ONA Starts with a Spark of Disney Magic

By Christina Romulado
ONA Newsroom

As ONA looks to the future of digital journalism, some attendees took a Disney style magical trip down memory lane.

Spectators are mesmerized as the Water of Color light show reaches a crescendo at the California Adventures theme park. Several busloads of journalists from #ONA15 toured the Disney theme park Wednesday evening. (Shuyao Chen/ONA Student Newsroom)
Spectators are mesmerized as the Water of Color light show reaches a crescendo at the California Adventures theme park. Several busloads of journalists from #ONA15 toured the Disney theme park Wednesday evening. (Shuyao Chen/ONA Student Newsroom)

On Wednesday night, 250 Online News Association members attended a VIP pre-conference private event at Disney’s California Adventure, in Anaheim, Calif., which is located right next door to Disneyland.

The event was sponsored and run by Disney – they organized everything from the two-hour-long bus ride through Los Angeles rush hour traffice, to Corner Bakery to-go snack boxes – while ONA provided volunteers to help with check-in and event flow.

For some, Wednesday’s event was a fun break before the start of the jam-packed conference.

“I’m running the Unconference and I’m going to be running around for the next two days. This is the only time where I get to do something for myself without worrying about it,” said Jessica Estepa, who is an editor for USA Today.

Meg Donahue, an editorial assistant for the Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University wanted to come to Disney because she has never been to Disneyland.

University of North Carolina multimedia student Rocio Sevilla Dieguez, center, watches the Water of Color light show at California Adventures with UNC graduate student Kiersten Schmidt, left. The North Carolina journalism students were part of an Online News Association contingent attending a pre-conference tour of the Disney theme park. (Haiyun Jiang/ONA Student Newsroom)
University of North Carolina multimedia student Rocio Sevilla Dieguez, center, watches the Water of Color light show at California Adventures with UNC graduate student Kiersten Schmidt, left. The North Carolina journalism students were part of an Online News Association contingent attending a pre-conference tour of the Disney theme park. (Haiyun Jiang/ONA Student Newsroom)

“It seems like Disneyworld, but a bit more modern… Grizzly Park was on point,” said Donahue, who liked for its detailed description of being in a California forest.

From a World of Color
to Racing Cars

The night was jam-packed with fun events.

First, attendees joined other park guests for “World of Color: Celebrate!” a spectacular light and water show, which pays tribute to Walt Disney and his vision.

From there, guests flew across the Golden State with Soarin’ Over California, a 4-D simulation that allows viewers a hang-glider’s eye-view of the state’s most picturesque landscapes.

Finally, attendees made their way to Cars Land, where they “tow-si-do’d” with the Radiator Springs crew at an after-hours shindig.

Pulling this extravagant event off was no easy feat. Behind the scenes, the ONA15 organizing committee and Disney’s Meetings and Conventions team worked in tandem to bring the pre-conference celebration to life.

“A lot of time and preparation goes into planning a special event like the Disney California Adventure party for ONA,” Charles Stovall, Disney’s Public Relations Manager said in an email.

The parks do not close for events like these, but are held before or after regular hours.

This is not the first time ONA has held events off-site.

Last year, attendees had the opportunity to take studio tours and data-focused architectural walking tours of Chicago, according to Jessica Strelitz, Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships for ONA.