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Fun Expo and ASI Convention -- Las Vegas
By Ron Weber, Editor
Las Vegas - Fun Expo and ASI, Amusement Showcase International, co-located their trade shows in the spring in Las Vegas this year March 11 - 13. Fun Expo is geared towards "family and location-based entertainment" and ASI is the trade show for distributors, operators, manufacturers and suppliers of the coin operated amusement, music and game industry.
Fun Expo is sponsored by, IALEI, the International Association for the Leisure and Entertainment Industry, AMOA, the Amusement and Music Operators Association and AAMA, the American Amusement Machine Association.
Dozens of ride manufacturers, ticket suppliers, novelty vendors and related companies had their wares on display primarily for Family Entertainment and arcade operators.
J&J Amusements manufactures bumper boats and go karts for the industry. Kevin Bell said the company has a couple of portable models on the road including one with Wade Shows and they also sell electric powered go karts with a small footprint for possible use at fairs and festivals. The company has 3 parks with brand new installations this year including the Yuma Family Fun Center where they have attractions both indoor and outdoor.
Spectrum Sports, located in a nearby booth, was selling an inflatable go-kart track using the electric-powered go-karts. The cars hold a charge for 6 hours and have a tight turning radius of 5-6 feet according to Corey Hyer of the Logan, UT based Spectrum Sports.
The track typically measures 30' x 50' and the inflatable barrier system has zippered pockets for sand bags to hold it in place. The track is also available with arches but needs portable lights in order to operate at night.
Spectrum also carries the "Coconut Climb", a variation on the popular rock wall where customers climb one of three trailer-mounted trees to the top to ring the buzzer for a prize. The attraction comes with an automatic belay system.
The Coconut Climb "keeps everyone happy", said Hyer. The tree is relatively easy to climb for participants of all ages so the focus becomes ascending the tree for the fastest time. The record time is registered on the readout at the top of the attraction, displayed for potential climbers to beat.
The Coconut Climb has been sold to many FECs as well as to individual concessionaires who book the attraction at fairs and festivals.
Another ride manufacturer at the show was Kid Steam, producer of a hand powered track train ride. The ride is aimed at FECs, zoos, camps, parks and independent ride operators, according to Gina Guglielmi who was providing sales support for Kid Steam. Guglielmi said the ride is "very affordable" at about $6,000 and the track and ride can be set up in many configurations.
Guglielmi also represents ABC Rides of Switzerland and the Railroad Factory. Her business spans large park rides to smaller equipment such as Kid Steam. Despite economic woes, Guglielmi said she is "very optimistic about this year".
Also on hand at the show was Zamperla, represented by Ramon Rosario and Ivano Rizzo. Rosario was excited about the performance of the company's Vertical Swing which Reithoffer Shows presented at the Florida State Fair.
Rosario said the ride finished #5 in Tampa and a second ride he sold to Ray Cammack Shows finished #6 at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, CA. Recently, he sold a third ride to North American Midway Entertainment.
The Vertical Swing stands 100' tall and holds 24 passengers. Relatively easy to set up, the ride can be erected by two men in four hours according to Rosario. Park models of the attraction retail for $700,000 with portable models selling for around $790,000 depending upon options such as lighting packages.
According to Rizzo, "about 30%" of Zamperla's business comes in the coin-op sector. New for 2009 was the company,s Hummer ride which was garnering some looks from potential customers. Rizzo said business at the show was "more than I was expecting".
S&S Worldwide, Inc. of Logan, UT is the largest U.S. manufacturer of amusement rides. They are well known for their super roller coasters but best known in the portable amusement industry for their Frog Hopper ride.
Kathy Archer, Manager of Marketing and Small Ride Sales for the company said there are over 200 Frog Hoppers in use, mostly in theme parks. She said the company made a "couple of dozen" trailer-mounted models. Recently there have been models sold with custom themes for baseball stadiums and other similar venues.
Another ride in the company's small ride line is the Kite Flyer swing ride which holds 12 passengers. The company has not trailer-mounted any models yet, but they are considering the possibility of doing so.
Approximately 50% of the company's business is in roller coasters and they hold several performance records for coasters. The "Dodonpa" was the first coaster to travel over 100 miles per hour in Japan in 2001. This year in Nurburgring, Germany they plan to shatter the speed record again with the Race Coaster, which will reach speeds of 135 miles per hour. The ride will accelerate from 0 to 135 miles per hoursin just 2.5 seconds!
Another area of innovation for S&S is their line of "Tower Rides". The Big Shot at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas is but one example of this type of attraction. The rides can reach as tall as 300, and some have multiple drop arms for higher capacity.
Archer said the company was working on expanding their small ride division in 2009 both domestically and in Europe.
Perhaps most famous for their Titanic inflatable slide, Cutting Edge Creations of Eagen, MN has an enormous line of inflatable products available for parks and centers of all sizes. From bounce houses to inflatable slides to obstacle courses and advertising inflatables, the company carries every variety of attraction.
In addition to the amusement rides the company also makes concession equipment such as an inflatable "Big Chair " for photos, inflatable concession tents, movie screens, and even inflatable ATM machines.
The company will be holding "Minne AAPA" at their facility April 17 and 18 this year. Calling it the "Biggest Little Trade Show in the Industry", the show will feature free Safety Training and Certification for those who attend. The show will have talks on topics affecting the industry and the company will offer a $250 travel credit to those purchasing an inflatable at the show.
Another interesting division of CEC is digital printing and designs. The company makes custom images for signs and banners and sells a line of products that includes flags, banners, signs, stands and concession graphics.
Ever the innovator, CEC also recently introduced to their website "The Facilitator", an amazing tool that enables you to design an indoor entertainment center or outdoor event in 3-D.
Even with parts of the program still under development, the facilitator is a state of the art design program available for free use on the CEC website. Users can design a space, place rides, concessions, benches, food stands and even trees and people on the template and virtually walk through the finished product.
CEC has developed partnerships with suppliers such as Hi Striker who provide custom icons for their products. CEC hopes to develop additional relationships with ride manufacturers to design custom rides and attractions for the program instead of using generic shapes.
The 3-D Facilitator is one of the most innovative programs available to the indoor or outdoor amusement planner and given additional time to develop, the product will become a "must-use" system for lot layout and indoor park design.
Coming Part II - Announcements for 2010, ticket innovations and hot novelty products.