"It was a good show" said Peter Theunisz of KMG, echoing the comments of many vendors at the annual IISA Trade Show in Gibsonton, FL. Some vendors were critical of the number of attendees and the length of the show, but almost everyone was satisfied with sales this year.
Beau Pugh, immediate past President of the Gibsonton club, discussing the length of the trade show, pointed out that the show was not only a place to do business but a social gathering as well. There are activities each night, the IISA gala, OABA events, SLA events and the Florida State Fair. Each night has a major event and cutting back on the calendar would affect one or more of those events. The club is constantly assessing the interests of all involved.
Theunisz and his company have supported the show in recent years by bringing a large ride and exhibiting on the grounds, generating buzz and excitement. He said the company likely sold a Freak Out during the show as well as a confirmed sale to the Bohlanders of Poor Jack Amusements. Another company, ArmCo., Inc. will be taking out a Speed ride in Texas as an independent operator. Other sales and coming deliveries of Speeds include two rides to North American Midway Entertainment in September of this year and January of 2013, a Speed to Ray Cammack Shows, also in January of 2013 and a Speed to Steve Broetsky's Frazier Shows scheduled for June of 2013.
Other big ticket items seemed to be selling well also. Gary Otterbacher's Lifetime Trailers is a case in point. Otterbacher sold a 30' model to Tom Murray. The unit has a V-nose and single rooms. Otterbacher said his products are "built to last".
Tom and Jeanne McDoangh purchased their second Lifetime product, a unit that sleeps 10 people for their new business venture. Jeanne is the new Chairman of the OABA, replacing Bill Johnson.
Jake Inners of Majestic Midways as well as Poor Jack's Amusements purchased trailers. Poor Jack's has been a client of Otterbacher's since 1971! Otterbacher said Lifetime had a good show by week's end.
Bob's Space Racers
Over in the game area, Bob's Space Racers' Jack Cook said his products have been generating a lot of interest. Recent purchases include a Stinky Feet to Atlantic City's Steel Pier. There was also a model working at the Florida State Fair.
The newest addition to the BSR lineup is the Dartless Balloon Pop. Players use a bean bag they throw at the balloon and a screw behind the balloon pops it. Cook said some events have been banning darts so they innovated a way to work around the issue. One of the great features of the new game is the auto-fill system where the balloon is automatically filled when placed on the stem in the balloon square. The new game is less labor intensive and reduces liability at the same time.
In 2011, arcades and parks were up according to Cook. The outdoor amusement business however, has been soft in the game sector the last few years. He said nice, clean, refurbished equipment is what sells right now. When they get a clean unit in for refurbishment, it tends to sell quickly. Water races are the top seller. "Always has been", Cook added.
Cook said the 2011 season, largely because of the influx of 5-8 hot new items, including animal-shaped pillows, should have been good for most operators. "Barring weather, if your game operation was not up, you need to look at what you are doing", he added.
A few vendors came a very long way to exhibit at the trade show. Owen Trailers comes from California and another manufacturer at the show is Wisdom Industries of Sterling, Colorado. Wisdom has been a fixture at the show, exhibiting several rides and attractions and delivering orders for East Coast clients. On display at the show this year was the Jungle Twist, a spinning family coaster going to the Leuhrs family and an Alien Abduction (Gravitron) to Ray Cammack Shows.
Victor Wisdom said the company had several deals pending and the show was worth coming out for.
If Wisom and Owen are the vendors that have to travel the furthest then Frederiksen is likely the closest. Only a few miles from his shop, the trade show is an important part of his sales plan each year.
In 2012, Frederiksen is delivering his first Gondola Wheel, built in conjunction with Mulligan Manufacturing. Frederiksen used to make some of the cars for the old-style Mulligan Wheel. They are now producing a new 17-meter wheel with 16 seats. The ride holds 64 passengers per cycle, It takes three men three hours to erect and travels on one 53-foot trailer. The ride has an impressive LED lighting system from Maxtron.
The first wheel was sold to Jimmy Otterbacher and a second wheel was sold at the show to Pat Crabtree of Crabtree Amusements. They plan to build three wheels a year going forward.
Frederiksen's main business is slides and he had 6 sold just before the show to Peachtree Rides, Michael Doolan, Planet Entertainment in Australia, Michael's Amusements, Al Belmont of Wizard's Festival of Fun and Homeniuk Rides. During the show, they sold slides to Rob Moegerle, Tom Murray, Tim and Pam Caper or PBJ Happy Day Shows and John Arie, Jr. of Fun Spot.
Frederiksen said he was selling about half of his slides with LED lights ad they were offering custom graphics on the slide lanes themselves.
Also in the Fredriksen booth was Jason O'Keefe who builds Terry Curl-style fun houses. The one on display was the "Scooby Boo".
What many may not know is Fredriksen also builds train trailers for Rides 4 U and other ride companies. He estimates he will probably build 10 this year.
When asked how business was during the show Jim Frederiksen said it was a "fantastic show, I'm pushing $1,000,000 in sales". By show's end, Frederiksen thought he had surpassed that mark.
The biggest outdoor display was that of Rides-4-U, representing several manufacturers. We are sad to report that Nancy Buckley of Rides-4-U will be retiring this year. She began her career at Zamperla in 1981. She quickly moved her way up to Vice-President of Operations.
One of her hires at Zamperla was a young Len Soled, just out of graduate school. Nancy is responsible for bringing Soled into the business and it is a relationship that has lasted for decades.
In 1995, Buckley and Soled, "he had a lot more hair then" said Buckley, started Rides-4-U. They developed relationships with manufacturers and sold their products. Majestic, Moser, SBF/Visa and now KMG and S&S are some of the companies they have represented over the years. Buckley believes she will return to the show again next year, out of retirement to keep Soled pointed in the right direction.
Soled said the company had a very good year at the show. They sold an Air Show to a New York company, A Groovy Bus to Ray Cammack Shows, a Dog Ride to Jake Inners, a Train to Playworld, a Frog Hopper from S&S to Rick Haney. He also sold a Freak Out to Barry Jamieson, a Speed to Frazier Shows and as mentioned earlier, two Speeds to NAME and one to RCS.
Perhaps no one has their finger on the pulse of the industry more than Tommy Coffing of Usedrides.com. Tommy's eponymous booth sells used rides, new rides, LED Lights for $2, issues ride financing and also gave away popular hats and candy.
Coffing commented that traffic seemed light but people were buying. "The used market is strong", he said. "We were busy November, December and January".
Coffing sold a Wadkins Wheel to Australia a Chopper Hopper from Majestic and four Spectrum Zip Lines which he thought would make a great addition to any midway.
A final indicator of the show's success was Scott Davis of Kelly Toy. Davis is the West Coast-based representative and comes to the show each year to write orders and meet some of his East Coast customers face to face. "There are quality buyers here", said Davis speaking of the 2012 show, "We are up from last year".
View the IISF Trade Show Photo Gallery (click here)