiet. As the day goes by, the sound begins to buzz around you and the ambient noise begins to build. By race time, it’s deafening. It’s phenomenal; literally the quiet before the storm. It’s been this way since my first race.
Since 2000, JHE has been the proud producer of the Daytona 500 opening ceremonies. Full of pomp and circumstance, the show always starts the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season in style.
My most memorable Daytona was bittersweet – 2001 Speedweeks.
Just before driver introductions for the Duals, Dale Earnhardt Sr. asked me to take a seat beside him on pit wall. He wanted an update on our planned building construction. It was to be our first commercial building, and we were putting on land purchase from Dale Sr and Jeff Gordon. Dale was very interested in not only the building but how we were doing as a company. With only eight employees at that time, the fact that he cared about what we were doing was humbling.
The next day I dropped off a thank you note at his hauler. Sadly, we lost Dale Earnhardt two days later.
Fast forward to fall 2014, I received a package from Gil Martin, current crew chief for no. 3 at RCR. The note inside read, "I found this in my desk and thought you would like to have it back." It was the note I left for Dale Earnhardt in Daytona 2001. I had forgotten all about the note but will never forget our conversation that day. Many people have heartwarming stories about Dale Sr, and mine happened in Daytona.
“Terry Hodges, Brandon Stegall, Jeremy Callahan and a few others pushing the previous year’s winning car down pit road after the command had been given. Jeremy kept popping the clutch in hopes of jump starting the dead race car. As we approached the last cut out (after 300 yards of pushing the car and it not starting), we heard a NASCAR official over the radio that we needed to either turn in and duck behind pit road or be prepared to push it all the way around the track. We chose pit road and pushed to the Nationwide garage where we all proceeded to try and catch our breath while laughing at how out of shape we were.”
“This will be my eighth Daytona 500. Race morning always has a different feel than any other race I’ve attended … it’s excitement for the new season combined with the biggest race of the year. It is also always one of the biggest pre-races of the year which is my favorite part.”
“After 10 years of working in racing and attending the Daytona 500 from the infield, I finally got a chance to be in the grandstands for the start of a race. When the cars came up to speed and blew by me as I stood at the catch fence (when you still could), the wind from the cars nearly knocked me down. Until that moment, I hadn’t fathomed the force or speed of race cars; it was the most amazing feeling!”
“The 2008 Daytona 500. It was the 50th anniversary and a really spectacular event.”
JHE operations coordinator Andrew Wiede helps execute opening ceremonies for both NASCAR and IndyCar. His responsibilities include maintaining the warehouse, stages and signage for opening ceremonies. He is constantly on the road but his favorite city to travel to is Fort Worth, Texas. Wiede shared his top picks and memories from the city also known as “Cowtown” …
While this year's contestants were all "goose bump" moments for our team, the JHE employees ultimately selected All-Star Driver Intros for the win during the annual "Dog & Pony Awards" Show. Take a look inside each of our top-4 contenders:
50 Plane PIR Flyby
As a way to celebrate Phoenix International Raceway's 50th anniversary, JHE coordinated a world record setting 50 plane flyby. It took a lot of planning with hotels, FAA and local airports plus coordination of 55 planes from 13 different states and a whole bunch of JHE teamwork to make it happen.
Richmond Pre- and Post-Race
Our team helped amp up the Richmond pre- and post-race show into essentially a miniature All-Star Race with a full blown post-race party. The fact that the show was created 100 percent in-house by JHE (audio, video, lighting, fabrication and team) was our biggest goose bump moment.
NASCAR After the Lap
The JHE in-house team produced and executed a seamless event for this year's annual ultimate driver tell-all event.
NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Driver Introductions
The only way to make driver introductions for this race any harder was to add a live musical component... so that is exactly what our team did. With no additional time allotment, we built off our 2013 stage concept and added the musical element of a Jake Owen concert to make the 2014 Sprint All-Star Race driver introductions one of the most talked about NASCAR moments of the year.
With 60 team members and 22 trucks deployed to execute events for seven clients, JHE finished the NASCAR season in style in Miami, Florida.
The week's events included production of the finale NASCAR Fuel for Business meeting for 2014; The Sprint Experience; opening and closing ceremonies including a concert by Jason Aldean; a midway concert; NASCAR Social Wall Powered by HP; the NASCAR Cabana; NASCAR hospitality; and Freightliner hospitality.
JHE’s senior manager of corporate events Ash Munro has traveled by car all across the country. One of the newest members of the team, Munro loves visiting different places across the U.S. for both work and fun.
Since joining JHE, Munro has headed the effort to transfer equipment, shelving and inventory tracking software into the warehouse in addition to managing the execution of numerous multi-day, multi-function corporate events. With more than 25 years of experience in the live events industry he has more than enough opportunity to see his fair share of our country which is why we asked him to share a few of his must-see places:
What’s your favorite city to travel to? For fun, I have been enjoying Nashville lately. It’s close enough to get to for a long weekend, the food is good and the music is free. For work, all of the hotel ballrooms look the same making it hard to pick a favorite. Hands down, my favorite city is the one without buildings other than maybe a bathhouse and visitor center. We car camped 8,000 miles around the country for our honeymoon hitting close to a dozen national parks, visiting Canada, wading in the Pacific and getting up to our knees in Mexican mud in the Rio Grande (it wasn’t so grand nor a river).
What’s the best hidden gem you have found? I haven’t found it yet. There are some pretty awesome places out there; put down the map every so often and just drive. You just might find a gem when you least expect it. Or roll the dice on the unassuming Mexican restaurant in the corner of the strip shopping center. You just might discover your molcajete, some odd combination of every meat in the restaurant buried under a pound of cheese.
What’s your best travel memory so far? Making camp in Yosemite with my best friend, breaking campy with my new girlfriend who’s now my wife. John Muir was right; a little time in nature makes everything better.
What’s your typical purpose for travel? Roughly 50/50 on family trips vs. business trips. We have two young boys so our family travel is geared toward keeping them entertained while introducing them to as much of the country as we can. Work travel is usually a pretty hectic schedule from load-in to load-out and normally within driving distance. We’re usually in a downtown hotel or corporate office park on these visits so I get to see a completely different side of the city from a family visit.
What is your favorite travel blog or Twitter handle? TV Food Maps. I don’t leave home without it. It has led me to three awesome meals in Carmel, Indiana, of all places. And houseman has never steered me wrong; A’a the Towel Buggy Guy in Kapolei, Hawaii, pointed us to Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp shack where they served from the shrimp farm out back.
When JHE puts its mind to something, the team makes it happen. And the JHE “Get Fit Challenge” was no different.
The eight-week challenge started August 4 and incorporated both an individual and team aspect. Created to encourage employees to work together to create healthy habits, the 45 participants lost a combined 205 pounds.
“It was great to see how many people were really into the challenge and stuck with it,” said Dan Mott. “We expected maybe 15-20 people to sign up. We more than doubled that and the results were fantastic.”
Two points daily: no fast food or fried food; at least seven hours of sleep
Three points daily: two servings of vegetables; two servings of fruit; no sugar, including soda; drinking at least 64 ounces of water
Four points daily: 30 minutes of working out
Five points daily: 60 minutes of working out
Points at the end of the challenge: four points for each pound lost on the team
Even though it was a competition, the six teams encouraged each other both in the office and on the road to eat healthier and work out together.
“At the end of the day, it was about creating healthy habits that hopefully led to some weight loss,” said Mott. “But most importantly, the challenge was about simply living a healthier lifestyle especially when that can be such a challenge with how much we are on the road.”
Congrats to each of the participants on working toward a healthier lifestyle!
This past weekend, 68 team members deployed to five cities in four states at nine different venues. It was JHE’s biggest fall weekend ever! So where were we?
One team member was in Scottsdale, Arizona, providing audio/video support and guidance for the Financial Independence Group business meeting at Talking Stick Resort.
Six team members helped the Dale Jr. Foundation execute its annual “Driven to Give” charity event at the Fillmore by providing run of show and video support.
Two team members provided audio and video support for a Chiquita Brands shareholders meeting in Uptown Charlotte.
It was all hands on deck for the inaugural Charlotte HornetsBuzzFest event which utilized 27 team members to produce the two day festival.
Two team members handled stage décor, lighting, audio and video duties at the “Tuxes and Tennies” Charlotte Hornets Gala in Charlotte.
One team member assisted Ingersoll Rand with their town hall production.
Ten team members built and managed The Sprint Experience at Martinsville Speedway including appearances by Larry McReynolds and Kasey Kahne.
Two team members managed the Ford Racing Display in the Martinsville Speedway midway.
Fourteen team members executed the Kroger 200 and Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 opening ceremonies at Martinsville Speedway which included the Martinsville High School Marching Band, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Marching Tar Heels and Richard “The King” Petty.
Friends Ben Salisbury and Brock Schwarz captured some of the weekend’s best moments in the #JHEBackstage Instagram competition:
BuzzFest (Ben Salisbury)
Martinsville (Brock Schwarz)
Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR, The Sprint Experience, Buzz Fest, Charlotte, Charlotte Convention Center, Charlotte Hornets, Ben Salisbury, Brock Schwarz, #JHEBackstage
For the past seven years, Kristin Thompson has been a valued member of the JHE family. The senior manager of client services has worked on a variety of events during her tenure at the event production company including NASCAR Summit, IZOD’s Masters hospitality house, NASCAR Garage Bar & Grill and a variety of opening ceremony productions. With the job comes frequent travel so the South Carolina-native shared her best travel tips:
What’s your favorite city to travel to? For work, it is a toss-up between Chicago, New York and San Francisco/Sonoma; each is so different but equally as amazing! For fun, I love traveling to Myrtle Beach, because it’s super close to my hometown of Conway, South Carolina, so I get to see my family and friends while spending some time working on my tan.
What’s your favorite eatery on the road? While it is not known for its cuisine, Conway is home to the Rivertown Bistro. The spring rolls will change your life – seriously. Plan on going with an appetite for amazing southern food and an empty stomach… and room for lots of wine.
What’s the best hidden gem you have found? Hands down the best hidden gem I’ve been to is Bumstead’s Pub in Myrtle Beach. I make a point to spend some quality time there every time I go home.
What’s your best travel memory so far? It has to be a team dinner at RPM Italian in Chicago. Giuliana and Bill were there… life made! Oh, and the food was delicious, obviously.
What’s your typical purpose for travel? For 99 percent of my travel, it’s work driven. For the most part, time spent in these cities is at an event working long hours. But on the rare occasion I get to go out and explore, I try to make the most of it.
What is your favorite travel blog or Twitter handle? I follow a lot of chefs since eating is pretty much my favorite thing to do. They have a lot of great insight on what to do (and eat) in the cities I travel to week to week.
Kristin Thompson, NASCAR Summit, IZOD, Masters, NASCAR Garage Bar & Grill, Rivertown Bistro, Bumstead's Pub, RPM Italian, Giuliana and Bill Rancic
Her sister and Charlotte Motor Speedway employee, Jeslyn Williams, who is also a cancer survivor asked Gafrarar to participate. Armed with 80 gallons of pink paint, she joined dozens of breast cancer survivors, supporters and NASCAR driver Joey Logano to paint the track’s pit wall pink. For the third consecutive year, the pink pit wall will serve as reminder of the importance of being screened regularly for breast cancer and a celebration of life.
Photo Credit: CMS/HHP photo
“It was incredible to be among fellow breast cancer survivors to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month and celebrate survivorship,” said Gafrarar. “With one in eight women diagnosed, you realize just how many people are impacted by the disease.”
The day also marked her 17th anniversary with JHE. As one of JHE’s first employees, Gafrarar has been involved in producing the majority of the company’s special events ranging from intimate, charity functions to prestigious, corporate affairs. She has worked with some of the most notable names nationwide including NASCAR, Sprint, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, IZOD and the Ryan Newman Foundation. She currently serves as general manager of the 600 Festival Association, managing all aspects of the nonprofit’s four May events.
Jacqueline Gafrarar, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Charlotte Motor Speedway
A creative mind, Ferguson is managing the new four-person corporate event production team. At Total Event Production, he was integral in managing daily operations and producing seamless events. He has also previously worked as a production designer, technical director, lighting designer, rigging coordinator and production stage manager. The Oregon-native graduated from University of Rochester with a Bachelor of Arts in economics with a focus on behavioral economics, public sector analysis and operations management. Brian has twin 7-year-old boys, Devdan and Dylan, with his wife Heather.
Ash Munro: senior manager, corporate event production
With experience in the live events industry for more than 25 years, Munro has had the opportunity to manage productions for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, several national banks and many North Carolina-based businesses. His passion for production started at a young age when he joined technical theater during high school as a way to play with power tools. He then went on to earn his masters of fine arts in technical productions from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Outside the office, Munro can be found practicing his photography skills with his wife, two sons and their boxador, Pelli, or planning a trip to one of the half dozen states he hasn’t visited yet.
Jim Ablard: manager, corporate event production
In his previous role at Total Event Production, Ablard worked on a variety of events including NASCAR races, the Wells Fargo Championship, Charlotte Bobcats’ corporate events and trade shows. At JHE, he will continue to assist with managing shows, marketing strategies and more for corporate event production clients. The Catawba College grad enjoys traveling with his wife and children and also volunteers at the Old Courthouse Theater in Concord.
Drew Long: manager, corporate event production
Since he was a kid, Long has been tinkering with Lego and electronic gadgets. Today, after earning a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies from University of North Carolina at Charlotte, he specializes in the production of audiovisual-based events and is excited about joining the JHE team. He also recently welcomed another baby girl to his family and is known for his tremendous cooking skills.
Hayden Henderson: senior operations coordinator
Henderson’s combined love of the industry and gear knowledge will be utilized to manage the extensive collection of equipment in JHE’s warehouse. He began work in the construction industry at the age of 13 but his true passion has always been theater. He earned a technical theater degree at Winthrop University where he also served as a teaching assistant and worked on show crews for local high schools and country clubs.
Kim Casanova: executive assistant
With more than seven years of administrative and operations experience, Casanova is known for her passion for live events and photography. Her art background includes a degree from Central Piedmont Community College in studio art and freelance photography for Shutter 16 and Crowd Surfer magazines. Prior to joining JHE, Casanova worked on the finance team and as an administrative assistant at Total Event Production and as a retirement plan trading analyst at The Newport Group.
The week of Sept. 8 found JHE in Chicago during an unusually cool couple of days.
A smaller version of the Sprint Experience broke away from the midway and was set up downtown as part of the NASCAR Chase Grid Live event. The full footprint returned to the midway Friday for a successful weekend at-track. including appearances by Kasey Kahne and AJ Allmendinger.
Aaron’s also returned to NASCAR this past weekend with a midway display as did Sherwin Williams who utilized JHE’s H1 to entertain customers and supporters.
JHE’s team produced three opening ceremonies that included parachuters, a Austin Mahone concert, a five plane fly-by and the “Start of the Chase.”
A team of passionate, driven people make up the JHE family. Never ones to shy away from a challenge, more than half of the employees signed up to participate in the first “JHE Get Fit Challenge.”
The eight-week challenge started August 4 and incorporates both an individual and team aspect. The program was developed to encourage employees to work together to create healthy habits that would ultimately lead to weight loss and a healthier lifestyle. A private Facebook page was also launched to correlate with the start of the program that gives employees a forum to share recipes, articles, workouts and encouragement.
For the “biggest loser” individual challenge, participants will record their starting and ending weight. The individual with the highest percentage of weight loss will be declared the winner.
The team competition is broken into six groups led by Dan Mott, Paul Nolasco, Derek Lane, Aprill Williams, Erin Nosker and Jeremy Callahan. Participants can earn points daily by:
-Avoiding fast food (two points); -Getting more than seven hours of sleep (two points); -Drinking 62 ounces of water (three points); -Eating two servings of vegetables (three points); -Eating two servings of fruit (three points); -Avoiding sweets and sugary treats (three points); and -Working out for 30 minutes (four points) or 60 minutes (five points).
Each employee can also earn a onetime 10-point bonus by participating in a race or trying a new workout class. For every pound lost, participants will earn another four points. And since a team competition is all about group motivation, teams will earn an extra 25 points if everyone completes one category at least four days a week.
In addition to the satisfaction of helping each other lose weight and become healthier, JHE is rewarding the “biggest loser” challenge winner with a $75 Dick’s gift card and the team challenge winners with a $50 Dick’s gift card each.
Work doesn't slow down for the summer months at JHE!
In addition to a few events in Charlotte, the team traveled to five out-of-state productions this weekend. JHE's Lauren Livesay and Cody Kauffman captured photos as they traveled to Michigan and Wisconsin, respectively, in the #JHEBackstage Instagram competition.
While it may be less celebrated, Parent’s Day is an annual holiday to recognize, uplift and support the role of parents in their children’s lives. In honor of the holiday, we asked a few of JHE’s parents to share the best part of being a parent and their favorite memory so far:
The best part of being a parent? “The pride you feel when they do something for the first time and how happy they make you by doing the simplest things. And being able to show people pictures that they probably don’t care to see.”
Favorite memory? “When we introduced Aven to her new sister at the hospital. The nurse let Aven “assist” her by using the stethoscope to listen to Harper’s heartbeat.”
The best part of being a parent? “Watching her change daily and seeing how independent she is becoming!”
Favorite memory? “Celebrating her first birthday with all our friends and family there for her.”
Evelyn Stone, mother to Emily (24), Alex (22) and Anna (14)
The best part of being a parent? “Their unconditional love for me and the relationship which has been built where they want me to be a part of their life no matter what age they might be.”
Favorite memory? “Emily graduating from college and taking that to become a successful adult. Alex becoming an Eagle Scout and to this day using what he learned on that journey in his love and care for others. When Anna had heart surgery and it was a complete success. She was doing cartwheels the day after surgery because that’s how she got around! While dad and mom almost had a heart attack. Just being Anna with that smile!”
Ronnie Oehler, father to Randy (40) and Tracy (38)
The best part of being a parent? “Watching your kids grow up to be productive, successful adults that have a loving attitude that reflects their upbringing. Also, watching them become parents and having grandkids for us to spoil."
Favorite memory? “Some of the best memories are the times on vacation at the beach with them, friends and family."
The best part of being a parent? “Being loved, simply put. My son doesn't expect anything from me but affection. Children look at their parents for everything but what they need is consistency. That builds trust and a lifelong friendship I share with my own father and now share with my son."
Favorite memory? “My son has been whitewater rafting for years now and every year we try to take him down something more wild than the last year. I grew up in the mountains and love to share that with my son. Children have no fear."
Parent's Day, Ryan Baxter, Jeff Gajewski, Terry Hodges, Ashley Dempsey, Amy Lilly, Natalie Epperly, Evelyn Stone, Ronnie Oehler, Jacob Meadows, Jacqueline Gafrarar
Mike Mehesan has been a part of the JHE family since 2008. He currently serves as production coordinator overseeing audio needs for all of JHE’s live events. He has previously worked for MGM Las Vegas, Disney World and freelance audio engineering in Los Angeles.
I’ve been a musician for as long as I can remember. When I was eight, I created my first set of drums out of trashcans and performed around the house. I eventually began drumming in a few different local bands. I learned how to set up the sound systems and that led to me becoming the sound engineer for my bands as well as other local bands.
Along the way, I got hired as a technician at MGM Las Vegas. I worked with audio, lighting and special effects. After work I would stick around to learn more about lighting and other various technologies. This helped me achieve the lead technician role.
A couple of years later, an opportunity to work at Disney’s MGM Studios in Florida presented itself and I had to take it. While there, I became the special effects crew chief at the Indiana Jones show. You can’t beat burning things and blowing up 1,000 pounds of propane every day. While in this role, our team did a full theater rehab on the show in which I designed a new operation control console (OCC) that would control all of the show’s physical effects. After a few years in that position, I moved to audio crew chief at the Indiana Jones show for a new challenge. I was working the first iteration of the LCS system and we individually triggered the punch sound effects. I was also working on a lot of the large-scale special events around the park. The best part was the team and the crowd interaction; it never got old seeing how excited the fans were during the show.
After my time at Disney, I moved to Los Angeles to freelance in post-production which included audio engineering, mixing, music editing and sound for film and TV in addition to some session work on drums. After a short stint back at Disney as audio production planner for special events in the Magic Kingdom, I followed my family to Charlotte.
I found JHE in my job search and took it upon myself to email the HR department. When I didn’t hear anything back, I stopped by to personally introduce myself to Jay Howard and set up an interview. I guess I made an impression. A few days later, I had the job! Today, I get to work on a lot of cool stuff although my favorite jobs are opening ceremonies, audio post-production and music editing.
The jobs prior to JHE taught me a lot of technical knowledge in addition to the importance of maintaining quality control during a live event. The same mindset I had every day during a live show is the same you have to have during opening ceremonies; you have one chance to get out and make it work.
Most recently, Jimmy Wenz and Andrew Wiede joined the JHE family after graduating from the sports administration master’s program at Marshall University. The two new employees lived together at Marshall and learned about JHE through the event operations department. After both landing a job at JHE, the two friends moved in together in Charlotte. They share their thoughts on the new job below:
Tell us about your new job and responsibilities at JHE.
JW: Currently, I am managing the warehouse, signage and items needed for each upcoming opening ceremony. On the weekends, I help to set up and prep the stage at-track for each pre-race show.
AW: I help JHE prepare each stage for the NASCAR or IndyCar event taking place that weekend. Right now, I’m observing and absorbing as much as I can about the company as a whole and all its moving parts. I’m focused on learning the terminology of the stages, semis, etc. as I’ve never been around this side of the business before. It’s been challenging, but I am really enjoying it.
What was your first impression of JHE?
JW: At first, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the moving parts of the business. After a few months here, I am starting to get a hang of it and really understand the purpose of each moving part.
AW: JHE is highly respected nationwide for a variety of events. It’s impressive to see a service company so dedicated to delivering the best product they can. I’m excited to work with a company that takes such pride in what they do.
What has most impressed you about JHE?
JW: The mechanics of the stage are incredibly impressive. But also, how quickly the team is able to make each pre-race show happen, getting the stage on and off the track in a short period of time. Despite being such a large company, everyone is very accessible and it’s definitely a family atmosphere which I love.
AW: The fact that IndyCar rehired JHE is impressive. It shows they deliver a high quality product and are a company people want to work alongside.
How did Marshall University prepare you for this job?
JW: Working in event operations, you were under constant time constraints yet things had to be perfect. JHE’s minute by minute is very similar as everything has to be perfect timing for TV.
AW: Game day for division one football is very similar to race day at JHE. Football days at Marshall were very hectic with us running around yet prepared and professional. On race day, JHE falls into line and makes the unexpected happen.
What are you looking forward to about your future at JHE?
JW: I can’t wait to be able to take more initiative and add on ideas now that I’ve gotten the hang of the job.
AW: I am excited to see where this job takes me and the experience I will gain. It’s motivating to know you have such a huge opportunity to grow within a unique company.
Marshall University, Ryan Baxter, Matt Davis, Jimmy Wenz, Andrew Wiede, NASCAR, IndyCar
Alex Fennig recently joined JHE from Roush Fenway Racing. As client services manager, Fennig’s responsibilities at JHE include serving as announcer manager at select IndyCar races and assisting with various special events such as Freightliner hospitality and the NASCAR Garage Bar and Grill.
I was thrilled to join the JHE team two months ago. My previous experience had been exclusively at Roush Fenway Racing where I served as events and hospitality manager overseeing the hospitality for all sponsors, both at track and at the headquarters, in addition to managing two sponsor summits each year. During the four years I worked there, I learned so much but was ready for a new challenge.
So far, the transition from one side of the NASCAR business to the other has been positive. Two of the biggest lessons I learned at Roush was to always make your clients happy and never, ever let them see you sweat. Those tips for success are something that I’m able to apply to the production side of the business as well.
Having so many assets under one roof has been a welcome change at JHE. The in-house abilities of the company make executing each project a bit simpler since you can work with your colleagues, as opposed to outside vendors, to make the entire production come together.
I’ve also transitioned to IndyCar which has been a huge change for me. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was the first IndyCar race I had ever watched or attended. The sport is a different beast than NASCAR with a different crowd and an overall more laid back feeling. As someone who traveled to 34 NASCAR races last year, it’s been a nice change of pace. When I am traveling, I love the family feel of JHE. The team that travels is smaller and younger which makes each trip that much more enjoyable.
So far, my proudest moment at JHE took place at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix when I was able to serve as announcer manager on my own for the first time. It was a “do it” moment and went exactly as planned. I can’t wait to experience more moments like that in the future at JHE.
July Fourth is full of traditions including the beach, vacations and the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. A weekend dedicated to celebrating our nation's birthday, 34 JHE team members traveled to Daytona, Florida to execute two opening ceremonies and manage three at-track displays for Sprint, Ford and Aaron's.
Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR, Coke Zero 400, July 4th, Sprint, Ford, Aaron's
The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is always a special one for the JHE team.
This opening ceremony is considered both the most hectic 45 minutes and the most exciting 15 minutes of JHE's year. Serving as lead producer on the show since 1989, JHE has watched the show grow into something more technical and exciting each year. This year was no different as JHE worked to bring Sprint's vision to life in a show that wowed fans, drivers and sponsors alike.
“You guys make the impossible seem easy,” said Tim Considine, director of sports marketing at Sprint. “It was amazing to watch it all come together live with choreographed perfection by your team on-site and then watch the broadcast Sunday morning at home. The Jake Owen integration was a great plus – the energy and the sound were perfect.”
NASCAR, Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, Sprint
When a former colleague reached out to me about modeling in the American Cancer Society’s Cure by Design fashion show, I was nervous but excited! As a 12 year survivor of breast cancer, I was thrilled to be a part of the third annual event.
To prepare for the fashion show, the team hosted a photo shoot Jan. 10 at a studio in the Noda neighborhood of Charlotte, N.C. All the models had 15-minute slots to have their photos taken by Jim Merrill for the website and promotional materials for the event. It was fun to have my photo taken and meet some of my fellow “models on a mission.”
A month later all the models were invited to a reception at the Morrison Marquette Properties in South Park to meet each other and get last-minute information on the upcoming show. During the reception, we also had a chance to create a video about our personal struggle with cancer. Moira Quinn, senior vice president of communications and chief operating officer for Charlotte Center City Partners, served as the reporter for the video series. The videos were then edited and used as we walked down the catwalk during the fashion show.
Photo courtesy of JMT Photography
The night of the reception I also found out that Vestique would be dressing me for the show. A few days later, I stopped by the store and tried on dozens of outfits. The girls at the store were beyond helpful, and I finally narrowed it down to two choices. The store manager, Lauren, picked out my final outfit. I loved it so much; I had to buy it after the show!
When it was finally event day, I arrived at the Fillmore at 2 p.m. We had hair and makeup done by Salon Tribeca and attended a VIP cocktail reception. As the venue filled up, we waited in the green room which was such an odd experience for me. I’m so used to being the one producing the event and checking on the people in the green room it felt weird to be the one being pampered. I felt like a movie star!
As the show began, I was a little nervous about walking in my heels. When I heard my video begin playing and WSOC’s Natalie Pasquarella announce me, I headed to the stage and it was a rush. It was all about having fun and making it your own. As I strutted down the catwalk my fan section – my husband, Chuck; best friends Kara and Kelly; and sister Jeslyn and husband Mark – cheered me on.
Effie Loukas produced the show and did a great job. From an event perspective, it was never chaotic and everyone always seemed relaxed and in the know. It was a professional and well-executed event.
It was wonderful to be part of such an incredible event. The best part was the people I met and learning their stories. You can only walk once in the fashion show, but I will be back every year from now on to watch others strut their stuff and tell their story.
– Jacqueline Gafrarar
Jacqueline Gafrarar, American Cancer Society, Cure by Design, Jim Merrill, Moira Quinn, Charlotte Center City Partners, Vestique, Fillmore, Salon Tribeca, WSOC, Natalie Pasquarella, Effie Loukas
Growing up in Indiana, my family attended the Indy 500 throughout my childhood. My father and I have traveled and attended numerous races on the schedule and still do to this day. As a longtime fan of the sport, I was thrilled when we won back the opening ceremony production contract for the series earlier this year.
I wasn’t working at JHE when we worked with IndyCar previously so this was a new experience for me to be behind-the-scenes at the races. While the sport itself is a different style than NASCAR, the production of opening ceremonies falls right in JHE’s wheelhouse.
When I arrived at the first race, I was excited to embark on my new journey into IndyCar. New title sponsor, Verizon has created a layout for the pre-race entertainment with the focus on fan engagement. Driver interviews, VIP speeches, flyovers, sky divers and more have become a staple each race weekend. JHE’s role is to support IndyCar as much as possible throughout race weekend which includes audio packages, coordinating TV coverage and managing the fan entertainment.
John Sheppard and Brad Baker are the dedicated truck drivers for the program and both worked with IndyCar at JHE years ago. Their knowledge has been invaluable in helping us get ramped up this season. JHE came onboard last minute this season so it has been a quick learning curve for most of the team members. However, our experience in opening ceremonies for other sports has made it an easy transition.
Our first logistical challenge came during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. After the Stadium Super Truck race concluded, we had 25 minutes to bring the stage on track while maneuvering it under two crossover bridges and several tire barriers. We then had to build and raise the pre-race stage. At the conclusion of driver introductions, we had only 10 minutes to tear down and lower the stage to clear the two crossover bridges and exit the track before the skydivers jumped. Thanks to hours of practice that weekend and similar experiences during NASCAR opening ceremonies at Martinsville Speedway, our team was able to complete the task in less than six minutes.
Our reception during IndyCar race weekends has been wonderful with everyone from clients to track representatives showcasing their support of JHE returning to the series. I’m excited to see how our influence can continue to grow in one of my favorite sports.
Jordan Black joined JHE as a full-time employee one year ago and is quickly making a name for himself. Black sat down to share his first impression of the event experience company, his favorite memories so far and his secret for success.
It’s a small world. During a business class at Belmont Abbey, I came for a tour at JHE. At the time, I had no idea what the company was or what they did. A few months later, a friend of mine said the same company we had just toured had some contractor work available. I figured why not give it a try, see what it’s like and make a little money.
Fast forward to today: I am a full-time employee who just celebrated my one-year anniversary with a promotion. When I was first hired, I worked in a more specialized role on the Ford, Aaron’s and Kobalt displays. With my recent promotion to senior operations coordinator, I have taken on more responsibility as lead ops on some jobs while learning the transition to pre-race.
What immediately drew me to JHE was the fast-paced environment. While you have to know what you are doing, it keeps things interesting because no two days are the same. I also really enjoy the team-oriented culture.
While I’ve had a lot of great experiences over the last year, working the MotoGP event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one that really stands out. I’ve always liked motorcycles and loved seeing what happened behind the scenes. I’ll also never forget the first pre-race event I worked at Charlotte Motor Speedway. I’d heard everyone at JHE talk about the experience for months but to see it come together in person gave me a whole new level of respect for the entire team.
This job has also helped me overcome my fear of public speaking. On a few occasions, we needed a MC at the Kobalt or Aaron’s display, and I had to step up. Once I did it a few times, I really fell in love with it!
To succeed at JHE, I think you have to not be afraid to step out of your boundaries. Be willing to take any responsibility you are given in hopes that you might learn something new. And that is what I am most looking forward to in my second year at the company; I can’t wait to learn and try new things as I work with opening ceremony production for the first time. Here’s to another great year at JHE!
– Jordan Black
Jordan Black, Belmont Abbey, Ford, Aaron's, Kobalt, MotoGP, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway
Growing up my family would get together with friends and relatives to watch marque special events. Whether it was the Super Bowl or the Daytona 500, I was glued to the TV watching the opening ceremonies and halftime show, dreaming of an opportunity to be there in person. Fast forward 20 plus years and not only did I have the opportunity to attend one of these once-in-a-lifetime events but three in one month!
First up, was the Super Bowl in New York City. When I had the opportunity to attend the big game, I jumped at the opportunity to soak in the event activation. However, I was slightly disappointed with the sponsor activations; nothing struck me as out of the box or unique. But the NFL proved again why it’s such a leader in the event fields with the halftime show. Being there was magical; the energy in the venue was indescribable and the production value was best-in-class.
Next, I traveled to New Orleans for the NBA Jam Session, a three day fan festival in support of the NBA All-Star Game. For the past three years, Sprint has allowed us to assist them with their event activation. I continue to be impressed by the NBA Jam Session and the opportunity it gives partners to market their products to consumers. I might be biased but The Sprint Experience was my favorite display. I was also impressed by Samsung’s large display drenched in black lights, custom-built lead generation games and well-designed product showcases. The display fit the brand while also staying authentic to the NBA lifestyle.
Last on the list was the Daytona 500. This was my 14th consecutive year producing entertainment elements at the Daytona 500 and it was by far my favorite. The team works for six months with our partners at Daytona International Speedway to make sure every element is properly thought out. I get to swoop in at the last minute and do the fun stuff so in no way am I attempting to take credit for their long hours of blood, sweat and tears. This year was action-packed with five different, custom-built stages to provide fans an up-close view of their favorite stars.
It’s been a month of excitement and learning for me. I commend our team for their hard work and dedication and thank each of our partners for allowing us these opportunities.
Super Bowl, NFL, Daytona 500, NASCAR, NBA, All-Star Jam Session, NBA All-Star Game, Daytona International Speedway, Sprint, Samsung
The Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is always a big race for my team. As senior manager of event services, I’ve been responsible for managing the Kobalt relationship at JHE for the past 2 ½ years.
The sponsorship entitlement race is an opportunity for the company to show off “the next generation of tough tools” in an interactive way. This year will be no different as the brand activates in a substantial way around the track.
Similar to last year, the 100-by-80-foot midway display will highlight the power and mechanical tools. The JHE team enhanced the Kobalt display with a fresh, new look. However, this year includes a cool new addition: the outdoor power equipment (OPE) line. The newest launch from Kobalt includes seven tools – string trimmer, hedge trimmer, two mowers, blower, chainsaw and polesaw – that can take on anything you need to do in the yard and all work from one, rechargeable, interchangeable battery platform. New demonstrations and games throughout the footprint also will create more fan interaction for the brand.
To prepare for the race, the JHE team began talking with the Kobalt brand team right after its appearance at SEMA in December. In January, the planning revved back up and became more focused. The biggest challenge my team faces during the planning period is making sure the overall idea aligns with Kobalt’s brand goals. This year, JHE was charged with creating an interactive area that keeps customers engaged while educating them on the product line benefits. Along with the marketing goals, our team comes up with creative ways to highlight key products. For example, this year we built half a race car with a tire changing station to showcase the cordless impact wrench and air tools.
Once the planning hurdles had been crossed, our focus shifted to making the idea come to life by building the display, ordering signage and fabricating new additions.
Managing the Kobalt partnership continues to be a rewarding experience and nothing beats the feeling you get when months of preparation come together to produce positive results. Two trucks will rolled out of JHE headquarters March 1. Hope to see you at the Kobalt display March 7-9, 2014, in Las Vegas!
– Ray Edick
Ray Edick, Kobalt 400, Kobalt Tools, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, SEMA, Kobalt
This Valentine’s Day, almost everyone at JHE is preparing to travel or already arrived in Daytona Beach, Fla. The next two weeks will be some of the busiest for the event experience company but they wouldn’t have it any other way. JHE continues to work with some of the biggest names during Daytona Speed Weeks including Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR, Freightliner, Ford, FOX Sports 1 and Sprint.
From the racetrack to the city’s hidden gems, here are the top-10 things the JHE team loves about the “World Center of Racing:”
1. “The nostalgia of the city. From Porsches at the Rolex 24 to stock cars at the Daytona 500, it is the biggest, most notable racing facility worldwide.” – Jordan Black
2. “Sitting on the beach with a book in my hand and my car only 20 yards away. I also never leave without a fish sandwich from The Deck Down Under and “Wally Wings” from Houligan’s.” – Mary Morris
3. “The 5.5 miles (11 miles roundtrip) run from the hotel to the beach.” – Dan Mott
4. “Returning to the city I called home for five years and reliving the good times.” – Lauren Livesay
5. “The Hampton Inn at Ormond Beach, our home away from home in the city. Most of us spend four or five weeks a year there and they always make us feel welcome. The general manager and most of the staff know everyone by name. They are always accommodating and even let us turn the lounge into our own personal JHE family room.“ – Cody Kauffman
6. “The weather. This time of year it is always cold and rainy in Charlotte but when we arrive in Daytona it’s nothing but sun. Oh, and Maui Nix; surf clothes outside Florida are just not the same.” – Paul Nolasco
7. “Eating at The Deck Down Under!” – Jacqueline Gafrarar
8. “The staff at Daytona International Speedway is always great to work with. It’s a wonderful opportunity for JHE to start the season off with a bang.” – Ryan Baxter
9. “I always look forward to eating at the sushi place next to our hotel. The name always escapes me but they definitely have the best eel roll around.” – Jacob Meadows
10. “I always enjoy bike week. It’s fun to walk beach street to see the colorful bikes and people.” – MichaelVerlatti
For backstage access to Daytona Speedweeks, join JHE on Instagram using hashtag #JHESpeedWeeks.
Daytona Speed Weeks, Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR, Freightliner, Ford, FOX Sports 1. Sprint, #JHESpeedWeeks
This summer, JHE earned a new opportunity with FOX Sports 1. “America’s New 24 Hour Sports Network” enlisted JHE to create a fan-centered display to travel to college football games throughout the season to promote the new network. I was excited (and also a bit nervous) to take on the new challenge of managing the operation.
Moving from the special events department, the basics of producing each event were pretty similar. However, my first project in the experiential department did bring a few new challenges. Previously, it was rare to have back-to-back-to-back events. With FOX Sports 1, I am traveling almost every weekend, which has its perks – aka lots of airline miles and hotel points! Instead of ordering décor items like floral and linens, I’m now thinking about generator and lull rentals each week. It’s definitely been a learning experience!
The biggest learning curve for the team has been the unique nature of this mobile tour. With similar projects in the NASCAR world, the footprint is very consistent week-to-week, and we know the schedule well in advance which makes planning much easier. Traveling to college campuses, the footprint is different every week. We’ve dealt with grass, dirt, AstroTurf, trees, water fountains, and even foul balls outside Oregon’s baseball stadium. The schedule is also rarely solidified until a week or two prior to the event date.
However, it didn’t take long for us to adapt and create an efficient system. Every week, our crew arrives on-site, compares the rendering of the layout to what we are working with, and they get started. The guys really have it down to a science; every crew member has similar responsibilities within the display each week, so they’ve become incredibly efficient.
Once the fans have arrived and the live hits are done, I love watching the interactions within the display. As a huge Big Ten football fan, I’ve enjoyed seeing the differences in fan culture from region to region. I’ve seen logoed rain gear at University of Washington and OU-embroidered cowboy boots at University of Oklahoma. I’ve also seen some really impressive tailgates (that I wish I could take part in!).
Working with the FOX College Saturday Tour has been an incredible experience. The project is right in JHE’s wheelhouse which made our team the perfect fit to adapt to the changing conditions each week. I truly believe there is no company better fit to execute this challenge.
Meet John Basso, the new senior manager of client services for Sprint. His responsibilities include managing The Sprint Unlimited Experience display, maintaining the partner relationship and assisting in the design of next year’s display. Prior to joining the JHE family in August 2013, Basso worked in operations at ESPN and the Charlotte Bobcats. Basso sat down to tell us how ESPN prepared him for his new role at JHE…
Before joining the JHE family, I worked as an operations producer at ESPN. I have a passion for broadcast and being a part of something relative and mainstream in today’s society of entertainment was very fulfilling. One of the coolest aspects of the job was the sense of accomplishment I always felt at the end of every show.
One of my best memories was working with the same crew on SEC football coverage for four seasons. The friendships and the level of professionalism surrounding my time on that team are filled with moments I will never forget. I also had the opportunity to work as the lead operational contact for NCAA Lacrosse and act as the main liaison on an NCAA Championship event, major basketball tournaments and college football games. I even had the opportunity to run events in Hawaii and Mexico.
I also will never forget watching my 18-month-old son playing catch with former Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware who was the announcer during the football season.
Though the job sounds like it had a lot of perks (and it did), one of the biggest myths was that I got to watch so many great sporting events. Most of the time, I had to ask what the score was at the end of the game!
One of the most frequent questions I get about working at ESPN is how I got my start there, and I always tell everyone the same thing – networking. It is so important to maintain relationships. Those will in turn lead to opportunities by those who believe in you.
My responsibilities at ESPN included equipment setup, facility oversight, television compound management, client relationships and supervising the on-site remote broadcast crew for live sporting events across all ESPN networks. The scope of everything I did at ESPN is difficult to measure in words, but it was an opportunity that I know I am extremely lucky to have experienced.
I also know the opportunity helped me grow and provided a strong backbone for my career moving forward. The work prepared me for my career at JHE by building management skills in a high profile environment. The JHE family is known for their outstanding service and “whatever it takes” mentality. Coming from an environment of high standards helps me maintain the quality JHE is known for and allows me to help build the future of JHE.
A little more than a year ago, I found myself out of breath walking up a flight of stairs. I was going to the gym every day, but clearly it wasn’t working. So Donna Richardson encouraged me to try a class at CrossFit Harrisburg with her. Since I was in shape, they threw me in the deep end and had me do a full workout instead of a beginner’s version. When I finished, I felt like I was going to throw up, my arms and legs were burning, and I was hooked.
CrossFit felt like a whole new experience. At the gym, no one cares if you work out or improve. At CrossFit, you have a team of supporters encouraging you to be your best. It doesn’t matter if you are the fastest or slowest; you are a part of a team.
The best part of CrossFit is they incorporate every day moves. You will never find us doing curls because that isn’t a natural motion. Instead we do deadlifts (you use lifting groceries), sled pushes (you would need if your car broke down) and different exercises to increase flexibility.
I also have learned so much about my body – how to eat, how to repair my body and more. With 70 percent of the battle being diet, I changed mine and found I was lactose-intolerant. Today, I’ve fixed my health issues and feel 1,000 times better. Believe it or not, at the age of 36, I feel better than I did in my 20s.
CrossFit has also helped me at JHE. At tear downs, I now use proper deadlift form which has protected me from injury. Even if I am tight or hurting, I know how to repair myself.
After realizing my passion for CrossFit, I convinced my wife to let me buy everything I needed to create my own gym in our garage. On Black Friday, they were having a sale and I managed to get 1,300 pounds of equipment shipped for $5. With the convenience of my home gym, I’ve saved time and money.
Since I work out on my own now, I follow a lot of CrossFit pros, including Rich Froning Jr. and Jason Khalipa, on Twitter and use their workouts to structure mine. I also have recently started going back to CrossFit Harrisburg once a week for the team support as I train for the CrossFit Games.
Last year, I placed 25,000 out of 140,000 in the CrossFit Games Open after only six months of training. For the 2014 Open, my goal is to place in the top 1,000. The invitational begins in March and is five weeks of workouts. Since I will be on the road with The Sprint Unlimited Experience, I have already found local CrossFit gyms with certified judges in all five cities who can judge my workout and submit my scores.
To reach my goal, I have been training five times a week – three days on, one day off, two days on, one day off. I’ve managed my schedule so my “off days” correlate to travel days for JHE. Even on my off days though, I try to do active recovery like rowing, swimming or running with Dan Mott (and try to keep up with him!).
Training on the road hasn’t been easy but it’s all about scheduling. I use the hotel gym or a local “mom and pop” gym to do my daily CrossFit workout and adapt as necessary. Sometimes I even convince the guys to join me although they don’t like it because they will be sore for days. Finding time is key. For example, in Richmond we finished working at 10:30 p.m. I went straight to the gym then ate dinner and went to bed before waking up early the next day for work. Making smart food choices is the other crucial part of my training; I eat things like steak, broccoli and sweet potatoes and avoid bread cheese and milk.
To date, I’ve lost 45 pounds but even better I’ve never been stronger nor had more energy. CrossFit has completely changed my life and I plan to stick with it forever and never go back to being out of breath after a flight of stairs.
Darius Rucker once said, “There’s two times of year for me: Football season, and waiting for football season.” As a die-hard Carolina Panthers fan, I couldn’t agree more.
Although I’ve tailgated with friends and family for many years, a new tradition began in 2007 when Ryan Martin, Jeremy Callahan, Ken Byrd and I began tailgating together. Two years later, we bought a camper, and in 2011, we expanded again and bought a bus. Today, Joe Sullivan and Brian Hancock have also joined the weekly crew.
To show our pride in the team, our setup includes Panthers’-branded tents, tables and corn hole boards. Our core group does most of the upkeep and upgrades on the bus and camper each season. Along the way though, we’ve had many friends pitch in and help with mechanical work, paint, decals and audio/video elements for the interior of both units.
We’ve been recognized many times for our team spirit. Multiple national media outlets, including ESPN and The NFL Network, have interviewed us. We’ve also been invited to the Carolina Panthers’ Draft Day Party three years in a row. The best 10 tailgates are invited to participate in the competition during the NFL Draft in April to claim the title of “best tailgate in Charlotte” as voted on by Panthers’ players and fans. We finished second in 2010 and 2011 and took home the title in 2012.
However, my favorite memory is the numerous visits from Panthers executives, including team president Danny Morrison, over the years to thank us for supporting the team. I remember a game during the two wins/14 losses season a few years ago when we were tailgating at 8 a.m. in 38 degree weather and sleet. A reporter from The Charlotte Observer came over and asked what we were doing out in the cold supporting a losing team. We told him we would be there rain or shine, winning or losing to support the team we love. The next day, the paper published an article on us called “Fair Weather Fans.” A few hours later, Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson called my home to thank us for being such great fans. It was an incredible yet surreal moment for me.
We’ve had more than 300 guests at some games although we average about 50-60 people each weekend. The best part of the experience is having so many of our JHE colleagues come out and enjoy themselves with their friends and families. We couldn’t do it without them, nor would we want to.
Think you have been to more concerts than anyone you know? Meet Ryan Williams, aka R-Dub. He probably has you beat.
His passion was born in 1994 at his first concert, 104 Fest at Riverside Park in New York. Since that day, he has seen 708 different bands, 215 of which he has seen more than once. His list spans all genres, including musicians like Aerosmith, Alanis Morrisette, Blake Shelton, Eminem, Fuel, Kayne West and The Verve Pipe. The two bands he has seen the most are Pearl Jam (11 times) and Korn (nine times).
Believe him? He has every single concert ticket and backstage pass (stored in chronological order) saved to prove it. And “yes, I have a spreadsheet of every band I have ever seen and how many times I have seen them,” he says.
It probably comes as no surprise then that R-Dub made his passion for music into a job. JHE’s senior production coordinator/concert producer narrowed down his top-10 concert experiences (and no it was not easy!):
Most memorable AND challenging production moment: A tropical storm hit the city on the day the band was scheduled to land. Everything at the track was suspended for the day. We worked with management, the band and our client to reschedule everything and do a stripped down version of the show Sunday morning before the race.
Most memorable AND challenging production moment: Kid Rock travels with a large band so we had a lot more gear on the stage than we normally do for any performance. When Kid Rock and the Twisted Brown Trucker Band came out for the sound check, it all came together immediately and sounded perfect.
4. Orianthi at Daytona International Speedway (2012)
Most memorable moment: The production of this concert wasn’t hard; instead it was just really interesting to see someone with her credits playing at a race track. The night following opening ceremonies, she played an electric set in the fan zone. One of my personal favorite highlights was the “VooDoo Child” solo she played one-handed.
Most memorable moment: A late night jam session with the band.
Most challenging production moment: The band was scheduled to play two songs from the new album, “Stadium Arcadium,” in between segments at the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Unfortunately, NASCAR schedules and band schedules rarely coincide with each other. When the race was starting back up, the band was midway through a third song they had decided to play on the fly.
Top-Five Personal Concerts:
1. Pearl Jam – Tweeter Center, Mansfield, Mass. (2003)
Pearl Jam booked three nights at the same venue and only repeated two songs over the course of three days. I happened to be at the show that featured an hourlong acoustic performance that opened the show. To date, it is still one of the longest “PJ” shows ever and a fan-favorite. When we go to see them, people are always surprised to hear I went to the “Mansfield 3.”
2. Bruce Springsteen – Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y. (2002)
I was asked by a co-worker at lunch if I was interested in going to the show. It was an easy choice to make on my end. Bruce was doing 10 days at MSG as part of the 2002 tour. It was great seeing an “evening with” such a big name at a historical venue.
3. Roger Waters – Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, N.C. (2013)
Seeing Roger Waters perform one of my favorite albums from start to finish was amazing, although the best moment was when he played “Comfortably Numb.” The level of production was like nothing I had ever seen before.
4. U2 – Atlanta Dome, Atlanta, Ga. (2009)
When U2 went out on the 360 Tour, there was a huge amount of media buzz about the stage and what the tour would be like. It still holds the record as the largest touring stage ever, the second time U2 has held that title. The fact that they had three replicas of the stage made it even more amazing. The most memorable moment was walking in and seeing “The Spaceship” stage. I was lucky enough to catch the show in Chicago in 2011 as well. U2 never puts on a bad show, and they didn’t disappoint with this tour.
5. Beastie Boys – Amos Southend, Charlotte, N.C. (2008)
In 2008, the Beastie Boys, Sheryl Crow and Santigold teamed up for a “Rock the Vote” Tour. Most of the shows were in theaters or arenas but Charlotte landed a club show. The venue sold out in less than five minutes. To see them on one of their final tours, up-close on a small stage, was something I will remember forever.
This list was almost impossible to make. Here are my five honorable mentions:
Ryan Williams, R-Dub, Aerosmith, Alanis Morrisette, Blake Shelton, Eminem, Fuel, Kayne West, The Verve Pipe, Pearl Jam, Korn, Keith Urban, Daytona International Speedway, Three Days Grace, Richmond International Raceway, Kid Rock, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Orianthi, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR, Pearl Jam, Mansfield 3, Bruce Springsteen, Madison Square Garden, Tweeter Center, Roger Waters, Time Warner Cable Arena, U2, Atlanta Dome, Beastie Boys, Amos Southend
An avid runner, Dan Mott has completed three full marathons, six half marathons, a 10-mile race, a warrior dash, a Spartan race and countless 5ks. He recently ran the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13 and achieved a personal best time of 3:17:59. He believes anyone can become a runner and is offering five-tips for new runners to follow:
1 – Sign up for a race and set a goal.
I never would have turned into a runner had I not signed up for that first race, the Disney World Half Marathon. I don't exactly recommend a half marathon for your first race, but if that's what it takes ... do it! Create a training schedule and follow it as closely as possible. Let people know you've signed up and announce your goals for the race. Whether the goal is to finish or to hit a specific time, it adds a bit of accountability.
2 – Find a running partner to hold you accountable.
Whether you find a buddy to run with you or someone to text, call or email you, a partner will push you to run on the days you don't want to get out of bed. Even as someone who loves everything about running, it is a daily battle to get out the door and actually run. While running is an extremely individual sport, running with a friend can make a huge difference. It's a lot easier to get out of bed at 5:30 a.m. if you know there is someone else depending on you to show up. There are running groups everywhere now. In Charlotte, Noda Brewing Company hosts a weekly one-, three- and five-mile run that starts and ends at the brewery. What better motivator is there than a beer waiting at the finish line? Also, local running stores often have running groups and scheduled weekly runs you can join to help you stay accountable.
3 – Get off the treadmill.
There is nothing good about the treadmill. Period. I'd rather run 20 miles up a mountain than do five on a treadmill. Sometimes the dreaded machine is the only option. But if you can, run outside. Find a greenway, trail or somewhere with sidewalks. It can be intimidating at first, but for me at least, it is much easier and more rewarding to be outside.
4 – Keep track of progress and reward yourself.
Log your daily runs and workouts. It can be in a notebook, online or on your phone. Tracking your workouts allows you to see the progress you are making. There are plenty of websites, such as Dailymile, Map My Run, Twitter and Facebook, which allow you to post workouts and discuss them with other like-minded people. When you reach a certain mileage goal, be sure to reward yourself with something like a massage, dinner or new shoes.
5 – Don’t sweat the bad runs.
There will be bad, terrible and awful runs. Sometimes you'll need to walk. Some days, two miles will feel like 26. It happens to even the most experienced runners. The important thing is to go out the next day and keep moving toward your goal.
Keep these tips in mind next time you hit the pavement and remember – every runner started somewhere. Stick to your goals and you will be an expert in no time!
Described as a 5k course that combines game show inspired obstacles, such as an inflatable slide, belly flop drop, wrecking ball and Tarzan swing, to give you the craziest run ever, the ROC race seemed like a must for the JHE family.
I rounded up 12 people to join me for this crazy race: Mary Griffin, Cassie Brickman, Michael Ann Gosby, Michael Verlatti, Jeff Gajewski, Jeremy Callahan and his twin brother Jonathan, Avery Nelson, John “Lunchbox” Autrey, Aprill King, my roommate Brynn and Andrew Stilwell. Even though we are a competitive group, we chose to run the race as a team and waited on every person to finish before advancing to the next level. “We are only as strong as our weakest link,” is a mindset we live by at JHE which came into play during this obstacle-filled race.
One of the toughest obstacles was the wrecking ball. Only two team members managed to hold on and not get wet.
The “Foam of Fury” obstacle was one of the funniest moments. Jeremy Callahan went down the bubbly horizontal slide almost immediately after Cassie and pushed her head first quickly. A mouth full of foam, she was coughing bubbles for the rest of the race.
We all had the most fun on the “World’s Largest Moon Bounce.” I think it would be the perfect addition to the JHE holiday party We also had a blast on the “World’s Largest Inflatable Water Slide” which we were able to slide down multiple times thanks to Lunchbox knowing the race director (he seems to know someone everywhere).
However, one of my best memories was finishing as a team. It was a fun, crazy and memorable experience. I can’t wait to do it again with my second family next year!
Organizing travel for JHE’s employees who are constantly on the move is no easy task.
Managing travel for 80 employees to 30 states a year requires booking more than $200,000 in flight reservations and abundant hotel rooms. However, the company’s in-house travel coordinator, Michael Ann Gosby, has made traveling a science, one that she has mastered after eight years with the event experience company.
Before heading out on the next trip, check out Michael Ann’s top-five travel tips to make the experience as enjoyable as possible:
1) Customer Rights: As the customer, you have all the “rights” on the day of travel. For example, if you have a confirmed reservation on an airline and are bumped from the flight, you are entitled to compensation but you have to ask. The answer to most flight questions is almost always “it depends.” Meaning, the airline representative is making the decisions on the spot.
2) Travel Upgrades: Remember that the “rules” for airlines vary based on who is behind the counter. With that being said, the nicer you are, the more you can get the representative to do for you such as upgrades, earlier flights, etc. As I like to say, “when traveling, be nice… it comes with a price!”
3) Code Sharing: Check to see if the airline you are flying with has partnerships with other airlines. Code sharing allows passengers to use a frequent flyer number on other airlines and still receive upgrades and points under your preferred carrier program.
4) Checked Luggage: Never put anything of value in your checked luggage and always carry a change of undergarments and light clothing in your carry-on bag in case your luggage gets “lost in transit” for a few days.
5) Rental Cars: Always check the rental car before driving off the lot. It will only take a few extra seconds and it keeps you from being liable for a previous driver’s damage upon return.
Next time you book a trip, remember these tips to ensure a smooth experience that is as stress-free as possible.
– Michael Ann Gosby
Michael Ann Gosby, travel, travel upgrades, code sharing
Justin Timberlake was recently presented the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Awards. While most people were talking about the antics of other performers during the show, I was totally focused on the high-energy choreographed routine paired with challenging live vocals that “JT” delivered. I wasn’t surprised though, since I had seen his impressive “Legends of Summer Tour” just one month prior.
I decided for my birthday this year to go somewhere I had never gone before. As fate would have it, JT and superstar rapper, Jay-Z, scheduled a tour date in New York City the day after my birthday. Luckily, my great friend and program manager of Sprint Vision, Brook Horn, realized this trip was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
While Brook and I both grew up in small towns in East Tennessee, we have been able to meet a lot of celebrities and enjoy concerts from A-list acts, courtesy of our jobs in sports entertainment. It is safe to say that it takes a lot to impress us at this point.
Upon arrival at Yankee Stadium, I knew I was in for a treat. The stage was without a doubt the largest I have ever seen. Each side wing of the stage included a tall video screen. The lighting grid and the speaker stacks revealed to me that this was a high budget production.
As the sun set, a DJ kept us entertained. There was no opening act – we were all there to see only one person! Finally around 9 p.m., the lights went out and JT and Jay-Z arrived onstage. From the opening song to the last song, the energy never dropped. The flow of the show was quite unpredictable. It was not an hour of JT followed by an hour of Jay-Z. They mixed it up the entire night so you never knew who was coming up next or when they would be onstage together. Both performers primarily used two adjacent trap doors on the stage for entry and exit. One would come up on the stage as the other disappeared, interacting with each other along the way.
Since the show was set in New York City, we knew that “Empire State of Mind” had to be on the set list. The song started with JT, lit by a single spotlight, singing a cappella “New York, New York.” As he held the final note of the chorus, the beat of “Empire State of Mind” started. Jay-Z took center stage and delivered a flawless rap with a crowd of New York natives chanting every word with him. As the chorus featuring Alicia Keys began, she slowly walked out from behind the curtain to surprise the crowd and perform the song live with Jay-Z. The energy went to another level in the stadium! It was one of those moments that we strive so hard for in this business. The lyrics to the song meant so much more as I looked around and saw the subway come above ground by the stadium, the flights departing from LaGuardia Airport and the sign in the stadium recognizing the Yankees for being 27-time World Series Champions. In that moment, their performance and the surroundings made me want to live in New York City.
I could talk forever about the experiences during this trip, but I typically sum it up with only one word: amazing. It wasn’t a cheap concert ticket but you can’t put a price on the opportunity to see two of the greatest artists of all time performing together.
– Lauren Livesay
Justin Timberlake, JT, Jay-Z, MTV Video Music Awards, VMAs, Michael Jackson Vanguard Award, Legends of Summer Tour, Sprint Vision, Yankee Stadium, Alicia Keys, New York City, Lauren Livesay
I grew up in a military family with my dad serving in both the Air Force and Navy. In 1991, I decided to follow in his footsteps and joined the Marine Corps band program as a saxophonist.
I attended recruit training in Parris Island, S.C., combat training at Camp Geiger, N.C., and then U.S. Naval School of Music. I was stationed in Albany, Ga., and Kāneʻohe Bay, Hawaii. My last duty station was in Cherry Point, N.C., which was where I was asked to sing the national anthem for a special event, the 2003 Winston race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The story goes something like this …
The 2D Marine Aircraft Wing Band received a call asking if we could play the national anthem at the upcoming race, because at the last minute American Idol contestant Josh Gracin, a former Marine, was not available for the performance. It was military appreciation day, and a group of Marines overseas was going to give the command live from Afghanistan. The track also asked if our band had a singer to perform the song. My band master asked me if I’d like to do it, and I gladly agreed. I had one week to prepare and get ready for the performance of a lifetime.
It was an amazing experience for me because even though I had played in front of thousands of people numerous times, I had never had the opportunity to sing in front of a crowd. I had performed background vocals in show bands, but this was a totally different experience as a featured vocalist singing our country’s national anthem for a major sporting event on live TV. It was a joyous and proud moment for me as well as my family. My brother-in-law was out at dinner when he saw me on TV and immediately began boasting about my performance to everyone around.
The one thing I was worried about the day of the performance was making absolute sure I did not mess up or forget any of the words. I kept thinking how embarrassing it would be for a Marine to forget the words to the “The Star Spangled Banner” on national TV. To this day, I still remember the words.
I spent 13 successful years in the Marines before joining the U.S. Air Force as an audio and lighting engineer. After completing a 22-year military career, I am excited to now be serving as an audio technician on the JHE team. I never knew JHE did all the opening ceremonies until I joined the event experience company. I’m sure it was the JHE team I worked with then and now I am working with them again. What a small world!
– Steven Moore
Steve Moore, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, U.S. Naval School of Music, Winston Race, Charlotte Motor Speedway, American Idol, Josh Gracin
While my job in the special events department holds many responsibilities, one of my favorite roles to fill is announcer manager. Now what is that you might ask? As a member of the opening ceremonies team, the announcer manager manages everything the opening ceremonies emcee says from start to finish.
Prior to the race, the event producer feeds information to me, and I develop a script for the announcer. On-site, I finesse the script, make changes as they occur throughout the weekend and meet with the announcer to walk through the script before each race.
Once it is race time, the intensity increases quickly. I’m wearing a radio and listening to both the NASCAR and JHE teams. With communication coming from two sources, people are constantly talking to me and changes happen quickly. It’s key to stay on your toes for whatever is thrown at you. Being “in show” with so many moving parts is the most challenging part of the job but also my favorite aspect. Managing the momentum and anticipation of a live event is thrilling and becomes second nature with practice.
Though the job can be intense, it is also a nice break from the norm. I love traveling and exploring new cities as well as the opportunity to work with employees I don’t usually interact with and see faces that are always on the road. Occasionally known as the “road mom,” the job sometime calls for a random trip to the infield care center with a sick co-worker or an attempt at helping our hauler drivers make a meal. I’m no chef, but I can make a mean PB&J.
One of my favorite memories as an announcer manager is from Texas Motor Speedway when Eddie Gossage was serving as announcer for an IndyCar race. I was staring at Eddie’s toes while cueing him from the flagstand. It was definitely a different take on the role! Through a variety of different settings and challenges at the track, I’ve cemented a fun relationship with the permanent track announcer who is always up for a few practical jokes.
Everyone at JHE wears many hats, and this role is no different. It’s important to be flexible and willing to jump in wherever and whenever help is needed. When the opening ceremony ends, you feel a huge sense of accomplishment for being a part of the team who created such an impressive show.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” JHE continues to take this advice and invest in the future of its people through targeted training opportunities.
In addition to ongoing career education, JHE began offering a monthly lunch and learn training series for all employees in 2013. Employees were asked to provide feedback on topics they would be interested in learning more about during an end of year survey. JHE used this feedback to create a nine-month series that includes classes taught by outside experts, such as photography basics, priority management and strategic thinking, and in-house experts, such as sales 101, audio/video essentials and art fundamentals. By offering a unique collection of classes, all employees can benefit from the opportunity. JHE has also started capturing the sessions on tape to share with the employees who are on the road and unable to attend in person.
The training series is another way for our employees to continue to better themselves and continuously maintain their status as experts in their field. JHE looks forward to continuing to offer unique employee education opportunities to help make our employees the best of the best.
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 dayStaff 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.
JHE is committed to giving back to the community that has helped the company become what it is today.
I serve on the “Giving for Good” committee with 11 of my fellow co-workers and we work together to decide where our efforts can best serve those in need in the Greater Charlotte area. In April, the committee chose to support a charity that is near and dear to my heart, Wings of Eagles, a therapeutic horseback riding ranch that serves the special needs community in Cabarrus County.
Wings of Eagles Ranch came into my life when my oldest daughter decided she wanted to help those less fortunate at the age of 11. She was able to combine helping others with her passion for horseback riding; it was a perfect fit. Being comfortable and competent around horses allowed her to help many special needs children benefit from the healing process horses and a facility like this provide. She loves helping children learn and succeed. In fact, she will be a senior next semester at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill majoring in elementary education. Her passion for the ranch naturally led to my youngest daughter and me volunteering at the center. We were able to continue volunteering for the next six years until full-time work and college beckoned. Even though we are no longer a mainstay at the ranch, it stayed with us. So when JHE started its give back initiative, I was one of the first to join.
In April, 28 of my fellow co-workers and I set off to help the ranch complete a few projects on their wish list. Together with help from our longtime partners, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Sunbelt Rentals, we were able to make many of their wishes come true. In true JHE fashion, we were able to complete a year’s worth of work in only six hours. Staining a 40-foot climbing tower, expanding a zip line deck, painting a new portrait on the “Adopt-A-Horse” wall, installing railings on a tree house, landscaping the front entrance and expanding the mounting ramp was all in a day’s work for the JHE crew. Whatever the challenge, JHE delivers.
This was the second full day the JHE team committed to the ranch (last year, we painted barns and the main office at the center). We hope to continue to help Wings of Eagles for many years to come. Could an overnight cabin be in store for next year? Let’s do it!
Giving for Good, charity, Wings of Eagles, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Lowe's, Sunbel Rentals, Julie Alascio
I started randomly running marathons two and half years ago when a friend suggested that we run the Disney Half Marathon. I had no idea how far a half marathon was and had never run in any kind of race, let alone run two miles outside consecutively; so logically I registered for the race. Hint, this is not recommended.
As you can imagine, I ran too hard, too far and too quickly resulting in an injury. When race day came, my farthest run was six miles which made those two hours some of my most challenging, both physically and mentally, of my life. However, the entire experience was incredible. From the nervous feeling (that I still get before every race) standing on the starting line to the spectators, volunteers and characters cheering you on to the sense of accomplishment (and relief) you feel crossing the finish line, I was hooked. Running is a good kind of addiction, and all I wanted was to run further and faster.
Since that fateful first half marathon, I’ve run three full marathons, four half marathons, a 10-mile race, a warrior dash, a Spartan race and countless 5Ks. I am definitely addicted. The competitive side of me loves racing, probably too much. My most recent marathon I gave myself a “have fun” goal and had to write “slow down” on my hand so I’d be reminded of that every time I looked at my watch. The desire to get better every day is what drives me to keep running. But my favorite part is it relaxes me, as strange as that may sound. I can get away from editing, emails, calls, deadlines and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
Racing so often can add up quickly. Thankfully, JHE offers an amazing health and wellness policy that pays half of the registration fees to help cut back on the cost.
Traveling more than 20 weekends a year makes training consistently for anything a challenge. We work long hours at the racetrack and on our special events so I’m flexible in finding ways to fit in a run. I’ve run 20 miles from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. then worked a 12-hour day, because I knew this was my only opportunity to squeeze in a run that weekend. Or have run 18 miles on the treadmill because there is nowhere nearby to run. Those are the not so fun parts of training and traveling. But it also has its benefits. Running is an amazing way to explore new cities; I’ve run around the Mall in D.C., along Lake Michigan in Chicago, down the strip in Las Vegas and across the Golden Gate Bridge. One of my absolute favorite runs is the 5.5 mile stretch between our hotel and the beach in Daytona.
Even when I’m not traveling, it can be a challenge to stick to a consistent training schedule. Between travel, work and life, every training plan I’ve ever made has been torn to shreds within the first month. Not to mention, it is easy to skip a run if you aren’t feeling it one day. Even as someone who loves everything about running, getting out the door is sometimes the hardest part. I’ve started finding time during the day and running at lunch to keep myself in the mindset.
My proudest competitive moment so far has been finishing third in my age group at the Daytona Half Marathon this past February. It was a big, unexpected moment for me. However, the Disney Marathon this past January is my favorite memory from both a running and spectator standpoint. It was the little things like getting pictures with Disney characters during the race to high-fiving my dad at mile five to seeing my family and friends screaming at the finish that made all the difference. But the proudest moment came the previous day when my sister, cousin and one of my good friends ran their first half-marathon with maybe a little push from me. It was my first opportunity to cheer on friends and family during a race and I had a blast seeing all their hard work pay off. No matter how you look at it, 13.1 (or 26.2) is a long ways. Whether you run it in an hour or four hours, it takes a lot of work and preparation to do that. And I was incredibly proud of them for pushing themselves to accomplish something that many people are willing to try.
As I look towards the rest of 2013, I’m determined to stay healthy and continue training. My two biggest goals for the year include running a 1:30 at the Vancouver Half Marathon on August 10 and qualifying for the Boston Marathon in October at the Chicago Marathon which means completing the race in three hours and five minutes. As the saying goes, “if goals don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” These goals definitely scare me but I’m up for the challenge!
– Dan Mott
Dan Mott, Disney Half Marathon, marathons, Spartan race, Lake Michigan, D.C., Chicago, Las Vegas, Golden Gate Bridge, Daytona International Speedway, Vancouver Half Marathon, Chicago Marathon
Since 2004, SPEED has enlisted JHE to execute its experiential activation program at all 38 NASCAR events a year, making the display one of only two that fans can visit every week at-track. Charlie Roberts, SPEED tour manager at JHE, takes us inside a week on-the-road with the display.
Day One and Two: The week starts at the track with JHE’s professional drivers. We get four tractor trailers, one TV truck and one bus from one location to the next in a safe manner, knowing that most of the items on-board are one-of-a-kind, custom-built pieces. The JHE drivers take great pride in what they drive and what they do.
When we arrive at the track, I always keep in mind the camera shots when parking. I picture what the stage would look like set-up, taking into consideration the camera locations and the background for each shot. The drivers use their professional skills and equipment knowledge to hit the marks I give them. Sometimes it is a simple maneuver and other times, the drivers must rely on my step-by-step instructions and trust what I’m telling them to get the right angle for the best camera shot.
After all the units are parked and the client has approved, we get to build what the fans enjoy at-track and the viewer’s get to see on TV at home.
Day Three: The primary focus for day three is building the stage, backstage awning and the B-unit green room, a 53-foot Featherlite trailer with an upstairs office for the SPEED marketing team and a ground floor office for the SPEED executives and talent, including John Roberts, Kyle Petty, Rutledge Wood, Kenny Wallace, Kaitlyn Vincie, Krista Voda and Larry McReynolds. An outdooring awning serves as the green room for the show’s guests to prep and relax before show time.
Shep Lindsay, who hauls the stage, is responsible for safely building the stage each week which takes about four hours. It starts with leveling the stage, taking into account any slopes in the ground and making sure to get the trailer a minimum of four-feet off the ground. After this is complete, the floor rails are installed and the side of the trailer is opened and extended to create the 24-foot stage floor. The structure is built next, including putting each piece of roof structure and the awning in place.
After the stage build is complete, the team usually splits into groups: William Navey builds the B-unit green room; Eddie White builds and installs the display’s awnings; Kevin Banks cleans and fuels the Freightliner trailer; and I set up the fence around the perimeter. Everyone works together to get the stage elements, from speakers to signage, installed.
Day Four: We have Wednesday off to rest and enjoy the local city. Occasionally, we have a curveball, like rain or wind, which delays our progress and causes us to use the fourth day to catch up on work and complete the build.
Day Five: We use the fifth day to complete the final elements of the build. Casey Peacock, who drives the TV truck, builds it and gets it ready for the weekend’s shows. The lighting, audio and video crews arrive and build their portion of the stage, finishing before noon so our team can get the stage roof in place.
Final marketing elements are put in place, including testing the media wall to ensure all marketing screens are showing the proper social media sites and webpages. By the end of the day, we are TV ready.
Day Six: Half the crew gets Saturday off while the other half of the crew works the shows and autograph sessions for the day. We always have one person on-stage to assist the stage manager if needed and everybody else manages the crowd and escorts the talent.
The JHE crew also handles the flip which is where we take the entire look that we just built from FoxSports to RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco, including changing the stage backdrop, switching display signage and moving in additional props for Sunday’s show.
I rotate the schedule around so the crew that works on the sixth day always changes. There are no specific assignments; collectively as a team we know what needs to be done and everyone jumps in and tackles the tasks at hand. We can usually transform the entire display in one to two hours.
Day Seven: Race day. The crew that was off on Saturday works Sunday beginning with an early crew call to get ready for the two-hour RaceDay show.
Once the show wraps at noon, the entire crew comes back on-duty to strike and load out. It is important that we follow a specific order, working together and efficiently to get everything loaded.
During the strike process there is also one more show we are prepping for, Victory Lane. In the middle of the race, I head to Victory Lane to set up for the show. The show airs for about 30 minutes to an hour after the race, then I strike that set and return it back to the main stage area to finish loading out. It typically takes us seven to eight hours to strike a week’s worth of work.
The JHE team averages about 186 hours at each track before we start all over again heading out Monday morning to bring the show to the next NASCAR track.
Creative individuals think differently. We are born into the world with eyes wide open, taking everything in, examining, deciphering, interpreting, and of course, designing.
We are visual thinkers, masterful creators. We possess the unique ability to take an incipient and unrefined idea, pick it apart, analyze and refine it, spawning a visual representation that conveys a message clearly and concisely without question. Our task is solidifying thought into reality through design.
One of the most challenging aspects as a designer is interpreting someone else’s vision.
The creative services department at JHE works hand-in-hand with project managers to bring a client’s ideas to life. Through both two- and three-dimensional design, we ultimately create a concrete solution that the client can easily visualize and understand.
However, not every project travels the same path. Where one may succeed immediately, others might require a deeper understanding of the client’s objective through an arduous back-and-forth with multiple versions and numerous revisions. Nevertheless, with a little finesse and some great design implementation, JHE creative services team succeeds in bringing our clients’ visions to realization.
Having a team of designers with more than 25 years of design experience with a wide assortment of different backgrounds helps us to set ourselves apart. Our department, who works with more than two dozen clients a year, has the ability to look at projects from a variety of different angles to develop the best solutions for our client’s vision.
"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave,” said Elmer Davis, former reporter for The New York Times and director of the United States of Office of War Information, World War II.
JHE is proud to call nine of those brave men family: John Autrey, James Hageman, Rob Coffey, Gary Dozier, Ray Edick, Ronnie Oehler, Larry Pitts, Charlie Roberts and Greg Smith.
Each veteran’s military training has taught them something different along the way, providing a unique perspective to a variety of different roles within JHE. Five of JHE’s veterans share military lessons that translate to their current job:
Gary Dozier, Vice President of Mobile Marketing: United States Air Force E-5 Staff Sergeant
“The biggest thing my military training has taught me is that there is always a solution to any problem that will allow you to get a positive result in the end. In the military, the words ‘can’t, won’t, no and sorry’ just don’t cut it. No matter what the mission was, we had to find a way to complete it, regardless if we had the right tools, equipment or people do it. Working at JHE is a lot like that. We have to find solutions to meet the clients’ requests, no matter what hand of cards we are dealt.”
“There is always a solution to the problem; we just have to figure it out!”
Ray Edick, Senior Account Manager: Army Staff Sergeant
“I learned to never quit until the job is finished. The word ‘give up’ is never in my vocabulary! Also, interacting with many different types of people has definitely helped me to succeed in my current role at JHE.”
Rob Coffey, Project Manager: Army Sergeant
“I would say that my training has helped with working and concentrating under stressful conditions. That’s where most of your veterans shine. Over in Iraq, we had to be able to stay calm and think clearly in battle. It’s amazing how your training kicks in when bullets are whizzing past your head and things are blowing up around you. It’s not so dissimilar to how things work here at JHE. When it gets stressful, you just dig in, put your head down and get the job done.”
Charlie Roberts, SPEED Tour Manager: Marines Private First Class
“My training in the Marines taught me how to be a leader, to be confident in my abilities, to stand behind my decisions, and to always be willing and ready to overcome and adapt to any situation that you face. In my current role, I am always in the adapt mode in the back of my mind. I try to have a back-up plan for different situations that I think may come up which allows me to be confident in my decisions to make sure our team is doing the best we can for SPEED and our JHE team.”
John Autrey, Transportation Coordinator: Army Specialist
“Training in the Army helped me to learn the true meaning of teamwork. You learn that everyone in your platoon has your back, much like the family here at JHE. You are never alone; there’s always a helping hand!”
JHE would like to thank each of our veterans as well as all the other brave men and women out there who have fought and are still fighting for our country today.
Elmer Davis, The New York Times, John Autrey, James Hageman, Rob Coffey, Gary Dozier, Ray Edick, Ronnie Oehler, Larry Pitts, Charlie Roberts, Greg Smith, veterans, military, United States Air Force, Army, Marines
For the second year, Sprint hired JHE to create and manage its interactive fan display at NBA All-Star Jam Session, the five-day fan experience leading up to the All-Star Game. Brandon Stegall, director of operations and facilities, takes us behind the scenes to reveal five things you might not know about the experience:
The Sprint layout was designed to resemble a basketball court, complete with the wooden flooring and yellow touches, Sprint’s signature color.
A Skull Candy DJ will live in a 12-foot “crow’s nest” that replicates the appearance of the “top of the key.” The custom-built stage features Plexiglass, wooden flooring and Sprint branding.
It took two fabricators working eight hours a day for one full week to build the custom handrails and stage that will be a part of the display.
The planning for an inside event is much different than the outdoor NASCAR events that JHE produces for Sprint. The footprint is much more defined so JHE must work within stricter confines to produce the experience.
The Sprint display offers autograph sessions, a basketball court and a store displaying the brand’s newest innovations.
NBA All-Star Jam Session kicked off at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas on February 13.
Jan. 8, 2013 marked the induction of the fourth class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I was fortunate to be in attendance as five of the sport’s legends were honored. The fact that this is only the fourth class inducted for a sport that has been around for over 60 years is unusual in the ranks of professional sports. Because the NHOF is so new, it gives the fans a unique look at the drivers, owners, crew chiefs, and other people that truly shaped the sport and made it what it is today.
The passion and drive that was on display on Friday night as Buck Baker, Cotton Owens, Herb Thomas, Rusty Wallace and Leonard Wood were inducted was absolutely incredible. The stories about the founders of the sport, before multi-million dollar sponsorships and purses existed, made it a great night to be a part of. To hear Herb Thomas say that the bonus for winning a championship in the 1950’s was $3,000 compared to the 2012 champions bonus of $5.7 million made you realize just how much these drivers and owners loved to race and loved the sport.
As a long time Ford fan it was good to see another Wood Brother join the hall of fame. I was also in attendance in 2012 when Glen Wood was inducted. I’m always impressed with their humbleness and loyalty to Ford Motor Company. Last year, Glen Wood made it a point to thank God, his family and Ford Motor Company as the three things that made his success possible in NASCAR.
My favorite speech this year came from the grandson of Cotton Owens as he recalled his grandfather putting his keys to success in similar order to Glen Wood: God, family, friends and the 426 Hemi.
– Jeff Gajewski
NASCAR Hall of Fame, Buck Baker, Cotton Owens, Herb Thomas, Rusty Wallace, Leonard Wood, Ford, Glen Wood, Wood Brothers, NASCAR, 426 Hemi
An expert at throwing parties, JHE vice president of special events, Jacqueline Gafrarar, knows this Sunday is one of the most popular days to host a party. She serves up five tips to help your football party be the best yet, no matter what team wins.
1. No party is complete without food, food, food. To really make your guests feel like they are at the big game, create a menu that’s specific to the game location. For 2013, transport guests to New Orleans by serving specialties like gumbo, crawfish and jambalaya.
2. Since most of Sunday’s festivities are “house parties” that revolve around watching the game, lots of TVs are a must.
3. The drink of choice is often beer so stock the cooler with plenty of options for all of your guests to enjoy. In addition, offer guests a signature cocktail, like a Hurricane. Pat O’Briens, a popular New Orleans spot, created the first Hurricane and sells the original mix online. Or try my favorite version of the classic concoction: • 1 oz. light rum • 1 oz. dark rum • 1 oz. Bacardi 151 rum • 3 oz. orange juice • 3 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice • ½ oz. grenadine • Combine all ingredients and pour into Hurricane glasses filled with ice. Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.
And don’t forget the non-alcoholic options for the designated drivers!
4. Party guests may be cheering for opposite teams so be sure to offer team-specific plates, cups and napkins so everyone can show their team spirit. Inexpensive strings of Mardi Gras beads can be added to the table to complete the location theme.
5. The game ends and everyone is talking about the great play that won the game or the best commercial of the night. But, before your guests leave, send them off in true New Orleans style with a yummy dessert night cap of beignets and Café du Monde coffee.
– Jacqueline Gafrarar
Jacqueline Gafrarar, Cafe du Monde, Hurricanes, Pat O'Briens, 49ers, football parties, Ravens
Early December 2012, I was asked by Michael Verlatti to help design a custom system that would drop a curtain on cue during the unveiling of the NASCAR Fan and Media Engagement Center. The room was unique in several ways; one of the most notable was that its walls consisted of thick glass panels from floor to ceiling.
We looked at pictures of the space and did a site visit to assess our options. We immediately figured out that typical Kabuki Solenoid systems were out of the question since there was nowhere to hang anything and adding structure would take away from the look of the room. Instead, we opted to use electromagnets to do the drop. The magnets would be turned on to hold the curtain up via a piece of metal attached to the fabric. When it was time for the reveal, the magnets would be turned off and the curtain would drop.
I then set out to design and implement the electromagnet system. I found a company in New Jersey that had what I was looking for and purchased four 12V magnets for a test run. The mock-up successfully dropped the fabric and I knew we had found what we needed for the reveal. I ordered twenty more magnets, each a little shorter and more powerful than the test ones.
The large quantity of magnets required a bigger power supply than we had in-house at JHE so I ordered some equipment to power the magnets and give us precise control to cut power. I built and wired up a control box that housed all the electronics then installed a large button to release the magnets and a safety switch to prevent an accidental drop.
Next, we ordered a somewhat translucent, neutral-colored, lightweight fabric and had it sewn into a drape that would fit the room’s dimensions. Small squares of steel were attached to the drape with buttons so we could place them where they needed to be on-site. I soldered and attached all the magnets to a cord, placing each one evenly apart yet close enough so the fabric wouldn’t sag. The process took quite a while; imagine putting together a strand of Christmas lights from scratch, where each light is the size of a hockey puck and weighs a little over a pound!
In order to attach the magnets to the glass, we wrapped the top six inches and glued the magnets to the wrap with superglue to keep them sturdily in place. The wrap enabled us to attach the magnets to something other than just the glass so when the event was over we could peel-off the wrap and magnets, leaving the glass clean and undisturbed.
After several test drops it was clear the system would work excellently. The day of the event, the team used a few tiny pieces of Velcro to keep the fabric tight around the room. With some other fancy set pieces and decals the room looked excellent and was ready for the big reveal.
The event started, people started filing in and I took my position at the control box. Verlatti was up front and cued me over radio when to drop the curtain. The time came and I “armed” the box and hit the button when I heard “drop, drop, drop.” I heard the sound of the curtain falling, immediately followed by people clapping and amazement with the engagement center. We had some people in place to pull the curtain away and out of sight quickly. Interestingly enough since I was always the person hitting the button, I never actually saw it happen first hand.
It all happened very fast but all that prep work paid off. The custom-made system designed exclusively for this event was just what the client had in mind.
I recently had an opportunity to shadow JHE during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week in Las Vegas and see the team in action. What an incredible team whose work is unlike anything I have seen before, and the teamwork is inspiring.
I arrived on the scene at Fanfest Presented by Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Freemont Street first thing in the morning on Wednesday. The JHE team had already loaded in, set up the stage and were busy at work assembling the stage accessories, checking the sound and preparing for the drivers arrival. Once the students and drivers arrived to participate in the “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” challenge, JHE was ready to shine. Each person had a designated role and knew exactly what needed to be done. Orchestrated with an efficiency and calm demeanor, JHE adjusted with grace as the drivers and students went off script. After the event, the break down was equally as smooth with each team member working to get the stage broken down and loaded into the truck as quickly as possible.
After the Las Vegas Motor Speedway event was over, I made my way over to NASCAR After The Lap rehearsals. The auditorium had already been transformed by the JHE team with bright lights, fireworks, music … the works. For the final walk through of the night, ESPN reporter, Jamie Little, the host for NATL stopped by to walk through the JHE drafted script. The team took her through the entire night as she practiced what would happen. On show day, the team rehearsed again making sure everything was set and timed perfectly. Minutes before the show started, watches were synced and everyone got into place to welcome the clients and drivers backstage.
The unpredictable and unedited format to the show was no challenge for the JHE team. The drivers went off script, walked backstage and exited on the wrong side of the stage but the team rolled with it and adjusted, never giving away that there was a hiccup in the plan. The group ran around backstage, communicating via headsets and maneuvering props to ensure the show went off without a hitch.
Seeing JHE in action reaffirmed how impressive the work is that the company produces. I was also struck by the genuine collaboration. The team that is frequently described as a family is truly that – in constant communication and sync when it’s time to work and enjoying their successes together after the event.
I was so impressed by JHE and feel very lucky to be a part of their team!
– Samie Roberts, JHE Account Manager at ASPIRE Communications & Marketing Inc.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week, Las Vegas, Fanfest, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Freemont Street, NASCAR, NASCAR After the Lap, ASPIRE Communications & Marketing Inc.
As 2012 comes to an end, there is one last party to organize to celebrate an incredible year and kick off 2013 in style.
JHE asked Vice President of Special Events, Jacqueline Gafrarar, who always throws spectacular soirees to share her top-five tips to planning a memorable New Year’s Eve party:
1. Food, food, food
No party is complete without yummy food to eat! From dips to cheese to something sweet, you have to craft the right menu! Be sure to prepare in advance and consider how much time you will need to cook each item so everything is ready when your guests arrive.
2. Tasty cocktails
Whether your palate prefers beer, wine or a fancy mixed drink, there must be a plethora of options. If there is a mixologist at the party, taste test different shots. Some of my favorites include “tiny beers” and “choco shakes.” And don’t forget the champagne for the midnight toast!
3. Party favors
Everyone needs the right party favors to ring in the New Year. Stock up on fun accessories like party hats, horns and clappers to welcome in 2013.
4. Don’t forget the décor
When ringing in the New Year, balloons signifying 2013 are always a hit. I also like to incorporate clocks that are set to go off at midnight to ensure that New Year’s kiss with your significant other!
5. Be responsible
Last, but certainly not least, remember to be a responsible party host. If your guests have been drinking, offer for them to spend the night, call a cab or have a designated driver on hand to drive them home.
On October 27, a few members of the JHE team participated in what is described as “probably the toughest event on earth.” Michael Verlatti, Ryan Martin, Cassie Brickman and myself along with two Wisconsinites, Jess Suter and Megan Synder, set out to participate in a Tough Mudder Challenge.
The team had signed up for the event earlier in the year, and we were determined to push ourselves to the brink. We had all run a few 5Ks and other “mud runs” in the past but nothing compared to the 12-mile run with obstacles designed by the military’s Special Forces that we would soon encounter in the challenge.
We began training about 16 weeks prior to the challenge, starting with three- to five-mile jogs. Ryan and Cassie added in CrossFit workouts to increase body strength and stamina. Michael signed up for every class known to man, creating a very busy training regimen for himself. I personally stuck to long jogs and circuit workouts a few times a week. As the event approached, we lost a key member, Cassie, who had to sit out due to health issues, but she became our coach.
The JHE crew arrived at the course before a 10 a.m. start time to prepare for the challenge we were about to face in 60 degree weather. The first obstacle was jumping in a giant ice bath; a difficult way to start a 12-mile journey! However, we kept on and prevailed through difficult challenges, including an eight-foot wall climb, a mud crawl through live wires, giant hay bale climbs, log carries and swimming through a pond ducking under water barrels.
One of the most difficult obstacles came towards the end of the race around mile nine or ten when you had to carry a teammate on your back up a hill. Since we were an odd numbered group, Michael turned around and carried the next guy in line who just so happened to be dressed in a purple spandex suit with fairy wings. Seeing Michael carry that man and then jump on his winged back gave us the extra boost of energy we needed to complete the race!
The final challenge was running up a giant half pipe greased in oil and then running through live wires. We were exhausted but all proud of ourselves for completing the challenge. It was an incredible team building experience and by far the toughest challenge I’ve ever completed. I can’t wait to start training to compete in my next Tough Mudder challenge.
JHE has partnered with SPEED since 2004, helping the FOX Sports racing arm grow its at-track presence for NASCAR programming and marketing initiatives.
SPEED activates at 38 NASCAR races a year giving fans a chance to be part of the live shows that offer up-to-date motor sports news throughout the race weekend. SPEED Road Tour Team members, like Heather DeBeaux, make sure fans have the absolute best experience when interacting with “The Motor Sports Authority.”
In her fourth season with SPEED, DeBeaux encourages fans to stop by the stage for live shows and teaches them what to do when SPEED is live on TV. She plays music to pump up the crowd and helps NASCAR buffs make signs so their family members can see them easier at home. When she isn’t getting fans ready for a live show, she is promoting autograph sessions, handing out SPEED t-shirts and koozies and playing trivia with fans.
DeBeaux has become a well-recognized face at the track, knowing many of the consumers by first name. Fans stop by just to say hi and some even bring gifts, like platters of home-made cookies.
“Once consumers stop by the SPEED stage, they become instant fans and a part of the family,” says Heather. “Fans become friends with our tour members, the hosts and the JHE staff.”
The experience fans encounter during the weekend begins on Wednesday with the experienced JHE crew setting up the stage; while the SPEED team arrives on Thursday to set up cameras and lighting for the live shows. DeBeaux and her team arrive on Friday to set up their marketing materials and get ready for the crowds to arrive.
“If it’s your first time at a NASCAR track, the atmosphere will probably be something you have never experienced before,” DeBeux states. “It is very high energy and very loud. It’s on a whole different level than a football game.”
As a veteran of the SPEED Road Tour Team, Heather has had the chance to get to know the JHE staff and describes the set designs as “eye-catching, sharp and professional.”
“The JHE staff is the hardest working group of guys,” she says. “They are always willing to step in and help even if it is something they aren’t responsible for. Jay Howard is the nicest guy at the track and always knows everyone by their first name.”
With so much to see and do before the actual race, it’s hard to see everything. But DeBeux recommends anyone who hasn’t visited the SPEED stage stops by. “It’s unlike any other experience. You will become an instant fan.”
A question that everyone gets asked during their lifetime is “what do you do for a living?” When your answer is event producer for various NASCAR opening ceremonies, you usually receive a few additional questions. While the most recurring questions are “have you ever met Dale Earnhardt, Jr.?” and “can you get me tickets?” the third most popular question is “what does that mean?” Well, where do I begin…?
The quick answer you give to strangers in the airport is that you help each track promoter plan and execute the activities happening on the race track prior to the green flag. What the stranger doesn’t always realize is that the planning process for next year’s event can sometimes start the day after the checkered flag is waved. Certain elements such as flyover approvals, talent bookings for pre-race concerts, and stage signage designs simply take time. As the planning process gets under way, the event producer also creates what is commonly referred to in our business as the “minute by minute.” This document is the schedule of events for the day which is literally timed out to the second. We receive several of our cues during opening ceremonies from the broadcast television network so it is essential that we have back-timed all of the prior activities into those dictated times.
Once the plan is created and the date of the event has arrived, the event producer travels to the event to execute the plan as seamlessly and flawlessly as possible. However, none of these event plans would be possible without the support of the opening ceremonies team. Each event that JHE produces typically has the following staff members: announcer manager, audio technicians, operations coordinators and logistics coordinators. The team’s first day on-site usually consists of building the mobile pre-race stage, connecting all audio sources so that fans in attendance and watching at home can hear all of the opening ceremonies, finalizing scripts for the pre-race announcer, and sorting through those last minute details at meetings with the track promoter, NASCAR, and the broadcast networks. The set-up and execution each weekend is somewhat of a routine but each venue can create a unique set of challenges.
The most important part of being an event producer is being able to keep a level head during those chaotic moments prior to the start of the race. Everything doesn’t always go according to plan, but the client and your team are looking to you to lead them through another successful event. You have to be able to react quickly and roll with the punches while properly communicating to your team and the client how the plan has changed. Whether it goes according to the plan or changes to something new, the event producer wants to make sure that the client’s expectations are still met and hopefully exceeded. The most rewarding words you can hear from the client at the end of the day are “We could not have done this without JHE.”
Instead of the traditional corporate golf trip, SPEED Senior Account Manager Jordan Litchko and Sprint Senior Account Manager Donato Bonacquisto traveled to South Carolina to bond over racing their $500 1974 Ford Pinto.
The “24 Hours of Lemons Race” is a racing parody that gives everyday car junkies the chance to feel like a professional race car driver for a weekend. Participants drive junk cars around a track for 15 hours over the course of two days, with the winner completing the most laps overall.
After finding a rusty race car, Jordan decided to fix it up and enter the race. Donato came onboard the project shortly after, aiding Jordan in the repairs. The pair put in more than 200+ hours of labor to make the car drivable and safe. Honorary team member, Michael Verlatti, was unable to attend the race but donated funding, helping to make the project possible.
The duo recruited friends Jeff Reader, Matt Mondek, Mike Furick and Collin Pasi to join their team. The week leading up to the race was crunch time, with each of the Team Beaver Hunt members clocking more than 40 hours of work to get the car race ready.
The Friday of race weekend, the team transported the car by trailer to Carolina MotorSports Park in Kershaw, S.C., for tech where the car was tested for safety. The car failed miserably, but the first of many speed bumps didn’t throw the team. Instead, they hopped in the trailer and drove the car back to Good Fabrication in Mooresville where they worked on getting it up to specs until 4 a.m. Saturday.
Saturday at 8 a.m. came too quickly, but luckily the car passed tech this time and the competition began. Donato was the first to drive, putting the team in first place in their class and 29th overall after the first hour and a half driving sprint. At 4:30 p.m., Team Beaver Hunt’s engine blew leaving them with only three cylinders. They had to leave two hours before the end of the day’s race to repair the engine which wasn’t completed until 7 a.m. on Sunday.
The team started 66 laps behind the current leader on Sunday and had to make another pit stop a few hours in to patch up the new engine which was leaking fluids. The hard working team never gave up, finishing in fourth place in their class and 66th overall.
“There was no harder team out there,” said Donato. “We worked through the night two nights in a row while our competition was partying around us. It was an incredible bonding experience.”
They also were presented with two awards: “Judges Choice” and “Most Likely to Knock Out an Official.”
“A special thanks to the entire team including Michael, who helped to make this incredible experience possible,” said the pair.
“It was a difficult venture but there is no better bonding experience than this,” said Jordan. “We can’t wait to fix up the car again and bring home first place next year.”
– Jordan Litchko & Donato Bonacquisto
Jordan Litchko, Donato Bonacquisto, 24 Hours of Lemons
Our employees have several travel options for getting to the next live event. As the Fleet Administrator for JHE, yours truly opted to travel in style via one of our 18-wheel tractor trailer units. What better way to get a sneak peek of what it’s like to work an opening ceremony at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup AdvoCare 500 race.
Riding in a big semi gives you a new perspective on traveling down the highway. Seeing and experiencing firsthand some of the challenges a professional driver faces on today’s busy interstates has provided me with new insights to help strengthen our safety program. In addition to viewing road safety and compliance challenges from the driver’s perspective, there was also the fun side of traveling in a big rig. My driver for the day tells me, “Did you know you can see perfectly into the car traveling beside you?” This makes for very good people watching. Another perk? “Ladies – with all that room inside the cab you can also take as many suitcases as you want.” This was only a three day trip so I didn’t need that option. Besides with all my years of air travel I’ve learned how to pack but it is nice to know the option exists.
Once the equipment is parked the drivers work is not done. They now have to face the challenge of building the stage at the race track regardless of weather conditions. We lucked out in Atlanta and had no rain but the heat was definitely a factor. However, the JHE staff didn’t miss a beat and watching the events unfold over the course of the weekend was a thrill. Military-like precision dominated from the execution of the build to the run of show to the tear down making the ceremonies seem effortless. The comradery and professionalism were palpable and made you proud to be part of the team (even if only for the weekend).
Montgomery Gentry was the lead act of the weekend (Frank and William, if by sheer coincidence you are reading this, after meeting you and watching your performance you have made me an even bigger fan. Thanks for injecting some fun, humor, and excitement into a long day!). But after watching the JHE team members in action, the headliners were not the only rock stars in Atlanta. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to experience up close what JHE does so well.
In a blink of an eye, the show was packed up and ready to head back to Harrisburg, N.C. My trip back commenced and I didn’t worry as I knew I was in good hands. My chauffer for the evening, along with his entertaining steering wheel drum solos, had 14 years of “over the road” experience and had logged over 1.5 million miles. As hard as I tried to be a good ride buddy and stay awake somewhere along that long stretch of I-85 my ride turned dreamlike… Do I see a Vegas trip in my near future?
Near the end of my freshman year of college, I started to look for work for my summer break. A close friend of mine helped me get a position with a stage crew at a local Live Nation venue. With that, my career in live entertainment began. There was no training day or a “come in and get your feet wet” period; you had one chance to prove you could do it or look for work elsewhere.
On my first day, I was tasked with loading in Joni Mitchell and a 40-piece orchestra. All seemed to go well, and it was an easy start to a job. Within two weeks, I was loading in cathedral backdrops for Don Henley and setting up drums for Mike Portnoy. Over the summer, I worked close to 30 shows, covering every style of music possible. I also was tapped to be a runner since the venue was in my hometown and I could help with local needs. To pass time on long days, I also helped set up hospitality in the band’s dressing rooms.
At the time, I was studying for a job in radio broadcasting, so working the stage portion of the industry seemed to fit in pretty well. After working that first summer, I realized I enjoyed the live set up of a concert more than the “behind the mic” life of radio. There was never a better feeling of accomplishment than seeing a performance start from an empty stage and turn into a large-scale production, then disappear again within a few short hours. I would spend the next three years working at the theater on my breaks from school.
Although I enjoyed working the stage and live events, I was still in school pursuing my first love of radio. I served as an office assistant for a year, and then was promoted to the Loud Rock Music Director for the school’s radio station, WECS. My days were spent working with promotion companies in getting new and upcoming artists on the radio and played on our station. For two years, I worked charting “Spins” on our station, and reporting them to College Music Journal (CMJ) and the national publication, FMQB. I was also one of the directors for the station. I along with 2 other musical directors was responsible for schedules and monitoring the station while students and locals were on the air.
I also spent a year as a promotions intern at the local Hartford radio station, The Rock 106.9 WCCC. The station was an independent rock station that has been in Hartford for over 50 years. Constantly evolving to keep with the times, yet also playing host to classic rock, WCCC has always been a staple of Connecticut radio. It was also the first station in the US to give shock rock Howard Stern his own radio show.
My internship helped me get ready for JHE much like my stage job had. Get to an event, set it up in a short time, and execute something the fans would enjoy. We always had to look ahead for items that would cause a “hic-up” or impose a problem.
The basics I learned during my internship have proven true in my career at JHE. As the Senior Production Coordinator/Concert Producer, I have to remember to always be a step ahead, envision problems (and solutions) that could arise and be willing to be flexible. When I came to work at JHE, there were only a few live entertainment events on a large scale. I used the knowledge I had gained, along with time and dedication to prove I could successfully run big events like Food Lion Speed Street.
Over the years, I have used my knowledge and passion to continue to grow the department, enabling us to tackle any event thrown our way. JHE’s potential for further growth is exciting, and I’m looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Seven years ago, Freightliner executives wanted to honor those responsible for transporting each NASCAR Sprint Cup team’s precious cargo from race to race so they turned to us to create the Freightliner Challenge which involves NASCAR Nationwide as well as Sprint Cup transport drivers and spans most of the season. It showcases the drivers’ skills in a series of five events with the field being reduced after each one.
The challenge starts in Las Vegas and anyone who is a full-time transport driver is allowed to come and attempt the course. After the qualifying rounds, the top 32 in points advance to the Talladega completion. That weekend reduces the field to 16. Another eight drivers are cut in May at CMS. The final four are determined at Chicagoland Speedway in September. Then, in October, the champion is awarded numerous prizes, including a $30,000 check and trophy. Second receives $20,000, third $10,000 and fourth $5,000.
At the finals, all four drivers show up at the same time and they get to see the JHE guys run the course one time. They get to ask any question they want and then we blindfold them. They are blindfolded because if you’re really good at this you can pick up trouble spots from watching other people and you can figure out how to run parts of the course. The first time is always the hardest and we want it to be the first time for everybody.
They all have their own little tricks. It’s really great if we can run the event in cloudy conditions, because when the sun’s out it helps them because they can find shadow marks on the ground; shadows formed by the tractor or trailer and know where it will or won’t fit.
We have the best transport drivers in the industry and because our guys are so good they can build stuff these guys have never seen or imagined having to do in a truck. We have to draw them back from time to time because I don’t want to tear up JHE trucks or trailers, we don’t want to tear up the race track, and we want to finish the event.
It took the competitors two or three years to realize that if a mistake was made while running the course it needed to be corrected immediately or one’s time only became worse. Two years ago the champion won by one second and it was four seconds from first to fourth.
Breast cancer has personally touched many of us here at JHE. With statistics stating that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in their lives, it is hard to not know someone who has been affected by it.
I started volunteering for Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 2005 after my cousin finished her own battle with cancer. She and I both started volunteering and met some wonderful people and made great friends through the organization.
Throughout the years, as I have needed help with things for Komen, I have never had a problem finding fellow JHE employees to help lend a hand. We held an event at our office several years ago where we stuffed more than 800 survivor goody bags for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. In true JHE fashion, we tackled the task at hand and everyone just dove in and we got it done quickly and efficiently. There were hundreds of excited survivors on race day happy to get their goody bags as a token of appreciation for all that they had been through. I had one co-worker show up at 4 a.m. to help set-up for the race while keeping a smile on her face the entire time. We even had our own breast cancer survivor from JHE serve on the Komen board for a while. This year, JHE has a team participating in the race.
I love to volunteer and have many causes that I support. I started volunteering as a child and giving back has always been something that I feel is a huge part of my life. I am so glad to get to be a part of the 25 Days of Service Committee and get to see firsthand what dedicated people we have working here.
One of our events will be on Monday, September 24 at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure office (2316 Randolph Rd. Charlotte, NC 28207) from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. We will have a drive-thru registration where participants can register for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (October 6) and pick-up their race packets and t-shirts during their lunch. Chick-fil-A will be there giving out freebies to anyone who registers.
This is just another example of our team coming together to support a wonderful cause that hits so close to home. I am truly proud to be a part of it.
Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Chick-fil-A, survivor
Maintaining JHE’s transportation compliance program with 20 tractors, one motorcoach, 41 trailers, 14 small fleet vehicles, 26 ride toys and more than 75 drivers; and having them road ready and safely rolling down the highway sure keeps a girl busy.
Funny how life is … I never thought I would be working with big trucks or any trucks for that matter and now it’s my every day. I do have previous airline experience, and transportation is transportation, so I guess that’s not too much of a stretch. Only now instead of practicing air safety I’m grounded.
Managing a fleet the size of JHE’s has its challenges. One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with the ever changing Federal Motor Carrier and Safety Administration & Department of Transportation (FMCSA) rules and regulations. One major example of this is when FMCSA announced it would change from Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) to the new initiative of Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) in June of 2010. This presented a whole new reporting system for the industry; which now includes rating the drivers along with the motor carriers. These scores affect whether or not our trucks get pulled over for random safety inspections or we get selected for a full blown on-site safety audit. We have worked really hard over the last two years to position JHE in the eyes of DOT as a safe, satisfactory operating motor carrier. We have lowered our score from 76 to 18. That’s a good thing, like golf, the lower the score the better. This lower score is a good indicator to perspective clients, insurance carriers, and the traveling public that JHE is an A+ transportation company in addition to being tops in production.
The fun doesn’t stop with DOT compliance. We also keep up with all the tax reporting, tag, registration, inspections, and licensing requirements of all of our equipment. So I also get to spend many hours at the local DMV office and sometimes a special trip to the IRS. Oh the places I go…
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the job is working with our logistics coordinators. Good drivers are most productive. Putting together training programs and “best practice” policies to help raise the level of driver performance is most rewarding. The Fleet Department can make JHE look good on paper, but it’s the drivers that make it a reality.
The 30th Olympic Games have begun and as always the opening ceremonies were a highlight for me. This event was different from what we experienced four years ago, but like Beijing, there were memorable moments that we won't soon forget.
When recounting the highlights of the four-hour long ceremony, it is hard to pick out my favorite moments especially when you had David Beckham, Paul McCartney, James Bond, Mr. Bean and a skydiving queen.
There have been remarkable advancements with integration of video product in live stadiums, but we have never seen them used in the grandstands before. The event producers took low resolution video tiles and broke them into squares mounted to the seats. By utilizing the screens this way, they were able to create a TV-friendly "card trick" that could happen as often as they liked and on cue. This was the first time I have seen video tiles used this way, but I guarantee it will not be the last.
As a behind-the-scenes guy, I was impressed at how the producers included the men and women that built the stadium into the show. This was a classy touch.
The set pieces that were integrated throughout the performance were a highlight for me. From the forging of the rings to the lighting of the torch, each of these elements started small but built into massive props that once illuminated were impressive and unforgettable.
Very few people in the world know how difficult it is to organize the thousands of cast members that participated in this production, but Danny Boyle should be proud of what he was able to accomplish. He did an excellent job of educating as well as entertaining the 80,000 in attendance and 40 million viewers watching from home as he paid tribute to his country’s rich history both past and a classy nod to the future.
We are pulling for the U.S. Olympic team and especially for our five Charlotte swimmers. Here is to bringing home the gold!
Aprill King is a key member of the experiential activation team and has been an integral part of JHE’s 25 Days of Service celebration this year.
Learn more on why Aprill is passionate to help and what inspires her to do more …
Why have you been so involved with the 25 Days of Service initiative?
I have always liked volunteering and giving back to the community. Helping others is very important to me from personal experience.
I was injured while snow skiing once and could not walk without crutches for nine months. I had to have help with all aspects of life, and had taken so many things for granted. This experience showed me how many people, from family to friends to strangers were willing to help. So in return, I want to help those that need help.
That also is why I chose a triathlon event as my day of service. During nine long months, I worked hard in physical therapy to be able to compete in a triathlon race again. Volunteers are very important to a race event.
Tell us more about your passion for triathlons …
All I do is work and train for triathlons. On June 9, I completed my 38th triathlon.
I started running triathlons in 2004 when a girl at work had competed in one. After running track and cross country in junior high, high school and college, I knew I was hooked after crossing that finish line for the first time. In 2005, I competed in two triathlon races. Then in February 2006, I injured my knee while snow skiing. The first orthopedist said I wouldn’t walk again so I found a new doctor quickly. After intense physical therapy and surgery, I was back to triathlon racing in 2007, completing three races that year. This year I am scheduled to race in 10 triathlons and have completed four half-ironman races. The 2013 Ironman in Panama City Beach, Fla., will be my first full ironman race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run), an ultimate life goal.
Since JHE’s beginning, May has been the benchmark month for the company. We have more projects in more venues than any other time of year.
The NASCAR Sprint All-Star week in Charlotte is what separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls. One of the marquee events is the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race opening ceremony. In a matter of minutes a race track that moments ago was filled with race cars is transformed into a rock show style spectacle complete with video walls, pyrotechnics, live audio, and all of the pomp and circumstance that should accompany a pro-sports all-star event.
In the months leading up to the show, all of the artwork and video designs are rendered for approval. The print materials are sized, drawn, proofed, and printed to fit the client’s standards. The video portion goes through a similar process, but often the final versions are not able to be fully completed until within days of the show.
Once the physical aspects of the stages are decided, we map out the technical plan including cable paths for the video, lighting, audio, and communication lines. The main goal is to provide the necessary data to the required locations on the stages and have them powered up and with signal in minutes. In addition, it would be impossible to move the stage into place for the show as one piece since it is approximately 150 feet long and more than 20 feet wide. So instead it rolls out as seven separate main pieces that need to be connected with assorted signal cables once it is in place.
Early in the week, the technical guys load the video walls, speaker stacks, communication drops, and lighting fixtures. Once this is done and signal paths are checked, it is ready for show time.
When the Sprint Showdown checkered flag flies, a dozen technical members connect the various cables and wires needed for the speakers, lights and videos within five minutes or less.
The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race opening ceremony joins several events during those two weeks including Food Lion Speed Street, NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day, Speedway Children’s Charity Gala, and the Coca-Cola 600.
These two weeks in May highlight the critical nature of what we do and how imperative it is to have a well-organized plan, talented team members and a passion that surpasses all expectations.
Around the JHE offices May is a sacred time of year. For the past 25 years May has always represented sleep deprivation, and poor eating habits, but it is happily our busiest time of the year. With that being said I thought that May 1st would be the perfect time to begin the JHE blog and give you some insight as to what a small event production company from Charlotte was capable of producing. In upcoming blogs, we will explore many different events across the country - from the Grand Opening at the NASCAR Hall of Fame to the Jay Z concert at Yankee Stadium. Our employees produce events from various industries around the country and enjoy bringing passion and new ideas to each and every opportunity
The beginning of the year has started like an Olympic sprinter and has yet to let up. The event that sticks out the most for me so far was my first trip to the NBA Jam Session which was held at the Orange County Convention Center in February. The Jam Session is the only special event the NBA produces that allows any fan with $20 to walk off the street and become a part of the excitement. Event organizers are focused on ensuring that every patron in attendance has a quality experience from shooting some hoops, meeting athletes, or soaking up the NBA brand. I was most impressed by the small fan engagement opportunities the NBA had designed for sponsorship sales. There was a Spalding-branded area where fans could see how their handprint stacked up against stars like Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony. There were other areas that measured height and shoe size and compared it against NBA players.
The NBA did a terrific job and without a doubt I will be copying a couple of their ideas, like the amazing entrance to the event (I can't tell you more or else you won't be surprised when you come to my next event).
That’s enough for now, I need to get back to work and remember that the best motorsports festival in the world, Food Lion Speed Street, is only 24 days away. I am looking forward to seeing you soon.
Before the NASCAR season gets underway, we took a few minutes to sit down with one of our Technical Production Coordinators, Clifton Hutchinson. Let's find out more about Clifton with our 10 Questions!