A little after ten am on Thursday, February 16th, the third day of the IAAPA Trade Show, the parking lots at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando were nearing capacity. The IAAPA show is always quite a spectacle, with attendees from all over the world, the latest in technology and new equipment for the entertainment business and the manufacturers and suppliers to amusement parks, FECs, water parks and carnivals.
Sometimes you can find innovations for the largest of parks and facilities. Zamperla for instance, had their Windstarz, huge park model ride with large swing-like seats. But other times, some of the innovations are smaller as is the case with the Rockin 'Rollin' Video game Party Company of North Carolina.
Rockin' Rollin' has been in business for the past seven year, outfitting cargo trailers into deluxe game rooms with 4 - 8 TVs, stadium seating , colored LED track lighting and advertising wraps. The company makes units from 4 TV premier units to 8 8 tv virtual reality Extreme Units. The colorful trailers come fully outfitted and range in price from $49,000 to $74,000.
The company has grown to 137 mobile units on the road with various owners. They don't charge a franchise fee or royalty fee but are now granting territory exclusivity. Rockin' Rollin' provides full raining to owners after purchase and they even have a private support forum online and a national reservation system for parties.
The company takes pride in having launched many customers as independent business owners and encourages cooperation among its family of independent owners. In fact, the owners have a gathering here at the IAAPA Show to discuss business practices, marketing strategies and just share some stories from the road.
Rockin' Rollin' was created primarily as a business for birthday parties and celebrities but some of the owners have expanded into festivals and even branded sponsorship experiences. In fact, the company has been expanding beyond the video game caters and has developed several new trailer experiences. Laser Tag, a 14' trailer with 16 laser taggers, can be purchased for about $37,000, the Glamour party Theater with beauty stations, a dance floor, karaoke and lounge and craft area, all in a 32' trailer, can be purchased for $72,000 and the new 32' mobile escape room trailer, built completely turn-key with a 2 room puzzle, can be purchased for just under $100,000.
Dale Hershberger, who began his career in amusement parks before moving strongly into the carnival business, has seen radio sales rise, then fall with the prevalence of cell phones and now rise again as companies realize that radios are a more efficient and effective form of communication for a midway or park, Hershberger explained. Radio can broadcast from one to many, while phones are better designed for one to one communication. Also, one a busy, loud midway, many times the phone ringer can not be heard and important messages missed.
Over the years, in addition to radio sales, Audio Innovators has developed systems for repeater announcements on rides, safety messaging and music products. One of the newest additions to the Audio Innovators line is the wireless centralized music system the company has developed. One device can broadcast custom music up to 4,000 feet to receivers around the midway. This controls the music being played and messaging can be interrupted into the loop being broadcast.
The system has been very popular with carnivals, including the RCS kiddieland, Deggeller Shows, Frazier Shows, Ottoway Amusements, Fiesta Shows, Houghton Shows and several others.
Kid's pop music is generally, the style of choice and mascot voices safety messages and even commercials can be included in the mix.
Another Audio Innovators invention is a panic button for ticket boxes in case of emergency. The red button on the box inside the booth can be pressed if assistance is needed at the booth and an alert is immediately broadcast to all radio linked to the system. The system was originally created for water parks for lifeguards to press a button in case of emergency but Hershberger adapted the system for use on carnivals and amusement parks.
Hershberger also reported that he has been working with Mike Wood on the Midway Sky Eye that Wood owns along with Frank Zaitshik. Hershberger developed a system that will broadcast music into each of the gondolas. Wood is thinking that the audio can be used to not only broadcast music, but also stream commercials or sponsorship messages. Once the gondola door is opened, the music automatically recedes and an outgoing message is played ie. "Please exit..". Next, the inbound message is played ie. "Welcome to...". Once the gondola door is closed, the messaging stops and the suppressed music, comes back up, filling the cars with sound.
In addition to the Wood Sky Eye install, Audio Innovators has recently completed projects for Myrtle Waves Water park and Story Book Land in southern New Jersey, near the shore resorts.
Bobby Myers, after heating his full scale carnival operation a few years back, has been keeping busy as an independent ride operator at some fo the largest independent midways and select State Fairs throughout the country.
He purchased the New York, New York funhouse from Gosetto of Italy and the ride has been a big hit at events such as the Wisconsin State Fair, the Minnesota State Fair and the Texas State Fair. With the success of the fun house, Myers began negotiating to purchase a second piece from Gosetto.
He recently reached a deal with the company to bring over their first dark ride to be sold to the US. The double decker piece, themed "Haunted Castle", is 75' long and 35' tall. The fiberglass front has molded areas that give the ride a 3D effect. Some of the details on the tricks are still being hashed out but Myers promises a truly spectacular new ride addition to the US fair route next year.
In addition to the ride purchase, Myers also is working with Gosetto to add some tricks to the front of the New York, New York Fun House. Myers said the ride already had one trick in front but he is investing in more items to make the ride experience even more spectacular.
Stay tuned for coverage of the IAAPA Show's final day tomorrow.