Spending a weekend with more than 70 celebrities like Lady Gaga and James Bond is not a common occurrence. However, four UF students had this opportunity in November when they traveled to Orlando, Fla., to serve as collegiate staff members at the 11th Annual Sunburst Convention for Celebrity Impersonators and Tribute Artists.
Members of Campus Program Board Lauren Brassfield, senior public relations major from Springfield; Sarah Foltz, senior public relations major from Lima; Tabatha Wolph, senior creative writing major from Fostoria; and Travis Wolph, junior digital media major from Fostoria, traveled with Sharinda Welton, director of student activities, for a very unique hands-on experience in the entertainment industry.
“The Sunburst Convention is an event where professional and up-and-coming celebrity impersonators, look-a-like and tribute artists join to network, socialize and perform in order to enlighten their experience as a performer,” said Tabatha Wolph. “Talent agents, buyers, tour companies, casinos, cruise lines and special event planning companies are encouraged to attend and enjoy the events and entertainers.”
Throughout the convention, the impersonators perform in several showcases that are open to talent-buyers and the community. The UF students had an opportunity to help in several areas.
“Aside from meeting amazing people, I was able to work backstage and assist the stage manager,” said Brassfield. “This meant that I got to run microphones, help with costume changes, set up the stage and be a part of what goes on backstage during a production.”
Other tasks included checking badges and taking tickets at the door, running a spotlight and working with the video recording.
“I assisted the staff during registration day by welcoming the attendees and also welcoming people at the doors of showcases to make sure they had tickets, passes, etc.,” said Tabatha Wolph. “This was partially a job in security as there were people who tried to sneak in that I had to watch for and prevent from entering.”
By working at the Sunburst Convention, the students met and worked one-on-one with many people in the entertainment field and learned a lot.
“My favorite part of the conference was when I was working backstage, and I looked at the stage manager and told her that I was having ‘Déjà vu,” said Brassfield. “She laughed and said back to me, ‘Déjà vu just means that you’re right where you’re supposed to be.’ This comment will stick with me forever.”
CPB members work with artists on a regular basis when hosting events on campus. By interning at the Sunburst Convention for a weekend, the students had the opportunity to establish stronger connections at a professional level.
“I really enjoyed watching the artists grow and gain confidence in themselves throughout the entire convention,” said Brassfield. “For some artists, this conference was their first time ever performing in front of an audience. By the end of the conference, most of them were not hesitant to step into the spotlight.”
After working with professionals at the Sunburst Convention, the group learned a lot about the entertainment industry as well as themselves.
“Students who volunteer in CPB are provided with a lot of opportunities and working knowledge for a collegiate setting. The students are set up to succeed and learn, and they are as much the focus as the entertainer being hosted,” said Welton. “In the Sunburst setting, the interns are not the focus. The students are there to sell themselves and make a positive impact, but there is no hand holding from the professionals.”
Interning at Sunburst and gaining hands-on experience also benefitted the students as they continue to serve as leaders at UF and work within campus programming.
“It’s all about empowerment, education and entertainment equaling ‘edutainment.’ The goal was for the students to walk away knowing where they are prepared in skill sets and where they need to continue to prepare for success upon graduation,” said Welton. “From the feedback received from the students who participated, the goals were met and the conference was a success.”
For more students to gain a valuable experience like these CPB members did, the Sunburst Convention internship is registered and on file in UF’s office of internships and placement. Contact Phil Gunder, director of internships and cooperative education, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Written by Sarah Foltz