Gibsonton, FL - As the International Independent Showmen's Association trade show drew to a close last Saturday, the mood among vendors and attendees was cautiously optimistic. The consensus seemed to be that buyers were spending money, but prudently and after a longer decision making process, gone are the days of the last decade when money was freely spent.
As was reported in an earlier article about the trade show, many vendors are bringing equipment to show and sell again and this was evidenced by Zamperla's booth which was displaying three rides, the Surf's Up, a Mini Jet and the new Happy Swing which resembles a backyard swing. All three of the pieces had been spoken for by the conclusion of the show. The swing ride was going to Fun Spot in Orlando, the Surf's Up to an undisclosed park and the Mini Jet was going to Ray Cammack Shows. "The IISA gave us a great location and the new rides generated some excitement", said Ramon Rosario of Zamperla. He said the Happy Swing was going over very well for the demographic it was designed for. He pointed to rides such as the Frog Hopper that have traditionally done very well catering to the young audience.
Fajume's Dave Griffin said they had a "decent" show this year. The company had a Wacky Worm displayed and were also hoping to display their Chopper Hopper but some logistical problems prevented the showing. Deggeller Attraction bought the Chopper Hopper last year and they were doing very well with it. The Wacky Worm on the lot was sold to James Gang Amusements and other sales have been made to North American Midway Entertainment and Wild Kingdom park. Dave's son Chad has now ventured into the LED lighting business and he was hoping to make his mark in that arena.
At the back of the show, Wadkins Expo Wheel, LLC was displaying their latest 65 foot Wheel which was going to Brown's Amusements. The ride has 16 cars and holds up to 96 people. The second wheel for 2010 is going to Jim Houghton Enterprises. Wadkins, who also owns a carnival company bearing his name, said he was booked solid for the season.
Just across the aisleway, Mike Demas was speaking with Billy Tucker who had just purchased a new Vertigo ride. Demas is taking delivery on the second Inversion ride from KMG and it will be booked at major events including the Minnesota State Fair. He has been talking with KMG for the past year about the ride and it will be delivered in time for his fall route in 2010. In addition to the Inversion, Demas owns a Zamperla tower ride and the skyride at the Texas State Fair. He recently sold his Fireball to Brazil and was considering the purchase of another. He was the first buyer of a Fireball in the US which he later sold to Amusements of America and another to Cumberland Valley.
Below is a short video clip of the Inversion on display in Gibtown, purchased by Tim and Pam Casper's PBJ Happee Day Shows:
Despite the extremely cold and rainy weather in Gibtown this year, Len Soled of Rides 4 U was optimistic about a rebound in the economy. His LED lighting package was displayed on Corky Power's Mulligan Wheel and Jim Fredricksen's Ice Slide at the show and on Reithoffer's Giant Wheel at the Florida State Fair. The wheel generated a lot of talk and attention with it's spectacular light show.
Soled had a large array of rides at the fair and as usual, all were sold by the end of the event. The Hillbilly Express was sold to Otterbacher Shows. Soled said the flexibility of the track was a big selling point. The ride has a new marquee and artwork and the trailer is designed by Fredricksen Industries.
Next on the row was the SBF tea cup ride that was sold to A&P Amusements and another to Coleman Brothers. Another SBF piece, the tugboat ride, was sold to a park. The ride has big back seats for adults so the whole family can ride together.
Rides 4 U also sells the Visa line of amusement rides. The Puppy Love is a boat/swing-type piece for kids and over 50 have been built with different themes. It is very portable and the model at the show was going to Coleman Brothers.
The Hog Wild has been wildly popular with over 30 models sold. The ride is suited for both adults and children. The cars rock up and down as they move along the track. The portable model was sold to Amusements Spectaculares of Canada and a park model is going to the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, NJ.
View our video interview with Rides-4U's Len Soled below:
As previously stated, Fredricksen Industries builds the trailers for Rides 4 U's Hillbilly Express but their main business continues to be portable slides. Frericksen's three slides on display were going to Australia, Puerto Rico and the third to Matt McDonagh. Corky Powers will be taking delivery on an Ice Slide in time for the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh. Frericksen said sales usually come in after the show but he did have two pre-sales this year, Amsuements Spectaculares and Fun Spot in Orlando.
Seabrook, NH based CAPCO Custom Builders had a great response to their latest trailer design. Working from a previous design, with Mitch Hoss of S & H Concessions, CAPCO is custom building a 24' Balloon Center High-Rise. The new design is similar to its center trailers debuted in Gibtown a few years ago, except this model has permanent axles underneath, as opposed to the removable ones of the previous model. The new trailer is complete with a new color scheme, LED lighting package, and an additional graphics package for added flash. The new trailer is scheduled to be delivered the end of February and only photos of it during construction were available at the tradeshow and they received a lot of positive response. Two more center high-rise trailers were ordered at the tradeshow by Davis Concessions of Cleveland, Ohio and H & H Enterprises of Paragould, Arkansas.
CAPCO delivered a second high-rise basketball to Ron Burback of Funtastic shows this past spring along with a new order from Jimmy Buchino of Boston, MA this winter. A high-rise football was also purchased by A & L Concessions of Brandon, FL.
On the tradeshow, E.J. Dean said, "despite the weather on Friday the show was surprisingly positive. The new buzz on our center trailer was great and we now have some additional leads to follow up with this week." He also stated "the only hard part is that everyone wants delivery in early April."
In other trade show news, Majestic Manufacturing will be delivering a Wiggle Worm to Reithoffer Shows at the Southwest Florida Fair in Ft. Myers. The company also has three tentative Scooter sales on the books this year.
Fabbri's Jeff Miller was excited about the company's newest offering, the Daytona 500. The race car-themed ride has a number of sweeps and moves in a circular motion. The number of sweeps and size of the ride can be varied to fit the needs of the purchaser. The first ride has been sold but Miller was unable to reveal the buyer at this time.
Tim Noland of Eli Bridge said their new electric drive wheel will be coming out this year. There is some discussion as to what to name the ride within the company because the Hy-5 moniker referred to the ride's hydraulic drive.
All Around Amusement's Robert Salerno was doing quite a bit of business at the show. He purchased a new funnel cake trailer from Schantz Manufacturing. He also added a Break-A-Plate, Red Baron, Yo-Yo, Funni Frite Funhouse, Mini Jet and a couple of tractors. Salerno is also purchasing some new canvas for the show and adding LED lights to many of his rides.
Bill Reiss of Blue Sky Amusements had his Ali Baba reworked with LED lights this year and he was very pleased with the project. In addition to the fuel cost savings, he said the ride was up 35% over last year with the new package.
One familiar face returning to the business after a long hiatus is Gary Otterbacher with Lifetime Products. Otterbacher was the former owner of Otterbacher Manufacturing, one of the leading trailer manufacturers in the business. Otterbacher moved to Florida and has had several businesses including, most recently, a pool hall. Lifetime is selling custom bunkhouses built of aluminum. The bunkhouses are built to last and Otterbacher says the quality of construction will keep them going strong over the road for decades. The bunkhouse on display sleeps 14. There are four single rooms, 3 doubles and two doubles in the fifth wheel. The bunkhouses also have showers and ample storage. The units, which sell for $57,000 have generated a lot of interest and 5 are currently on order. Larry Nieukirk, the IISA's new president, David Starkey, John Doolan and Bobby Myers (2) have all made purchases.
The winner of the OABA's prestigious Pioneer Award this year was Bob Cassata for his contribution to the industry. A moving video of Bob's life and involvement with the industry was played in conjunction with the reception of the award. Bob's company Bob's Space Racers won the 2010 "Most Beautiful Outdoor Display" award. They had a large presence at the trade show and ever the innovators, they had some exciting new technology on hand.
The company's Wopper Water game was sold to Howard and Mitch Hoss of Seattle, WA. They travel with West Coast Amusements. The center water game was sold to Kelly Smink of Amusement Masters in Atlanta, GA. The company's duck pond game has new chip technology for its inventory control system. Models have been sold to Universal Studios and Busch Gardens. A demonstration of the game and its technology by BSR's president, Jack Cook, can be seen below.
Cook said the show was better than last year and customer were "cautious, but in the mood to buy".
The final day of the trade show is also the annual memorial service for those who have passed away since the last trade show. Paul Jeonotte, president of the showmen's cemetery, works very hard to honor each showman and their families. Those who passed in 2009 were: Louise Blackburn, Darrell Boyd, Donna Cole, Zelda Cunnigham, Dean Eberle, Sally Exum, Anna Hayward, Gaylord "Butch" Howard, Charles Hunt, Roy Huston, Marvin Kemp, Lawrence Knoll, Sr., S. "Balloon Peddler" Lewis, Ronnie Lindekugel, Dale Longmire, Allan Lucas, John McCarthy, Margie Moore, Irene Morten, Michael O'Grady, Del Oliver, Gloria Peebles, Ruth Sand, Sherman Schimdt, Janelle Sheley, Bill Sitki, William Strong, Peter Ulyanisch, Gerald Willenkin. In 2010, H. Tommy Bentley, Shirley Farberman, Virginia Gray, R. "Bruce" Snowdon and Richard Wells were lost.
In 2011 the Florida State Fair will be opening a week later but this will likely not affect the dates for the IISA trade show. The dates have not been set yet for 2010 but they should be announced shortly.
Additional Video Clips and Inverviews:
The Peeler Group - Demonstrating the ease of an online background check: