The weather turned a bit cooler on Thursday of the 2011 IISA Trade Show in Gibsonton. Temperatures dropped into the high 50s or low 60s, making it the coldest day of the week so far. Crowds, however, seemed to make their way through the show as many vendors were reporting surprisingly good business. Most decline to comment until deals were finalized on the last day, but the general mood of the vendors is positive.
One show owner who is positive about the past and the future is Robert Briggs of Modern Midways. "I had bad weather one week, but other than that, we are having a great season so far", said Briggs of his Florida route so far.
2010 was the best year ever for the show and Briggs was in Gibtown making some purchases for 2011. The show purchased a Popcorn trailer from Caravan of OH and Briggs praised the trailer's construction. Also new for them in 2011 will be a Zamperla Speedway ride, which will make a nice addition to the midway.
On a personal note, Briggs was very proud of his son for having achieved a scholastic achievement award. He attends Catholic School in the Chicago Heights area.
Susan Reiss of Blue Sky Amusements also stopped by the booth to talk about her new presidency of the National Showmen's Association. The association is the 2nd largest in the US according to Reiss. The National Showmen's Association used to have a clubhouse in Manhattan many years ago.
Today, the association is raising money to start a scholarship fund. She hopes to expand membership to younger showmen. The club needs new members and she hopes to interject new blood into the organization.
The association currently meets at a restaurant where they speak about legislative issues such as DOT regulations, H2B Visas and how to turn a profit in the modern economy.
Her family's show, Blue Sky Amusements, made a purchase of a new Gravitron from Wisdom Rides. The ride will be themed Spaceship Gravitron. It will have LED lights and the new fold up sign.
According to Bill Reiss, the show now has 4-5 rides that now have LED lighting. He says the lights are very fuel efficient and economical to use. Reiss works with Rides-4-U for the lighting product and he is very pleased with the results.
As to his route for 2011, Reiss said it is the "same old, same old". His biggest worry for 2011 is fuel pricing. Several years ago, the rise in fuel had a big negative impact on his bottom line, costing him an estimated additional $150,000 for the year.
Todd Keenan owns Royal West Amusements and Inland Empire Shows, carnivals he purchased from Reed Williams in 2006 and 2009, respectively. Kennan plays the states of Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and in 2011, Arkansas for the first time. The show, based in Missoula, MT, picked up the Four States Fair and Rodeo in Texarkana, AR for this fall. They are hoping to play fairs and events through November. The show will be jumping from Idaho and making a stop before heading to Texas.
The shows typically carry 16 rides per unit. Some of the larger rides include a Hi-Lite Wheel, Mulligan Sea Ray, Kamikaze, Zipper, Sizzler, Star Trooper, Tornado and new for 2011, a Thunderbolt.
Keenan has been experimenting with advance sale tickets through his website and 2010 was his second year with the program. Kennan said his numbers greatly improved in 2010 and he is hoping for even better results in 2011.
Another interesting idea Keenan pioneered for his games is to sell a typically priced $20 wristband for $25 and then give the customer 5 gold coins in return, good for use on the games. For a higher priced Gold Pass or Super Ticket, good for the entire event, the customer receives 10 gold coins that can be used on the show's games. Keenan said the promotion has worked and the games were doing particularly well, something you do not hear very often.
Thursday night, MCW traveled to the Florida State Fair to see what was new and exciting at the fair. Pictures and information have been posted to our Facebook Page and the front page of MCW.
The midway for the FSF again featured over 100 rides and the top provider of rides once again was Frank Zaitshik's Wade Shows. Wade Shows had 27 rides at the fair including the #1 portable amusement ride, the Hit In 2000, the #2 Giant Wheel and the #3 RC-48 roller coaster. Other rides near the top of the highest grossing list include the Drag Strip Mega Slide, the Fighter, the Crazy Dance and the Enterprise.
Zaitshik said crowds looked good tonight but after a very tough 2010, it was going to be "easy to be up this year".
Wade Shows just completed a record run at the South Florida Fair in West Palm Beach where they had a fantastic first and third weekend and a second week that was down including the important Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. At the end, the show was up 9% over last year and broke all records at the fair.
From West Palm Beach, the show moved to Tampa where an extra week in between the two events was thought to help with getting things together in quick order. Instead, said Zaitshik, they "worked the clock backward" and the move took as much time as last year, even with the extra days.
Part of the reason for the slow start may have been Zaitshik's absence when he flew to San Antonio, TX for the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo, an event Wade Shows plays simultaneously with the Florida State Fair.
San Antonio has experienced historic cold weather with 60 straight hours in the teens. Zaitshik said his crews and the independent ride operators did an "unbelievably good" job of getting the rides erected and ready. He says the general public has no idea what it takes to get the show up in such adverse conditions. "They (the public) probably don't need to care either, but I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for my people being able to get this done", said Zaitshik.
The show did not open on Day 1 due to ice and Day 2 was delayed from 11 am to 1 pm for the same reason. Wade Shows had 46 rides at the Rodeo in 2011, their tenth year at the event. Opening weekend was a little soft but the show was poised and ready for when the weather breaks.
Zaitshik was not sure of any new ride purchases at this time but he was very happy to announce the addition of Avery Wheelock to his team as 3rd unit manager. Avery is a fourth generation showman from New York. He left his family's show to start World Wide Entertainment Group then took a position as a unit manager for Harold Fera. Wheelock then became a certified ride instructor, receiving NAARSO Level III certification. Zaithik is very excited about adding Wheelock to the team, citing personnel to be more important as any major or spectacular ride. "Buying rides is easy", said Zaitshik, "assembly a top quality team is much more difficult. We have that in Avery and his team", he added.
Avery is joined on the unit by assistant manager Jimmy Kellogg and concession manager Corky Jones.
Also new to the unit this year is Lamar Miller.
The most surprising news about the return of Lamar Miller to Wade Shows is that it has led to a return of Frank Zaitshik to the game business. Zaitshik will partner with Miller on 2 food, a funnel cake and a chicken/corn dog. He will also have four games including a center water, fishy fishy, 3-trade balloon game and a game to be determined. The food stands are being refurbished and will be adding new billboard marquees.
Another improvement for Wade Shows in 2011 is the addition of all new center joints. The new tents have 11' legs and two foot overhangs. They all will receive the new Wade Shows canvas and the design allows the game to be flashed better and gives the midway a better visual look.
Joe & Jamie Skerbeck of Skerbeck Bros Shows
Todd & Becky Keenan of Royal West Amusements
Robert Briggs of Modern Midways
Dalton Kid Rides - Four Hamptons on one semi trailer