The IAFE Trade Show kicked off Monday in las Vegas for the last time. After decades in Las Vegas, the convention will be moving in 2018 to San Antonio TX. The feeling is bittersweet here as many spent part of the day reminiscing about past conventions and adventures in Las Vegas.
In addition to the IAFE trade show, the Showmen's League of America also runs an Exhibitor's Lounge on the 26th floor of Bally's Hotel and Casino on the 27th and 28th. The IAFE and SLA work together so there is only a minimum of overlap in times. Billed as "the best carnival trade show for large national shows and west coast operators", the show seeks to provide an opportunity for exhibitors and buyers to connect in an informal environment. There are no elaborate displays and exhibits, rather most exhibitors have only a simple table and literature for potential buyers.
The format, while informal is popular with suppliers and buyers and the Exhibitor's lounge has become a popular stop on the trade show circuit. The show was bustling on Monday morning and the mood remained optimistic for the 2018 season. Manufacturers were readying new products and orders and several new exhibitors, including several ticketless midway suppliers, could be found.
Over at the IAFE show in Paris, the hall was filled with exhibitors. The show started late in the afternoon and ran into early evening, capped with a reception sponsored by Deggeller Attractions. Deggeller had a bit of happy news as Heidi Deggeller and Beau Pugh announced their engagement. Pugh will be joining the Deggeller team in 2018, aiding his bride to be and her brother Andy who operate the show. Deggeller had a good season in 2018. Especially noteworthy was the Virginia State Fair where the show was up about 20% thanks to a revamped layout giving fair guests more direct access to the midway rides.
Another success story was announced by the New York State Fair. They kicked off their Cyber Monday sale back home in Syracuse and the results were spectacular. The fair sold 5,000 ride bracelets for a deeply discounted $12.50 each. The allotment sold out in just 3 hours and 45 minutes, a feat (Acting) Fair Manager Troy Waffner considered a whopping success.
Waffner said the fair was going to be undergoing some major construction this coming year as the biggest Exhibition Hall between Boston and Cleveland will be built on the grounds. The fair is hopeful the building will attract some major shows and events, as well as increase some current bookings. Part of what will ultimately be a $150,000,000 investment by the state, the new Exhibition Hall will be a centerpiece of the refurbished grounds.
The fair is coming off a second record attendance year under Waffner's leadership. He has set daily records on 5 of the 13 fair days.
In other breaking news, long time side show impresario Ward Hall announced that he and partner Chris Christ have sold their fair show to the show's manager Tommy Breen. According to Hall, Breen has been manager of the various Hall/Christ Enterprises since 1996. He works as a sword swallower in the show, drives a tractor, gets the show up and down and loves to do business with the fairs.
Christ will continue to book the show for Breen while Hall says he will stay in retirement. Asked what he is doing now Hall quipped, "I just ate the most expensive breakfast of my life. When I get home, I plan to sit home, watch TV and take care of my dogs."
Hall has not been out with the show for the past six years, but he does plan to visit when they arrive in Orlando, only a short drive from his Tampa-area home.
Hall explained that this was the "3rd or 4th year" for what he called his fair show. The fair show contains elements of the side show but is presented more as an attraction or ground act for the fair.
"With a carnival side show, we work from 10 am until midnight, doing as many as 20 shows a day", said Hall. "With he fair show, we do 3 shows a day on weekdays and 4 shows a day on weekends. The show has two versions, a Vaudeville Show and a Thrill Shows.
Under the carnival side show model, the show would often pay the show rent and through the presentation of many shows throughout the day, charge for admission to the attraction and added "extras" inside the show tent. Under the fair model, the fair pays for the show to come and presents the attraction as part of the fair's entertainment lineup.
Hall started in the business in 1951. Over the years, his business grew, and by 1983 Christ and Hall had 17 shows on the road. The show encountered financial troubles soon thereafter, causing a restructuring but the pair cam bouncing back with a new show and attractions.
Hall said the side show business was definitely a shadow of its former self, with only 5 or 6 big shows on the road in his estimation. When he takes into account some fo the smaller one-off shows such as World's Smallest... or World's Largest..., he the number more than triples.
Hall and Christ were featured on a recent readty show with pickers looking for unique items from around the country. As part of the deal with Breen, Hall and Christ sold all of the equipment and memorabilia in the pair's warehouse. Hall also purchased a new 30 x 90 tent for the fair show last year which included a 15 banner front. The assets were also part of the purchase by Breen.
Stay tuned for coverage of the second day of the 2017 IAFE convention and SLA Exhibitor's Lounge.
2017 SLA / IAFE Trade Show Coverage