Friday, July 25, 2014

Unique "OkTEAberfest" gathering in Cincinnati Sept 19-20 reflects growth of TEA Eastern Division

Don't miss "OkTEAberfest" Sept 19-20 in Cincinnati! Details here.

At TEA, East meets Midwest
by Clara Rice

Clara Rice
One day, perhaps there will be a separate Midwestern North America Division of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). At present, the Midwest region is rolled into TEA's Eastern Division, and Eastern Board President, Traci Klainer Polimeni of Luce Group, has been energetically expanding activities across this region, as shown by the events of the past few months.

“One of the main goals of the Eastern Board this year has been to
Traci Klainer Polimeni
grow membership in and outside of Orlando, and the Midwest has been a huge part of this,” said Klainer Polimeni, who is based in New York City. “We have accomplished so much this year already with inaugural events in Chicago and St. Louis, as well as through our planning of our October event in Cincinnati. I have no doubt that TEA's presence in the Midwest will only grow, and our Board looks forward to engaging more Midwestern companies and projects in years to come.” 

When I first moved to Cincinnati from the East Coast, a common refrain I heard was, “Why?” To many on the US seaboards and around the world, the US Midwest is considered “flyover country” - some kind of cultural wasteland. That perception is very much at odds with reality. The Midwest is rich with great cultural institutions, visitor attractions and architecture. It's also rich with industry talent - people and companies in the business of creating compelling entertainment and cultural experiences.

David Aion

There are a multitude of creative minds and dynamic companies between the Appalachians and the Rockies, and the TEA Eastern Board is striving to connect these companies with TEA’s multitude of member benefits.

According to TEA Membership Chair David Aion, who is based in Saint Louis, there are currently 72 numbers in the Midwest (roughly defined as Ohio to Colorado). When I asked David why TEA is (and should) target more companies in the Midwest, he confirmed what I believed – that what these companies need most is access to their coastal counterparts. “TEA’s involvement is important to Midwest companies because they do not usually have direct and continued access to the large markets,” he said. “TEA provides that access.”

Image source: The Corner Side Yard

For that reason, the Eastern Division Board made it a priority this year to branch westward, diversifying its ranks to include more Midwesterners and hosting events all the way to the Mississippi River. Of the current Board slate, three (including yours truly) are from Midwestern companies, and our 2014 calendar of events has offered a rich menu of diverse Midwestern experiences.

Chicago - MSI
Our 2014 adventures in the Midwest began at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago, Illinois. Though initially delayed by “polar vortex” weather, MSI hosted a successful event that provided a behind-
John Beckman
the-scenes viewing of the restoration of Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle and a private experience in its newest exhibit, Future Energy Chicago. According to John Beckman, Director of Exhibit Design and Development at MSI, a group of about 40 went through the experience together. In good TEA fashion, the group enjoyed food and drinks before and after. MSI made the event open to non-members and specifically invited members of CMEG (Chicago Museum Exhibitors Group) to attend.

Saint Louis - Cardinals HOF
At a TEA event July 24 in Saint Louis, Missouri, members and non-members alike were able to experience the newly-completed Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, conceived and designed by TEA member company, PGAV Destinations. Guests were treated to a private tour and behind-the-scenes adventure, experiencing one of the greatest club collections in all of Major League Baseball. According to PGAV, “the galleries are designed to be immersive, time-traveling experiences, integrating the artifacts with touchscreen technology and other media within beautiful, immersive environments.” Each gallery evokes a different period in Cardinals history, but all operate with the goal of welcoming the guest into the Cardinals Nation. Again, this being a TEA event, guests were able to engage in libations, networking, and a Q&A with the museum’s designers.

Cincinnati - OkTEAberfest!
This September 19th and 20th, oompah bands will sound, bratwursts will be served, and superhero cosplayers will unite during what could be one of the oddest mash-ups in Cincinnati history. During OkTEAberfest, TEA members will have an opportunity to experience not only the nation’s largest Oktoberfest but also the fastest growing Comic Expo in the Midwest.

Guests will begin their two-day adventure with the 8th Annual Running of the Wieners, in which daring dachshunds race across Cincinnati’s Fountain Square, bound for treats and glory. Visitors will round out their first day in the Queen City with a tour of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a panel discussion on cultural storytelling, a wine reception and an informal group dinner.

Saturday, TEA takes the stage at the Comic Expo for “The Themed Entertainment Association Presents – From Page to Park: Transforming Comic Characters Into Blockbuster Attractions.” After enjoying the Expo (which will feature such legends as John Rhys-Davies, Lou Ferrigno, Henry Winkler and Paul McGann), visitors will be led on a tour of Cincinnati’s historic breweries, brothels and bootlegging sites. The weekend will wrap up in grand style, with a VIP Oktoberfest reception with a prime viewpoint of the World’s Largest Chicken Dance! The host hotel for the weekend’s festivities, the Hilton Netherland Plaza, is an art deco treasure that was recently featured in National Geographic Traveler’s glowing review of Cincinnati. I look forward to TEA members visiting my hometown, and I hope they fall in love with this city as much as I have!

Image source: The Lonely Planet
Sign up now!
Tickets for OkTEAberfest are available via this Eventbrite link. The discounted rate of $80 is available until August 15 and then increases to $100. A group rate at the Hilton Netherland Plaza is available until August 20 – hotel rooms during Oktoberfest are scarce, so book early! Special speaking opportunities are available for sponsors. For more information, email Clara Rice at Schedule is subject to change.

Clara Rice is director of digital engagement of media relations for Jack Rouse Associates, based in Cincinnati. She sits on the TEA Eastern Division Board, and also chairs the TEA NextGen Committee.