The IAFE convention and trade show kicked off Monday in Las Vegas, Nevada. The convention returned to its traditional dates of the week following Thanksgiving after having moved to later in December for a year in 2008.
While the trade show began at 4pm with a party and reception, the Showmen,s League of America trade show, geared especially for carnival-related businesses, began early in the day at Bally,s hotel on the 26th floor. Originally organized as a competing trade show to the IAFE,s efforts because of strained relations between carnival owners and IAFE management, the SLA convention now lives harmoniously with the IAFE show and the Outdoor Amusement Business has a booth near the IAFE show entrance.
"It is a stronger show than I expected" said Joe Burum of the SLA trade show,s 60 vendors. With a downturn in the gaming business blamed for a lack of plush and toy vendors, Burum was concerned that the economy would affect the number of vendors and attendees but in the end, there was a strong showing from vendors.
SLA members are admitted free to the show, which is provided as a service of the SLA to carnival attendees. Burum described the show as a "carnival-focused trade show in a relaxed atmosphere." In fact, with the configuration of tables in the middle of the floor, there is ample room and time to speak with vendors about new products or just gather information on a potential new purchase.
Burum reported that the SLA had moved out of their temporary offices above a Chicago based Walgreens and has leased office space at 8 South Michigan for one year. The office space consists of 2 offices and a conference room. Diane Burmeister maintains the office with Burum spending about one full week a month at the organization,s headquarters.
"The office is well situated and efficient", said Burum, "its not a place for special events or parties", he added. The SLA board will be looking at other options for the SLA at the end of the lease term.
Burum said the SLA had plans to move parties and events around the country to better serve the membership, noting that the four states best represented in the organization are Florida, Illinois, California and Texas. He wants to emphasize that the SLA is a national organization with members from virtually every state.
Originally started as a home away from home for traveling showmen, the SLA is now looking at revitalizing its mission for the future. Burum said several changes over the years had an important impact on the league. The admission of female members changed the tenor of the club from a male-only establishment. Second, the club was opened to regular workers and not just show owners and elite, there is no longer a blackball system for excluding new members. Finally, the advent of national conference calls for board meetings enabled board members from throughout the country to attend telephonically where previously only those present in person could attend the meeting, skewing the power towards those who lived closest to the Showmen,s League headquarters in Chicago.
Mike Featherston of Gold Star Amusements is the 2010 incoming president of the club and he has a full agenda of key issues facing the SLA. His focus is on how the organization will remain relevant into the 21st century. The club relies on dues and fundraising to pay for administration, scholarships, the annual Christmas party, the cemetery and other charitable endeavors.
The SLA trade show continues on Tuesday from 11 am to 4pm.
One person who is on the move during the trade show is Brian Schuman of Fair Productions, producer of the Brookhaven and Nassau Coliseum Fairs on New York,s Long Island.
The Brookhaven Fair is now in its 9th year and the Nassau Coliseum Fair, which is 25 years old, is celebrates its fifth year under Schuman,s management. Schuman previously founded the successful Belmont Stakes Fair at Belmont Racetrack and the "Big A Fair" at Aqueduct Racetrack.
From 1980 through the 1990,s Schuman produced consumer shows primarily at the Nassau Coliseum, promoting flower shows, home shows and real estate expos. When expenses began to rise, Schuman began researching fairs, visiting several large events and the IAFE convention during his preparation time.
On the heels of the most successful Brookhaven Fair yet, Schuman began thinking more often about how fairs were one business that can perform well in an economic downturn. After reading stories about many fairs being sold, shuttered or sinking into financial trouble, he devised a plan to assist some of these events. Schuman decided to approach selected events about either taking over the fairs by purchasing the land and fair or by signing agreements to manage the fair and guarantee payments to the owner of the grounds, using the existing board to help produce the event.
Schuman has secured the interest of an investment group in New York for the new endeavor. He hopes to work with existing fairboards to bring their events to a new level through an increased investment in promotions, advertising and entertainment.
In 2010, Fair Productions hopes to add several existing fairs to their event lineup, including a new fair they are working on in New York area.
Bob,s Space Racers is a company that is continually coming through with new innovations for the industry. Jack Cook, president of BSR was pitching his new duck pond game both here and at the IAAPA convention as one of those innovations.
The new duck pond features ducks containing new RFI chips that are coded with the corresponding prize. When the player selects their duck, they scan the one they have selected and the corresponding prize is then displayed and given to the customer.
The game is now transformed from an inventory control nightmare to one with a sophisticated accounting system. The children can now pick up as many ducks as they like until the final selection is scanned and prize awarded. The chip method can also be used in other variations of games such as Drag-A-Fish where prizes are labeled.
The entire game sells for approximately $16,000 or the inventory control system sells for $9,750. Cook said there had been significant interest in the game system both here and at the IAAPA show.
Cook said the company had a "very good show" at IAAPA earlier in the month and thinks the game industry is "ready to come out of a slump." He said BSR had great success in the South American market and has signed several international consulting agreements.
The company signed an agreement with a customer in Saudi Arabia to put games in mall,s as part of a joint venture in the kingdom as well as a consulting agreement in Ecuador.
Noting the international market at IAAPA was "very, very strong", he was looking forward to a turnaround in the domestic market here and at the Gibsonton trade show in February.