IAAPA 2018: Prestigious awards honour operators and individuals
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IAAPA 2018: Prestigious awards honour operators and individuals

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A number of operators, individuals and attractions across the industry were recognised for excellence this month, with a number of prestigious awards handed out during the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando, Florida.

Applause Award

Kicking off the week, during the event's opening ceremony, Mexican cultural theme Xcaret picked up the 2018 Applause Award.

Joining a prestigious list most recently featuring Busch Gardens, Puy du Fou and Ocean Park, the biannual award honours a park whose management, operations and creative accomplishments have inspired the industry with foresight, originality and sound business development.

Located in the Riviera Maya. the ecotourism development offers more than 50 natural attractions, such as snorkelling and cave exploration, while also highlighting Mexico's cultural heritage.

“With an original and creative vision, Xcaret has created one of the most unique and authentic park destinations in the world," said Andreas Andersen, president and CEO of Liseberg and chair of the Applause Award Board of Governors.

"The park is balancing world-class experiences, based on native culture and natural attractions, with sustainable operations and a strong commitment to the local community."

Service Awards

Also during the opening ceremony, Julio Vanegas, Jim Futrell, Bob Williams and Al Weber Jr, were all honoured with IAAPA's Service Award, which recognises outstanding contributions to the global attractions industry.

Vanegas, founder and general manager of Carruseles S.A. in Bogotá, Colombia, was recognised for his 25 years of service to both IAAPA and the wider attractions industry.

Futrell, chief historian and director at the National Amusement Park Historical Association, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was presented with a Service Award in recognition of his work to foster the spirit of goodwill, professionalism, and higher levels of performance within the industry.

The Meritorious Service Award went to Williams, general manager of Calaway Park in Calgary, Canada. The award recognises a member individual's service to advancing IAAPA’s mission by promoting safe operations, global development, professional growth, and the commercial success of the amusement parks and attractions industry, something Williams has done for more than 25 years.

Finally, Al Weber Jr, who was set to lead IAAPA as its chair in 2019 before his death in 2016, was recognised as a visionary in the global attractions industry, being awarded the IAAPA Board of Directors Special Service Award.

Brass Ring Awards

The annual Brass Ring Awards were also handed out at the expo, with a number of companies recognised for their achievements in excellence across different parts of the industry.

For Live Entertainment Excellence, Disney Cruise's Beauty and the Beast show won the Brass Ring for Best Theatrical Production.

At Hersheypark, The Enchanted Journey was named the Most Creative Christmas Show, while the best at Halloween went to Hell's Grand Finale at Ocean Park in Hong Kong.

SeaWorld San Diego picked up multiple Brass Ring Awards, with the Sesame Street Party Parade winning the Best Atmosphere/Street Show Performance/Act category; its Pet's Rule event named Most Creative Show Featuring Animals, and Cirque Electrique awarded the title of Most Creative Sports/Stunt Show.

Human resource excellence was also recognised, with Brass Rings for employee engagement awarded to Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, Canada, and for Mexico's Grupo Dolphin Discovery. For Best Innovation in a Training Programme, Skånes Djurpark Resort in Sweden picked up the Brass Ring, with the park also winning the category of Best Employee Reward and Recognition Programme.

Individuals were also acknowledged in the awards. Sabrina Marlene of Busch Gardens in Williamsburg was named Best Performer, while the Spirit Award, which goes to the most outstanding person working behind-the-scenes to support an attraction went to Europa Park's Ulrich Grawunder.

Full list of Brass Ring winners here

TEA Thea Awards

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) announced the winners of its annual Thea awards during the IAAPA show, with Dollywood taking home the Thea Classic Award, while the prestigious Buzz Price Thea Lifetime Award was awarded to Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative and vice chair of Universal Parks and Resorts.

The Bjarke Ingels-designed Lego House in Billund, Denmark, picked up the award for best Brand Centre, while Universal's Volcano Bay was named the best Water Theme Park.

At Six Flags Magic Mountain, Justice League: Battle for Metropolis was named best attraction, with Fantawild in Xiamen, China, chosen as best theme park.

The awards will be formally presented in Anaheim, California, next April at the 25th annual TEA Thea Awards Gala, taking place during the annual TEA Summit conference, which devotes much of its two days of sessions to exploring the Thea Awards recipients.

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A number of operators, individuals and attractions across the industry were recognised for excellence this month, with a number of prestigious awards handed out during the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando, Florida.
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