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2018 Toy & Game Innovation Awards

November 16th, 2018, 6pm - 10pm

Our 11th year! The TAGIEs are an elegant and playful evening gala that brings together industry leaders from inventors to manufacturers to retailers as well as the public for a celebratory evening of innovators and inventors from around the world.

The Toy & Game Innovation Awards are voted on by industry experts, retailers and consumers to recognize recipients for excellence in various categories. The TAGIEs also recognize the teams the inventors worked with at the companies that brought their ideas to life. This collaboration and inventiveness has resulted in the most fun and entertaining play products on the market today. We also honor to those inventor greats who stand out in the toy industry for their exceptionally innovative spirit of fun, philanthropy, and humanitarianism.

2017 TAGIEs in Navy Pier Grand Ballroom. 

Thank You to Our 2018 Sponsors! 

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Gary Swisher, SVP of Inventor Relations and Head of Gaming​, Mattel

2017 Keynote

2018 TAGIE Award Categories and Honorees

TAGIE Awards Nominee Seal - Toy Innovato


Winner: David Fuhrer, Richard Kimbrough, DiscoNifty​ for Twisty Petz by Spin Master,

other recent products:  Aqua Doodle, Nerf Vortex Football


Bang Zoom for Lil' Gleemerz by Mattel; other recent products: Imaginext Jurassic World T-Rex (Fisher Price), Treasure X (Moose), Hairdorables (Just Play), Hot Diggity Dance & Play Mickey (Just Play), Minnie Mouse Helper Scooter Plush (Just Play), Little Live Pets Surprise Dragon (Moose), Little Live Pets Rollie My Kissing Puppy (Moose), Jurassic World Gyrosphere RC (Mattel), Handimonium Game (Mattel), Yelllies!  (Hasbro), Barbie Dreamtopia Flying Wings Fairy (Mattel), Barbie On The Go (Mattel)

Latham Gaines - Power Dough by Canal Toys, other recent products:  Croc N Roll )Spin Master), Water Water Island (KD Group) 

Shoot The Moon for Little Live Pets - Wrapples (Moose Toys) and NERF Laser Ops (Hasbro), other recent products: Hatchimal Baby (Spin Master), Scribble Scrubbies (Crayola) and all the following toys with Moose Toys: Little Live Cutie Pup, Little Live Dancing Unicorn, Little Live Busy Bubs, Real Robots MiBro, Real Robots Yak Bot

Sydney Wiseman for Fingerlings by WowWee



Winner: Don Ullman and Bob Driscoll for Don't Step In It by Hasbro, other recent products: Pimple Pete, Hamster Race, L'embroilleur, Loaded Lemons (Entertoyment), Disney Duck Tales Shake Your Tail, (Cardinal Games), Alien Invasion (Ravensburger)


Bang Zoom for Chow Crown and Speech Breaker from Hasbro; other recent products: Imaginext Jurassic World T-Rex (Fisher Price), Treasure X (Moose), Hairdorables (Just Play), Hot Diggity Dance & Play Mickey (Just Play), Minnie Mouse Helper Scooter Plush (Just Play), Little Live Pets Surprise Dragon (Moose), Little Live Pets Rollie My Kissing Puppy (Moose), Jurassic World Gyrosphere RC (Mattel), Handimonium Game (Mattel), Yelllies!  (Hasbro), Barbie Dreamtopia Flying Wings Fairy (Mattel), Barbie On The Go (Mattel)

Jeff Foxworthy for Relative Insanity from PlayMonster

Rob Daviau and Justin D. Jacobson for Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar, other recent products:  Fireball Island: The Last Adventurer, Dinosaur Tea Party, Downforce: Danger Circuit,

Seven Towns for Greedy Granny (Goliath), other recent products:  Uh Oh Hippo (Educational Insights),

Pack Your Bags (Asmodee), Triple Cross (Winning Moves US)





Winner: Harper Miller for The Dream Pillow


Ethan Klein for 3duxdesign House Architecture Set

Michael Nixon for The Amazing Annoyatron


Winner: Nick Metzler Hail Hydra for Spin Master as well as Battle of the Sexes, The Dog Game, Killer Party Kiss of Death,

Killer Party Bone Appetit, Killer Party Fangs For the Memories, Rusty Rivets Quick Bits Path Game

and produced: 5-Minute Marvel, Santorini Golden Fleece Expansion Pack


Adam Borton for Flushin' Frenzy by Mattel

Daryl Andrews - The Oregon Trail (Pressman + Goliath), other recent products: Sagrada & Expansion (Floodgate Games),

City of Gears (Grey Fox), Before the Earth Explodes (Green Couch), Ghostbusters: The Card Game (Albino Dragon + Renegade), Outpost: Amazon (IDW Games), Creatures and Cupcakes (Grey Fox), Speakeasy Blues (Artana) Roar: King of the Pride (IDW Games), Ink Monsters (Albino Dragon), Jungle Joust (IDW Games), Space Invaders Dice (TurnOne), Shop N Time (Mercury), Orphan Black: Clone Club (IDW Games).

Jeff Lai for Maki Stack (Blue Orange), other recent products: Nut So Fast (Smirk and Dagger),

How Do You Doodle? (Outset Media) and Draconis Invasion (Keji Inc)

Art, Joe & Jim Seymour for Circuit Blox, Power Blox and Story Blox by E-Blox

Jillian Lakritz for Yoee Baby Original Line: Puppy, Kitty, Fox, Lion, Monkey, Bunny,

other recent products: Yoee Baby Sensory Feather: Violet; Blue

Krissa Watry for playPORTAL, other recent products: Wonder Works Wishlist, ShotDoctor, playPORTAL, playPORTAL Studio

Marissa Louie for Animoodles: Iris Unicorn, Hazel Sloth, Randy Orangutan, Brady Lion, Miguel Frog, Sophie Elephant




Winner: Elan Lee and Matt Inman of Exploding Kittens for Bears vs Babies


Geizi Guevara, Mike Freeth, Patrick Murray, Chris Wickman of Spin Master for The Cat Game

Jakks Pacific for FanHeads™, invented by Seven Towns,  Steve Lomas and Make-a-Mask 

Prospero Hall for Disney Villainous (WonderForge)

Sabrina Miramon (Illustration), Chris D’Angelo, Greg Stata, Kelly Miele (Graphic/Packaging Design)

and Kathy Beyerle (Product Design) of ThinkFun for Shadows in the Forest 



Winner: Sydney Wiseman for Fingerlings by WowWee


JMP Creative's Social Media Team for Orbeez Wow World campaign

PlayMonster 5 Second Rule Marketing Team for 5 Second Rule

Lee Parkhurst, Jennifer Jens, Sunny Choi, Nicole Younger of Educational Insights for Sculptapalooza's online campaign

Hasbro Marketing and Rhett and Link for online Influencer video campaign




Mike Meyers, Retired as Senior VP Hasbro Games

Presenter: Robert Fuhrer, Rich Mazel, Mike Hirtle, Phil Orbanes



Thijmen de Schipper and  Jochem van Rijn, YULU Toys

Presenter: Tanya Thompson and Gray Bright



#MyShotAtEpilepsy Challenge



David Small and Paul Rago, Shoot the  Moon

Presenter: Dan Klitsner

TAGIE Awards Nominee Seal - Game Innovat
TAGIE Awards Nominee Seal  - Young Innov
TAGIE Awards Nominee Seal - Rising Star
TAGIE Awards Nominee Seal  - Art & Desig
TAGIE Awards Nominee Seal  - Innovative
TAGIE Awards Honoree Seal - Inventor Adv
TAGIE Awards Nominee Seal  - Start Up Aw
TAGIE Awards Honoree Seal - Hassenfeld F
TAGIE Awards Honoree Seal - Lifetime Ach

2018 TAGIE Awards Host

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2018 TAGIEs Mike Meyers and presenters.j
2018 TAGIEs Hassenfeld Humanitarian Awar
2018 TAGIE David Small and Paul Rago.jpe
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Our host of the evening is Richard Gill,  a long time member of the industry. In the mid-80’s Richard worked first as a licensee, subsequently becoming the Executive VP of Horn Abbot International for Trivial Pursuit internationally. Richard became a partner in the Pictionary brand in the late 1980’s and expanded development into 70+ markets and 40+ languages around the world while developing a licensing program including as an Emmy Nomination" for the Pictionary TV show. In 2001 Richard founded a successful business working with multiple smaller companies and inventors to help exploit brands and concepts around the world. Today McGill Assocs. has products placed in 40+ global markets including multiple award winning products "5 Second Rule”, “Telestrations”, "My Fairy Garden”, “ANOMIA” and “ChronoBomb”

2018 TAGIE Awards Keynote

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Our Keynote of the evening is Nancy Zwiers, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Spin Master. 

A classically trained brand-builder at Procter & Gamble, Zwiers joined the toy industry in 1990 with Mattel, where she presided over an unprecedented period of growth on Barbie as SVP Global Marketing.  Later, as GM of Girls division, Zwiers successfully re-launched Polly Pocket.

As founder and CEO of the consulting firm Funosophy Inc., Zwiers spent 16 years helping over 200 clients—from industry leaders to start-ups in toys, youth entertainment and interactive games—build and expand their brands. Zwiers has been a strategic thought-partner and facilitator for many industry executives. She has led multiple invention teams to licensing success with Spin Master, Mattel, Razor and others. Funosophy inventions delivered over $1 million in royalties during a 4-year period. 

Since November 2015, Zwiers has served as EVP/CMO of Spin Master during a period of substantial growth. Spin Master, known for innovation and risk taking, sources a substantial proportion of its products from inventors.

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Presenting our Keynote is Gary Swisher. Gary started his toy career working on a favorite from his childhood, “Hot Wheels” and “played” with that brand for 16 years. He left Mattel and went to the wild and crazy world of Jakks Pacific where he and his Marketing partner Jamie Wood built the Road Champs line into an Xtreme sports mecca. He and Jamie then started Best Pals, where he got to use every last ounce of his Design skills to create a broad line of toys, led by a Six Flags Roller Coaster and a Big Foot Monster truck or two! In 2005 Mattel bought their assets, and brought them both back in. Gary then had the good fortune of working under Richie Weintraub, an industry icon who taught him about being a good Design leader. When Richie retired, Tim Kilpin gave Gary the chance to lead Creative for all of Boys, Girls and Games at Mattel. He is now trying the other side of the table as an independent inventor, the fun just never ends!

2018 TAGIE Presenters

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Kimberley Mosley,  President of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA). Kim leads the trade association that promotes and strengthens the specialty segment of the toy industry. ASTRA is the largest association serving the specialty toy industry, a community that is committed to providing children with healthy, quality play materials that have high play value. ASTRA’S 1900 members are manufacturers, sales representatives and independent retailers who build their businesses around toys that focus less on the razzmatazz features of the toy, and more on what the child can do with the toy by using her imagination and creativity. Specialty toys are about the features of the play, not the features of the toy.


Leslie Scott is Remarkable! To mention just a few things she is noted for: prolific board game designer, founder trustee of The Smithsonian UK Charitable Trust, speaking Swahili and author best known as the inventor of the game Jenga, which she launched at the London Toy Fair 1983. Born in Africa in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and grew up in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Ghana. Scott was educated in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Oxford. In 1991, she founded Oxford Games Ltd, which her daughter Freddie is now proudly President. 

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Gray Bright, CEO and Founder at Cloud, Robotic engineer by education, technology executive by day and late night talk show host by night. Gray’s career has involved the design, manufacture and launch of 1,500+ electronic hardware and software products, along with writing and telling a similar amount of jokes about science, technology and cats. We're pretty sure he's the love child of Bill Nye, Jimmy Fallon and John Oliver.

He has performed at international iconic events such as Kennedy Space center during an Atlas V Rocket Launch, appeared on TBS's America's Greatest Makers, host of The Tomorrow Show, and performed with ‘Monty Python’ at London’s O2 Arena. 

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Karri Bean is Senior Manager, LEGO at Disney Consumer Products and has been with Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products, located in Glendale, CA, for the past four years where she is responsible for managing Disney’s global construction category across key brands such as Star Wars, Marvel and Frozen. Karri comes with more than 10 years of experience in the toy industry, previously in global brand management creating unique and exciting products in the games category.

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Tanya Thompson, Director Global Product Acquisition Gaming, Hasbro 

Tanya has also worked in similar roles for Marbles the Brain Store , Mastermind Toys and ThinkFun. Tanya believes in changing the world through PLAY! She is honored to be on the Executive Board of the Chicago Toy and Game Group as well as on the boards of HATCH (community of creative thought leaders collaborating on HATCHing a better world) and SNAP Mathematics Foundation (an organization bringing math puzzles to life in the classroom).

Dave Harris, Sr. Director of Inventor Relations for Mattel

Dave has been with Mattel for over 20 years and leads Inventor Relations across the entire Mattel portfolio including Fisher-Price, Barbie, Hot Wheels, Girls, Boys and Games.  Most of his career has been spent in marketing working on FP categories such as Infant, Newborn, Baby Gear, Creative Activities, Power Wheels and New Opportunities.  He also spent a couple years in Strategic Partnerships working with best in class education and tech partners and several years creating exclusive products for retailers

David Yakos, of Salient Technologies. 

David is a full-time inventor, designer, artist & engineer.  Named Toy-Innovator-of-the-Year 2016, he invented ThinkFun’s Circuit Maze & Lionel Mega Tracks - both TOTY 2017 finalists. He is co-founder of the engineering firm, Salient Technologies, Inc. and the invention house, Streamline Design. Along with the help of his creative team, David develops and invents hundreds of products from cryogenic space valves for NASA to playful games, like Hasbro’s Dunk Hat. David lives with his wife, Kari, their four kids and assorted pets in beautiful Bozeman, Montana.

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Tim Walsh, Fearless Leader at The Playmakers

Tim is a game designer, author, filmmaker and professional speaker. The games he’s designed or co-designed have sold over seven million copies. His books have been praised by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and NPR. The films he’s co-produced or co-directed have won “Best Documentary” awards in three US film festivals. His lectures on the value of play and connection are the culmination of a 28-year career as an entrePLAYneur. He and his wife have been married for 23 years and have two epic daughters. 

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Dan Klitsner, Founder of KID Group.

Since 1990 the San Francisco invention studio has created over 300 games and toys, specializing in combining physical and digital play that gets kids up and active. KID is most well known for Hasbro's "Bop It" line, as co-inventors of the Perplexus line of interactive labyrinths, and recently for re-imagining the iconic game Simon as Simon Swipe, Simon Air and Simon Optix. Dan graduated with a BS in Industrial Design from Art Center College of Design in 1982 and has taught invention and design at California College of Arts and Crafts, San Francisco State and the San Francisco Academy of Art.

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Robert "Bob" Fuhrer is an award-winning toy and game developer. Since 1981, his company, Nextoy, has developed hundreds of products, including Crocodile Dentist, Gator Golf, iTop and the internationally acclaimed KenKen Puzzle.  Bob is best known for helping inventors and Japanese toy companies bring product to market, and for collaborating with the worldwide creative community.    His dad Len Fuhrer and brother David have both had impressive careers in the toy world, and now his son Alex has joined the Nextoy family! Bob is an active philanthropist, and currently sits on the boards of Make-A-Wish and Evan's Team. He and his wife Judy live in New York and are proud parents of three grown children.

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Phil Orbanes, Sr. Vice Chairman Winning Moves, began his career in games upon entering college by founding Gamescience Corp, which he sold prior to a NYC-based firm before graduating. Seven years later he became Director of the Games Division of Ideal Toy Corp, then Senior V.P. of R&D at Parker Brothers, where he began his role as Chief Judge at Monopoly championships. He’s written 3 books on the game, plus Parker’s definitive history. In 1995, along with Mike Meyers and two other industry veterans, Phil co-founded Winning Moves Games and served as its president for nineteen years. He is currently the firm’s vice chairman.

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Mike Hirtle has spent his entire 44 year career in the toy and game business.  Starting as a toy inventor in Mattel’s Preliminary Design Department he held positions of increasing responsibility with Fisher-Price, Tyco Toys and Hasbro. He likes to say that he had the best job in the industry as Hasbro paid him to travel around the world looking for new product opportunities. It is a good thing that he loves to travel because he logged nearly 3 million miles in that pursuit. The game business is Mike’s first love and he has a personal collection of 1200 titles.

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Alicia Alexander Klitsner has been a long-time advocate of children and developing innovative ways for children to learn and is the Communications Officer at Larkspur-Corte Madera School District in California. 

She is currently working to expand the Young Inventor Challenge, our contest encouraging kids ages 6-18 to invent their own original toy or game.  Alicia has a BS in Elementary Education, Special Education from Vanderbilt University and a MA in Elementary Education and Language Development from New York University. 

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Mark Nuccio started working in the toy industry for Ideal Toys over 40 years ago. Soon after, HG Toys recruited him where he spent the next 17 years as their VP of marketing, design, and engineering. Mark helped to propel them from only a few million dollars in annual sales to over 150 million dollars --making them at the time one of the top twenty toy companies in the United States. After leaving HG Toys, Mark along with his wife, Linda, started Design Edge out of the family garage in 1987. Within a year the company went from a small freelance outfit to a full fledge design agency. And, has since grown to not only being a design powerhouse but a development agency and sourcing agent for dozens of toy companies. 

These days, Mark’s son Matt runs the business. Mark can stroll into work at his leisure, generally taking care of what he needs to do within a few hours. Despite the short work schedule he still likes to keep his fingers in the business. He is quick to offer advise and solutions when in need. 

When Mark is not in the studio, he’s off fishing at his bay house, strumming guitars, painting, writing, and mostly playing with his four grandchildren.

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2017 Lifetime Achievement Honoree

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Shoot the Moon is a product invention company founded in 1991 by David Small and Paul Rago.  David and Paul were both toy company executives when they decided to start their own invention company to service the toy industry as well as consumer products in general. Paul’s expertise is in product development and marketing while David’s expertise is in product development, engineering and manufacturing. This product development team has developed, marketed and licensed consumer mega-hits such as Teddy Ruxpin, Lazer Tag, Fijit Friends, Little Live Pets, Hatchimals and many more accounting for roughly $4 Billion in retail sales. Shoot the Moon’s toy portfolio is vast with toys that range from low cost collectibles to high cost animatronics, within the industry we are recognized as leaders in technologically complex toys that have mass market appeal.

2018 Start-Up Award

Jochem van Rijn and Thijmen de Schipper

Jochem van Rijn and Thijmen de Schipper for 'Startting-Up'  YULU Toys

This trending, up-and-coming toys and family entertainment company burst onto the international toy scene less than three years ago.  Since then, their success has been, well, pretty much spectacular.

Formed in 2015 by twenty-eight-year old entrepreneurs Jochem van Rijn and Thijmen de Schipper, YULU is a privately-owned company based in Hong Kong with marketing and sales, marketing operations in Europe and North America. YULU products include such mega hits as Operation: Escape from its Spy Code line to this year’s game favorites Watermelon Smash and Tic Tac Tongue, as well as the Helix outdoor line.

2018 Inventor Advocacy Honoree

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Mike Meyers was trained as an Industrial Designer and Packaging Engineer and headed Product Development for the Following companies:

Pyro Plastics, Lehn & Fink (Div. Sterling Drugs), Child Guidance Toys, Aurora Products, Marx Toys, Milton Bradley Co., Hasbro Games Div. (Hasbro acquired MB in 1984). 

Although Mike retired as Senior VP Hasbro Games in 1992, he continued as Special Assistant to the President (consultant) for 12 years and was one of the Founders of Winning Moves Games in1995 (Hasbro minority share holder). He is currently Chairman of the Board of Winning Moves Inc.

He also founded consulting company Mind Over Matters and consults for Siemens Electronics

2018 Hassenfeld Family Initiatives Humanitarian Award 

#MyShotAtEpilepsy Challenge

What’s the story that led to the creation of the #MyShotAtEpilepsy Challenge?

Miguel Cervantes is an actor, singer, and performer known for his work on both the stage and screen. A year and a half ago, he had an audition for the role of a lifetime—playing Alexander Hamilton in the Chicago production of HAMILTON, the hottest musical of our time. Yet during the audition process, in front of the producers and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Miguel received news that would totally upend his world. His daughter Adelaide had been diagnosed with epilepsy, shortly to be confirmed as a severe, incurable form known as Infantile Spasms (IS). For Miguel and Kelly, that fateful day was life-changing. Miguel won the role of his dreams, but he and Kelly began a heart-rending journey that no parent ever should face. As they were moving to Chicago and Miguel was preparing to portray Alexander Hamilton, the Cervantes family was also learning about epilepsy, a medical condition that is still underestimated, underfunded, and—for far too many Americans—entirely misunderstood.

During this journey, Miguel and Kelly have devoted themselves to raising funds and awareness for epilepsy research. One day soon, breakthroughs in epilepsy research may be able to help the over 1 million Americans who—like Adelaide—are unresponsive to current treatments. But this will only be possible with your support. Please join us to make a difference, to assist the millions of families like the Cervantes, and to help fund a cure. 

The #MyShotAtEpilepsy Challenge promotes awareness and raises funds for epilepsy research that will lead to a cure. All proceeds from the campaign will support CURE and be used to advance breakthroughs in epilepsy treatments and research. The initial proceeds will be used to support the genetic testing of hundreds of individuals from the Rare Epilepsy Network and their subsequent enrollment into the Epilepsy Genetics Initiative for recurrent analysis. These are individuals who suffer from severe epilepsies with an unknown genetic cause. 

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Accepting: MEGHAN JORGENSEN, DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, CURE | CITIZENS UNITED FOR RESEARCH IN EPILEPSY Meghan has spent the last 20 years working in development, with a primary focus on healthcare organizations and causes. Her experiences have shaped her expertise in fundraising, staff development, financial and operational management, and community engagement. As Director of Development, Meghan oversees all aspects of fundraising within CURE, fostering a culture of philanthropy to realize the organization’s mission of finding a cure for epilepsy. Prior to her current role, Meghan worked at Presence Health, The Field Museum and American Brain Tumor Association where she successfully built strong relationships with colleagues, volunteer leaders, donors, and corporate partners and implemented best practices within the development teams. Meghan holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Aurora University and a Master of Social Work from The University of Chicago.


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The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), in partnership with the Chicago Toy and Games Group, presents it first annual Innovative Toy Store of the Year award. This award recognizes and celebrates the creativity and passion of ASTRA retailers who positively impact the economy and culture of the communities and children they serve. A panel of sales representatives, who visit hundreds of toy stores day in and day out, selected this year’s winner. We are proud to announce Adventure Toys & Teachers’ Supplies as the inaugural recipient of the Innovative Toy Store of the Year award.


Owners Leslie and John Chiaverini implement innovative strategies to enhance shoppers’ convenience and experience. From personal shopping to curbside pick-up to shop by phone, Leslie and John recognize the importance of making it as easy as possible for their customers to find the perfect toy with the assistance of their extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff. They also ensure their store is the place to go for new products by bringing in new product lines and hosting play days that specifically feature the new products at the store. 

We are proud to award Adventure Toys & Teachers’ Supplies this year’s Innovative Toy Store of the Year award.

Evening Entertainment

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Music provided by Skip Towne and the Greyhounds, Chicago's #1 Blues Band! 

The band's music is hard-driving, heartfelt, classic blues, jazz, swing, ballads, and downright good time Rockin’ Blues.

Special Guest Performance by Toy Train Wreck!!! Listen to four people who have never jammed together play live for the first time! Featuring Caitlin Gutekunst (Funfare), Dan Klitsner (K.I.D.), Julien Mayot (Blue Orange) and Matt Nuccio (Design Edge)! 

Pictures from 2018 TAGIEs 

Attend the TAGIEs in 2019!

Don't miss out on an extraordinary evening! Join us at the TAGIEs for  an elegant celebration of innovation and People of Play!

Meet inventors, innovators and the toy & game industry behind your favorite toys and games!

Friday, November 22nd, 2019
6pm Cocktails, 
7pm Dinner & Ceremony
10pm Evening Concludes
Venue TBA, Formal or Cocktail Attire
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