Friday, September 22, 2023

Dale Sprague: Branding man

Branding/design specialist Dale Sprague receives TEA distinguished service honors

interview by Shannon Martin, with assistance from Ann Sprague

Always the humble guy, Dale Sprague, President of Las Vegas-based Canyon Creative, was stunned and honored to be chosen by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) to receive the 2021 TEA Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award. The accolade honors exceptional service to the organization, above and beyond the norm. The news came during the 27th annual TEA Thea Awards announcements which showcase the best in the industry. The award is named in remembrance of the late Peter Chernack, a TEA founding member and past president.

Dale Sprague’s long-time friend and colleague, Shannon Martin of Color Reflections, asked Dale about memorable moments in the industry, rebranding the TEA, Las Vegas behind-the-scenes and more. Shannon is currently a TEA International Board Vice President.

Shannon: Let’s talk about your decades of volunteer work with the TEA. Your company, Canyon Creative, is a corporate sponsor year after year. You were on the International Board for six years; interfaced with TEA Headquarters, TEA Divisions, Committees and the membership. You participated in Strategic Planning Meetings, the Thea Awards Gala and were in attendance for many IAAPA Expos in Orlando. You chaired the TEA Marketing & Communications Committee for many years. You are an amazing creative and strategic resource for the association.

Shannon Martin, Dale Sprague, Dave Martin. Photo courtesy of Shannon Martin

Dale: We’ve worked on many projects, too. Rebranding the TEA, the creation of a system of digital and print assets, logos, corporate identity, marketing and advertising, meeting and trade show graphics, project management for the website, awards programs, signage, email campaigns, social media, a style guide and Google Analytics. But I couldn’t do it without my team. Canyon Creative is a brand strategy and design company populated by people who have been together for years. We’re like a well-oiled machine.

Shannon: You and Canyon Creative are responsible for strengthening the TEA brand around the world and helping the organization to gain momentum on a global scale. How did the TEA rebranding come about?

Dale: Monty Lunde [TEA founder] and Peter Chernack approached me and asked if I wanted to take on the project. Within a week, I had a vision of what I thought it should be. Our team sketched out ideas, devised color palettes and a brand hierarchy, and came up with rationale for the entire branding design and system. The idea was to develop a consistent brand that we could use universally, one that could easily be adapted around the world, and provide a nod to what had come before. One of my favorite memories is of presenting the concepts at the TEA Strategic Planning Meeting in Savannah, GA.

Shannon: I remember that! The room lit up. You got unanimous approval.

Dale: Yeah. That was pretty amazing.

Shannon: I always attribute joining the Themed Entertainment Association to you. You would say, “There’s this great organization….” Finally, I listened. Four or five months later, I was appointed to the Western Division Board. Now, after 10+ years, I’m on the International Board.

Dale: I admire your passion and how you go about everything you do with such zeal. As they say, you’re a “people person.” I knew there were tremendous opportunities for you personally and professionally. I was right.

Dale presents at the 2016 TEA International Board Strategic Planning Meeting. Photo courtesy of TEA

Shannon: What are some of your favorite memories of the themed entertainment industry?

Dale: Anytime and anywhere we all gather. I love the energy. Seeing what’s new, discovering what people are doing. It’s inspiring to see new ideas and technologies. One memory that sticks out is getting a tour of the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco from Diane Disney Miller and her husband Ron Miller. Icons of the industry, yet so down-to-earth. Another, embarrassing and funny memory took place during the Thea Awards Gala a few years ago. My wife/business partner and I had great seats at the round tables spread out throughout the vast ballroom in the Disneyland Hotel. We had a bird’s-eye-view of all the movers and shakers. Next to us was a sweet, elderly couple. They were very engaging. We shared first names (Jack and Isabelle) and chatted away like old friends. The lights dimmed and the program began. Sometime during the festivities, it was announced that the first president of Disneyland was going to speak. Up from the table popped JACK Lindquist.

Shannon: Let’s talk Vegas, baby! The entertainment capital of the world.

Dale: Home, sweet home. Las Vegas has such a diversity of built locations within the city boundaries. COVID hit us hard, but we are a resilient bunch. Some of the new and notable projects are Allegiant Stadium, Circa Resort & Casino at the Fremont Street Experience, Resorts World on the Strip, Elon Musk’s futuristic people mover, Area15 with an immersive playground of art/commerce/food/nightlife combined with an interactive art installation from Meow Wolf, and the transformation of the Hard Rock into Virgin Resort. Also in the works, by the same company that runs Madison Square Garden, is a 500-foot-wide by 360-foot-high concert sphere.

Shannon: That gives me so many ideas for behind-the scenes tours and events we can plan when we hold the TEA SATE (Story + Architecture + Technology = Experience) Conference in Las Vegas at the University of Nevada (UNLV). We’re in the planning stages now.

Dale: It’s always great to go behind the scenes with creatives and colleagues, see things from an industry viewpoint, and the TEA community helps create more of those opportunities. I visited the LINQ High Roller – the world’s highest observation wheel – with attraction designer Phil Hettema of The Hettema Group and writer/editor Judith Rubin [a chronicler of the industry who has also been honored for her TEA service]. It was also fascinating to go backstage with Cirque de Soleil’s KÀ and the watery wonderland that was Wynn Las Vegas’ Le Rêve – The Dream (now permanently closed). The uber-hip Hakkasan Nightclub at MGM blew me away by its sheer size and what it takes to run smoothly.

Shannon: What does receiving the TEA Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award mean to you?

Dale: Peter was a true friend. He was the kind of person who always asked how and what you were doing. It was never about him. Peter listened intently, was always encouraging and had a great sense of humor. I miss him. Getting this award truly means the world to me, especially because it’s in honor of this great man and icon in the themed entertainment industry. • • •

For more information, contact
Dale Sprague, President, Canyon Creative.

Shannon Martin is Director of Business Development for Color Reflections Las Vegas, a large format digital printing company, as well as Vice President of the International Board for the Themed Entertainment Association.

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