At the Fourth Annual THEA Awards Gala, held September 13 at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Themed Entertainment Association honored outstanding achievements in the themed entertainment industry. Five hundred guests attended the black-tie ceremony, "the Oscars of our industry," says TEA president Peter Chernack.

The THEA awards, fashioned after the Greek goddess who symbolized the form and substance of imagination, are accepted by the owner/developers of each winning attraction. Team members are eligible to receive special Awards for Outstanding Achievement (AOA) trophies. "The THEA Awards were created to recognize excellence in themed entertainment throughout the world," Chernack says. "Key to this is the acknowledgment of all the team members who helped produce these diverse projects."

Some of this year's winners will be familiar to readers of Lighting Dimensions. In the theme park attractions category, the winners were T2 3D: Battle Across Time at Universal Studios Florida (see LD June 1996) and Villa Volta, at Efteling Holland. In the visitor's center category, Daytona USA (LD November 1996), and the Apollo/Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center, both in Florida, claimed THEAs.

In the themed retail category, the Warner Bros. Studio Store and Niketown, both in Manhattan, took home THEAs. Caesars Magical Empire, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, won in the themed restaurant category.

There were two winners in the excellence on a limited budget category, both in Japan: Rock 'n' Robin, at Cinema World in Kamakura City, and Dark Castle, at Fantasy Pointe, Nasu Highlands Park, in Nasu, Japan. (The latter project is profiled on page 70 of this issue.)

In the spectaculars category, the Intergalactic Circus Spectacular at Lotte World in Seoul, Korea, won a THEA. The venerable Pirates of the Caribbean ride, at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, received a yo-ho-ho, a bottle of rum, and a THEA Classics Award at the ceremony. The winner of this year's Lifetime Achievement Award was Don Iwerks, co-founder and vice chairman of Iwerks Entertainment, "an inspiration to an industry which was in its infancy when he began with Walt Disney Co. in 1950," says Monty Lunde, founder and past president of the TEA.

The annual THEA selection process is handled by the TEA's awards committee. Final recommendations are reviewed and voted on by the TEA board of directors.