The NASCAR Playoffs started in Las Vegas and CSM Production was on hand to help kick things off!
The weekend began Thursday with the NASCAR Burnout Boulevard Fueled by Sunoco. All 16 Playoff drivers did a lap down Las Vegas Boulevard and burnouts in front of the Wynn Hotel. CSM Production managed all lap logistics including city planning, staging, audio, and creative.
The NASCAR Playoffs Party at The Fremont Street Experience, featured a free concert by Cole Swindell. The event also included official partner experiences and all 16 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff cars on display. CSM Production was responsible for all aspects of the event including vendor/display management, concert logistics, creative design, print, install, video content, show car coordination, hospitality, event operations, and run of show.
The action for the weekend didn’t stop there. At the track fans could snap a photo with a replica of the iconic Las Vegas sign. This was the last stop on the tour that took the sign to four other races throughout the season encouraging fans to visit Las Vegas. Fans could also check out Trackside Live where driver appearances, music, and games took place throughout the weekend. The CSM Production team also produced a pre-race concert, NBC Peacock Pit Box, Freightliner Hospitality, NASCAR Fuel for Business Council Meeting, and the opening ceremonies for the World of Westgate 200, DC Solar 300, and the Southpoint Hotel & Casino 400.
It was an exciting start for the NASCAR Playoffs and the action will keep going through Championship Weekend at Homestead.
CSM Production joined CSM LeadDog and CSM Branding in a takeover of New York City’s Brookfield Place for the USTA US Open Experience August 22-23. This is the second year that USTA is bringing the excitement of the US Open to lower Manhattan. Fans were immersed in tennis action along the bank of the Hudson River at this free two-day event. Activities included food tastings, photo opportunities, live music, tennis displays, and player appearances.
Thursday featured the marquee event with the live US Open Draw Ceremony. This event determined the matchups for the two-week long tournament. The ceremony was live streamed on the US Open’s website and social media accounts. 2017 US Open singles champions Sloane Stephensand Rafael Nadalmade an appearance at the Live US Open Draw ceremony.
Here are a few of the features the CSM Production team brought to life at the US Open experience:
Cabanas for partner activation areas
(2) 26’ tall x 26’ wide x 5’ deep entrance arches
16’ x 24’ main stage with a freestanding 16’x 24’ x 19’ truss structure to support lighting, sound and a 9’ x 16’ LED wall
An additional 20’ tall x 19’ wide truss arch supporting two additional 9’ x 16’ LED walls next to a full-size tennis court
A video system designed for any of the screens to broadcast independent content as needed by the client
A sound system for the on-court activations
A 9’ x 16’ LED mobile trailer to watch the exciting action from the US Open
Being in downtown Manhattan, space is at a premium, and the team had to face some unique load in/out circumstances. The venue had very little on-site storage, so the stage height was adjusted to create storage based on road case heights. Also creating a unique challenge, during load in/out the plaza was open to the public. Each area of the build had to be barricaded and all machinery had to be escorted throughout the plaza to ensure public safety.
The CSM Production team was proud to add this event to the portfolio of events working with all of the CSM North America agencies.
Established in 2017, The American Flag Football League is America’s newest sport and entertainment outlet featuring professional athletes competing in flag football. Founded by Jeff Lewis, the league is steadily gaining momentum; most recently by signing the NFL Network to air its games.
With a pros lineup including former NFL quarterback, Michael Vick; six-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time first team All-Pro wide receiver, Chad 'Ochocinco' Johnson; and former New York Knicks player, Nate Robinson; the competition is sure to be entertaining.
What’s new and exciting about The American Flag Football League. Its technology for one. Under Lewis’ leadership, The American Flag Football League uses an “e-flag” system, which tracks the on-field position of a player’s flag and alerts officials when it is pulled.
The GO Clock system is a new piece of technology that caters to The American Flag Football League rules. According to the rules once the ball is snapped, the defense must wait two seconds to rush while the quarterback has four seconds to release the ball or cross the line of scrimmage. The GO Clock is on hand to account for that timing.
With 11 games on tap for the NFL Network in 2018, CSM LeadDog and CSM Production were engaged in the spring to plan and produce the fan engagement experience and marketing for four events, specifically Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Houston. The season finale, held in Houston, had a $1 million-dollar prize on the line for the winning team.
The CSM Production team’s creativity and extensive sport experience is put to the test with designing and calling the arena or venue’s screen program; delivering engaging in-game fan games and giveaways; directing the fan emcee; creating a run of show for the PA announcer; cueing the in-house DJ and collaborating with the NFL Network.
The CSM Production team led by Brad Smith, is proud to add the AFFL to the list of diverse sports properties that the CSM team has worked with. Including, NASCAR, IndyCar, the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, Rugby World Cup Sevens, and the NCAA to name a few.
Each year, Charlotte Motor Speedway and CSM Production collaborate to salute America’s bravest at the Coca-Cola 600. Held during Memorial Day weekend on Sunday, May 27, the 59th running of the Coca-Cola 600 featured all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces in an unprecedented presentation.
The pre-race “Salute to the Troops” played host to special military guests and showcased vehicles and awe-inspiring military displays from the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Working closely with the Department of Defense and local military bases, CSM Production coordinated a Blackhawk helicopter rappel team, a Fort Bragg Howitzers demonstration, and a flyover by the jaw-dropping F-15 fighter jets.
Armed with two stages – a driver introduction stage and a national anthem stage, the team at CSM Production coordinated a litany of special guest introductions. During driver introductions, drivers took the announcer stand to introduce special service members in attendance, a total of eight from each branch. Then the driver and service member were escorted down the pier with more than 600 service members flanking the stage.
A melody of patriotic songs ushered the event closer to the green flag with performances by the 82nd Airborne Chorus, the iconic voice of Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the USA” and a medley by the USO Show Troupe.
With the race only minutes from starting, a few finishing touches made the day extra special. A bugler from Fort Bragg, a 21-gun salute, “Amazing Grace” by the Charlotte Fire Department bagpipes, the presentation of colors by UNC Charlotte’s ROTC Color Guard, Team Fastrax skydivers,and the invocation from Navy Commander Steve Coates were all delivered with pomp and circumstance.
While USMC Captain Skye Martin performed the national anthem, two 30 by 50-foot American flags were unfurled near the front stretch.
Prior to opening ceremonies, the Grammy-nominated Eli Young Band performed for ticketholders.
After an unforgettable opening ceremony presentation, the green flag waved at 6:18 p.m. Six hundred miles later, Kyle Busch captured the checkered flag to cap off an extraordinary salute to America’s bravest.
A native of Manchester, New Hampshire, Nate Poirier joined CSM Production six years ago for what has now been a great ride. His contributions to the 30-year-old organization has been countless and also one reason why he was named as one of the first-ever Impact Players, a recognition given each quarter to three people who embody the organization's core values of being open, positive and responsive.
The technical production manager has some exciting life changes coming in October. Read on to find out more.
1. What does your role as a manager on the technical production team entail?
I'm much more involved in the front-end work, such as quotes, staffing and job design which I rather enjoy. I also have a lot more personnel interaction both on the client side as well as employees, which I find both challenging and rewarding. I still get to go out and tech jobs usually as a lead. I'm also working with budgets more, following up with post-event procedures and tying up loose ends. Having this all-encompassing involvement gives me a much greater understanding and respect for how the company operates as a whole and how much work goes into even the smaller events.
2. You have been at CSM Production for six years. What’s surprised you the most about its growth?
There have certainly been some amazing changes since I started on the Sprint Experience in 2012. I feel like the company, especially those of us on the tour, were much more NASCAR-oriented back then. Since the acquisition of Total and subsequently being acquired by CSM, there has been quite a lot of growth outside of motorsports and into some new and exciting areas. We've discovered talents we didn't even know we had and are able to bring these talents into play across all of our events. Not only are we growing in clientele, I've also seen major growth in personnel as we rise to meet the demands of new business. With every addition comes new experience, new friendships and new opportunities.
3. What’s the best lesson you’ve learned so far at CSM Production?
Not to be afraid of failure. Prepare to fail, fail early and fail often. Take your mistakes as a learning opportunity. Don't let creativity be boxed in by safety or convention. Be bold and put passion in what you do.
4. What’s been your biggest Goose Bump moment while at CSM Production?
There's nothing quite like a passionately sung national anthem with a perfectly-timed flyover.
5. What event is on your bucket list as an attendee?
I've always wanted to attend a masterfully-performed acoustic set at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado.
6. You recently announced life-changing news in October. Congratulations on soon becoming a dad. What are you most excited and nervous about?
I'm beyond excited! I've wanted to have a family and be a father for as long as I can remember. I think I'm the most excited to see what his personality is like and what he takes from his mother and me. I have to say I'm a bit nervous about how my adopted son, Wilbur (the dog), will take to his new sibling. He likes being the center of attention.
7. You just celebrated your birthday in May. What would be a dream way to spend your special day?
Being that my birthday falls on one of our busiest weeks of the year, it may be a pipe dream but I've always wanted to go base jumping off the Swiss Alps or something of that nature.
8. A year ago, you enjoyed your honeymoon in Paris. What was the coolest experience on your trip (outside of spending QT with your bride)?
Jill and I were fortunate enough to enjoy an incredible 10-day honeymoon in London, Paris and Rome. We were with a fairly spunky group of people from all across the world and had an excellent tour guide for most of our trip. Though we didn't get much sleep, we got to experience some amazing things in every city. A few highlights were the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (right down the road from CSM), dinner and a show at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, and Vatican City in Rome. Unforgettable time with some amazing people.
9. Which would you pick: being world-class attractive, a genius or famous for doing something great?
Genius could be good but without proper action or positive influence it would be a waste, or worse dangerous. I'd have to say I would pick to do something great and as for the fame, I could take it or leave it.
10. What question should we ask the next 10 questions participant?
What do you see yourself doing with your retirement years?
CSM Production has had the distinct privilege of producing a variety of events at the DAYTONA 500 for 19 years.
After months of preparation, a well-choreographed dance featuring VIP and partner introductions; a nationally-televised Rascal Flatts performance along with televised driver introductions; the national anthem with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds flyover; and the return of the 2017 Ford of Kurt Busch to its rightful owner took place over the course of 125 minutes.
In celebration of the 60th running of the DAYTONA 500, CSM Production shared 15 reasons why we love Daytona International Speedway and its premier race.
Sunday, Feb. 18 marked the 60th running of The Great American Race.
Forty-two CSM Production team members contributed to the DAYTONA 500 myriad of events.
Leading up to the DAYTONA 500 weekend, the live shows team produced seven opening ceremonies including Thursday’s Can-Am Duels, Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250, Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series PowerShares QQQ 300 and Sunday’s DAYTONA 500.
Three designers from the creative services team produced eight stage designs for Daytona Speedweeks. Opening ceremonies required 153 individual pieces of signage while 16 individual pieces of signage were ordered for the Daytona 500 drivers meeting.
Four nationally-recognized VIPs graced the CSM Production driver introduction stage – former MLB third baseman Chipper Jones who served as the honorary race official; former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning drove the pace car; actress and producer Charlize Theron waved the green flag; and former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the grand marshal.
As 40 DAYTONA 500 drivers attended the mandatory drivers meeting, CSM Production enhanced the meeting experience with a creative backdrop, lighting, scrim and fencing.
With more than 200 guests over the course of four days, Freightliner hospitality served up an exceptional experience which delighted guests with visits by Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano and Eric Jones.
Long-time TV partner, Fox Sports 1, was back with its EBay pit box, the first stop of 10 for the upcoming season.
Fueling our efforts was a Sunoco Injector display which entailed custom show car stands at the DAYTONA 500. In addition, CSM Production custom-designed and produced seven Sunoco Instagram frames.
CSM Production unveiled a newly-designed concert stage for Rascal Flatts’ televised performance. Known as one of the hottest-selling touring acts in any genre, Rascal Flatts performed on a 21-feet-tall by 40-feet-wide main stage which featured CSM Production’s newest 16-feet by 9-feet Absen X3v LED walls.
Driver introductions added to the excitement of the premier event with 53 feet wide by 8 feet deep by 12 feet tall stage adorned with a 172-foot catwalk.
After making the walk through the tens of thousands of fans, the drivers loaded into red, white and blue Toyota Tundras that proudly displayed American Flags and Olympic-themed partner flags. CSM Production also manages the logistics for the parade lap around the speedway.
After driver introductions concluded, the team had 10 minutes to remove all evidence of the set.
As the Navy Band Southeast performed the last note of the national anthem, the United States Air Force Thunderbirds roared overhead at 500 mph.
Seconds after the flyover passed, Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile continued the long tradition of formally handing the winning car from the previous year’s DAYTONA 500 back to the team owner. In this case, it was giving the No. 41 Ford of Kurt Busch given back to Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas. CSM custom built and managed the display riser and produced the run of show for the presentation.
While the victory burnouts of Austin Dillon are still fresh in the infield grass, plans for the 2019 DAYTONA 500 are already underway. Until next year …
August 7 through 13, Charlotte was “golf crazy” with the 2017 PGA Championship being played at Quail Hollow. With as much action off the course as on, CSM Production had a hand in one event held at nearby Carmel Country Club.
As a private affair, American country music singer and songwriter Cole Swindell performed for members of the club. Led by one of CSM’s concert gurus, Ryan Williams, we assisted with staging, sound and lighting for the special occasion. So, we hijacked Ryan’s schedule to see what it took to produce this event.
Tuesday, Aug. 8
Brad Smith (senior director of live shows) meets with the client to discuss weather concerns. The concert may move to a tent with a decision to be made on Wednesday.
Wednesday, Aug. 9
After discussion, we are staying the course with the original plan.
I emailed Cole’s production manager about his arrival times.
I arrived on site and met with Chris Cook, director of facilities, about the concert plan.
The remaining CSM crew arrives.
Stage is positioned in the designated location.
After initial prep work, the stage is ready to build.
Generators arrived on site. It’s time to hang PA.
The lights are up except for the lekos … waiting on Clay (Kincaid). Oh wait, lights are coming back.
Who isn’t hungry by now? Dinner is served up the hill.
Fried Chicken is on the menu. "Is that gravy?" No, that's balsamic. Good job, Nate.
10: 15 p.m.
And the trucks roll out for the night.
Friday, Aug. 11
Out the door, and I need water for the crew.
Good morning, Carmel Country Club. But wait, Cole’s bus is an hour out which means he is missing his tee time. Oops.
I show the production manager for Cole the stage and discuss logistics. He also brought his clubs and wants to swing a few.
Brad brings the box truck up to the band’s truck, and they begin cross loading.
The first load of band gear arrives at the stage with only half a truck to go.
Last of the band gear is now on stage. Let’s get going!
Half of the crew take a lunch break. Man, it smells good.
The rest of the crew breaks for lunch while sound check gets started.
The band has wrapped up sound check, and guess what? The sprinkles have started.
The rain hits. Enough said.
The forecast is showing more rain on the way despite it slowing for now. The opener for Cole is doing sound check now.
Wyatt Durett is now on stage. Wyatt is a singer songwriter. You’ve probably heard “Colder Weather” sang by the Zac Brown Band. That’s a song written by Wyatt.
Next up is Adam Craig, another up-and-coming artist from Tenino, Washington.
Carmel Country Club President Ty McBride presented a check to Folds of Honor CEO and Founder Major Dan Rooney for $25,000 benefitting Folders of Honor.
Cole Swindell takes the stage! A slight rain starts halfway through the set, but no one seems to care, Cole keeps going, and we are under tents. Play on!
The bet is made. Brad and I make a bet on when the truck will be out. He said between 2:45-2:55 a.m. and I said 3 a.m. or later.
The stage is closed and five minutes later rolls out.
Can you believe it? More rain!
With all the rain, the stage gets stuck on the wet hill. So, Chris Cook brings in a small tractor with a chain and pulls everything out.
The stage is off the hill and Joe pulls out with the last trailer.
The team picks up the turf guard and more importantly, I win the bet!
We are out of here. Thank you, Carmel Country Club.
As one of the nation’s premier event producers, the CSM Production team spends countless hours creating memorable, best-in-class event experiences for its clients. Our goal is to take you behind the scenes to see what goes in to the production of an event. While this is just a snapshot of a day or several days, it’s a sense of who we are and why CSM prides itself not only on its people but the quality of work we deliver.
Cody Kauffman, live shows manager, had a whirlwind few days executing the Daytona Supercross by Honda and IndyCar at St. Petersburg within 24 hours of each other in two different cities 160 miles apart.
Thursday, March 9
Good Morning … HA! Alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m. Snooze button. 5 a.m. and finally somewhat motivated to get out of bed. Damn, its early. Showered, dressed and ready to go.
I prefer Red Bull blueberry edition for breakfast. Out the door, and it’s 40 degrees. Florida, here we come! Bring on sunny and 75.
Arrive at Charlotte Douglas Airport.
Priority check in and look who is there … Will Rutherford. Checked in and over to TSA. You would be amazed at how easily Jeff Gordon blends into the morning masses. Quick nod, and off to the gate. Boarding for our flight is at 7:15 a.m. Having completed boarding, it’s iPod and shades on. Time for a quick nap.
We touch down in Tampa. Grab our luggage and rental cars and off to St. Petersburg
We begin the weekend at St. Pete for the IndyCar race weekend. Once we arrive, it’s a quick meeting followed by lunch. From here, I gear up for our 1:30 p.m. run through and stage meeting with IndyCar and the St. Pete team.
Run through the weekend’s events and obligations for opening ceremonies on Sunday. Our IndyCar pre-race stage doubles as Victory Lane for the weekend. We help coordinate all of the Victory Lane podium celebrations for 13 races.
It’s time for schedule updates and emails to get things squared away before departing for Daytona Supercross. It’s roughly 3:45 p.m. and off to Daytona.
Arrived at Daytona International Speedway. I have been in communication with the team for most of my voyage across the state as they have been working through some challenges.
I head to pit road where the stage is located and survey where we stand on items. Time to jump in and help as the team has been here plugging away. After a few hours and solving problems, we head out at 10:45 p.m.
Check in to the hotel and catch a quick shower. Off to bed.
Friday, March 10
Up early and checking emails to see how the St. Pete crew is doing. Our call time for Daytona is 11 a.m. It is finally time to head to the track and start a full day for Daytona Supercross.
Quick lunch at the track. We are meeting with our Daytona clients and checking in on the progress at the stage. Throughout the afternoon, our AV team is finishing set up and stage work. We produce the full run of show for the Supercross event and manage the screen program. Dan Mott from our team has been a great asset to oversee most of the programming. He and I work closely on the overall production and show. For Daytona Supercross by Honda, we bring our friends from DSS in to assist with stage lighting. It is the same stage most saw for The Clash several weeks ago for Speedweeks. Fireworks by Santore arrived and prepped all of the gear and pyro for the show. They provide a :90 pyro show with a built-in finale to open the event. They also provide custom pyro and rider shots for each rider after they are introduced along with cryo jets and a fog inside the stage, flame boxes on stage and also on the finish line for the main event. For the start of the 450 main event, they will have a pyro shot for the “gate drop”.
The spotlight team arrives. We have two spotlights that are used for opening ceremonies, tracking the riders as they perform stunts and to follow a portion of their ride on the course after entering.
We are all set for a quick run through with Daytona at the stage. From here we play several of our custom audio tracks and DSS showcases their lighting package that is synced to the tracks. We run through our “open track” and a few others to get a feel for how Saturday will go. Our clients are happy, and it’s time to start powering down for the evening. We have set staggered call times for the team tomorrow as it will be a long day.
Saturday, March 11
Time to start my day. Quick check in with the St. Pete crew to see how they are while gearing up for the announcer meeting we have at 10 a.m. Off to the track with several of our AV team, Dan and Ann. We arrive after 9 a.m. and prep for our meeting and the day’s activities. Soon the screen program will be running and sorting audio for different points of the day.
Ann Nestor, Dan and I meet with the announcers and members from the speedway to run through the night’s show and races. New for this year, we incorporated a DJ. The announcer and DJ will play to the crowd and toss it back and forth, driving energy in the crowd. The meeting goes well and everyone is ready for the evening’s events.
The rest of the team make their way in over the course of the next couple of hours. The stage is prepped and ready for opening ceremonies.
The DJ arrived. We head to the stage to survey the area and show him where he will be performing. I check in with St. Pete and see how the post-race 5000 is going. Qualifying for IndyCar has started, and I am closely monitoring. For IndyCar, we interview 5-6 drivers during opening ceremonies. Our client, Joe Hodge and I will determine who to interview during driver introductions once qualifying wraps. We cover the top story lines, past winners, rookie talent and fan favorites. I work up our most current minute by minute and pass it along. Things are going well in St. Pete, and now it’s time to switch gears as our opening ceremonies in Daytona are fast approaching.
Grab a quick bite and finish looking over everything. Everyone gathers. It’s time for a meeting and to go over the run of show and questions.
We make our way to the stage. DJ Ich has been getting the crowd warmed up and playing through the track maintenance session. The pyro crew is starting to take their pyro carts out to the ballfield and put the finishing touches on their items. DSS is ready to go at the stage with the lighting package.
START THE SHOW! We pick up with an audio track to prep for VIPs and the official welcome. Chip Wile, president of Daytona International Speedway, welcomes the large crowd to kick off ceremonies. Andrew Short, brand ambassador and professional test rider for Honda, also gives remarks.
Next up, we quickly set for the anthem package. After the completion of the anthem, we go to a quick audio bed and clear the stage. I cue the open piece. 5-4-3-2-1 Start the show. Warriors-a custom edit we have produced in house starts the show with custom pyro and lighting. This is a pretty cool :90 and really energizes the crowd. We go right into our custom welcome for Ricky Carmichael. He is interviewed on stage prior to riding the course and speaks to the fans from his helmet mic. We continue through the top 11 riders; each with a custom audio track and pyro and lighting to match.
Rider introductions are done and now we interview the top seven before the start of the first 250 heat and races for the night. 7:05:30 it’s a quick fired up custom high energy music bed to amp the crowd before the gates drop. One of the popular ones we did was an edit from Mortal Kombat. The crowd really seemed to enjoy it.
From here, Dan and I work closely with our AV team and run of show. We have commercial spots, give-a-ways, interviews and the DJ playing to sort through after each heat race. Prior to each heat, we play another custom :30 “gate drop track”. It is time for the 250 main event. We coordinate with Santore for the pyro flames on top of the finish line, and DSS at the stage for Victory Lane lighting.
After the race, we have the DJ play through a full Victory Lane at the stage. Next up, it’s time for the 450 main event. Pyro will have its custom gate drop shot which makes a great photo. Flames from on top of the finish line, and then we head to Victory Lane. DJ Ich has the crowd going as we prep for Victory Lane. The fans have now invaded the track and there is a sea of people for the podium celebration. At the completion of Victory Lane, we keep the energy going for another 20-30 minutes as fans start making their way out.
It’s now after 11 p.m., and the team is starting to tear down the stage and other elements we have to pack up. Ryan Baxter, Ann and I head back to the hotel. It is a quick morning for Baxter and I as we go to St. Pete for IndyCar. It is tough to sleep after the Supercross event; still pretty amped after a great show and likely what is too much caffeine. I probably get two hours of sleep before being up at 5 a.m.
Sunday, March 12
It’s time to get ready for IndyCar. The forecast has been calling for rain and that could throw a few curveballs into opening ceremonies. There is an early meeting schedule and info will be relayed from our client.
We made it. Into the track we go navigating to the office trailer to prep for the day. The St. Pete crew has arrived just before us. I quickly print the updated minute by minute and distribute. A quick chat to our team, and they head to the stage to get ready for a run through with Mickey Mouse (he is a special guest for the pre-race). I bring the skydive team into the track. We go over timing and sync watches. We make our way to the security point where they will bring their gear truck on and off and survey the landing zone. After this, they depart for the airport to get ready.
I make my way back to the office and walk through scripting and run of show with Alex. We make a few changes and then off to the stage to meet with the group. We run through the first post-race of the day for IndyLights. From there things pick up as it’s a quick flip to SST prior to IndyCar ceremonies. A delay pushes back the start of the SST race and thus we will have to move their podium celebration as we will start IndyCar Ceremonies right on time.
We start right on time for opening ceremonies, working through the VIP list and honorary positions. Mark Schlereth serves as grand marshal, and Mario Andretti takes Ken Griffey Jr. for a ride in the two-seater to start the race. Now, it is time to reveal the largest one of the day … Mickey Mouse! Mickey makes a surprise intro and kicks off driver introductions. For IndyCar, we interview six of the drivers after they have been introduced to showcase their personalities, get thoughts for the race and a few questions.
We completed driver introductions and made our way to the grid on pit lane where the anthem package and command will take place. We intro Team FasTrax as they are out of plane and making their way into the track with American flags. This is always quite a sight, and they are an excellent team to work with. They land just prior to the start of the anthem.
We introduce the Color Guard, have the Invocation and then the anthem. SSgt Cherrelle Warren from MacDill Air Force Base performs the anthem, and it’s capped off by a 1 MH-60 TJ Hawk Helicopter from the US Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater. Now we gear up for the command. We work with the screen program of IMSP to bounce back and forth on the run of show.
Time for the command! Mark Schlereth, three-time Super Bowl Champion and ESPN personality delivers the iconic command to fire engines. It is now around 12:31 and the 110-lap race begins.
Our team must now prepare the stage for IndyCar Victory Lane. The winning car will drive in where we will shoot confetti “out of car” and again for the trophy celebration. We have a custom Victory Lane step and repeat with the three-step podium for the drivers. We re-introduce the top-three much like pre-race. They come out to greet the fans and have a quick interview with Michael Young, the announcer for IndyCar. After post-race, we begin tearing down the stage and pre-packing items. We still run two post-race celebrations for Pirelli World Challenge and Pro-Mazda.
5:30 – 6 p.m.
We are finishing up the last post-race celebration and packing up to head out.
Depart the track to get checked into the hotel and rest for a bit.
Around 8 p.m., I meet with several of our team and head out for dinner. Nathan from our team has friends in the area, and we catch up with them in downtown. After dinner, we make our way over to a VIP party hosted at one of the restaurants. DJ Ich is performing. The night continues as we catch up with some friends and venture out a bit to celebrate a crazy weekend.
Monday, March 13
Up super early after a few hours of sleep. Let’s call it 5 hours of sleep in the last two days. Looking forward to getting home and sleeping the day away.
We depart the hotel and wheels up at 8:25 a.m.
We land in Charlotte and must wait on luggage which seems to take around three days. It could be the exhaustion setting in. Pick up luggage and off to get the car. I get home a little after noon. SLEEEEEP!
The COAST TO COAST trip is in the books. Back into the office on Tuesday to recap the events and gear up for the next events.
A native of Nashua, New Hampshire, Jessica Ferreira took her experience as director of events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and applied those skills to her role at CSM Production as a live event producer. Armed with a sport management degree from Southern New Hampshire University, her role in the “Live Free or Die” state prepared her for her current duties planning, managing and executing events with new and existing clients.
Jessica also has a soft spot for the Gift of Life: Bone Marrow Foundation. In 2015, a close friend diagnosed with pre-leukemia underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. The odds of finding an exact match are one in a million while the odds of finding a match in a family are a 25 percent chance. Fortunately, her older sister’s bone marrow saved her life. “It is something I am very passionate about, and if I could be the match for someone else, I would gladly do so,” said Jessica.
Learn more about the New England Patriots fan who is inspired by her dad and from a family of seven.
Q&A with Jessica
What is the best lesson from college that still applies to your job? Luckily for me, my sport management program was very hands on. It wasn’t just about writing papers and reading books, it was about real-life experience. I believe that nothing can beat actually doing something for yourself and learning from that experience.
What is the best career advice you ever received? You don’t need a title to be a leader. This is actually the title of a book I read a couple years ago. There are many people with titles who are not good leaders. Just because you aren’t a manager or supervisor doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference and set a good example. Some of the hardest working people I know are those without titles and they have made the biggest impact in my career.
What is the biggest myth about your job? That it is glamorous. A lot of people think it sounds so fun to travel and cool that I get to meet famous people. In reality, it is a lot of hard work and long days. The famous people I meet only for a second, and it’s normally me telling them to say “Drivers, Start Your Engines,” to start singing the National Anthem or to go on stage and wave to the crowd!
What’s your secret to success? I don’t think there is a secret to success. Success comes from a lot of hard work, long hours and determination. If you are passionate about something, you will always find a way to succeed.
What is the best part of working at CSM? The relationships I have made! I have made some amazing friends at CSM as well as in the NASCAR industry.
Things People May Not Know About Jessica
I’m inspired by … my dad. He moved here from the Azores Islands of Portugal and is the hardest working man I know. He taught himself how to read and write in English. I will forever be thankful for the sacrifices he made so our family could live “the American dream.”
The one person I’ve always wanted to meet is … I finally met this person last year on my birthday! Bill Belichick, the head coach of the New England Patriots. He is incredibly dedicated, hardworking and passionate about football. He is the greatest football coach of all time.
My family is … the most important thing to me. Most of my family is back home in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and I talk to them every day. Thank God for FaceTime! I try to FaceTime my three-year-old nephew at least once a week. He is one person that can ALWAYS make me happy!
How I relax … bottle of wine and HBO or Netflix binge watching! I recently just finished Season 6 of Game of Thrones, and I don’t know what to do without it!
My favorite quote is … "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that." Martin Luther King Jr.
Monster Energy AMA Supercross is one of the nation’s fastest growing spectator sports. From January to May, the off-road motorcycle racing series competes in a variety of venues throughout the country including Major League Baseball and football stadiums not to mention at Daytona International Speedway.
For the March 11 DAYTONA Supercross by Honda, CSM Production provided its live show expertise to produce opening ceremonies, manage run of show, screen programs, DJ performance and victory lane.
With advance planning, CSM created multiple custom audio tracks that were used for the show open, rider introductions and more. Working closely with its partners, the pyro and lighting were designed to be synchronized with the audio package. New for 2017 Daytona International Speedway tasked CSM with including a DJ performance to enhance the live event and raise the energy level between heat races and track maintenance. A challenge that CSM exceeded the expectations of its clients.
To kick off the event, a custom 90-second audio track and pyro show opened the event. The top-10 Supercross riders and one rider making his 450th debut (Jeremy Martin- who finished second) were introduced one by one by riding their bikes up the back of CSM’s custom stage. While in cue to be introduced to the crowd, a 30-second custom-created video played along with coordinated audio and the announcer gave the rider an introduction fit for a champion. The door opened and out rolled the rider on his bike. Simultaneously, flame boxes were signaled on stage and pyro ignited in the field to welcome the rider. The rider then departed down a ramp and into the field.
Each year during rider introductions, DAYTONA salutes Ricky Carmichael, who is known as the GOAT … greatest of all time. The three-time X Games gold medalist has earned 15 championships and 150 career professional wins which only scratches the surface of his success. During opening ceremonies, a customized introduction package designed in house by CSM welcomed Carmichael on stage.
After each heat race while the broadcast partner interviewed the winner, CSM provided lighting and a camera for the in-house screen program. Additionally, pyro was integrated at the finish line for the 250 main and 450 main. To start the 450 main, a pyro shot for the gate drop was incorporated. A custom lighting package was provided for the 450-main finale as well.
In addition, CSM also managed the Screen program for the DAYTONA Supercross by Honda. With in-house expertise, CSM prepared a detailed run of show for the screen program that corresponded with the on-track competition, breaks in racing and with the track-provided video spots. DJ Ich from Tampa got the crowd going during the track maintenance periods and after each heat.
“You’ve been a tremendous addition to this event and we are grateful to have you!!” said Julie Giese, Daytona International Speedway. “Thank you so much for working unbelievably hard to grow the event. It’s noticed and appreciated!”
A total of 12 CSM team members successfully completed its 11th year of producing a live show for the competitive and highly-entertaining Monster Energy AMA Supercross event at Daytona International Speedway.
As one of the nation’s premier event producers, the CSM Production team spends countless hours creating memorable, best-in-class event experiences for its clients. Our goal is to take you behind the scenes to see what goes in to the production of an event. While this is just a snapshot of a day or several days, it’s a sense of who we are and why CSM prides itself not only on its people but the quality of work we deliver.
Showcasing the two-day execution of the annual Belk Bowl FanFest and concert, Brad Smith takes us through his experience as the lead producer for the highly-anticipated fan festival in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Wednesday, Dec. 28
Get out of bed and get ready to head towards Bank of America Stadium.
On my way towards uptown, I get a call from the portable restroom rental company asking where to drop the restroom units. I let him know that he might want to wait on putting out any restrooms since the streets aren’t closed yet. That could be a pretty nasty mess.
Arrive uptown and park in anticipation of the street closures for the festival footprint.
The “production cavalry” arrives to BB&T Ballpark to begin load in of all production needs for the Tim McGraw stage that was built the night prior in center field.
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) officially closes the streets for the festival footprint. Belk Bowl FanFest load in can begin.
Early vendor load in begins along Mint Street near Bank of America Stadium as does the side stage at Mint St. and the two 16’x9’ video structures at Mint Street and the other at Romare Bearden Park.
Generators for the FanFest get dropped off at Mint Street.
Walk back to the site to see how much progress has been made with vendor load in. Everything seems to be clipping along.
The LED screen structures are starting to take shape and the LED video tiles are beginning to be flown.
A few of us break off to begin running the fiber optic cable from BB&T Ballpark to the two video screens. One is at Romare Bearden Park and the other is all the way over at Bank of America Stadium. Approximately 3000 feet of cable needs to be run.
We wonder why we decide to run the fiber across the streets during rush hour! We carry on despite our added degree of difficulty.
Fiber has been connected to both remote locations and of course, traffic has died down now.
I walk from the FanFest location on Mint Street over to Romare Bearden Park to check in and then head over to the Tim McGraw stage in the BB&T Ballpark. The guys have made some headway but still have a few things to finish up and tech out. Looks like maybe two more hours of plugging, programing and testing to go.
After a few minor snags and delays, it looks like we will be done in about two more hours.
Everything is ready for the Tim McGraw load in tomorrow morning. Some extra prep had to be made to prevent any water damage to the gear as we have showers expected overnight. Time to head home and get some sleep.
Thursday, Dec 29
My dog is petrified of rain. It is raining. My dog makes sure that I am aware of the changing weather conditions. I try to go back to sleep.
My wake-up alarm rings. Time to get back at it.
Arrive on site just as the rain stops. Lucky for us, it only rained while we weren’t on site.
Finish up a quick meeting with the crew before we all go our separate ways.
I walk FanFest to make sure there are no issues with any of the vendors loading in.
I notice that one of our Eazy-Up tents that is above the tech equipment is full of water. I painstakingly dump the water off the tent so that I do not get doused. And of course, I step in a puddle.
I have a wet right shoe and sock. Load in of vendors and displays continue.
Tim McGraw’s crew begins load in with our production staff at the main stage at BB&T Ballpark.
With things underway at the ballpark, I make my way back to FanFest after a quick check in at Romare Bearden Park.
FanFest is starting to fill in with all the assorted vendors, displays and food trucks.
I walk back to BB&T Ballpark from FanFest for a quick meeting with Tim McGraw’s security lead, CMPD, FBI, Show Pros and Charlotte Fire Department (CFD).
During the meeting, I get an e-mail request to add some gear to the tent order of one of our displays. The Belk Bowl FanFest is open in 47 minutes; better hurry.
The tent rental company is unable to get the needed gear from their shop to the event in time. So, we send a couple of our guys there to pick it up.
Belk Bowl FanFest opens and the added gear is about to arrive on site.
I meet with radio personality and emcee for the side stage at FanFest, Captain Jim. We go over his duties and key talking points.
Get the Carolina Panthers’ Pep Squad ready to go on stage, and then cue Capt. Jim to start doing his thing.
I get a call that CFD is concerned that there are no trash receptacles out yet at FanFest. Thousands of people with food and beverage and no place to dispose of the trash is big problem. After a quick chat with the fire chief in mobile command, I walk the footprint while calling my contact for the city to relay the news. He immediately got things rectified and a potentially big mess was avoided.
The FanFest is in full swing. People are starting to fill in and walk thru all the displays while the band Blue Honey is performing on the FanFest stage.
While I am at FanFest, I get a call from our crew at BB&T Ballpark that the 40-foot wide backdrop banner has been blown off the stage. I quickly make my way back up to the ballpark.
I make it up to the ballpark to see if it is possible to get the banner back up. Unfortunately, due to the wind, it cannot be safely rehung. After watching the wind a bit longer, the decision is made to drop the speaker scrim banners as well.
Blue Honey finishes their set on the FanFest stage and the crew begins the set change over to Michael Cosner, who will be playing later in the day.
Tim McGraw is scheduled to be on stage in center field at BB&T Ballpark.
Tim McGraw is finally on stage and begins playing his hits to the fans. The video feed of his show is displayed on the two LED screens that we provided at Romare Bearden Park and at the FanFest location near Bank of America Stadium.
Tim McGraw finishes his show and Michael Cosner begins his set at the FanFest stage.
FanFest is closed and fans are now entering the stadium for the Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas game.
Tear down is underway and picking up pace as the streets begin to thin out and clear room for all our road cases, fork lifts and trucks to maneuver.
Kick off! The Belk Bowl is officially underway.
A couple of us start collecting all fiber optic cable that we had woven through uptown the day before.
I play the role of first responder after Brandy trips on the sidewalk near me. At least I think her name was Brandy. That was what was written on the side of her solo cup. After getting her upright, untangling her sunglasses from her hair and giving her a few tissues for her badly bloodied nose, she could proceed under her own power … presumably to the game.
Our trucks and trailers are beginning to fill up. As they do, they head back to the shop one by one.
Strike complete! It is time to head home. I need to get some rest before I head to the mountains for some snow tubing with the family tomorrow.
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In October 2015, Pam Williams joined the CSM Production family as an executive assistant, but it didn’t take long to begin utilizing the multitude of skills she had. Now, the mom of Lindsay and wife to Ryan Williams (aka RDub) is the production and travel administrator.
The liberal arts graduate garnered diverse experience prior to CSM as a freelancer in the film industry. For 10 years, Pam was an assistant production supervisor handling multiple responsibilities like creating pre-production books and call sheets, booking equipment rentals, managing purchase orders and accounts payable.
A family girl at heart, Pam is the youngest of three girls. She and Ryan met eight years ago and have been happily married since 2013. Their family expanded March 4, 2016, when they welcomed Lindsay into the world. Without question Pam believes “Becoming a mother has made me a better person.”
Q&A with Pam
What is the accomplishment at CSM Productionyou are most proud of? I am proud that I have been here just over a year and my manager and peers are confident in my ability to take on more responsibilities and to evolve my position to support my strengths and experience.
What made you want to become a part of the CSM family? I already knew a lot about CSM Production since RDub had been here as long as we’ve known each other. I also needed stability in my schedule and income when the opportunity presented itself. Everything worked out nicely when the position became available, and now I get to have lunch with my husband most days!
What is the insider secret to your job? Excel spreadsheets. I use them for everything to help me stay organized.
What’s your secret to success? Being a forward thinker.
What is the best part of working at CSM Production? The creative, relaxed environment. I also enjoy working where I can wear jeans and sneakers and not feel out of place.
Things People May Not Know About Pam
My ultimate stress reliever is … A warm bath, a massage and laughing with Ryan and Lindsay.
On my iPod playlist right now is … My iPod is always on Shuffle which includes Otis Redding, Tool, John Mayer, Civil Wars and Pearl Jam.
My favorite movie is … Ghost. For me it has all the elements of a good movie - love, suspense, sci-fi, humor, good acting and a message. (The love inside, you take it with you when you go.)
My favorite quote is … The Serenity Prayer. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Anything else interesting people should know about you? My (maiden) name is in the credits of one movie! A proud moment for me that I finally made it to the “silver screen,” a childhood dream - Leatherheads (2008).
It was a night for the history books. The date - Saturday, Sept. 10. The event – Battle at Bristol.
For the first time in its 55-year history, Bristol Motor Speedway, an iconic 0.533-mile oval race track, played host to a college football game and not just any football game. It was one that would be the most attended American football game ever starring the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Two months prior to the premier event, host officials contacted JHE Production to assist. Utilizing its game operations experience with the Carolina Panthers, the team was responsible for planning and executing pre-game entertainment, in-game presentations, the halftime show and post-game production which included event coordination, run of show creation and execution, management of the flyover, the coin toss and players’ introductions.
The team also custom designed and built an 18 by 13 foot stage that was utilized for VIP introductions, the national anthem and the post-game celebration. In addition, JHE provided field-level audio for the VIP grandstands located closest to the field, in the end zones and hospitality areas throughout the infield.
JHE’s concert production experts also were tasked with eight concerts over the course of two days including performances by country music stars Sam Hunt and Jon Pardi. The team provided full production including staging, lighting, audio and stage management.
Battle at Bristol Fast Facts:
A record-setting attendance with 156,990 college football fans in the stands.
Eight concerts managed by JHE included performances by Sam Hunt, Jon Pardi, Acoustifried, Michelle Leigh, Carter Winter, Dalton and the Sheriffs and Alyssa Micaela.
A 50-yard wide American flag was unfurled during opening ceremonies.
One minute and 32 seconds of spine-tingling national anthem performance by country music singer and songwriter Jennifer Nettles.
Management of the national anthem flyover with a C-5 from Dover Air Force Base.
Coordination of pre-game entertainment featuring approximately 198 players, more than 425 marching band members, dozens of team cheerleaders and 12 VIPs including former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, former defensive end Bruce Smith and retired Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer as honorary captains.
As Lee Greenwood and the “Pride of the Southland” Marching Band played “God Bless the USA”, a four-minute firework display lit up the sky during halftime.
Eleven full-time JHE staff members plus support staff executed the concert and game entertainment.
As the day unfolded, more than 156,990 football fans filled the Bristol bowl, which earned the event a spot in the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS as the largest attendance at an American football game. It was an unforgettable moment in history for all involved.
In this series, we explore each of JHE’s in-house capabilities and how JHE utilizes these skills to make its clients’ visions a reality.
On average, JHE produces 300 events a year with approximately 80 percent requiring some level of live show direction.
As an expert at live show direction, it all starts with JHE’s mantra … “people first.” To be a successful show director, a director’s skill set should always include organization, preparation, awareness and poise under pressure. Having a director with those skills then coupled with the talented technical and operational teams that JHE has assembled is why JHE has been able to bring to life so many successful live shows over the past 28 plus years.
To showcase why JHE is an expert at this skill, we dive into the application of live show direction in a few event formats, starting with corporate events.
JHE produces a multitude of corporate events including conferences, trade shows, press conferences, networking events, product launches, VIP events, shareholder meetings, awards ceremonies, board meetings and more.
Live show direction for a corporate event can range in duration from 30 minutes to eight hours. It entails audio, video, lighting, music tracks, microphone changes, house lights, video screen changes, PowerPoint presentations, a teleprompter, calling camera changes and much more.
While there are numerous moving parts, client direction also can vary. A client can provide little to no direction and the JHE team must follow cues and rely on experience to execute a flawless performance. Or, the team can be provided with a list of elements that will take place in the show or a fully-scripted show.
Like a dance, a technical director must manage details down to the second for a team of two up to dozens of personnel. An experienced team also develops an acute sense on when to adjust the audio for speaker variations or prepare for upcoming camera changes, even when not prompted.
With all eyes focused on the stage, errors can often be seen much easier in this environment than others; thus the importance of rehearsals and sound checks. During rehearsals, the staff can test video, set audio levels, adjust lighting, test microphones and when possible conduct full rehearsals with the speakers.
JHE exemplifies expertise in this space with the team’s extensive experience and ability to “read” the event, in particular when many decisions are made quickly and without a script. The intensity in detail and duration make corporate events a challenge even in a controlled environment.
NASCAR Opening Ceremonies
Each weekend, thousands of fans attend a NASCAR race to see their favorite drivers compete for a victory. Prior to the engines roaring to life, JHE is on hand to combine sport and entertainment into a 45-minute to multi-hour opening ceremonies package.
Included in that intense period is live show direction for VIP introductions, driver introductions, a military flyover, the national anthem and drivers taking a lap in a track vehicle. Each event and venue has different needs which make JHE experts at scalability.
With little to no rehearsal, JHE has one shot to get opening ceremonies right. That’s a difficult feat when you factor in dozens of moving pieces meaning equipment, staff and on-stage guests as well as the producer and staff juggling the last-minute details with several entities both on the two-way radio and in person as the show is in progress.
The uncontrolled environment requires a live show producer who can direct not only his or her team to maintain the run of show, but one that can continue a constant line of communication with the television broadcast partner, NASCAR and the client.
Live show direction at a NASCAR event requires trust from the client, a keen attention to detail and flexibility as details change rapidly. That trust allows JHE to make quick decisions that will result in the most ideal outcome.
IndyCar Opening Ceremonies
Live show direction at IndyCar events have several differentiators that set it apart from its NASCAR counterpart. Yes, JHE coordinates and produces VIP introductions, driver introductions, the national anthem and occasionally a flyover. However, it is a few special touches that make IndyCar’s live show direction unique.
For example, JHE took advantage of its creativity and understanding of IndyCar’s vision to develop a custom music track that is used for VIP introductions and driver introductions. Prior to the season, 15-20 songs that range from Kanye West to tech to metal to electronic were identified and edited in-house to accompany specific aspects of opening ceremonies.
In addition, JHE is responsible for coordinating six to seven on-stage driver interviews during opening ceremonies. Working closely with the IndyCar announcer and interviewer, JHE selects the most newsworthy drivers for that weekend and prompts the interviewer with appropriate questions that drive compelling and interesting conversation for fans.
With a team of approximately 10, live show direction is no easy feat for the open-wheel series. JHE’s creativity and passion for integrating the perfect special effects make it great. As with the custom music tracks and attention to detail, IndyCar’s live show direction has developed into a unique format that showcases the sport and the personalities that make it successful.
Want to learn more about JHE’s other capabilities? Click hereto read about JHE’s fabrication capabilities.
Jeff Motley grew up in Martinsville, Virginia, and didn’t stray far from the Southside Virginia town after graduating from high school. These days he’s more than 2,200 miles from his birthplace, living his dream as vice president of public relations for Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Jeff graduated from Virginia Tech, about two hours east of Martinsville, with a degree in communications. His first job out of college was with The News & Advance in Lynchburg, Virginia, about 90 miles east of his hometown.
NASCAR soon beckoned though and in 1997 he was named manager of communications for NASCAR. A couple of years later, he made the move to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and that’s been his home ever since for he and his wife, Lisa.
As the track’s head of public relations, he oversees media relations, community relations, the track’s website, publications, social media and credentials.
Jeff, who lists a trip to Europe as his favorite vacation, says the inside secret to doing his job well is simple: “Build good relationships in your field and in your community and you have won more than half the battle.”
Q&A With Jeff:
What is the best lesson from college that still applies to your job? Be organized and prioritize everything.
What is the best career advice you ever received? In our profession, building relationships is the most important step toward success.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? Being part of a team that has truly made Las Vegas Motor Speedway an integral part of the Las Vegas community.
What is the biggest myth about your job? That we only work one week a year.
What is the insider secret to your job? It goes back to the relationships. Build good relationships in your field and in your community and you have won more than half the battle.
What is the best part of your job? Meeting new and interesting people all year long.
Why did you choose your career path? I’ve always been a sports fan, and I grew up around NASCAR my entire life, so being a part of this sport was always a dream.
What has been your best mistake? I’m not sure there’s a such thing as a “best” mistake, but I’ve probably made too many to single one out.
What is the best part of working with JHE? The professionalism and the follow-t hrough. I know JHE works with almost every speedway on the circuit, but they treat you like you are their only client.
What has most impressed you about JHE? See the previous answer.
What is your best tip for success? Ticked off is not a plan. When things go wrong, in
stead of getting angry, start working on a fix. Anger and stress are not tools to fix problems.
What is your personal definition of success? I’ll let you know in about 20 years.
Things people may not know about Jeff: My runner-up career was … lawyer. I loved Perry Mason as a kid and thought I wanted to be just like him.
On my iPod playlist right now is … country and classic rock.
My biggest pet peeve is … people who have no regard for their surroundings.
My favorite vacation yet … European vacation. Visited London, Paris, Barcelona, Monaco, Rome and more. So much history and iconic sites that I had always wanted to visit.
Dennis Worden is a native of Concord, Michigan, a small town with a population of 1,050. After earning a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Central Michigan University, Dennis spent a total of 16 years gaining media relations experience at Michigan International Speedway, Hillsdale College, Wayne State University and the University of Texas in Austin before settling down at Darlington Raceway.
He serves as the director of public relations, handling all publicity efforts for the “Lady in Black” and manages the track’s Raceway Rascals kid’s club program. For more than four years, Dennis says the best part of his job is “the relationships I have with my co-workers. We are a very small staff and like a family.”
With two children, Jeffrey (14) and Hailey (12), and his wife, Renea, his family is “everything”. So much so that we may have found Mr. Right. Dennis starts each day by “making my wife’s lunch for work every morning.”
Q&A with Dennis
What is the best lesson from college that still applies to your job? It’s not just about how well you perform your job, but also the relationships you make along the way.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? Being part of the return of NASCAR racing to Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway. Bringing the Tradition Returns throwback campaign to life across the industry in 2015.
What is the biggest myth about your job? It’s not just one race weekend. It’s a year-round job that takes months to plan and execute.
What is the best part of your job? The relationships I have with my co-workers. We are a very small staff and like a family.
Why did you choose your career path? I actually wanted to have a career in the newspaper industry. I was the sports editor for my college newspaper and thought that’s where I was headed, but then received an intern position in the athletic communications department and realized there was another side of the sports business I enjoyed more, the PR side.
What has been your best mistake? Sending out a press release with multiple errors. Always double and triple check any communication that is released in an official capacity, whether it’s a press release, e-mail blast, social media post, etc.
What is the best part of working with JHE? They are a turn-key operation, who provides the best entertainment services in all sports. Very professional and easy to work with.
What has most impressed you about JHE? Their level of professionalism and communication. They are like an extension of our team who wants to provide top-level entertainment for our fans.
What is your best tip for success? Don’t sweat the small stuff if you make an honest mistake, but don’t ignore the little things that could make all the difference.
Things people may not know about Dennis
My runner-up career was … sports editor for a newspaper. That’s what I went to college for.
I start my day by … making my wife’s lunch for work every morning.
My favorite apps are … Watch ESPN. Love watching college football and basketball games wherever you go.
On my iPod playlist right now is … “Stay the Night” by Darlington County’s own Jordan Gray. You’ll be seeing him on top of the country charts very soon.
The one person I’ve always wanted to meet is … Steve Yzerman. I’m a big Red Wings fan. Would love to meet one of Detroit’s greatest sports heroes of all time.
My family is … everything.
My favorite sport is … NASCAR and college football. I’m a Michigan State fan and also appreciate the passion of South Carolina and Clemson fans.
The best concert I’ve ever seen is … Outshyne. They played a concert in August of 2014 in our backyard for my wife’s birthday.
Stay connected with Dennis on Twitter @Worden2Dennis.
Long before the highly-anticipated Daytona 500 began, JHE Production and Daytona International Speedway worked extensively to plan fan entertainment leading up to one of the world’s premier motorsports events.
With months of planning required, JHE had a tremendous amount of work to do before and during Speedweeks 2016 at DAYTONA.
Starting Saturday, Feb. 13, three opening ceremonies topped the list of responsibilities including live shows for the ARCA and Sprint Unlimited races as well as DAYTONA 500 Qualifying presented by Kroger.
The second week was full of activities from experiential activation to Freightliner hospitality to a live concert by Florida Georgia Line to four opening ceremonies.
For JHE’s experiential activation teams, two tours were the focus. The first, NASCAR Acceleration Nation, was a youth-oriented display designed to teach 8-12 year olds the fundamentals of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in a fun and relevant way.
JHE also was enlisted to build a 65 feet wide by 20 feet deep experiential activation for Florida Lottery. The Florida Lottery secured driver autograph and question-and-answer sessions including Chris Buescher, David Gilliland, Ty Dillon, Landon Cassill, Austin Dillon, John Wes Townley and Ben Kennedy.
The client services team participated in the race weekend fun by organizing a hospitality program for Freightliner with an estimated 280 guests over the course of four days. The guests were entertained by special visitors including the DAYTONA 500 pole sitter Chase Elliott and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson.
It was, however, the live shows department that had to juggle multiple high-profile events. Opening ceremonies for the Can-Am Duel, the NextEra Energy Resources 250 Camping World Truck Series race and the PowerShares QQQ 300 XFINITY race were tackled first.
In addition, JHE enhanced each drivers meeting including the Can-Am Duel, Camping World Truck Series, XFINITY and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with an 8-by-36 light box with artwork and adorned the meeting space outside with 10 DAYTONA Rising flags.
Throughout the week, JHE assisted long-time partner FOX Sports with a broadcast stage for its RaceDay shows featuring commentators Jeff Gordon, Michael Waltrip, Chris Myers and Darrell Waltrip.
For the DAYTONA 500, JHE had assets spanning 824 feet of pit road including, a VIP introduction stage that highlighted the DAYTONA Rising project and its founding partners, a driver introduction set that paid homage to past champions, a live 25-minute concert with a nationally-televised song, the 2015 DAYTONA 500 Champion’s car display, 35 large flags honoring every DAYTONA 500 champion and a custom-built national anthem stage that is created new each year to highlight the DAYTONA 500 logo.
The event services team ran point on the pre-race concert featuring award-winning, country music duo Florida Georgia Line. Entertaining fans for approximately 25 minutes prior to the start of the 58th annual event, JHE designed a multi-tier set. The center stage was home to Florida Georgia Line and enhanced with 600 additional square feet to allow the performers more space. The back of the stage was ornamented with three 12-by-15 screens featuring band-driven content. Flanking the center stage were two stages featuring 16-by-9 IMAG screens with live video feed. The 3,712-square-foot concert stage was comprised of four total stages and five hand-pushed risers, 15 percent more square feet than 2015.
Ten full-time JHE staff, 50 hired personnel and five Freightliner tractors were dedicated to the concert production. The team had 10 minutes to strike and depart the frontstretch at the conclusion of the concert. While tear down was underway, other members of the JHE team were in full swing with driver introductions.
Dating back to July 2015, Daytona International Speedway challenged JHE to develop new concepts for drivers’ introduction. Matt Davis, vice president of operations, created two internal teams and challenged each team to develop fresh concepts. With a blank slate, both teams went to work. Soon after, two completely different ideas surfaced and were presented to the client in early September. After numerous revisions and great feedback, the final design reflected components of multiple schematics featuring specific stage angles, video screens and more.
Finally, after months of creative ideation and planning, the big moment was here. The driver introduction set was 53 feet wide by 8 feet deep with a 172-foot catwalk. The driver corral backstage was 30 feet long by 10 feet wide. In total, drivers would cover more than 200 feet on JHE-constructed assets which is approximately the length of two NBA basketball courts.
The set backdrop featured past DAYTONA 500 Champions in the center with fabric façade overlays for the remainder of the set. Video boards appeared on the right and left side of the stage equipped with video playback capabilities. For the nationally-televised live production, two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers were introduced at a time, meeting for a quick photo next to the Harley J. Earl DAYTONA 500 Trophy proudly displayed in the center of the stage. Pyrotechnics also were incorporated for each introduction. Once the drivers made it to the end of the 172-foot catwalk, they boarded a Toyota Tundra for a parade lap around the speedway, a logistical challenge that JHE also manages. After driver introductions concluded, the team had 10 minutes to remove all evidence of the set.
Ready in the wings was the JHE national anthem and flyover staff. They were in place and ready to call in the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, averaging 450 to 500 miles per hour, to arrive overhead exactly as the last note of the national anthem was being sung by the 82nd Airborne Division All-American Chorus. In order to make that happen, it takes coordination between JHE, FOX Sports, NASCAR, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.
After a stirring rendition of the national anthem and a breathtaking flyover, it was only seconds before the next part of the program was underway. Four JHE team members were standing by at a custom-designed and built 20 feet by 8 feet presentation set to allow track president Joie Chitwood to return the 2015 DAYTONA 500 Champion race car to car owner Roger Penske. Storyboards with interesting facts about the 2015 race and moments as a DAYTONA 500 Champion adorned the sides of the set. The car and set were on display all day for fans to enjoy.
Following the race command, JHE executed a ribbon cutting with a special Toyota Camry pace car. The Camry drove through an extra-large red ribbon in commemoration of the opening of DAYTONA Rising. While the task may seem simple, it required extensive coordination with the track, NASCAR and FOX Sports and impeccable timing.
Two weeks, seven driver introductions, 50 full-time JHE staff and 50 part-time staff pulled off one of the most difficult and multi-faceted opening ceremonies of the year.
If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Sammie Lukaskiewicz, senior director of communications for Michigan International Speedway, you found her energy and enthusiasm infectious. Since 2006, the El Paso, Texas, native has managed the speedway’s public relations, media relations, marketing, promotions, branding, advertising and credentials.
With a long career in motorsports, many might not know that early in her career Sammie was a crime and courts, city beat reporter and later a copy editor and page designer at The Daily Press in Victorville, California, and The Desert Dispatch in Barstow, California.
Armed with a Master of Arts degree in management and leadership from Webster University in St. Louis, the dynamic personality was recently appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder as a travel commissioner.
From career advice to her biggest mistake, Sammie shares all in this question-and-answer session as well as things you might not know about her.
Q&A with Sammie:
What is the best lesson from college that still applies to your job? A journalism professor told me: “To write well, you need to read, write and read writing.”
What is the best career advice you ever received? Invest the max in your 401k.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? The team shut down the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan to celebrate Brad Keselowski’s NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. He drove his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford across it – and then we brought the car across Lake Huron to a reception at The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, an island that does not allow motorized vehicles of any kind. Needless to say, it was a huge undertaking and took a lot of teamwork from a lot of people in our industry to do all that in a day.
What is the biggest myth about your job? That I only work a few weekends a year.
What is the insider secret to your job? Look like you know what you’re doing, and everyone will think you do.
What is the best part of your job? I get to meet a lot of interesting people and do some pretty fun things along the way. People choose to come to MIS, and I’m happy I can be a small part of something so meaningful for NASCAR fans.
Why did you choose your career path? This career path chose me. When I left California, it was because my husband got orders for Fort Leavenworth. So I sent a resume to Kansas Speedway and the Kansas City Star. Kansas Speedway called me first. And the rest is history.
What has been your best mistake? A record producer we work with at the track offered a new act that had just signed with his label, asking if we wanted a free concert for MIS and its guests. I told him: “I don’t think Katy Perry is our demo. Got anyone else?”
What is the best part of working with JHE? JHE is professional and has a reputation for excellence that I find extraordinary. JHE brings peace of mind to every situation and I consider Dan an important part of the MIS team.
Things people may not know about Sammie:
My biggest pet peeve is … The improper use of apostrophe. (Plural and possessive are not interchangeable.)
My family is … A two-day drive away. (My dad taught me that living away from family by at least a two-day drive was the only way to continue liking them. No popovers, no random visits, no stress.)
My favorite sport is … Well, besides NASCAR, of course, I love the NHL. I’m a huge Detroit Red Wings fan.
My favorite vacation yet … I’ve been to Africa three times; I’m going again this summer. There’s something about seeing other-worldly animals like giraffe, warthog, elephants and others that is magical.
My favorite movie is … “Idiocracy.”
Compelling TV binge … “Seinfeld.”
My favorite quote is … “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” Colin Powell
The best concert I’ve ever seen is … I love seeing Rob Zombie because it’s so theatrical and there is a lot going on. The production of the show is magnificent and the music tells a story. So it’s very entertaining.
Abiding by his favorite quote from Conan O’Brian, “Work hard, be kind and amazing things will happen,” Dan Mott does that in all facets of his life.
The senior coordinator for event services has been a loyal employee for almost six years, starting out as an IndyCar screen producer then video technician and editor. His hard work continued to bring new challenges including his current responsibilities of planning, managing and executing events. Focused primarily on NASCAR opening ceremonies, Mott creates the run of show with the client prior to the event, directs the show during the event and manages event budgets.
During his “down” time, the Warrenton, Virginia, native is an avid runner, completing two marathons and two half-marathons for a total of 1,521 miles in 2015.
The double major from Elon University also is proud of his “awesome nephew.”
Q&A with Dan
What is the best career advice you ever received? “Do whatever makes you happy.”
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned at JHE? There’s no such thing as a perfect event. Challenges and issues are always going to come up in a live event. It’s reacting quickly, calmly and thinking on your feet to create a good event. Also, always check signage.
What is the accomplishment at JHE you are most proud of? I’m proud of a lot of our events. It’s pretty cool to look at an event we did five years ago and what that same event looks like now. It keeps getting bigger and better. But most recently, NASCAR After The Lap. The previous four years I managed and created the video content for the show, but this was the first year I helped work on the run of show from start to finish. I felt the end product that we came up with was fantastic.
What is the biggest myth about your job? That while we travel we get lots of free time to do what we want. While we do get the opportunity to do a lot of really cool things outside of work, we spend a LOT of hours at the race track every weekend.
What’s your secret to success? Never be satisfied. Always try to be a little bit better today than you were yesterday.
Things People May Not Know About Dan
I start my day by ... Coffee. Please don’t talk to me until I’m on my second cup.
My ultimate stress reliever is … Running. There’s nothing better than turning off technology and putting one foot in front of the other for a little bit. Helps give me the patience to deal with any situation.
On my iPod playlist right now is a pretty wide variety. From Taylor Swift to Rick Ross to Foo Fighters. But mostly a lot of really terrible (or awesome) Top 40 songs. Guilty pleasure.
My favorite vacation … Not really one vacation but a series of trips since graduating in ’07. My college roommate and I have been to 26 MLB stadiums. About 9 more to go since stadiums have opened and closed since we started. The trips have allowed us to see the country, visit friends, see playoff games, opening days, a no hitter, etc. A lot of really great memories. This year, we’ll be in Seattle for opening day.
Joe Hodge is no stranger to a race track. The Indianapolis, Indiana, native has spent more than 18 years either working for an INDYCAR race team or for the governing body itself. With experience of this caliber, it’s no wonder he has moved up the ranks to his current position as INDYCAR’s director of special events.
The Ball State University grad has a breadth of responsibilities under his care including creating a big event atmosphere at each event, pre-race ceremonies programming, post-race Victory Circle, cultivating driver awareness, closed-circuit TV program and the list continues.
After working with JHE for more than nine years, it’s interesting that we recently learned that the racing pro turned down a soccer scholarship earlier in life.
Q&A with Joe:
What is the best part of your job? Working with all of the different groups and organizations.
What is the best part of working with JHE? Working relationships and friendships.
What has most impressed you about JHE? Their professionalism and ability to handle high-pressure situations.
What is your personal definition of success? Believing in yourself, making a difference to the people around you, positive impact, being a good person.
Things people may not know about Joe:
My runner-up career was … I would say I would like to be a college basketball or soccer coach. This has always intrigued me.
On my iPod playlist right now is … I have been listening more to Pandora, tailored playlists on the following stations; “We Came To Smash” Radio, “David Guetta” Radio and “Luke Bryan” Radio. I have a couple other stations that I am not going to share. Ha!
My favorite vacation yet … Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Compelling TV binge … Some would probably argue if these are compelling, but I would go with Saturday Night Live, One Tree Hill and The Big Bang Theory.
My favorite quote is … “You Can’t Stop Time,” “Just Roll with It,” and “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The best concert I’ve ever seen is … Kid Rock, Bon Jovi, Florida Georgia Line and Miami’s Ultra Music Festival.
Producing an average 35 concerts a year as well as hundreds of corporate meetings, live shows and special events, expertise in audio is a critical component of JHE’s success.
Approaching audio with an engineer’s perspective, the team must first identify the desired mood and effect of the production. After pinpointing this essential feeling, JHE then selects the correct audio tools to achieve its goal.
Director of Audio Engineering Brian Hancock notes that JHE is intentional in product selection, choosing proven products and technology that can adapt to any environment, speed, the ability to be flown and more. The audio gear is scalable for any project, size venue or any obstacle that arises.
For the audio visual experts at JHE who are involved in approximately 98 percent of the company’s projects, one of the most challenging aspects can be identifying how sound will carry in the unusual venues they often work in.
To counter this challenge, the experienced staff conducts advance trips to the venue to determine the right equipment to meet the needs of the facility and event. Figuring this out in advance is essential to the total operation of the event.
For nearly three decades, JHE has learned the art of perfecting sound projection whether it is a corporate meeting, indoor arena, NASCAR track, football field or city street. JHE has proven time and again how the company continues to exceed in these situations.
Making the right decisions, investing in the best products and relying on JHE’s team of experts builds confidence with its clients and showcases why our event production skills are unparalleled.
The JHE team, as always, has been busy producing energetic, dynamic events for its clients. In the first six months of 2015, JHE had the pleasure of producing some amazing concerts at numerous venues featuring a variety of country, rock and folk artists.
Kicking off the year in style at Daytona International Speedway was the multi-talented Kid Rock. Revered as the Super Bowl of NASCAR, the Daytona 500 pre-race concert lures the best of the best.
Next up was Atlanta Motor Speedway with a Fast Cars and Guitars pre-race concert headlined by country artist Cole Swindell at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on March 1.
One week later, country artist and recent winner of The Voice, Craig Wayne Boyd entertained crowds at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Kobalt 400.
JHE’s team shifted southwest to Phoenix International Raceway to produce a concert for Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum rock group Tonic, who has been entertaining millions of fans around the world since its debut album in 1996.
In April, the Duck Commander 500 Loud and Proud pre-race concert at Texas Motor Speedway was headlined by country group the Casey Donahew Band and a post-race concert with country artist Kyle Park.
Just a week later, JHE’s team worked with two-time Grammy Winner Old Crow Medicine Show as the folk group headlined the pre-race show at the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Southern rocker Shooter Jennings performed at Kansas Motor Speedway followed by country group Reckless Kelly performing the pre-race concert at the Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series race in Texas.
JHE’s month of May was action-packed with music including the production of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race which featured Little Big Town and Kid Rock once again.
It has been nine years since NBC broadcast NASCAR races. Yet on July 5, 2015, the national sports network returned to the airwaves to feature NASCAR’s premier series.
NBC Sports turned to JHE to design and construct an easily deployed; high-tech stage which would be home to at-track broadcasts. Up for the challenge, the JHE team had to factor in multiple location sites throughout a race weekend including fan-focused areas, pit road, Victory Lane and more based on each track.
Not only was the final product mobile and operational in 12 minutes, but the self-contained unit was equipped with hydraulics, a generator, CAT-5, Wi-Fi and more.
In addition, JHE’s experts custom built four carts to meet NBC’s needs over the course of its 20-race week season. Each cart varies in functionality from a mini studio on wheels complete with fiber, audio and video equipment, and Wi-Fi; a booth prepared specifically to meet the statisticians’ needs; a robo cam cart to showcase different camera perspectives with specially-designed rails; as well as a fixed camera cart.
Not only did JHE meet NBC Sports’ technical needs, but the solutions passed stringent safety certification also.
Hailing from the Nutmeg State (Connecticut), Ryan Williams, known affectionately as “RDub”, has taken his love for music and incorporated it into his career. Joining the JHE family more than a decade ago in 2004, he says his secret to success is: “If you’re going to do something, make sure you do it right.”
Ryan joined JHE as an A1/A2 for IndyCar and NASCAR events and then moved to production coordinator and concert producer for eight years before taking on the manager of event services role. Prior to JHE? He was on the music scene working as a stagehand and runner at an entertainment venue in his home state.
Q&A with Ryan:
What is the best career advice you ever received? If you can find a job enjoying what you do, you will never work a day in your life.
What is the accomplishment at JHE you are most proud of? Being the Production Manager for Speed Street. It’s a huge undertaking but rewarding event.
What is your best memory at JHE so far? My favorite event was the Rock & Roll 400 with Three Days Grace. We had a hurricane delay the race and ended up with an “unplugged” concert. It was stripped down and a great performance.
What is the biggest myth about your job? That you get to meet all the artists and that they are all nice.
What’s your secret to success? If you are going to do something, make sure you do it right.
What has been your best mistake? The biggest mistake is the one you don’t learn from. Everyone messes up somewhere; it’s what you learn from it to not make the mistake again that is important.
Things People May Not Know About Ryan:
My ultimate stress reliever is … running and listening to music.
On my iPod playlist right now is … a mix of everything. Muse, Pearl Jam, Slipknot, Korn, Jake Owen, Keith Urban, Sevendust, Radiohead.
My biggest pet peeve is … being interrupted when speaking.
My favorite movie is … Empire Records.
My favorite quote is … “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
The best concert I’ve ever seen (and why?) is…
Pearl Jam – Mansfield 3 2003 – 3.5 hour set list including an hour long acoustic performance. My first Pearl Jam show and one that is well known among fans.
U2/Muse – Atlanta Dome – My first time seeing Muse and getting to see the largest touring stage to date.
Eminem/Jay Z – Yankee Stadium – First concert in the new stadium. A lot of cameos and a great night of music.
Atlanta Music Midtown 2012 – Pearl Jam/Avett Brothers/Foo Fighters – two-day festival in the midtown area of Atlanta. Amazing performances and a great weekend away
The food I love so much that if I dropped it on the floor, I’d eat it anyway is … pizza.
For the third year, JHE is proud to be the producer and promoter for the Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance. The event unites the best in golf with the best in automobiles each year at Pinehurst Resort.
The main event features some of the most historic and rare automobiles staged on the fairways of the iconic golf resort with Dennis Haysbert serving as grand marshal. Here is a look at this year’s event, by the numbers…
More than 10,000 people attended the event.
More than 280 cars were showcased on fairways No. 3 and No. 5 during the two-day event.
The winner of the Concours, a 1919 Pierce-Arrow Model 66 A-4, stands 7-feet tall and weighs 7,000 pounds.
At least 10 states were represented by Concours competitors.
A total of 53 awards were handed out to car owners during the event.
Cars and motorcycles competed in 13 classes.
Eleven cars escorted soldiers to Fort Bragg on Friday.
The Black Daggers gave a demonstration and had four soldiers parachute onto the show field.
Three Saturday performances included the USO Show Troupe, the 82nd Airborne Chorus and Three Dog Night.
Approximately 90 pieces of printed signage were used along with 40 tents.
JHE executed a six events over two days including the Iron Mike Rally, Welcome Reception, a concert, the Chairman’s Dinner, a Champagne Toast and the Concours.
John Falkenbury has served as president and chief operating officer for the USO of North Carolina since March 2009. He is responsible for planning, organizing and directing the operations of the state headquarters, five USO fixed centers and a mobile center. These centers provide a full range of services including travel assistance, deployment and homecoming operations, critical transition assistance, financial and educational programs, military and civilian community outreach programs, Fallen and Wounded Warrior escort services and extensive morale-boosting activities.
The Concord, North Carolina resident previously served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army with assignments throughout the United States and in Germany. He also established and operated the first North Carolina division of Fleishman-Hillard International Communications.
An adjunct faculty member in the University of North Carolina’s Charlotte Department of Communication Studies, an on-air military analyst for WBT-AM and a credentialed military consultant and frequent guest for News 14 Carolina also adorns his resume.
The third generation career military officer received a bachelor’s degree in history from The Citadel and earned his master’s degree in management from Webster University. In addition, he is a graduate from the Defense Information School, the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
He currently serves on the board of The Brigadier Foundation and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at The Citadel, and the Carolinas Freedom Foundation’s Advisory Board. He has been married to his wife, Barbara, for 32 years and is the father of Jamey and Catherine.
Q&A with John
What is the best lesson from college that still applies to your job? Honesty and integrity are not compromised for any reason.
What is the best career advice you ever received? Do what you have a passion to do and do it well.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? Personal accomplishment is having a great family with children that are successful and doing what they love. Professionally, being given the opportunity to successfully lead an organization during a period of great need and rapid growth.
What is the biggest myth about your job? We are funded by the national USO or are a federal agency when in reality, we are a separately-funded nonprofit organization; not funded by either national USO or the government.
What is the insider secret to your job? While it requires a lot of driving the state, living out of a suitcase and constantly seeking new corporate partners, the reward of helping our troops and families and hearing them say thanks is humbling.
What is the best part of your job? My staff, our volunteers and the military that we serve. They are the best and they do it will little or no fanfare.
Why did you choose your career path? I retired in 1999, two years before 9-11. I had many friends that have been at war for 13 years and I was not there. While I did many media engagements to make sure people knew what their military was doing, I wanted to do something that was directly supporting our warriors and their families.
What has been your best mistake? Not taking a second command of an Army unit. If I had, I would have missed experiences like training in one of the nation’s biggest PR firms while an Army major or attending the Marine Command and Staff College.
What is the best part of working with JHE? JHE is passionate and professional. They look for ways to make sure events are top notch and on budget. They are always prepared and have thought out the delivery of their services so it is seamlessly executed.
What has most impressed you about JHE? Their people.
What is your best tip for success? Do what you love, do it to the best of your ability and take care of those working for or with you. If you do, it will be a success.
What is your personal definition of success? Establishing a vision and goal for an organization and seeing it come to a fruition that is sustainable, impactful and accepted by staff, those served and those in the community.
Things you may not know about John:
My runner-up career was … a history professor; we must learn from the past or, as was said, we are doomed to repeat it. Liberal arts give tools in critical writing, research and analysis.
My ultimate stress reliever is … watching old black and white movies from the 1930’s and ‘40’s.
On my iPod playlist right now is … Sycamore Row by John Grisham and classic ‘60’s and ‘80’s artists.
The one person I’ve always wanted to meet is … General George Patton. Controversial and charismatic leader; I have been fascinated by his life and enjoy learning more about him.
My family is … most important to me.
My favorite sport is … Can’t have just one in a state that is home to the best college basketball and the Carolina Panthers. But since I’m 5’19” tall (6’7” for those that can add), I lean toward college basketball. Go Duke.
I don’t leave home without … my iPad and iPhone.
My most recent splurge was … a new 27-inch Apple iMac.
My favorite vacation yet was … that’s a tough one … as a family, it is our vacation to Rome, Florence, Tuscany and Venice before the children graduated college. But the most special vacation was an Alaskan cruise for my 30th anniversary.
My favorite movie is … It’s a Wonderful Life.
My compelling TV binge is … Downton Abbey, Sherlock and Mr. Selfridge.
My favorite quote is … “Duty is the sublimest word in the English Language.” -Gen. Robert E. Lee
The best concert I’ve ever seen is … Billy Joel in Raleigh last year. I’ve been a fan for years and second time to see him live.
Since 1995, JHE has been responsible for executing some of the most notable festivals in the Southeast, dreaming up extravagant productions, engaging fan interactions and meaningful sponsorship opportunities. Here is a look at JHE’s history of producing festivals:
1995: Speed Street
The event production company’s first foray into festival production 20 years ago was Speed Street, one of the Southeast’s largest street festivals held in uptown Charlotte. Still the event producer and promoter, the team handles everything from inception to execution for the event now known as Circle K and Kangaroo Speed Street presented by Coca-Cola. Tasks range from artist management, concert production, event operations and logistics, permitting, fire and safety, marketing and sponsorship sales.
The event attracts more than 400,000 attendees each year and includes live musical entertainment, family-friendly fun and dynamic sponsor exhibits. In 2014, JHE added three new regional events in Mooresville, Concord and Kannapolis to extend its reach in the local community.
2001: First Flight Centennial
The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources relied on JHE to execute a historical celebration to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ famous first flight. The First Flight Centennial was a multi-day festival that played host to national dignitaries and more than 115,000 spectators.
2012: Belk Bowl FanFest
Since earning the business four years ago, JHE has managed site design, live entertainment production, video and lighting, audio engineering and run of show in conjunction with the Charlotte Collegiate Football Group for the annual Belk Bowl FanFest. The event is a pre-party for the Belk Bowl football game and has featured Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert to date.
2012: Democratic National Convention CarolinaFest
This special festival was produced to showcase Charlotte to traveling attendees for the Democratic National Convention as well as locals. CarolinaFest attracted more than 30,000 attendees and featured interactive displays, food vendors, political speakers and two stages for musical performances within five city blocks.
The inaugural BuzzFest, held in 2014, celebrated the Charlotte Hornets return to the Queen City inside a 280,000-square-foot space at the Charlotte Convention Center. Hosted by the NBA team’s minority owner Nelly, the indoor fan festival included concerts by national recording acts, basketball drills, family-friendly fun, celebrity appearances and more.
This year, JHE was asked to build a new stage for both NASCAR and IndyCar opening ceremonies. While the stages are very different, they share similarities – ease of operation and ability to maneuver quickly. The in-house experts explain the process it took to brainstorm, design and create each stage.
About the Experts:
Ryan Baxter has been a part of the JHE team since 2003 and currently serves as chief operating officer at JHE. He was an integral part of the return of IndyCar as a JHE client in 2014.
Greg Smith has been a part of the JHE team since 2007 and currently serves as senior manager of product development.
James Raven has been a part of the JHE team since 2007 and currently serves as senior designer.
Derek Lane has been a part of the JHE team since 2012 and currently serves as a senior designer.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Stage Q&A:
Q: What was the planning process like for this stage?
Smith: It was the “big bang” of minds. We had 25 people with stage experience in a conference room, and we pulled from everyone’s knowledge. The two main goals everyone agreed on was to simplify the build process and to develop one stage that could have multiple purposes and designs.
Q: What was your inspiration behind this stage?
Smith: With our two goals in mind, we wanted to build a “transformer” stage that was a blank canvas for each track with the ability to change it for their needs.
Q: What was the process for actually designing and building this stage?
Smith: We built this stage first so it was new ground for us. We had to work through the logistics of adding hydraulics to an already crammed trailer as well as internal engineering logistics to support any possible “props” that would be added to the stage at a later date.
Raven: For this stage, Jay had something in his mind from the very beginning: easy to operate. My role in the process was to take what the team members described and make a visual representation of it. Once the concept drawing was created, everyone could get on the same page on what the vision was and how to adjust it to better suit our needs. Several meetings took place where the form and function were nailed down. From there, we did some comps on how the stage would be dressed to present to tracks (a graphics package). This whole process went very smoothly and everyone involved seemed to have a positive influence in the final product.
Q: What were the biggest challenges in the process?
Smith: Developing the internal workings of the stage was the biggest obstacle. We had to account for anything a client might want to add to the top of our adjustable stage years down the road and build the structure strong enough to support it. On the same note, we didn’t want to over spend on internal workings that weren’t necessary.
Raven: For my part of the process the biggest challenge was timing, specifically from when the stage arrived to when it had to be dressed for use at the Rolex 24. Several processes needed to take place in this time including measuring, creating templates, designing, fitting, production and shipping. Everyone pitched in to help from the great internal support to our vendors. I thought that though out the process we were in good shape and the final product looked amazing.
IndyCar Stage Q&A:
Q: What was the planning process like for this stage?
Baxter: It all started with a phone conversation with our IndyCar client. They gave us words that they wanted the stage to look like – clean, crisp and classy – and then we brainstormed several options as a starting point.
Smith: We started with a blank piece of paper and our ideas grew from there.
Q: What was your inspiration behind this stage?
Baxter: We wanted to create something that took inspiration from the sport’s cars. IndyCar is clean and fast with sharp edges. And that is what we created, a sleek stage with finished edges. We also drew inspiration from the way the sport is changing the opening ceremony format to be more about story telling. The layout of the stage will allow for interviews and other opportunities that didn’t exist before.
Smith: We took a lot of inspiration from the Formula 1 opening ceremonies which include a lot of pomp and circumstance. IndyCar wanted to emulate that show while remaining true to their brand. We were encouraged to create a stage that was both functional and aesthetically unique. We also wanted to be able to create the ambiance of IndyCar no matter where the stage traveled.
Lane: We wanted to build something that was very functional yet dynamic.
Q: What was the process for actually designing and building this stage?
Baxter: It involved our team all sitting down together and brainstorming. We had multiple meetings and revisions to get it where it is today. We all brought a lot to the table because of our knowledge on what we liked and what worked (or didn’t work) in past iterations of stages.
Smith: I wanted to implement hydraulics which would make the stage easier to maneuver and more functional than ever before. Using this feedback, our partners at Craftsman Industries began the actual build while I oversaw every engineer draft and step. Based on our final design, we can easily build and break down the stage in our hour on each end.
Lane: It was mostly designing from thoughts and sketches then tweaking the design as we went.
Q: What were the biggest challenges in the process?
Baxter: The finishings and engineering. Since this stage was so different than anything else we have ever designed, we had to get creative on getting what we wanted within budget.
Smith: I think it’s the same challenge that we face on so many of our projects: turning a concept into a 3D object. But we pulled through and made that vision a reality. We were able to add some unique attributes that made everything easy to work like enabling the “fins” at the top of the stage to fold inward for easy transportation from city to city.
Lane: We were lucky in that there weren’t that many challenges. The design of the stage went relatively smoothly from the creative end; a few back and forth tweaks with IndyCar on the graphics but overall easy breezy.
Q: How do these two projects showcase JHE’s expertise?
Baxter: I think they both showcase JHE’s creativity. Also, our ability to take a client’s idea, translate that to paper and then a final product.
Smith: To me, both stages show JHE’s growth. Our end product continues to look more professional, sleek and smooth with every project we set out to accomplish.
Lane: I think the company, having built numerous stages in the past, knows the process well at this point and knows who fits which role perfectly to take a rough concept and transform it into an amazing stage design.
Raven: We do a lot under one roof. I think this is an example of having the right people at the right time to the produce the right product.
In our newest series, we will explore each of JHE’s 16 in-house capabilities and how JHE utilizes these skills to make its clients’ visions a reality.
Behind the scenes, JHE’s fabrication team makes the creative department’s renderings a reality. The position of fabricator is described by JHE’s Jake Lehn as “we can build anything, as long as there is a vision and funds; and we can repair anything, as long as we have the tools and resources.”
Fabricating designs from big to small is an art; one which JHE’s team continues to exceed at. With extensive experience in the field, JHE’s fabricators can create something with strict guidelines or something out of the box with very little guidance.
The skilled craftsmen are dedicated to JHE’s mission: “creating a memorable, best-in-class event experience for every customer.” So behind the scenes, they brainstorm, test and build nothing but the best, no matter the client’s end goal.
Want to learn more about JHE’s other capabilities? Click hereto read about JHE’s lighting expertise that is used to create the ideal event atmosphere.
For nine years, JHE executed IndyCar opening ceremonies before the series took production in-house in 2011. In 2014, the sport returned to the event production company to handle operations for pre-race entertainment which includes orchestrating the national anthem, coordinating flyovers, managing musical talent and overall run of show.
This year, the opening ceremonies stage received a fresh new look which debuted March 29. Here is a look at JHE’s work, by the numbers:
JHE will attend 14 IndyCar races in 2015.
The team will produce 14 opening ceremonies and 14 post-race shows.
On average, nine team members travel for each race stop.
The new stage took approximately five months to plan.
Approximately 15 renderings were created in the process of designing the final stage’s look.
Two trucks travel to each race, one office transporter and one stage trailer.
More than 150 pounds of confetti will fly for IndyCar post-race shows this season.
JHE will travel to 10 states, includingCalifornia three times plus Canada once.
The stage consists of approximately three tons of steel, four tons of aluminum and four hydraulic rams.
In our newest series, we will explore each of JHE’s 16 in-house capabilities and how JHE utilizes these skills to make its clients’ visions a reality.
The importance of lighting at an event is often underestimated. But as experts, we understand the power lighting has on every event’s ambiance, mood, depth, décor and visibility. From large productions to smaller corporate events, JHE’s in-house experts know how to design and implement a lighting package that will create the ideal atmosphere. We maintain a large inventory of conventional and intelligent lighting fixtures, along with controllers, dimming, and the truss, chain hoists and lifts to support each fixture.
Setting the atmosphere and creating a dramatic first impression is vital. Utilizing the right lighting can do just that: allow your event to shine. Colors, textures, movement, and the quality of light are just some of the tools our designers can alter to make your vision a reality with the push of a button.
For corporate clients, meetings today are so much more than PowerPoint presentations. Lighting allows clients to showcase their creativity to motivate employees or clients while maintaining the functional lighting to keep the focus on the presenters and message.
When it comes to live shows and special events, lighting is just as important. By creating the right lighting plan, it is possible to direct a large crowd’s attention to a specific area, making them a part of the show. An integral part of designing for these larger shows includes providing adequate power distribution while reducing consumption through the use of energy-efficient LED fixtures, when possible. JHE’s capabilities allow the team to satisfy the need of any corporate client as well as any rider for nationally recognized musical performers.
Want to learn more about JHE’s other capabilities? Click here to read about JHE’s transportation expertise that helps the team get every project to its final destination.
In our newest series, we will explore each of JHE’s 16 in-house capabilities and how JHE utilizes these skills to make its clients’ visions a reality.
One of JHE’s operational strengths lies in the roads it travels so frequently. The fleet drivers that make up the transportation department enable each and every one of JHE’s events to come to life. Traveling an estimated 500,000 miles each year, the job isn’t an easy one but it certainly provides a tremendous amount of pride for those who belong.
For most events and experiential activations, the drivers are often the first ones to a location and the last ones out. What may appear to be a simple task to an outsider, often takes an incredible amount of preparation and skill. With only one chance to get it right, hours of practice are always required.
The items being transported are often one-of-a-kind items created to execute a client’s vision and are invaluable to the event’s execution. Loading, transporting and unloading in a careful, calculated manner is critical to every event’s success.
While clients may not interact with JHE’s team of talented drivers on a day-to-day basis, they are certainly a vital part of every event JHE plans.
The one-hour special paired NASCAR drivers and former NFL stars to test both their racing and football skills. Teams consisted of:
Hines Ward and Carl Edwards;
Doug Flutie and Matt Kenseth;
Brian Mitchell and Denny Hamlin;
Christian Okoye and Clint Bowyer;
Willie Gault and Daniel Suarez; and
Rod Smith and Kyle Bush
Each NFL star learned to drive official Toyota race cars at the Richard Petty Driving Experience while NASCAR drivers took part in a passing competition on a field created by JHE. The JHE team built the field, designed the signage and managed the event logistics.
The series culminated with a 20-lap race at Charlotte Motor Speedway with NASCAR drivers at the wheel and NFL players in the passenger seat. The event was complete with commentary from Rick Allen, Jeff Burton, Kyle Petty, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte and Kelli Stavast.
NASCAR team owner and three-time Super Bowl-winning coach Joe Gibbs announced the winning team and presented the participants with a trophy.
The show, which aired Friday, Jan. 30 and during NBC’s Super Bowl XLIX pre-game show, was an effort to promote NASCAR and NBC’s coverage of the sport during the conclusion of the NFL season.
Charlotte Motor Speedway, NBC Sports, NASCAR, NFL, NASCAR Gridiron Challenge, Toyota, Hines Ward, Carl Edwards, Doug Flutie, Matt Kenseth, Brian Mitchell, Denny Hamlin, Christian Okoye, Clint Bowyer, Willie Gault, Daniel Suarez, Rod Smith, Kyle Bush, Joe Gibbs
The JHE team finished out 2014 with the Belk Bowl FanFest, an event the company has produced for the past three years.
The uptown party celebrated the bowl experience, offering local food, live music, interactive games, face painting and school spirit prior to the bowl game which pitted the Georgia Bulldogs versus Louisville Cardinals on Dec. 30, 2014.
The highlight of the family-friendly event was the live performance by CMT Artist of the Year Miranda Lambert, who also has been honored by the Grammy Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Country Music Association Awards. The country star serenaded a huge crowd of fans with songs from her newest album, “Four the Record,” combined with some of her most popular hits.
JHE worked hand-in-hand with the Charlotte Collegiate Football Group, a nonprofit organization that runs the Belk Bowl, to produce the festival located outside the Bank of America Stadium. JHE handled production including site design, live entertainment production, audio engineering, run of show, video and lighting in addition to supplying all the necessary equipment.
Charlotte’s original NBA team, the Hornets, have returned to the Queen City. To celebrate the return, the team enlisted JHE to execute a two-day fan festival Oct. 25-26.
Hosted by Hornets minority owner Nelly, Buzz Fest occupied a 280,000-square-foot space at the Charlotte Convention Center which was transformed into a basketball paradise from the moment fans entered. A large welcome area used lighting, video and photos to tell the team’s story.
Moving inside the footprint, there was entertainment for fans of all ages including basketball skills clinics, interactive games, inflatable basketball courts, sponsor activations, concession stands, merchandise sales and a VIP zone.
The weekend’s entertainment included appearances by Hugo and the Honey Bees; a youth basketball tournament; meet-and-greets with former Hornets and NBA stars; a Hornets practice game; and musical performances by the Voltage Brothers, Elle Varner, Big & Rich, Diggy, Sol Fusion and Nico & Vinz.
As the production team behind the event, JHE managed all elements of the show’s production in-house including strategic planning, project management, event layout, logistics, operations, event run of show, concert production, stage production, audio and video, sponsor needs and on-site management.
Warm weather and catchy tunes go hand in hand. As summer comes to a close, JHE reflects on the unprecedented number of outstanding concerts the team has produced during the hot season.
From country to alternative, the event experience team has worked with a large variety of national recording artists to add excitement to the fan experience at sporting events across the country. GRAMMY Award Winner Little Big Town, CMT Award Winner Dierks Bentley, “The Voice” winner Cassidee Pope and former Dancing with the Stars contestant Wynonna were just a few of the big names to make an appearance on a JHE stage these past few months.
The experts at JHE have become the go-to company to produce live entertainment in unusual venues. The team’s capabilities include audio, lighting, staging, talent management, travel logistics and backstage coordination.
The team is looking forward to a number of upcoming concerts including The Band Perry, Parmalee, Buckcherry and Miranda Lambert, to name a few.
The weekend celebration, hosted by Grammy Award-winning artist and Hornets minority owner Nelly, will build excitement around the team’s return to the Queen City, reward loyal fans and celebrate the community.
The interactive festival will occupy a 280,000-square-foot footprint and feature live musical performances, a youth basketball tournament, meet-and-greets with former Hornets and NBA stars, appearances by Hugo and the Honey Bees, a kids’ zone, interactive games, merchandise booths, sponsorship activations and concession stands. The event will also include a Hornets full team event on Saturday, including an autograph session with players and the Honey Bees.
As the production team behind the event, JHE will manage strategic planning, project management, event layout, logistics, operations, event run of show, concert production, stage production, audio and video, sponsor needs and on-site management exclusively in-house.
With experience producing Coca-Cola Speed Street and NASCAR Preview, Buzz Fest is in JHE’s wheelhouse and will showcase the event experience company’s expertise in executing large, multifaceted events.
The return of the Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte’s first NBA franchise, is generating excitement throughout the city, and JHE is thrilled to be a part of the inaugural event. Don’t forget to purchase your tickets today!
JHE’s fleet travels approximately 700,000 miles a year through 46 states, making it a critical component of every project the event experience team produces. Managing the trucks and maneuvering through compliance is no easy task. However, JHE’s senior director of transportation, Terry Hodges, and senior coordinator of transportation, Julie Alascio, have it down to a science. Below, Hodges and Alascio share their insider secrets:
Set scheduled maintenance
TH: By scheduling preventative maintenance three times a year we can keep our trucks operating on the road for 10 months a year. It is also critical to have a team of drivers who are conscious about inspecting their vehicles daily. We would be in big trouble if they didn’t care about what they were driving.
Longstanding partnerships work miracles
TH: JHE’s partnership with Freightliner for its semi-trucks and Chevrolet for its smaller fleet is crucial when something goes awry. For example, one of our trucks broke down en route to Miami from Phoenix. I called Jerry McKinney, my dedicated contact who has relationships with every dealership and shop. He told us where to go and made sure we received preferential treatment upon arrival. There were 22 trucks in line for service yet we were moved to the front and out of the shop in an hour and 10 minutes. They always place a high priority on JHE vehicles when we are in need of service which is very important to the overall success of JHE.
Keeping up with the regulations
JA: Staying on top of compliance regulations and how to navigate them is one of the pieces of the business many people don’t think about. Laws are constantly changing so it’s important to find the right websites and understand how to work them. When I first started in this role six years ago, the new government rules had just been put in place. I’ve always been good at research so I dove right in and have never stopped learning. Most recently, I came across a rebate for auxiliary power units from the state of North Carolina that I was able to present to the executive team to save the company money. Staying on top of the upcoming regulations allows you to plan, prepare and implement much easier.
Develop and implement clear procedures and policies
JA: Having a good system in place is only useful if you follow it. We’ve developed a full driver safety manual that we give each employee and follow religiously. I also hand out monthly safety awareness information to remind drivers of pertinent details. Keeping your employees “in the know” means safe drivers and gives you a leg up on your competition. Once a year, we host fleet week which is a four-hour training on hours of service (log regulations and other compliance rules) and a skills test, the JHE truck rodeo. I’ve also implemented a driver points system to supervise and change actions. Points are accrued for moving violations, accidents and hour of service violations with a goal of having zero points each quarter.
Avoid fleet aging
TH: We are lucky that Jay Howard has the forward thinking to invest in a young fleet as fleet aging is a huge problem in the industry. However, in our situation if you break down and miss a show you will never be forgiven. Our partners at Freightliner are also an important part of this equation as they swap out seven trucks for new ones every two to three years. The JHE fleet has at most around 300,000 miles per semi-truck while most other comparable trucks on the road accrue a million miles, replace the engine and then drive for another million miles.
Creating good relationships with your drivers
JA: Keeping the lines of communication open with your team is important in any job. You want to make sure that they can ask questions and feel like they are contributing to the bottom line. For example, I found an opportunity to save the company money by recording off-road fuel. It was an extra step for the driver’s so I explained to them what it meant for our bottom line but then gave them the opportunity to record it or not. Every single driver implemented the extra step. It’s that unified team feeling that makes us so successful.
Since 2010, JHE has worked closely with NASCAR to produce the unique and unforgettable event, NASCAR After The Lap. The annual unfiltered, tell-all question-and-answer session will take place Dec. 4, 2014 at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Again this year, JHE will manage the event sweepstakes, creative elements, run of show, staging and design, ticketing in conjunction with the venue and all hospitality elements.
Natalie Epperly: Epperly has been a member of the JHE team since 2005. She currently serves as senior director of client services and has managed NASCAR After The Lap for the past three years.
James Raven: Raven has been a part of the JHE family since 2007. He currently serves as senior graphic designer of creative services and has worked on NASCAR After The Lap since JHE began producing it in 2010.
Lauren Livesay: Since 2008, Livesay has been a part of the JHE team. She currently serves as senior manager of event services and has worked on NASCAR After The Lap for the past two years.
Brian Hancock: Hancock has worked at JHE since 2008 and currently serves as director of audio engineering. He has worked on NASCAR After The Lap for the past three years.
WHAT IS THE PLANNING PROCESS FOR NASCAR AFTER THE LAP LIKE AT JHE?
Natalie Epperly: The planning process starts in June and continues until the first week of December when the event takes place. We’ve developed a system that has been so effective we’ve actually implemented it on other special events JHE produces. Each element of the production is broken down and given a team lead. The team leads then report back to me and then we report back to NASCAR weekly.
James Raven: After NASCAR provides a brief outline of what they want, their objectives and what they liked about last year’s event, the creative process begins. Our team starts developing different ideas and layouts. Then, we develop the hero poster which will dictate the look and feel of the rest of the event. We will go through several drafts, zeroing in on what NASCAR likes and dislikes, before we come to the final look. Once that’s approved, we can start on the digital elements (web banners, web layouts and e-blasts) and final signage.
Lauren Livesay: I’m responsible for managing the event run of show which takes several months to plan. Our team must figure out unique ways to integrate sponsor elements alongside relevant current topics that the drivers will want to talk about. Last year, we utilized social media quite heavily to gain insight into what each of the Chase drivers was doing off track so we could understand what a day in their life looked like and use that information to ask questions that fans would love to know.
Brian Hancock: The audio team works with the venue, NASCAR and JHE’s event producers to pull together the pieces of this event. We handle everything IT needs for social media, coordinate with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, cue the talent, plan the communication needs and run point on audio during the show to make sure the show happens as planned.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE DURING THE PLANNING STAGES?
NE: Every year, we want to make the show better than the year before. The biggest challenge is creating something new and fresh that keeps the fans excited year to year.
JR: This event is definitely one of our heavier creative processes so the biggest challenge is juggling it along with normal workflow.
LL: Coming up with questions that haven’t been asked before in previous shows.
BH: Not having access to the facility on a day-to-day basis. We get one shot to scout the venue and when you are paying attention to things like lights and rigging, you sometimes miss air conditioning vents and other little nuances. This year, the event is in the same venue so we can be a bit more prepared for the little idiosyncrasies of the space. However, like any live event you have to be flexible that something will not go 100 percent according to plan.
HOW DO YOU TRANSLATE THE CLIENT’S VISION INTO REALITY?
NE: This event is a give and take process. NASCAR is very involved in the process so we are able to get a lot of great feedback on all creative elements along the way.
JR: We use NASCAR’s feedback to develop a creative process for the event. Our expertise combined with NASCAR’s direction allows us to bring the vision to life on paper.
LL: With this event, NASCAR wants the glitz and glam of an award show mixed with the unscripted moments of a reality show. My job is to find that balance in the run of show.
BH: Our team plans and coordinates for months on this event. We work with the client to understand their vision, outside vendors to make sure everything is covered and come up with a comprehensive plan to eliminate as many unexpected elements as possible.
HOW DOES THIS EVENT SHOWCASE JHE’S EXPERTISE?
NE: I think this is one of the event’s JHE works on where everything we are experts in comes together. All of our departments – creative, event production, run of show, audio/video – are a part of the event so it showcases every aspect of the company.
JR: For our team, the pieces we create are some of the most reproduced, reprinted and reused work that we do all year. Overall, I’d say this project touches on everything JHE has to offer and truly showcases our company’s abilities.
LL: First, I think it shows how custom JHE’s staging and audio elements can be. We have produced the same event in a variety of venues which can be challenging but it also allows us to be creative. It’s also very different from producing a structured pre-race show. For opening ceremonies, we have to hit everything at a very exact moment. With NASCAR After The Lap, the show has a much more flexible flow that requires us to react to what the drivers are saying while still staying in the boundaries of the show.
BH: Overall, there are so many different parts and pieces. We handle hospitality, sweepstakes, seating assignments and everything in between. You don’t realize how much JHE is doing until you look around and see how much of our team has their hands in different “pots.” Each team member focuses on their part of the project and then it is possible for it to all come together for a spectacular show. If you are worrying about someone else’s piece of the puzzle, you aren’t putting enough energy into your aspect.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK MOST FORWARD TO ABOUT NASCAR AFTER THE LAP?
NE: I’m always excited to get on-site because that’s when everything really comes together. It’s a long planning process so when the show goes live, it’s an incredible feeling.
JR: The creative process that our entire team goes through to create the final product. It is an excellent opportunity to work on process, in-house critiques and putting out a product we can all be proud of.
LL: I love seeing the renderings come to life on the stage. It’s also great seeing the drivers interact with each other in a more laid back setting.
BH: Friday after the show. With so many moving parts, everything sits on a knife edge so it’s a sigh of relief when it’s over. The smallest thing can go wrong and make the show much more difficult. Often it’s something out of our control so we have to be flexible and adapt to any situation.
NASCAR has always had an extremely special connection with the military. Since its inception, JHE has also had the opportunity to honor our troops on many occasions. From air force flyovers to patriotic opening ceremonies, the event experience company has delivered many memorable military moments during NASCAR races.
Most recently, JHE executed the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway opening ceremony which included a Salute to the Troops, recognizing four recipients of the Medal of Honor. Giving former servicemen, women and their families a behind-the-scenes look at the race, military members were saluted during the opening ceremony.
This month, JHE returns to saluting U.S. troops at Daytona International Speedway. During the Coke Zero 400, JHE will orchestrate another patriotic opening ceremony including appearances by Medal of Honor recipients and the largest fireworks show in the Southeast.
Up first was the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. 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.”
The two-week marathon at Charlotte Motor Speedway concluded during Memorial Day weekend with the Coca-Cola 600. JHE was once again on-point to direct a pre-race show that incorporated military appreciation and a concert performance by Brantley Gilbert.
JHE thanks each of its partners – NASCAR, Sprint, Charlotte Motor Speedway, FOX Sports 1 and Coca-Cola – for these opportunities and is looking forward to what 2015 will bring.
Since 1997, JHE has worked closely with the 600 Festival Association, a nonprofit organization aimed at promoting and celebrating motor sports in the Charlotte region. The organization celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, adding three new events to its May event lineup. The event lineup concluded May 22-24 with the headline event, Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014.
Take a look at the work the nonprofit and JHE have accomplished together throughout its history:
The 600 Festival Association celebrated 30 years of history in the local region in 2014.
Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet has offered free, family-fun in uptown Charlotte for the past 20 years.
Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet entertained an estimated 400,000 fans over the course of the three-day festival.
5,500 Feet of Fencing
JHE utilizes more than 5,500 feet of fencing during Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet.
3,700 Square Foot Layout
Each year, Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet occupies approximately 3,700 square feet in uptown Charlotte for three days.
8 Million Guests
Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet has entertained approximately 8 million guests, which is more than 10 times the population of Charlotte, during its 20 year history.
320 NASCAR Drivers
Since its inception, Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet has been visited by approximately 320 drivers including Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick.
100 Award-Winning Musicians
This year’s music entertainment, Who’s Bad, Thompson Square and 38 Special, joined the 100 award-winning musicians that have graced the Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet stages over the course of 20 years including Keith Urban, 3 Doors Down, Survivor, Jamey Johnson and Montgomery Gentry.
3 New Events
In 2014, the 600 Festival Association added three new events to its May event lineup: Movies on the Campus in Kannapolis; Haulers on Union in Concord; and Little 600 in Mooresville.
More than 500 fans attended the first Little 600 at GoPro Motorplex to watch their favorite NASCAR drivers compete for bragging rights in rental karts.
The 600 Festival Association showed two racing-themed movies, Disney’s “Planes” and “Six Pack,” on an oversized outdoor screen during the inaugural Movies on the Campus event.
Forty JHE employees worked together to manage and execute the four 600 Festival Association events in May.
600 Festival Association, Coca-Cola Speed Street, Little 600, Haulers on Union, Movies on the Campus, NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick, Thompson Square, 38 Special, Keith Urban, 3 Doors Down, Survivor, Jamey Johnson
For the past 14 years, Heather Hucks has worked at Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated (CCBCC). She currently serves as director of marketing sponsorships and manages all of the company’s marketing sponsorships including professional sports, colleges and universities, and entertainment and amusement properties. Her role focuses on creating long-term sponsorship strategies that build brand equity and give CCBCC a return on its investment both in venue and out in the marketplace. Hucks and her team of “four awesome folks” focus on connecting the brand to consumer passion points via sports teams, music or amusement activities to create meaningful interactions.
She previously worked as an account representative at Moroch and Associates for two year after graduating from University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a Bachelor of Science in communications.
Hucks is an extremely charitable person serving as chair of Bee Mighty, chair of NICU Family Advisory Council-Novant Hemby Children’s Hospital, a board member for Speedway Children’s Charity and a volunteer and advocate for the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte. She currently lives in Charlotte with her husband, Darrin and her 2-year-old son, Tucker.
Q&A with Heather:
What is the best career advice you ever received? Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective? Sometimes you’re right and it doesn’t matter. Leaders recognize the moments at which the more effective path is the one that fosters team relationships and an alternate means to the acceptable outcome.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? Being a happy, fulfilled working mom.
What is the best part of working at Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated (CCBCC)? There are many, many things I love about CCBCC. Perhaps a favorite is the true emphasis on stewardship. Coca-Cola Consolidated wholeheartedly believes in serving others. In fact, the company has integrated “Serve Others” as one of the three prongs of our purpose statement for many years. CCBCC employees seek out specific needs in the community, rally their counterparts and fulfill the need. Stewardship at CCBCC is not mere sentiment, it is very real and it’s widely encouraged.
What is the best part of working with JHE? There are no surprises on event day. As a sponsor, especially at the title or presenting level, you need things to be double and triple checked before the big day. JHE understands that and approaches events with the ultimate capability and accountability for what happens during those three days of Coca-Cola Speed Street. That’s exactly what you want as a sponsor.
What is the best part about sponsoring Coca-Cola Speed Street? Coca-Cola has such a long standing family connection with race fans. So I love to see us all come together in the heartland of racing country during the week between the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600. It almost seems like a family reunion and I love it. One of my favorite memories was watching Pat Benatar sing “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” from the Coca-Cola stage. She totally nailed it.
Seven Things You Might Not Know about Heather:
I’m inspired by…my son, Tucker, who was born at 24 weeks weighing 1 pound, 7 ounces and spent 151 days in the NICU. He is feisty and strong and his fight and will to live, as an impossibly small baby with so many hurdles, taught me the ultimate life lesson… perspective.
My favorite sport is…college basketball. It’s fast and furious, with lead changes back and forth sometimes only seconds apart. And there’s always a Cinderella story.
My favorite quote is… “We gain strength, courage and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face and do that which we think we cannot.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
My runner-up career was… a country music singer. I have the hips and the name.
I don’t leave home without… a sense of humor. And a Coke J
On my iPod playlist right now you will find… Imagine Dragons, Dolly Parton, Pink, JJ Heller, Bon Jovi, David Crowder, Will Smith, the Beatles and Lady Antebellum.
I relieve stress by… writing and blogging. And sometimes eating cupcakes.
Planning an effective and popular street festival is an art; one that Jacqueline Garfarar has perfected over the past 16 years.
Since 1998, Gafrarar has been responsible for managing and executing Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet. The three-day consumer street festival requires months of planning and preparation to prepare for the 400,000 attendees that descend upon Uptown Charlotte for live music, driver appearances, sponsor activations and more. The Concord, N.C.-native shares her top five tips to make a street festival a success:
Inspire confidence within the city.
Getting the right city members on your team, including permitting officials, the fire department, utilities, medics, the police department, public transportation and city services, is critical. If they are willing to buy into the idea and support your efforts wholeheartedly, you have laid the groundwork for success.
Recruit the right team.
One person can’t produce a street festival so it’s important to build a team with the right people in the right positions. There needs to be a point person for each “piece of the pie” including operations and logistics, beverage operations, food and merchandise vendor coordination, public relations and sponsorship sales so nothing falls through the cracks.
Freshen it up.
Keeping the festival new and fresh each year is critical to engage both new and loyal fans. We make a huge effort at Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet to enlist new corporate partners and bands each year so no two festivals are exactly alike.
Establish a built-in crowd.
Creating a festival in a field is going to be much more difficult to promote than one in the middle of a city. By creating a footprint where the audience already exists, it is easier to pique their interest and get them involved in your festivities.
Engage, engage, engage.
After all the hard work you’ve done to produce the festival, the most important thing is creating a fan base that loves your event. Create “wow moments” throughout the day that engage fans and encourage them to stick around for the next big thing. For example, at Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet, we encourage our partners to create interactive displays for the daytime crowd. Then at night, we wow them with a full lineup of live music.
To see Gafrarar in action, follow the 600 Festival Association on Facebook and Twitter @600Festival.
About the Expert:Jacqueline Gafrarar currently serves as the general manager of the 600 Festival Association, overseeing the development and management of each of the organization’s May events. She has been a valued member of JHE’s team for more than 16 years, most recently serving as vice president of special events. The Concord, N.C.-native has been an instrumental leader in the planning and execution of 600 Festival events including Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet since 1998, one year after JHE assumed the role of promoter and producer of events.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the nonprofit association is going back to its roots by celebrating and promoting motor sports throughout the local Charlotte region with a full schedule of free events leading up to the Coca-Cola 600.
The May event lineup will kick off May 9 in Kannapolis with Movies on the Campus in conjunction with Village Jiggy Jam. The first-ever double feature under the stars will include two racing-themed movies, Disney’s “Planes” at 8:30 p.m. and “Six Pack” at 10 p.m.
Next up, the 600 Festival Association will move to Concord, N.C., for Haulers on Union May 15. En route to Charlotte Motor Speedway to load in for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team haulers will parade down Union Street at 6 p.m. After the last hauler exits downtown, The Tams will kick off Union Street Live for a night of free musical entertainment.
The following week, the 600 Festival Association presents the Little 600 at GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, N.C. The race will utilize the complex’s fleet of rental karts and features a full field of NASCAR drivers in the 15-lap main event as well as a women’s Lady 600 race. Confirmed drivers currently include Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Truex, Ross Chastain, Darrell Wallace Jr. and more to come. Gates open at 4 p.m. and racing action starts at 4:30 p.m.
The May event lineup will conclude with the 600 Festival Association’s signature event, Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet May 22-24. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet transforms the streets of Uptown Charlotte into one of the largest consumer events in the Southeast. With live musical entertainment, appearances by top NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and celebrities and dynamic exhibits for all ages, Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet is an event attended by more than 400,000 fans annually. The event’s musical headliners include Who’s Bad Thursday, Thompson Square Friday and 38 Special Saturday.
Since 2003, Ryan Baxter has been a valued member of the JHE family. Serving as chief operating officer, Baxter is responsible for strategic planning, oversight of the staff, staff development and business growth. During his 10 years at JHE, he has also held roles as vice president and general manager, vice president of production/operations and director of events.
Prior to joining JHE, Baxter worked in the athletic facilities and game operations departments at Wofford College and Marshall University. The West Virginia-native graduated with a Master of Science in athletic administration and received his Bachelor of Science in Sports Management and Marketing from Marshall University.
He currently lives in Huntersville, N.C., with his wife, Krisha, and children, Austin and Sydney.
Q&A with Baxter:
What is the best lesson from college that still applies to your job? You have to work hard to get what you want.
What is the best career advice you ever received? Worry about what you can control.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned at JHE? Patience and versatility.
What’s your secret to success? Being a team player and doing whatever needs to be done to accomplish the end goal.
How did you help bring the IndyCar business back to JHE? I used to oversee the IndyCar program and created a relationship with Joe Hodge, director of event marketing at IndyCar. Even when we weren’t working with the series, I kept in touch with Joe. When the opportunity arose, he reached out to us and the rest is history.
What are you most looking forward to as IndyCar becomes a JHE partner again? It gives JHE an opportunity to continue to expand its opening ceremonies arm of the business. The partnership is also an opportunity to expand our relationships with tracks we don’t usually work with.
Six things you might not know about Baxter…
I’m inspired by… my father.
My biggest pet peeve is… when people are late.
My family is… the most important part of my life.
I spend my weekends… typically hanging out with my family.
My favorite sport is… baseball; I love everything that goes into it.
My favorite quote is… “Our strength as a whole is better than the sum of all our parts.” It’s something a former coach of mine use to say that emphasized it takes a team to win not just the play of individuals.
To keep up with Baxter, follow him on Twitter @RBax13.
Two years ago, Carrie Ryan was searching for a change with an exciting, challenging new opportunity. That’s when she joined JHE as the manager of creative services. Today, she has become an integral part of the department, helping to manage work flow for the graphic designers, participating in brainstorming sessions for new events, obtaining quotes for upcoming projects, creating and managing signage grids and placing all signage orders.
The Delaware-native previously worked at NASCAR as a receptionist, NASCAR Media Group as an archive assistant and Boscov’s as an administrative assistant. She graduated from Wilmington University with a major in general studies.
Q&A with Carrie:
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned at JHE? Always expect the unexpected. Be prepared because anything can happen at any time.
What is the accomplishment at JHE you are most proud of? Winning the 2013 Unsung Hero Award at the holiday party. I’m thankful that I work with such amazing people and am humbled to receive the award.
What is the hardest part about preparing for the Daytona 500? The magnitude of the Speedweeks is daunting. We have all of our departments and most of our employees working on various events throughout the two weeks so the creative services team is busy! The most difficult part of preparing for the Daytona 500 is really planning the work flow, managing time constraints, and ensuring everything is ordered and gets to Daytona without forgetting any one project or piece of signage.
What is your best memory at JHE so far? The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series All-Star Race. I was involved with this project from stage concept to completion over the course of more than four months and seeing the final outcome was awesome. I also had a very tiny role during opening ceremonies, helping to lay more than 150-feet of carpet, which I had never done before. The entire pre-race went off without a hitch which made all of the long hours and hard work worth it.
What’s your secret to success?I’m a list maker. At any one time, I have at least 10 lists on my desk, both electronic and handwritten, and about five sticky notes. When work is crazy busy, I like to come to work before 6 a.m. because there is no one else in the office.
What is the best part of working at JHE? The employees and the culture; we are truly one big family. Everyone at JHE is willing to help each other out and that sense of camaraderie is important. We have fun at work and on the weekends but when it’s go time, we all pull together to make each event as successful as possible.
Seven Things You May Not Know About Carrie...
My first job was…a camp counselor at a YMCA day camp. I worked there for six straight summers. It was a great experience because interacting with children prepares you for any future job you’ll ever have in life.
I relieve stress by…cursing. I have been complimented on turning swearing into an art form.
My family is…my life. I talk to my sister Kelly every single day. I’m lucky to have wonderful parents too; the four of us still vacation together once a year and see each other every few months.
My guilty pleasure is…TV. I will get sucked into (original) Law & Order marathons, reality shows (almost any show on Bravo) and HGTV.
My favorite vacation yet was to…the Bahamas. Great snorkeling and fishing, fantastic beaches, friendly people and the laid back lifestyle.
My favorite quote is… “Live the life you love, love the life you live.”
Anything else people should know about you? I am obsessed with sharks. My bucket list includes swimming with whale sharks in the Caribbean Ocean and cage diving with Great Whites in South Africa.
From Grammy winners to “The Voice” coach, JHE has worked with some of the biggest names in music over the course of 2013 in some of the most unusual venues.
GRAMMY winner Zac Brown Band, CMT award nominee The Band Perry, GRAMMY nominee SWV, and entertainer of the year and “The Voice” coach Blake Shelton are just a few of the musicians that have appeared on JHE stages this year. Spanning all music genres, the event experience company also has produced concerts for music legends this year including Charlie Daniels Band, Trace Adkins, Sheryl Crow, Hank Williams Jr. and O.A.R. In total, the company has produced more than 30 concerts in 2013.
With an increased demand for live entertainment in sports, JHE has been able to position itself as the go-to company to produce these moments from beginning to end in venues designed for another type of activity. When the JHE staff arrives, they are often met with just an empty field or public street. The nimble and invisible crew goes to work to build a stage and then produce the show from behind-the-scenes.
JHE’s concert capabilities range from providing audio, lighting and staging to managing band contracts, travel logistics and catering.
For the second year in a row, JHE produced the Belk Bowl FanFest prior to the bowl game Dec. 28. On the streets of uptown Charlotte, the fan-favorite event included great food, live music, interactive games, face painting and official school merchandise for the two competing teams, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels and University of Cincinnati Bearcats.
Cheerleaders and marching bands from both schools pumped up the crowd that gathered in front of Bank of America Stadium. The highlight of the event was a live performance by reigning Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year and “The Voice” coach Blake Shelton.
The Charlotte Collegiate Football Group, a nonprofit organization that runs the Belk Bowl, employed JHE to help step up their efforts again this year for a two-day uptown party celebrating the bowl experience for all fans, even if they were not planning to attend the game. The organization secured JHE to handle the overall production of the fanfest including site design, experiential activation, live entertainment production, infrastructure, audio engineering, lighting and run of show.
Currently serving as executive director of the nonprofit Charlotte Sports Foundation, Will Webb plays an integral part in producing the Belk Bowl and ACC Football Championship. He has worked with both championship games since 2010 when he took on the executive director job at Charlotte Collegiate Football which was combined with the Charlotte Regional Sports Commission in 2013.
Prior to this role, he served as executive director at Raycom Sports managing the Meineke Car Care Bowl for seven years. He has also practiced law at a private firm, served as corporate counsel for Barclays America and served as counsel and owner of First American Title of the Carolinas. Webb completed his undergraduate degree at Wofford College and his law degree at Wake Forest University.
Throughout his career, the Charlotte-native has served on charitable boards including the Thompson Children’s Home, Hospice and Palliative Care Charlotte Region and the Charlotte Basketball Committee. He is married with two grown children.
Q&A With Will:
What is the best lesson from college that still applies to your job? Build relationships!
What is the best part of working on the Belk Bowl? The people that I get to meet and learn from.
What is the best career advice you ever received? Don’t burn bridges. Make it win for both sides.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? Working with Belk to help take the Belk Bowl to the next level.
What is the biggest myth about your job? That I only work two days a year! People do not understand the complexity of planning and staging a bowl game.
What is the insider secret to your job? Hire the best staff you can find; they make you look good!
What is the best part of working at your company? Seeing the up close and personal side of college football.
Why did you choose your career path? I chose to be a lawyer. I got into sports through volunteerism that changed into a job.
What is the best part of working with JHE? The energy and quality the team brings to planning our FanFest.
What has most impressed you about JHE? They do what they say they will do.
Five Things You Might Not Know About Will:
I spend my weekends… in the mountains when I am not traveling.
My family is… paramount!
My favorite sport is… golf, although I am terrible at it.
My favorite vacation yet was to… Egypt. The highlight was the amazing engineering and cultural advancements of the people thousands of years ago.
My biggest pet peeve is… people who do not do what they say they will do.
Will Webb, Charlotte Sports Foundation, Charlotte Collegiate Football, Belk Bowl, ACC Football Championship, Raycom Sports, Meineke Car Care Bowl, Thompson Children's Home, Hospice and Palliative Care Charlotte Region, Charlotte Basketball Committee
As operations coordinator, Cody Kauffman has many responsibilities both in the office and at the track. The Indiana-native is in charge of maintaining the warehouse, stages and signage for all opening ceremonies and overseeing vehicle services for the driver introduction parade laps. He works closely with Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, NASCAR, ESPN and each track to manage the parade vehicles and execute the parade lap.
Prior to joining the JHE family 18 months ago, Kauffman served as a multi lines claims adjuster for Crawford & Company handling casualty and property claims. He graduated from Marshall University with a Bachelor of Science in business and hospitality management.
Q&A with Cody:
What is a typical day like for you? When I’m in the office, my typical day consists of working on contracts for the parade laps, maintaining the warehouse, stage maintenance and checking signage for upcoming races. At the track, I ensure equipment is ready for the parade lap vehicle. Then I help get the stage ready for opening ceremonies by assisting with tightening banners, setting bike fence and helping with audio needs.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned at JHE? Expect the unexpected.
What accomplishment at JHE are you most proud of? Coordinating the largest American flag pulled by a Ford truck at Homestead-Miami Speedway last year for the national anthem prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Race.
What is the biggest myth about your job? We only work weekends and get to watch every race.
What is the insider secret to your job? Staying organized is key; I have a notebook for every track.
What makes you good at your job? I am very organized and good with time management.
Six Things You Might Not Know About Cody:
My runner-up career would be… owning and operating my own bar and grill.
I spend my weekends… on the road for work or traveling to visit friends and family.
I don’t leave home without… my St. Christopher necklace.
My favorite vacation so far was to… Germany last October. I was best man in my best friend’s wedding and was the legal witness to sign off on the wedding. It was a great experience and a huge honor to be a part of his special day.
The product that should be invented is… a teleportation machine.
Anything else people should know about you? I have a twin sister and yes, we have ESP and can communicate telepathically.
As vice president of events at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS), Brandon Hutchison oversees day-to-day operation logistics for the facility, special event organization, short track racing programming, creating the race schedules, serving as the sanctioning body liaison and so much more. For the past 18 years since joining AMS, Hutchison has worked closely with the JHE team.
Hutchison joined AMS as an intern immediately after graduating from Georgia Southern University in 1995. The communications art major became a full-time employee shortly after joining the team and was then promoted to director of events three years later.
Hutchison currently resides in Stockbridge, Ga., with his wife, Sandy. The couple has three sons: Brandon, 25, Cole, 17, and Ryan, 9.
Q&A with Brandon
What is the best lesson from college that still applies to your job? Don’t put something off until tomorrow if it can be done today.
What is the best career advice you ever received? Be honest, upfront, and when necessary, don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? I tend to not look back so I’m really hoping my next event will be my proudest accomplishment.
What is the biggest myth about your job? It’s all fun and games.
What is the insider secret to your job? Put the right people in good situations and most everything else will fall into place.
What is the best part of working with JHE? They are the most trustworthy partner I choose to do business with. I deal with hundreds of vendors, and there is only one that I will give complete trust to. That one is JHE.
What has most impressed you about JHE? Their prompt response time. Whether it’s a call, text or email, those guys always get right back to me.
Seven Things You May Not Know About Brandon
I spend my weekends… mostly at the racetrack. However, on the rare occasion I have one to myself you’ll probably find me catching up on yard work or at the ball field with my son.
The one person I’ve always wanted to meet is… are we talking five minutes or a full day? Any of our Founding Fathers or John Wooden.
My favorite sport… to play is soccer which I played for 30 years. My favorite sport to watch is football; I’m an Atlanta Falcons and Georgia Bulldogs fan.
The product that should be invented is a… time machine.
My favorite quote is… “Remember when life’s path is steep to keep your mind even.” – Horace, a Roman poet
My runner-up career would have been… a professional soccer player.
I don’t leave home without… telling my family I love them.
While most clients never meet him, Jake Lehn is an integral part of almost every project at JHE. Since 2009, the fabricator has been helping to build and repair almost every display JHE produces. When asked to describe his job, Lehn says “We can build anything, as long as there is a vision and funds, and we can repair anything, as long as we have the tools and resources.”
Every day in the department is different but 90 percent of the job is making the art department’s renderings a reality. The Wyoming-native is sometimes given complete direction on how the final project should look and other times, the fourth generation fabricator is asked to create something unique and different that has a specific purpose. A “meat and potatoes” guy, Lehn is modest about his work but can make any vision an actuality.
Prior to joining JHE, the dad of 5-year-old Shelby worked at RAB racing where he was in charge of the engines and drive train, paint and body work, heavy fabrication and a backup truck driver.
Q&A with Jake
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned at JHE? To keep an open mind and be willing to branch off your norm to accomplish something.
What is your best memory at JHE so far? Building the Daytona 500 opening ceremony stage for the 2012 race. We were given the stage a few days before the event and had to build a number of things. We finished, loaded it into the truck and I drove it to Daytona. I arrived just in time to pull onto the track as practice was about to start.
What made you want to become a part of the JHE family? I was doing three or four jobs at the race team and the job wasn’t fun anymore. I come from four generations of fabricators and welders so I’ve always had an interest in the industry. At JHE, I am able to focus on fabrication, building something different and unique for each project.
What is the biggest myth about your job? People don’t always necessarily understand how much time it takes to build and weld a project. Every project has a different timeline based on customization.
What makes you good at your job? I think I’m easy to get along with which is important in this role because I work with so many different people and departments at JHE.I also always try to keep an open mind about every project.
What is the best part of working at JHE? Every day is something different. It is not a factory job where you know day in and day out you will be doing the same thing. One day we are working on aluminum, the next day its wood and then the day after that is steel.I hate coming into work knowing exactly what the day holds and at JHE the project is always changing.
Seven Things You Might Not Know about Jake
I’m inspired by… my grandpa and dad. My dad owns and runs a body shop full time. He also has farm with crops that he manages every day, all year. I’m always impressed by how much he does in such a limited amount of time and still has time to do things with his wife and grandkids. He is very motivational.
My runner-up career would be… a diesel performance mechanic.
My family is… a “meat and potatoes” family. We are very down-to-earth people who work really hard.
I spend my weekends… with my 5-year-old daughter Shelby doing whatever she wants. I spend as much time with her as I can. When I’m not with her, I can be found four wheeling or doing mechanical work.
My favorite sport is… short-track racing.
My favorite vacation yet is… I’ve never slowed down enough to take a vacation. I’m going on my first vacation in the next few months to the Bahamas.
My favorite movie is…Lawless. I love movies set during Prohibition with fast old cars and moonshine… and this one has all three.
Executive director of events Doug Cremer has been with the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the past 11 years. A motorsports management major from Rowan Cabarrus Community College, the Massapequa-native started as an intern and worked his way up through the years. He has served as an intern in the sales and marketing department, assistant manager of customer service and logistics and director of guest services and logistics. Knowledge of a little bit of everything at the track has continued to make him successful. He is currently responsible for oversight of event management logistics and the fan experience, including track services, safety, guest services and logistics.
Q&A with Doug:
Describe your job: We make the event happen! From planning to execution, we touch almost all aspects of events at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Describe how you got to your current position: Started as an intern and worked my way up through the years.
The best career advice you ever received: Never give up and use experience as fuel to make you a better person!
Biggest myth about your job: People think we get to meet all the stars but we don’t. We just make it happen!
What has most impressed you about JHE: The team’s attention to detail.
Five Things You Might Not Know About Doug
I spend my weekends… spending time with my family
My favorite sports are… NASCAR and NFL
The best vacation yet is… a cruise
My favorite quote is… “I love the man who can smile in trouble, gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection.” -Thomas Paine
For the past six years, Ryan Martin has been honing his skills and making a name for himself within JHE. The operations manager who is “living the dream” at the event experience company is integral in the execution of a variety of events, including, most recently the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race driver introductions. The Florida native has learned to be adaptable and plan for the unexpected in a line of work where anything is possible.
Q&A with Ryan Martin:
Role at JHE: Livin’ the dream
Runner-up career: Retired billionaire
The best career advice you ever received: Always exceed expectation’s
The most important lesson you’ve learned at JHE: Plan for the unexpected. In this line of work, anything is possible.
Accomplishment at JHE you are most proud of: Best confetti shot for three years running.
The biggest challenge for the Sprint All-Star race: The speed at which everything has to be set and struck. It’s a lot of pieces to move and set in a limited amount of time. Everyone has to work in sync to get it done correctly.
Biggest myth about your job: That it’s easy.
Insider secret to your job: Adaptability
Best part of working at JHE: The people.
Six Things You Might Not Know About Ryan Martin:
The one person I’ve always wanted to meet is… myself 20 years from now.
My family is… my mom and dad, two brothers, fiancée, Haley, and dog, Sheamus.
I spend my weekends… usually at the rack track or on the lake with friends.
My favorite sport is… Carolina Panthers football.
The product that should be invented is… a silent race car.
JHE has had the honor of producing and promoting Food Lion Speed Street presented by Coca-Cola since 1996. The three-day festival delivers an unprecedented consumer event offering live entertainment, access to racing’s brightest stars and interactive displays from sponsors including Food Lion, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet and many more.
Take a look at the 19-year-old event by the numbers:
The event debuted in 1995.
In 18 years of the event, approximately 7.2 million people have attended.
Approximately 4,800 feet of fence and 1,400 feet of fence signage are used at Food Lion Speed Street presented by Coca-Cola.
Since its inception, over 345 drivers have made appearances at the event which is a precursor to the Coca-Cola 600 held at Charlotte Motor Speedway and a part of the “10 days of racing in May.”
More than 119 multi-talented, award-winning musicians have performed at the festival since its inception.
Approximately 80 percent of attendees are country music fans.
Coca-Cola, the event’s first-ever presenting sponsor this year, has had pouring rights for 19 years and served as a stage sponsor for 16.
In 2012, the event generated 18 tons of materials that were recycled with the help of the nonprofit organization, Hands On Charlotte.
Five miles of cable are used at Food Lion Speed Street presented by Coca-Cola.
Food Lion Speed Street presented by Coca-Cola, Food Lion Speed Street, Speed Street, Food Lion, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, racing, NASCAR, Hands on Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600, Charlotte Motor Speedway, 10 days of racing
JHE has had the honor of producing and promoting Food Lion Speed Street presented by Coca-Cola since 1996. The three-day festival delivers an unprecedented consumer experience offering live entertainment, access to racing’s brightest stars and interactive displays from sponsors including Food Lion, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet and many more.
Though the event has been in existence for the past 19 years, here are five things you might not know:
1. More than 119 multi-talented, award-winning musicians, such as Keith Urban, 3 Doors Down, Pat Benatar, 38 Special, Luke Bryan, Halestorm and many more, have appeared at the event over the past 18 years. This year’s headliners include Jon B, SWV, Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson, Sister Hazel and Survivor on the Coca-Cola stage.
2. In 2012, the event generated 18 tons of recyclable materials including cardboard, bottles, grease, cans and paper. Hands on Charlotte, a volunteer, non-profit organization, provided the manpower to fuel the on-site recycling efforts for Food Lion Speed Street.
3. Coca-Cola is the event’s longest running sponsor with a significant on-site presence since the festival’s inception in 1995, including pouring rights every year and serving as a stage sponsor for the past 16 years. The global leader in soft drinks and beverages will grow its presence this year, becoming the first-ever presenting sponsor of the event.
4. Approximately 4,800 feet of fence, 1,400 feet of fence signage and five miles of cable are used at the festival each year.
5. The consumer festival hosted a local contest this year and rewarded a Charlotte-based country band, Landon Parker, and a Concord-based rock band, Blu Avenue, a spot on the Coca-Cola stage to open for notable headliners. Landon Parker will perform Friday, May 24 at 6 p.m. and Blu Avenue will perform Saturday, May 25 at 5:30 p.m.
Be sure to stop by uptown Charlotte May 23-25 to experience the fun, free festival.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars battled it out for the fan-favorite Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 18. The race served as the kickoff to the “10 greatest days in racing” which also includes Food Lion Speed Street presented by Coca-Cola and the Coca-Cola 600.
For the past nine years, JHE has been in charge of the star-studded, rock show-style opening ceremony complete with video walls, pyrotechnics and live audio. This year, Sprint enlisted JHE to completely overhaul the show to feature the latest technology that wowed the NASCAR buffs.
The in-the-round stage featured nine video screens: one at the center of the stage and eight mobile video screens on either side of the stage that had digital content flowing from screen to screen. In the center of the stage, a 22-foot star displayed revolving custom content specific to each driver as they were introduced.
Drivers were hidden beneath the nine-foot tall stage and took the stage from behind the digital screen. As the drivers walked the stage, the pit crews pushed the team’s car down the front stretch where the driver joined them, granting fans front-row access to all NASCAR’s stars. Custom signage and Sprint branding abounded throughout the space.
While the technology was impressive, the biggest challenge was coordinating the logistics to make “the moment” come to life. The second biggest challenge was bringing it to life with only 10 minutes to set up the stage before coverage on SPEED went live and 10 minutes to break it back down and clear the track before the green flag dropped. Approximately 60-70 people from JHE, Digital Sound Systems, Total Event Productions and East Coast Pyrotechnics, were a part of making sure the opening ceremony went off without a hitch for the thousands of fans in the stands and the millions watching the show unfold on live primetime TV.
JHE was excited to bring Sprint’s newest vision to life at its home track.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Sprint, Sprint All-Star Race, Charlotte Motor Speedway, 10 greatest days in racing, Food Lion Speed Street presented by Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR, SPEED, FOX Sports, Digital Sound Systems, Total Event Productions, East Coast Pyrotechnics
Jacob Meadows, who holds an Associate of Science in recording arts degree, has seen his role at JHE change dramatically over the past seven years. The senior production manager has had a variety of jobs prior to joining JHE including a musician, a dishwasher and an audio expert at White Water Recording Studio.
Today, he has his hands in a mix of everything technical, including any LED video walls or control room installations. Overseeing the production department, the Florida-native works with a team of audio and video technicians on the Sprint Unlimited Experience Tour, Trackside Live and various other projects involving video components.
Q&A with Jacob:
What makes you good at your job: I have mild excessive compulsive disorder, and my job requires clean and precise wiring, diagrams and organization. Adding that with a passion for audio and video makes for a pretty buttoned up engineer.
Accomplishment at JHE you are most proud of: Designing the first rolling video screen for the NASCAR All-Star race. It is now a six year running tradition and a true technical feat.
Best part of working at JHE: The atmosphere. It is definitely not like working at IBM here. As long as you are doing what’s expected of you, this company is comfortable and forgiving to personal life which is fairly important to the traveling positions within JHE.
The most important lesson you’ve learned at JHE: Don’t eat the hotdogs at Martinsville Speedway.
The best career advice you ever received: Never avoid responsibility; success and failure contribute to experience equally.
Insider secret to your job: Trade shows, trade magazines and watching current productions. You HAVE to know the newest technology or you will behind in less than six months.
The best lesson from college that still applies to your job: You are never going to hear “thank you” for a job done well but you can be sure of a job done bad catching attention.
Biggest myth about your job: “That I don’t do anything.”
Ten Things About Jacob You May Not Know:
My runner-up career would be… a video game project engineer.
My family is… wild. My five year old son went white water rafting at four years old down the Nantahala River. We regularly go on outdoor adventures and get into adrenaline-based activities.
My typically Saturday is… cook breakfast, put a ham on the smoker, drink three pots of coffee, tend to my cayenne pepper garden, do some redundant landscaping, play some video games with my son and grill hamburgers, take the ham off the smoker and serve for dinner, watch a “Star Wars” movie with my son and then go to bed.
My favorite sport is… freestyle white water kayaking.
How I relax… on my couch or in a tent in the woods.
I don’t leave home without… cigarettes and black coffee.
My favorite vacation yet is… Cabo Engano and Dominican Republic (AMAZING SURFING!).
Product that should be invented… abattery heated coffee mug so your coffee never gets cold!
Favorite quote… “If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t there more happy teenagers?”
Anything else interesting people should know about you? I compete in freestyle kayak competitions. I have been to 10 countries outside the U.S. with my father. I love the outdoors. I have guided rafts, climbed mountains and hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail. I am the father to an amazing young man named Connor who is already smarter than me. I love hot peppers and grow over 20 different types in my garden each summer. I enjoy cooking and making beef jerky all year.
University of Wisconsin-River Falls grad, Julie Giese, has been working with JHE for the past nine years since joining Daytona International Speedway. The Wisconsin-native previously served as director of communications for Watkins Glen International and an account executive with Miller Meester Advertising.
The senior director of marketing at Daytona International Speedway, Julie is responsible for managing consumer marketing efforts and overseeing the Daytona brand. During event weekends, Julie and her team are responsible for opening ceremonies, Gatorade Victory Lane, social media and fan interaction, Sprint FANZONE programming, promotional execution and VIPs, among other things.
Q&A with Julie:
The best career advice you ever received: If you work hard, you can accomplish whatever you want.
Accomplishment you are most proud of: The 50th anniversary celebration that surrounded last year’s Rolex 24 weekend. From the kickoff party, to more than 50 past champions in attendance and almost 30 past champion race cars, it was an unbelievable experience. Coming in a close second is confirming the USAF Thunderbirds for the 2008 DAYTONA 500 flyover – and for multiple DAYTONA 500s since then.
Biggest myth about your job: I still get asked what we do when we aren’t hosting races and if my position is seasonal. We are busy 365 days a year, which is one of the things I like best about my job. Each day is always something different.
Best part of working with JHE: Peace of mind that the job is going to be flawlessly executed and that the JHE staff will always give it 200%.
What has most impressed you about JHE: The dedication and commitment by all JHE employees I have had the opportunity to interact with. Everyone truly cares about what they are working on.
Five things people may not know about you:
How I spend my Saturdays: When I’m not at the Speedway, I like to attend sporting events or spend time working in my yard.
Runner-up career: Some sort of career in agriculture (I grew up on a small family dairy farm in Colby, Wisconsin).
Favorite sport: Green Bay Packers football
Favorite vacation yet: Any trip back to Wisconsin to see my family.
“That’s music to my ears.” While, that’s not an expression you might expect to hear at a national sporting event, it’s becoming more common as event promoters across professional sports look to national recording artists to add excitement to the fan experience at their venues. Whether it’s the Super Bowl halftime show, opening ceremonies at the Olympics, or a pre-race concert at the Daytona 500, fans are being treated to live musical entertainment before, during, and after the main event.
Over the past 25 years, JHE has found itself in the middle of these event experiences. In 2012 alone, JHE produced more than 35 concerts, up from just five a decade ago. This year Lenny Kravitz, Kid Rock, Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum, and Train, to name a few, performed on a JHE stage. In addition to the numerous mobile concerts, JHE has produced Food Lion Speed Street for 18 years, a multi-day, multi-concert street festival in downtown Charlotte, N.C. In all, JHE works with more than 50 headliners a year.
“Due to the increased demand for live entertainment in sports, we’ve expanded our capabilities from being the event producer and subbing out all of the concert production to producing the event and handling all of the production work in-house,” explained Senior Production Coordinator Ryan Williams.
JHE’s concert capabilities are unique in that it produces concerts in venues designed for another type of activity, such as football stadiums, NASCAR tracks, and public streets.
“We’re able to adapt to each scenario,” Brad Smith said. “A lot of that is due to our front-end work, letting both the venue and the artist know exactly what they’re getting before they get to the event makes for an easier day.”
Williams noted that JHE owns equipment which enables them to produce concerts in non-traditional venues, often in a very tight time frame with only minutes to strike equipment and remove the stage from the venue. The JHE audio team have become experts, predicting how the music will sound at unique venues and what needs to be done to improve the quality.
“We are in our own touring world, what we do is completely different than how a concert tour operates,” Williams said.
The JHE production team handles many of the shows in-house, providing audio, lighting, and staging, while managing band contracts, catering and travel logistics.
“Sometimes venues will book acts themselves and we just manage the contracts and provide what is already negotiated between the venue and the artist,” Williams said. “With every event we produce it’s up to the client whether we produce the entire package or any portion they want done inside that package.”
Yet the key to JHE’s concert success is simple: fulfill the promises made to the artist and the customer so everyone is happy at the end of the day.
Making the difficult possible is a special talent JHE Production Group team members all possess, but it’s the culture that allows the company to exceed expectations when producing opening ceremonies for national sporting events.
Months of detailed planning coupled with a hard-working team that is always prepared for the unexpected is necessary when producing these extravaganzas. Senior Director of Events Matt Davis and Event Producer Brent Wilson work with track officials, NASCAR, television networks, local government agencies, the FAA and various vendors to make it all come together. It’s a task that begins rather simply with JHE and track officials exchanging ideas, and then grows to a magnificent race-day production.
“It all goes back to our company slogan, ‘Your Vision, Our Passion,’” said Davis, who noted that every JHE employee takes tremendous pride in their work. “Whatever the client wants, we work with whomever we have to, to make it happen. The show is never final until it’s over.”
And once it’s completed, the evidence of the months of planning all gets removed in exactly five minutes, the amount of time JHE has to clear the grid before the command is given for the drivers to start their engines.
A standard opening ceremony requires the event director, who runs the show from start to finish; the announcer manager, who coaches the announcer; two operations managers, who set and strike the stage before and after the show; two drivers, who are responsible for getting the stage to the location; two audio technicians, who manage all sound; and a JHE executive, who assists the event director and takes care of any day-of issues.
To make the shows possible, the team must begin planning a year in advance to brainstorm unique feats, secure talent, and obtain flyover approval. Davis and Wilson must work with the Pentagon to receive consent to execute a flyover at the race. Once the government officials have signed off, the team then must work with local military units to secure pilots and planes. Finally, they must coordinate with the military unit and local FAA officials for flyby holding patterns and direction of travel to ensure the planes appear over the track at the exact moment “home of the brave” is sung by the anthem singer.
On-site, the JHE team is in constant communication with each other in addition to the racetrack officials, NASCAR tower and officials, flyby ground FAC and any other entities that may be involved in the show, such as military, skydivers and bands. One of the biggest challenges is often communicating with so many people at once.
“We wear two radios during each pre-race show so at times we are listening to a conversation in each ear while someone standing in front of us is talking to us as well,” says Wilson. “While all these conversations are happening, we are also trying to move the show forward.”
Each show is a unique challenge but the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the largest productions, requiring eight months of planning for two hours of execution. Fort Bragg and the Marines bring up to 5,000 people for the event, which means coordinating everything with the military bases as well as the skydivers, anthem singers, and anyone else who will participate in the production. It is also the longest invocation and national anthem package, a five-minute ceremony that includes a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps” to honor our troops.
The weekend before Memorial Day’s Coca-Cola 600 presents a unique challenge for JHE as the Sprint All-Star Race opening ceremony is one of only two opening ceremonies to be broadcast live from start to finish. JHE’s team practices and rehearses a number of times leading up to the race to ensure the nationally televised show is produced on-time and, almost as importantly, the eight piece stage, live bands, and hundreds of fans, are off the track for the green flag. Adding in the element of live TV is always a challenge because things often happen out of JHE’s control, including drivers and dignitaries not showing up on time.
“Entertaining the fans, keeping everything on time and hitting your marks are definitely good measures of success,” Wilson said. “For a good opening ceremony, everything has to flow. The last thing you want is an uncomfortable silence. We also do some things to make the load out quicker at certain times. To us, if we’re under the radar, behind the scenes, it means everything went correctly.”
Of course, JHE must always be ready for the unexpected. Such was the case at Daytona in July 2012. JHE was scheduled to set up the stage for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup event on Friday evening after the Nationwide race’s conclusion. However, a multi-car wreck on the final lap required a three-hour cleanup. The 20 people needed for the JHE job were told to go home for a good night’s rest and report for duty at 8 a.m. the next day. Preparing for that night’s pre-race activities took an entire day, including hanging signage, inflatable set ups, sound checks and meetings with track officials.
“Sometimes when we get a new client they have the opinion that all we do is park a stage,” Wilson said. “They don’t realize everything else we do at a race to make it seem so seamless. When they realize how much we do and how our help makes their weekend easier, that’s when they say, “This is awesome!’”
West Virginia native Matt Davis has always had a passion for sports. The Marshall University graduate majored in sports marketing and management and received a master’s degree in athletic administration. Following graduation, Davis worked in the athletic facilities and operations department at both Marshall University and the University of Central Florida.
Since joining JHE six years ago, he has worked in the mobile touring, operations and event production departments, learning new skills and methods along the way. Currently serving as the senior director of events, Davis oversees the live entertainment department, including the fleet department execution of flybys, and the highly-anticipated Fanfest in Las Vegas.
Q: What is your role at JHE?
To help JHE’s event directors produce the best opening ceremonies and events possible for our clients. I also oversee the fleet department which means I try to provide them with as much support as I can without getting in the way.
Q: What’s been your proudest moment at JHE?
Nailing the flyover at my first event (the Thunderbirds at Las Vegas Motor Speedway). It all comes down to the flyover!
Q: What makes you good at your job?
My go with the flow mentality keeps me from panicking during events. Working in athletics most of my career is a great background in working under real-time pressure, which we do as event directors every weekend.
Q: What is the hardest part of executing Fanfest?
Fanfest is a chance for the fans to see the drivers. Our perfectionist mentality makes us want the show to be flawless and run smoothly. However, at the end of the day, as long as the fans get to see their favorite drivers and have a laugh or two with them then everyone goes home happy.
Q: What’s your favorite sport?
Q: What’s your favorite quote?
“Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘What a ride!’” – author unknown
Q: Anything else people should know about you?
I like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain… really I do.
Since JHE’s inception, the 25-year-old business has executed more than 1000 flyovers at opening ceremonies nationwide.
What seems like a seemingly simple moment to a fan is actually a challenging difficult task with little room for error. However, the JHE team has perfected the operation by developing a “cheat sheet:” mathematically-based matrix to determine the exact fly-by time. With this information, the JHE live entertainment team is able to time the pilots’ arrival to directly coincide with the singer as they hit the “home of the brave” lyric.
There are always uncontrollable factors, like the weather, radio interference or a singer who isn’t following the schedule, but JHE always has a plan B so that attendees never know that there was a snag in the flyover.
To recognize the pilots who accurately complete a fly-by appearance, JHE president Jay Howard created the “Home of the Brave” club. Each member receives a “Time Over Target, Home of the Brave” commemorative coin to remind the pilot of a precise performance.
“If the pilots walk out with one of these coins, everyone has had a good day,” says Howard. “And we’ve given out a lot of those coins.”
From race tracks to bulls to the Belk Bowl … JHE Production Group is determined to close out a busy 2012 on a high note. To the 80-person small business, being selected to produce the 2012 Official Belk Bowl FanFest is an exciting new opportunity.
The Belk Bowl FanFest is a fan-favorite, pre-game festival taking place Thursday, December 27 from 2 p.m. to approximately 5:30 p.m. outside of Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. The annual festival will provide game attendees and locals a variety of family fun, food and entertainment including live music, interactive games, face painting, official Belk Bowl merchandise, cheerleaders and marching bands. In addition, Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music “Vocal Group of the Year”, Lady Antebellum, was announced as the featured act at the 2012 Belk Bowl FanFest. Lady Antebellum is scheduled to perform at 4:30 p.m.
Working closely with the Charlotte Collegiate Football group, a non-profit organization that runs the Belk Bowl, JHE will be responsible for the event experience which includes overall production of the Belk Bowl FanFest, site design, experiential activation, live entertainment production, infrastructure, audio engineering, lighting and run of show. For the long-time producer of the 18-year-old festival, Food Lion Speed Street, this opportunity aligns perfectly with JHE’s expertise.
The 2012 Belk Bowlwill take place following the FanFest at 6:30 p.m. ET and will be televised nationally on ESPN. The 11th annual Belk Bowl features a matchup of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East Conference.
JHE earned the opportunity to produce CarolinaFest 2012 during the 2012 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte.
On Labor Day, September 3, American families gathered to celebrate the DNC week of activities at CarolinaFest 2012. The free event featured interactive expositions, family-oriented activities, live music and speakers. Guests enjoyed the best of the Carolinas’ food and culture, excellent entertainment, and the rare opportunity to witness history in the making.
Image courtesy of The Charlotte Observer
“Thanks to the JHE Production Group, CarolinaFest was a huge success,” said Dockery Clark, Charlotte 2012 Democratic National Convention Chief of Staff. “JHE was able to effective and efficiently execute a festival far beyond our expectations; the perfect way to kick-off the Democratic National Convention and welcome thousands of visitors and locals alike to Charlotte.”
Image courtesy of The Charlotte Observer
JHE, long-time producer of the 18-year-old Food Lion Speed Street, earned the role of event producer for CarolinaFest which included production of several feature concerts, speaker opportunities and more. The scope of work mirrored that of Food Lion Speed Street by working closely with police and city officials, vendor placement, overall event layout, opening and closing ceremonies, food vendors, equipment and more.
Almost two years ago, JHE took its first steps into the college football arena by supporting Appalachian State University with several live entertainment and concert needs.
Kicking off the relationship in style, JHE produced an outdoor concert with country music star Dierks Bentley at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C.
Since that time, two concerts have been completed per year. JHE delivers two style shows, one a more traditional setup with JHE’s SL-250 mobile stage and a second, slightly unconventional setup.
The traditional stage is set up the day prior with the band set up taking place the day of the show. Then of course, JHE provides the audio infrastructure, lighting and more to deliver an exceptional show.
The second format can be a bit more challenging. As part of the football team’s pre-season scrimmage, there is a game on the football field immediately prior to the musical performance.
To aid in a quick load-in time and ensure everything is setup properly, JHE delivers the stage the day prior to the game, allows the band to do a sound check the morning of the game and then removes the stage and supporting items from the stadium. Immediately following the game, the stage and all equipment are moved back onto the field, reconnect all the equipment and kick off the musical performance.
The team has helped to entertain thousands of “Mountaineers” and the local community with performances by Credence Clearwater Revisited, Lee Brice, NeedtoBreathe and more.
In addition, JHE manages the procurement of music performers for the university’s “Black and Gold” game and its “Fan Fest” activities.
Following a recent event, Appalachian State’s associate athletic director, Troy Heustess, stated, “JHE made our event this weekend. Please know how much we appreciate your team and all of their hard work. Not only do they know what they are doing, but they are very pleasant and easy to get along with. Your folks are as down to earth as they are professional.”
Calling all car enthusiasts! The Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance is the first event of its kind at the world-renowned Pinehurst Resort and Golf Course. On May 5, 2013, the inaugural Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance will feature more than 150 of the most historic automobiles and motorcycles from around the world, including historically significant military vehicles.
Four days of events are planned for the Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance starting on Thursday, May 2 with an Aerodrome Party at nearby Moore County Regional Airport. On Friday, May 3, many of the concours-participating vehicles will take part in a road rally from Pinehurst to Fort Bragg. A collector car auction will be held on Saturday, May 4, as well as a “Heroes” Gala event that evening at Pinehurst Resort.
Plans are currently being made between the Commands at Fort Bragg and the Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance to involve the base and military members throughout the four-day event. Tentatively, these plans may include a road rally to the base, an insider’s view of Airborne and Special Operations Forces, and interaction between the Concours entrants, attendees, soldiers and their families, all geared to create memorable experiences that will last a lifetime.
JHE will serve as the official Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance event production company. Jay Howard, president and founder of JHE, also is on the Concours advisory board as a large-scale event expert.
JHE is proud to be associated with this event and an integral part of executing a world-class experience. For more information, visit www.pinehurstconcours.com.
Versatile, energetic, creative, innovative … these characteristics describe JHE Production Group, which on a daily basis transforms an ordinary event into something extraordinary and unique. Food Lion Speed Street is one of the events that exemplify JHE’s diversified talents.
JHE is often asked to dream up extravagant productions and festivals, including designing stages and sets, hiring crews to staff events, sponsorship sales, booking entertainment, and handling set-up and tear-down of events.
Debuting in 1995, the three-day festival now known as Food Lion Speed Street was designed to provide race fans with additional activities to enjoy during Coca-Cola 600 weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. As a free event in Charlotte, N.C., the festival offers live entertainment, fan access to NASCAR’s stars, and vendor displays from sponsors. Concerts with top entertainers, activities that involve drivers and consumer events conducted by corporations headline the festival.
Since 1996, JHE has promoted and produced the festival and in 1997 Food Lion became its title sponsor. In the 17 years since taking control of the event, JHE has introduced more national entertainers, diversified the music genre, added new sponsors annually and kept the activities fresh in order to appeal to several generations and interests. JHE has transformed the festival into a consumer-focused event that provides fans with a glimpse into NASCAR while enjoying free music and the opportunity to interact with sponsors and consumer brands.
Food Lion Speed Street highlights since JHE assumed its current role include:
1999 - Montgomery Gentry and Kool & The Gang headline the concerts.
2000 - A promotion known as Food Lion RaceFan Challenge is hosted by nationally known talk show host Regis Philbin.
2001 - The SPEED channel moves its show “Trackside Live” from Charlotte Motor Speedway to the festival.
2002 - Entertainers include George Jones, Keith Urban, .38 Special, Pat Green and Better Than Ezra.
2005 - “American Idol” finalists and show host Ryan Seacrest appear at the Coca-Cola Stage.
2007 - The American Strong Man Competition and 14 bands, including Diamond Rio, Joe Nichols and Sara Evans with the Wreckers entertain festival attendees.
2008 - Travis Tritt, Albemarle, N.C.-native Kellie Pickler and Jagged Edge are among the musicians who perform.
With a constant evolution of new ideas, JHE has turned Food Lion Speed Street into the largest motorsports-themed, consumer festival in the nation. In May 2011, JHE delivered an unprecedented experience to 400,000 people via live entertainment, racing’s stars and vendor displays from such corporations as Food Lion, Coca-Cola, Miller Lite and Chevrolet. Of those who attended the festival, more than 65 percent were NASCAR fans with 38 percent coming from outside the Charlotte region.
Entertainers in 2011 included Clay Walker, Josh Turner, Eddie Money, Everclear and Rose Royce. Drivers from various racing series made more than 75 appearances. In addition, there were 37 interactive displays and fans were treated to an estimated 2,250,000 giveaways during the three-day festival. Opening ceremonies included a parade through downtown Charlotte featuring grand marshal Bobby Allison, a NASCAR Hall of Fame member, and the star of Disney*Pixar’s movie “Cars 2”, as Lightning McQueen.
In addition to being a family-friendly event, Food Lion Speed Street also features four of the five longest-running sponsorships in the Charlotte region. Coca-Cola maintains the top spot with ownership of the Coca-Cola 600 followed by its involvement with Food Lion Speed Street starting in 1995. Miller Lite also joined the 18-year-old festival in 1995 with Chevrolet and Food Lion joining in 1996. Additional sponsor activities provided fans with the opportunity to test drive their favorite Chevrolet, cooking demonstrations, a Kids Zone presented by General Mills and a barbecue competition.
On March 31, 2012, veterans who proudly served their country during the Vietnam conflict were honored for their service at the Vietnam Veterans Homecoming Celebration at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Because of its history of producing elaborate celebrations, JHE Production Group was approached by the USO of North Carolina to help with this important one-day celebration for those veterans who never received a homecoming many years ago.
With very little time to prepare, JHE employees began organizing the event which featured live entertainment, displays and demonstrations, military salutes and much more.
While JHE is accustomed to setting up stages and festivals several times throughout the year, they are not use to an early start time for these events. Therefore, presented with the obstacle of an early festival start time, the team spent two days before the event preparing stages, coordinating sound checks and arranging the production for the day.
Dodging rain and other weather conditions, JHE employees were able to complete set up of two stages, as well as audio and video displays for the event, which featured parachute jumpers, a color guard band, veterans’ groups and a replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.
Tasked with providing a seamless transition between bands, JHE set up two 32-by-24 foot stages side-by-side complete with full audio programming and backline services for the bands, and coordinated the stage rotation throughout the day.
Entertainment for the event included The Charlie Daniels Band, George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelics, and country singer Rockie Lynne. The 82nd Airborne Division “All American” Chorus, stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., comprised of paratroopers from every brigade in the 82nd Airborne Division preformed, as well as the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C. JHE also coordinated the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute demonstration and the U.S. Air Force flyover.
In addition to the live entertainment, full production management, stage build, stage banners, audio, light, and visual, JHE also was tasked with accommodating assorted dignitaries throughout the day.
For 25 years, one of JHE’s many specialties has been producing opening ceremonies at racing facilities throughout the country. More than 70 opening ceremonies are organized and executed each year.
While each ceremony is unique in its own right, the Daytona 500 always warrants a little extra “oomph.” In the last two years, JHE has produced an average of 10 opening ceremonies including the Daytona 500.
During Daytona Speedweeks, the two weeks preceding the Daytona 500, it’s an all hands on deck effort for the JHE live entertainment team, requiring more than two dozen employees.
The Daytona 500 is a large production all in itself. It required JHE to coordinate and produce more than three hours of pre-race entertainment. During the event, more than 400 feet of pit road was consumed with nine staging structures including a 150-foot driver introduction pier.
In 2011, JHE proudly produced country music star, Brad Paisley’s concert; the Laura Bell Bundy concert that aired on FOX; directed and sourced four video screens on stage during the FOX televised concert; and delivered fans with an on-time flyover by the USAF Thunderbirds.
Following the precedent set in 2011, JHE played host to one of the preeminent musicians of our time, four-time Grammy Award winning artist, Lenny Kravitz in 2012. Kravitz performed a pre-race concert which aired on national TV with JHE producing and mixing his performance. For the Kravitz concert, JHE also introduced a new lighting system that was programmed to correspond to the music.
In addition, the always-magical flyover featuring the USAF Thunderbirds was orchestrated by JHE.
Demonstrating JHE’s ability to execute large-scale ceremonies, the Daytona 500 has been a premier feature of the event experience company’s flawless delivery and capabilities for 12 years now.
Over the course of 25 years, JHE Production Group has organized several concerts at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In 2009, JHE was approached by president of the speedway, Marcus Smith, and event promoter, Gary Bowman, to plan and produce a concert for the Oct. 17, 2009, NASCAR Banking 500 from Bank of America.
The objective was to provide a family-friendly concert to fans in the Speedway’s infield prior to the race.
JHE is often asked to dream up extravagant productions, including designing stages and sets, hiring crews to staff events, booking entertainment, and handling set-up and tear-down. The October 2009 event was no exception.
With just over a month to prepare, JHE was asked to produce “Faith and Family Day” at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Held before the race, the concert included four Christian rock bands on one stage over a three-hour period performing for 100,000 to 200,000 ticket-holding fans. Positioned between turns three and four, JHE built a 48- by 32-foot stage, complete with audio and lighting for all four bands.
Although there was a noise ordinance for the track, JHE was able to build the stage, set up barriers for the event, and provide on-site rehearsals for all four bands in the eight hours before the performances began. Each band played a 20-minute set before taking a 10-minute break so the crew could prepare for the next act.
As with most events, JHE provided complete production management for the concert, including stage build, stage barriers, audio production, lighting production, visual production, and execution of the programming of the stage throughout the day, as well as technical staff standing by to implement a backup plan in the event of any system component failure. In addition, JHE also provided ground transportation for the artists upon arrival in the Charlotte area.