The carnival's industry annual trade show, the IISF's Gibtown Extravaganza is just around the corner. Held February 6 - 10 in Gibsonton, Florida, it is the official kickoff of the season for the industry. Just a few short months ago, rides and equipment went into the barn, winterquarters work began and life took on a slightly more casual pace for many in the industry. Show owners decide on refurbishment projects and solidify their route for the coming year, workers and concessionaires take some time before deciding what to do in the coming season. Next year seems so far away. As a break from the road develops into antsy anticipation of the spring to come, it is the Gibsonton Trade Show that really kicks things into gear.
Despite the existence of other shows and gatherings throughout the year, the Extravaganza remains THE pla
ce to get business done. For concessionaires, stock and supplies are ordered and new prizes and innovations are shown. Carnival managers, supervisors and independent ride operators make their deals for the season and finalize their propositions. Carnival owners get together with ride manufacturers, suppliers and even other carnival owners to plan their business. For manufacturers and suppliers, new items are offered and explained, deals are made and much of the business for the season is begun and many times, concluded, with the important face time they get with ride and concession owners. "This is the show where business gets done", said Sidney Karmia of The Toy Factory. "I exhibit in IAAPA and they look at what's new but Gibtown is where the serious buyers are. It is the #1 show in North America."
Even fairs and events come to Gibtown. Independent midway operators, fair managers and concession managers from some of the largest events in the country can be spotted during the trade show. Combining the trade show with a trip to the Florida State Fair, they can see what's new and exciting in the booth and many times in action on the fairgrounds.
The show is a place to make connections for supply equipment and merchandise, compare prices, develop new ideas, make acquaintances and renew friendships and catch up on news. The trade show is not all business either. Every day features a party, dance get-together, golf tournament, banquet or some other function sponsored by one of the many organizations affiliated with the outdoor amusement business.
What many don't realize is the amount of work and dedication it takes to put on the Extravaganza. Club members begin working on the grounds in earnest as soon as they get off the road, preparing the club and making improvements. "Many of our board members bring their crews to work on the grounds, everyone pitches in", said Shelby Royal, president of the International Independent Showmen's Association.
Ms. Royal pointed to the enormous amount of work and improvements that have been made in just the last year. "Our Gazebo got a 2nd story deck when we tore the roof off and added a new stairway. We now have a beautiful picnic area with seating and a view of the Alafia river.", she said. The club also acquired land in a swap with the Mosaic plant across the street. "We had some parcels and they had some parcels but they were all over the place so we got the parcels by the museum and main parking lots that were theirs and we gave them land close to their plant for a buffer that they wanted. We are now clearing the new parcels so we will have excellent additional parking for the show and eventually, the museum", said Royal.
One of the large buildings on the ground was also renovated, now renamed the "Carousel Pavilion". It received $100,000 in updates so now it can be used as a banquet facility year round. During the show, outside exhibitors will be given small booths for speaking privately with their customers, 5 ladies auxiliary groups will have space inside and educational seminars will be conducted in the building.
Beautification of the grounds also received a lot of attention. Workers trimmed over 500 palm tress, privacy fence was installed on the cleared land, additional trailer parking is being offered and a $10,000 bathroom renovation project was completed. "The grounds are in the best shape they have ever been in and we are continuing to work to improve the look and image of show and our grounds", said Royal.
Seeing what's new and exciting in the industry world is a major reason for coming to Gibtown and this year's show will not disappoint. "We've added quite a few new vendors this year", said IISA board member Steve Ianni. "Schantz Trailers added 40' to their space, Fajume is bringing a new ride, and the Fabbri Group has the Family Swings
. We also have a new syrup distributor, a Golf Cart Manufacturer and truck and bunkhouse companies", he added.
MCW has already highlighted Fabbri Group and we will be featuring several other new offering for the show in the coming days as well as full coverage during the show, keep checking for updates. For full trade show information, including open times and prices, directions, seminar schedule and other information, click the banner links on MCW or visit www.gibtownshowmensclub.com
Gazebo photo credit: Steve Ianni