As the International Independent Showmen's Association Trade Show wound down on Saturday, February 14th, rides were being dismantled and another year of sales, deals and camaraderie had come to an end.
Friday's gate numbers were down from 2009, leaving attendance slightly ahead of 2008 going into Saturday said trade show officials. Final numbers were not available by deadline today but we hope to be able to report the information in part two of our wrap-up report.
Like the show itself, on Saturday vendors gave conflicting reports on business. Some called it the best day while others said they were disappointed with traffic.
Steve Ianni was installed as the new president of the Showmen's Association and in the end, he was very proud of the job Dee Dee Starkey and her team did this year. "We are all volunteers
here and run this thing with only 4 or 5 paid, full-time employees throughout the year", said Ianni. Ianni said 2008 was one of the better years profit-wise for the club and he said the show was working on ways to produce revenue without having to increase vendor charges. "We haven't raised the rent in many years", he added.
Waterloo Tent and Tarp
Vendors were all over the place with their assessment of the show ranging from very happy to disappointed. Joe Burum of Waterloo Tent actually exemplified both sides. While he did lament the level of traffic at the show, sales-wise he said, "We did have a good show". "I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of confidence our customers are showing", he added.
Burum said the early hours were slow but afternoons were good, an observation echoed by many.
Burum expects the amusement business to do well this year if gas prices don't rise again. "In a down economy, local events do well", he said.
Scott Siefker said the trade show was "on par with expectations". L.E.D. lighting is the hot new commodity and Showmen's had some examples of their products on display in several Hitch-Hiker built trailers. L.E.D. lights with programmable systems can produce spectacular displays and their cost savings and versatility are excellent matches for the industry.
Showmen's also introduced two new products that sparked interest, a 45 degree angle camlock and a ground mount hydraulic light tower. Siefker said the new angle camlocks will allow for additional space in the boxes and in tight places and Showmen's customers have been asking about such a device for many years.
The 32-foot ground mount light tower will bring illumination to any midway in an easy to install-manner. Setting up in just minutes and folding into a compact space, Siefker expects to place many of these on midways this year.
Showmen's also sold two generator packages during the show. Homeniuk Amusements purchased a 350 KW plant and Skerbeck Shows purchased a 500 KW model.
Owens Trailers had their Mardi Gras Glasshouse on display. Ross Owens, reflecting on 2008, said it was a "very decent year" for the company. "I'd take 2008 and do it again in 2009", he added.
Owens recently sold two new dark rides, one ride will be going to St.Paul, Minnesota and the other to Danny England to play Dallas.
Owens also sold a used Cuckoo Haus at the show to Rainbow Valley rides. As related in a previous article, Trey Miller said he had also purchased a Mardi Gras before show's end.
Owens said he had several very good leads and was hoping to fill the one slot left he had in the spring. Owens estimates there are 60 - 65 Mardi Gras on midways and in parks.
Rhode Island Novelty
Saturday was the best day at the show for Rhode Island Novelty according to Peter Quinn, West Coast Sales Manager.
Quinn was very excited about his slotted glasses, available also in a lighted version. He said Kanye West wore them to a recent awards show and that appearance had really spiked demand.
Also popular this year are the blue light swords and light sabers, which also come in additional colors and styles. Quinn said RIN is also introducing licensed Hulk and Iron Man products to his line this summer and hopes they will also sell well.
As reported during the show, Frederiksen Industries sold several slides at the show this year. Frederiksen said 2009 was an "average show" for his company.
Over the 21 years they have exhibited, the company usually sells a couple of slides during the show and then 8 to 10 the six weeks after the event.
Frederiksen also builds and sells train trailers. They took three orders for these trailers during the trade show.
Although they did not have a ride on display, A.R.M. had plenty of new attractions to offer at the show. Their big new ride is the Vertigo Swing which stands 100, tall and holds 24 passengers. A.D. Toler purchased the first model and they are working on additional sales. The ride is the only one of its type designed with the Dyna Break System. Eric Bates explained that the addition of this magnetic break is a safety feature that in the event of cable failure, would enable to the ride to descend safely.
Mid-summer promises to be an exciting time at A.R.M. when they roll out the first version of their spinning Super Shot. Like the Super Shot, the ride goes up and down but now the seats also rotate in a circle.
Another successful program for A.R.M is the conversion of Inverter rides into an Ali Babas or Full Tilts. The popular Ali Baba and Full Tilt rides have been very successful for the company over the years with 75 copies sold throughout the world.
Bob's Space Racers
For a company begun in the outdoor amusement business, perhaps none other has achieved greater success than Bob's Space Racers. Bob Cassata has led his company to dominate the group game business in both carnivals and parks, they operate their games at some of the largest fairs in the country, they have a consulting arm to advise parks and amusement centers on game operations and they manufacture specialty items for trade shows and special events. Their success has crossed over to the entertainment industry where they built a special Whack A Mole game for Jim Cramer of CNBC and they sold use rights to Hasbro for the Whack A Mole Game.
The rights to the Whack-A-Mole brand that Hasbro purchased expires at the end of the year and BSR announced they have reached an agreement with Mattel to sell rights to the brand. BSR will retain use for the amusement industry in the agreement. Mattel plans to introduce new home products and toys and you may see the Whack-A-Mole more and more in your local toy store and on television.
The company recently built all games and buildings for Disney's Animal Kingdom and they have been managing games at Universal Studios for the last 5-6 years. They also played an important consulting role in Ray Cammack Show's revamping of their game operation.
Guy Leavitt of RCS purchased the Whack-A-Mole game on display at the trade show. The Whopper Water race went to the Hauser family. New to the midway this year is the Bongo Beat game. The action of the game is similar to that of the Whack-A-Mole, only your hands are used simulating bongo drum playing. The game was very popular on display at the show and BSR said they were optimistic about the game's success. The first test unit is in use at Busch Gardens in Tampa. They have also developed a 3-unit center game for arcades.
Mike Lane of BSR said the company saw "lots of international activity" this year as the dollar fell and foreign currency was able to buy more than ever in recent memory.
Chestnut Identity Apparel
Jon Chestnut of Chestnut Identity Apparel was running his large booth at the trade show when interviewed this year. He said "overall, we had good sales this year". "We moved a lot of flags, gave away as many or more catalogues than last year, we may even be up for the show", he added.
Jon said his 6-foot spiral flags were very going to be very popular on shows and fairgrounds. Digital flags were also doing tremendous business. You can take any photo or graphic and have it placed on a flag. Chestnut said many food operators have used the flags to copy the graphic from their trailer and extend it up to 21 feet higher.
Another popular item this year is the Glow-light Hat. The black hats with fluorescent lights built into the bill have a black light that makes the logo illuminate at night. "Butler Amusements dressed their whole carnival in them", said Chestnut.
Part II will have updates from Rides 4 U, Usedrides.com, Wisdom, Hitchhiker and many others!