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IAAPA Trade Show Wrap-Up
By Ron Weber, Editor
With well over 1,000 exhibitors, IAAPA is an important stop for many carnival owners. Although many of the exhibitors are intended more for the park market, there are still plenty that work in the mobile amusement business market.
Audio Innovators has been serving the carnival market for many years. They supply radio and electronic communication to carnivals throughout the country. For the past several years, radios took quite a hit in sales with the prevalence of cell phones.
More recently however, radios are making a comeback, according to the company. There are several reasons for the return of radios but the biggest two are that radios are easier to hear on the midway and radios have the ability to send an alert to a group of people, something that can come in handy in a crisis. With cell phone in pocket, many midway supervisors may miss an important call or communication. Radios, with microphones, placed near the ear, are less likely to result in missed communications.
This is the first year for an up tick in radio sales after seven down years, according to Audio Innovators.
During the down years, Audio Innovators developed other sources of revenue including pre-recorded announcements for safety, loading for music rides and recorded announcements for ticket box information. The pre-recorded announcements can be customized for any use and almost all industry rides have a generic announcements available from Audio Innovators.
The IAAPA Expo is a place for people to come together, renew relationships and review the past season while looking to the season ahead. Robert Salerno of All Around Amusements was seen walking through the show early in the week. Salerno said he had purchased a new popcorn stand from Schantz Manufacturing.
He added the new food stand after a season that stated slow but ended up very good. "We had the worst season up to Memorial Day and the best in history after that, said Salerno. His 31 ride carnival plays in and around the Chicagoland area all season long, many times splitting into two units. Before Memorial Day, the show experienced six weeks of rain before the weather turned around.
Salerno also announced he had purchased several rides from a Washington area show. Purchased rides include a Tea Cup and Samba.
Another Chicagoland fixture attending the show was Tim Magid of S and T Magic Midways, along with wife Susan (Strates).
Magid sports a 23-ride show but carries some large pieces to play major dates with Susan,s family,s show, Strates Shows, and he books as an independent at other fairs.
Magid said he played the Tennessee Valley Fair in Knoxville with Wade Shows and the Texas State Fair with his triple-decker funhouse, King Circus.
Tim purchased an Ali Baba from A.R.M., which was an Inverter conversion.
Joe Tellone of Sunshine Amusements and John Hofeditz, a ride owner/operator, specializing in roller coasters, were also spotted at the show. Tellone operates Sunshine Amusements with his wife, Barbara, playing mostly festivals in Florida, South Carolina and Virginia.
Tellone operates a 12-ride unit with a Sun Wheel, Himalaya, Gee Whiz, Slide, Castlemania, Bear Affair, Rio Grande Train, Trucks, MGR and Swinger among his arsenal. Tellone operates year round, saying he is "always open for business". He does several rentals in December, some churches in January and one job in February he has had for 32 years. He also works together with Robert Briggs of Midwest Midways and John Richardson of J and J Amusements.
Hofeditz, a long-time coaster operator was at the show considering propositions for the coming season. He has been with Amusements of America for many years.
An area gaining in popularity both at parks, where they are ubiquitous, and carnivals, where they are gaining in popularity, are cashless systems. Cashless systems can be designed to be used for rides, games, food, group sales, employee time keeping, advance sales and even line management.
There were many companies offering cashless systems using various technologies and all seemed to have some important clients. Ideal Software, Sacoa Playcard and Core Cashless were three of the companies offering systems at IAAPA.
Core works with cruise lines such as Disney, Royal Caribbean and Cunard. If you have ever enjoyed a cruise on these lines and used the card to charge to your room/credit card, you have likely experienced a system built by Core. Core also works with Coney Island at Luna Park and Scream Zone, they do the midway games for Sea World and all the former Busch Parks, as well as numerous other ride and water parks.
Core said the use of the cards has increased game revenue. Some of the parks use a special card where their guests can get a free game on the Frog Bog using one of the scanned cards. In another case, they actually lowered the price of an individual game from $3 to $2.50, made the buy in higher ($5 for 2 games) and revenue for the game increased.
Core said the goal of their system was not only to provide a means to go to a cashless system but also to find ways to raise revenue for their clients using marketing techniques and business plans that are available with the cashless system.
At the front of the park/midway, most times there are different sized dispensing machines where guests can purchase cards or add value to existing cards. They can even scan advance sale or pre-purchase promotions they bought and printed at home and receive the product purchased.
Once the card is purchased, the guest can use the card at rides, concession stands and even souvenir shops if the park is set up in that manner. Rides or games can be set for fractions of a dollar, promotions can be built into the card or added later and the cards or bar-coded wristband can be used for unlimited ride sessions that can last all day, for a certain number of rides or for a certain time period.
Another interesting new product on the market for parks, and possibly carnivals, is the QLess virtual line management system. The system, as usually used, allows you to sign up for a ride line and then be notified by text when your turn comes. Qless allows customers the time to purchase food and beverages, play games and buy souvenirs when they otherwise would have been waiting in line for a ride. A large display screen can show the waiting time and your position in the queue.
Ash Taylor of QLess said his company is currently in several parks and they are hoping to expand. There are marketing aspects of the system where the park can send targeted text messages offering specials or discounts or even just informative messages to those who have opted in.
The cost of the system is based on two factors, the level of service and equipment, touch screens, texting, computer access etc. and the number of people using the system.
QLess has also sold systems to retail establishments, restaurants and they have even worked with motor vehicle departments.
With increased attendance and vendors, IAAPA,s 2011 trade show was deemed a success. Roland Mack, 2012 chairman and Managing Partner of Europa-Park in Rust/Baden, Germany, was optimistic about the coming year.
"Building on the success of the 2011 Expo and based on the strong advance exhibit sales for the 2012 show, we look forward to creating an even more spectacular event for next year," said Mack.
IAAPA Attractions Expo 2012 will take place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Nov. 12-16. More than 130 companies have already reserved their booths on the trade show floor, according to IAAPA. Information about exhibiting or attending is available at www.IAAPA.org/expos/attractions/2012.