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IAFE TRADE SHOW -- PART I

12/16/2008

By Ron Weber, Editor

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The annual International Association of Fairs and Expositions Convention and Trade Show is underway again in Las Vegas. Because of scheduling conflicts, the show was moved later in December and many feared the date change so close to Christmas would have a negative impact on attendance. Rick Frenette, chairman of the IAFE, said vendors were approximately even with last year (down 12) and attendance was down slightly but mainly in the spouse attendance numbers. Frenette said the lower spouse numbers was probably a combination of the date change and budget cutbacks for many member events.

On the trade show floor, many vendors were reporting making good contacts for 2009. Mike Sandlofer of the Great American Frontier Show said his company was doing very well in booking their 2009 season. "We play the Marshfield, MA fair, the Virginia State Fair and many other events", he said.

Sandlofer said his company plays 14-15 events each year and he and his family have been in the business for 35 years. The Sandlofers provide an array of attractions with patriotic themes, wild animals and a salute to American history. The Wild Animals of America show features bears, mountain lions and wolves in a large cage. Another show, Animals That Built America includes buffalos and horses. In addition to the show, the Sandlofers have several displays and interactive exhibits. Cow Town USA has cow and goat milking demonstrations, ice cream making, butter churning, cheese making and soap making. "We teach the fair guests about American agriculture and caring about the earth", said Sandlofer.

Other exhibits include blacksmith, broom, saddle and rope making displays, featuring the skills of yesteryear. With a wide variety of shows and exhibits, Sandlofer said business was brisk for 2009.

Bill Carpenter,s Backyard Circus was another act that was celebrating contract extensions and a busy 2009 season. Carpenter,s circus is an interactive show where children can "be the circus" by dressing up as circus performers and simulating the feats of circus stars. Carpenter has 10 units at work during the year around the country working state fairs, county fairs, festivals and theme parks. Another act Carpenter offers is the life sized puppet parade, organizing a parade throughout the fairgrounds each day. Carpenter said he will be celebrating 25 years at the Erie County Fair, 20 years at the Texas State Fair and 15 years at the Canadian National Exhibition in 2009!

On the carnival side of the business many shows were cautious about 2009,s outlook. Jim Strates of Strates Shows said 2008 had its ups and downs. The show started out in a bad weather pattern in Danbury, Connecticut in 2008 losing many days to rain over the month long event. As summer began Strates said the show saw several record ride grosses at events but fuel prices of $4-$5 a gallon ate into any potential profits. Bad weather returned once again in the fall where the Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem, NC experience several bad weather days and by season,s end, Strates said the show had observed money begin to tighten dramatically. "We were down 15% or more even when the weather was good at the end of the season", he said. Looking ahead to 2009, Strates hopes affordable prices offered by fairs and carnivals will help to make fairs a value choice for consumers despite economic woes. "Our industry is as likely as any to weather the storm", he concluded.

In fair news, MCW confirmed with Ray Cammack Shows they will not be returning to the California State Fair in 2009. Details were not available at press time but we hope to have a full story in tomorrow's report.

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