Another beautiful day welcomed attendees to the IISF Trade Show in Gibsonton. The show has had perfect weather so far and the sunny skies matched the optimism of most attendees. For the fourth day in a row, the trade show turnstiles registered an increase in attendance over last year.
Marc Janas of Powers' Great American Midways was on hand to inspect some of the purchases his company made this year, adding 4 or possibly 5 new rides for the season.
Powers will be opening on March 16th in North Carolina and operating until the first of November, closing in Wilmington, NC.
Janas and his wife Tiffany just purchased a new Gyro stand from Hitchhiker last June, adding to his Popper and grab. He said the Gyro was "something different" that ad
ded to the shows already large food selection.
All food on the Powers' midway is owned by family. The Corls, Powers and Janas family all own food stands on the show,
PGAM currently operates over 50 rides on a single unit. They are operating 7 rides at the Florida State Fair in Tampa this year including the new Dutch Wheel, dubbed the Parthenon, which stands 108' tall. The ride has an amazing LED light package and a new LED screen where Janas says they will sell corporate sponsorships and supply special messages.
Other rides in Tampa include the Genesis, Dark Ride, Zero Gravity, Khaos, Freak Out, and a Mulligan Sea Ray which was purchased in 2016. Janas also booked his Gyro stand at the fair.
Before Tampa, they played the South Florida Fair with Wade Shows in West Palm Beach. They booked the Genesis, the Zero gravity and the Khaos in West Palm, which had a near-perfect run with the exception of rain on the last day.
E-Works LED Lighting
Eworks is a lighting company headed by President Peter Gaugh and Vice-President Lars Koch. Until recently, they worked with manufacturers such as Chance Rides, Battech, and ARM, providing lights for their equipment.
More recently however, they have begun providing lights for end users who are doing refurbishment projects or updating their lighting systems.
The LED lights have amazing capabilities and a huge range of colors. On the Pacific Park wheel in Santa Monica, a Chance ride with lights from Eworks, they were able to show and American Flag video during a fireworks display. The images are on You Tube and the company's website. Eworks can add not only video, but also text messaging and special imaging.
By providing an .mp4 file, videos of almost any kind can be displayed. The images look better, the father you are away from the ride, due to pixilization but the images are striking.
Koch worked in Germany, for Huss and Mondial before immigrating to the United States in 1994. He says he was the first to put LED lights on a wheel, even though he really didn't want to. About 11 years ago, he was approached by the owner of Morey's Pier in NJ. The owner, a private pilot, wanted the latest in technology. Koch mentioned the LED lights but wasn't sure if they would be the right fit. Morey prevailed upon him to try it and the installation was done and to great success. Now all the rides at the pier are outfitted with LEDs.
Other recent clients for Eworks LED systems include Startes Shows with their Zero Gravity and Rock Star.
Cooke's Amusements President Ronald Cooke was also taking in the sights of the show. Incorporated in 1974, Cooke's Amusements was the legacy of Ronald's father Charles Cooke. Cooke was a pinball machine operator who began doing wheels and games for churches in New York City. Eventually, he partnered to purchase a wheel so he could retain his contracts. Ronald Cooke's brother Bill began to operate in New Jersey, which was largely new territory. When the brothers' father passed away in 1973, Ronald began his company and also went into New Jersey, following the lead of his brother.
Bill Cooke operated Valley Amusements and Ronald had Cooke's Amusements. They two never really worked together however. New Jersey began cracking down on gaming operations and Ronald was arrested for racketeering, a charge that was later dismissed. "That's the last time I ever told anyone I was in charge," laughed Cooke.
When Cooke started in 1974 he had 7 rides which he later built into a 48 ride show, counting rides from associates. The company operated three units in the late 80s and early 90s. The show played fire departments, street fairs and booked rides into larger fair such as the Sussex County Fair, the Flemington Fair and the West End Fair in PA.
As NJ inspection laws started changing, requiring engineering plans and extensive inspections and high fees, Cooke went from 3 units to two units. Then, he says, the state sales tax department started getting very aggressive trying to collect taxes in the offseason and the churches insisted they shouldn't be paying. Coupled with the fact that in New Jersey, the carnivals do not have much, if any food and game revenue, the financial squeeze on the rides became unbearable.
2005 was Cooke's last year in New Jersey after reducing 2 units to 1. He wound up moving to a town just outside of Greensboro, NC and initially planned to bring his whole crew, even buying small houses for them. In the end, his workers got cold feet and he began renting the houses. With an 18 ride inventory, he also began selling off the pieces one by one to live off the resulting income along with his rental income.
He arranged for jobs for most of his old employees with Bill Reiss' Blue Sky Amusements and with Al D'Orso of State Fair.
In addition to his ride business, Cooke also functioned as a ride manufacturer, building a Chair Jet that he calls "a Swinger ride on steroids." He also built a Dragster ride over the years.
He sold a Chair Jet to a company in Australia and several in the US. Without much of a staff to build, he took a few years off.
He soon began again with a small unit and Richard Petty's daughter-in-law, his neighbor, got him his first job.
Now, he plays about 15 dates a year with 12 rides. He mostly plays festivals and conducts rentals but he still builds Chair Jets when the interest arises.
2017 IISF Trade Show Coverage