Wednesday, November 29, 2023

IAAPA announces its 2022 Service Award winners

IAAPA annually recognizes significant achievement in the global attractions industry with the IAAPA Service Awards and the IAAPA Young Professional of the Year Award. With a devotion and dedication to the global attractions industry, the following individuals have been selected to honor the work they have done to put the Association’s success above all others and what they have done to enrich and enable our community and its members to reach their fullest potential.

The Lifetime Service Award recognizes individuals who have served IAAPA and the industry for over 20 years. These individuals have held numerous volunteer positions with both IAAPA and other nonprofit organizations, have served as a leader and visionary, have provided guidance and support to others, and are passionate attraction professionals.

The Meritorious Service Award recognizes dedicated IAAPA volunteers. IAAPA would not exist without its devoted members. Winners of this award give their time and expertise to fellow IAAPA members. Past winners have typically held more than one volunteer position with IAAPA such as show ambassador, committee member/chair, presenter at events or webinars, authored articles/books and more. Past winners have also held volunteer positions with other nonprofit organizations. Recipients have coached and encouraged others to improve the industry through volunteerism. They drive the success of IAAPA’s programs and initiatives.

The Outstanding Service Award recognizes service to the attractions industry. Winners of this award are considered subject matter experts, your “go-to” person when you need answers, leaders who elevate and mentor others, dedicated to the attractions profession, and committed to positive change to improve industry standards.

IAAPA Lifetime Service Award: Franceen Gonzales

An IAAPA member for nearly 40 years, Franceen Gonzales is the chief experience officer for WhiteWater, which has helped develop waterparks since the very start of the industry 40 years ago. She has served as an IAAPA Board Member from 2011-2013 and again from 2019-2022. She was the elected Chair of IAAPA’s Global Manufacturers & Suppliers Committee from 2019‐2022, a committee she has served on since 2015.

She is a subject matter expert for Funworld Magazine, the official publication for IAAPA, and is often an authority for media inquiries regarding regulatory and safety issues around the world. Franceen is an advisor and representative of industry to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in response to the Virginia Graeme Baker Act. She was selected in 2020 to be the first woman to be appointed as the Chairperson of ASTM’s F24 committee – Amusement Rides and Devices.

IAAPA Meritorious Service Award: Phil Wilson

An active IAAPA member, Phil Wilson is the chief development officer for Extreme Engineering. He has served on a dozen IAAPA committees and even supported the beginning of new ones to meet rising industry needs. He spent the better part of eight years on the Space Allocation Committee strategically supporting over 1,100 exhibitors worldwide in securing their booth location during IAAPA Expo in Orlando.

He has also served on the Membership Committee, North America Advisory Committee, M&S Global Committee, Investment Committee, and the IAAPA Board of Directors.

IAAPA Outstanding Service Award: Ryan Stana

A member of IAAPA since 2006, Ryan Stana, the chief executive officer of the RWS Entertainment Group, joined IAAPA’s Entertainment Committee in 2007, serving for more than 10 years and launching the IAAPA Brass Ring Spirit Award in 2006. RWS continues to fund this annual award recognizing amusement industry professionals that work behind the scenes to deliver outstanding entertainment.

He shares his expertise throughout the industry by participating in Funworld articles, speaking at the IAAPA EXPO, participating in IAAPA programming, and helping to connect the amusement industry to the cruise industry by connecting IAAPA and Seatrade Cruise Global, where he serves as the organization’s Entertainment Ambassador.

InPark Guest Contributor Wendy Grant learned more about the future of Stana’s RWS Entertainment Group as it leans upon its past success in entertainment and its recent acquisitions of JRA and ted.

IAAPA Young Professional of the Year: Josh Liebman

The future of our industry depends on the leadership, integrity and teamwork of the generations that follow. The IAAPA Young Professional of the Year Award honors those rising stars who embrace and exemplify the qualities of the amusement park and attractions industry and the mission of IAAPA as a whole.

Josh Liebman began his career in the attractions industry as a ride operator at Cedar Point when he was 18 years old. Since then, Liebman has worked for some of the top attraction operators in the world, including Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and Merlin Entertainments. Josh has been a part of the leadership teams of the opening of multiple parks, including Hard Rock Park and LEGOLAND Florida.

He has been involved with IAAPA since his junior year of college, where he served as a show ambassador 15 years ago. Since then, he has attended every IAAPA Expo as either a student, attendee or exhibitor. Liebman has led education sessions at numerous IAAPA events across the globe for several years, including expos, virtual conferences and webinars. When IAAPA revamped its certification process in 2020, Josh was part of the exam-writing team that determined the criteria for becoming an IAAPA Certified Attractions Professional.

In 2021, Liebman was appointed Guest Experience “Evangelist” by ROLLER. His role includes hosting the Guest Experience Show, which covers industry insights, operating strategies, and advice on how to grow your business by focusing on delivering an amazing guest experience. The show also helps industry operators identify where their biggest friction points lie, tying into ROLLER’s focus of developing technology that removes friction from the guest experience.

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