|Exclusive News and Interviews
Gibsonton Day 2
By MCW STAFF
Gibsonton, FL -- Wednesday was another beautiful day in Gibsonton as crowds continued to grow for the trade show sponsored by the International Independent Showmen's Foundation. The MCW booth was busy with the arrival of Matt Cook. Many people stopped by to say hello. Michael Skelly, Joe Kennedy, Richard Tinsley and Steve Lisko were some of the carnival owners saying hello. Chestnut Identity Apparel also came by to purchase some banner advertising for the coming year.
Educational seminars were a big focus of this year's show and Wednesday was busy with several interesting topics. Patty Sullivan began the slate of talks at 10 am with her "Raising the Bar on Ride Safety Program" sponsored by the OABA. Ms. Sullivan has developed a comprehensive plan for teaching ride safety in grade schools. Pointing out that customer error is the cause of up to 85% of all ride accidents, she believes that education of safe behavior in grades K - 6 will help to reduce incident rates.
"Kids today have lots of safety training about tornados, fire and other potential safety hazards, but they are more likely to come in contact with a carnival ride than a natural disaster", said Sullivan. Sullivan recommends using the fair board members and local contacts to arrange for safety talks in schools 4-6 weeks before school is out, just at the beginning of the fair and carnival season. The carnival owner, a family member, a show employee or a committee member trained by the carnival can present the program. Potential target groups would include schools, church groups, Brownie groups, YMCAs and pre-schools.
The program for the educational talk consists of a short talk about the history of the speaker and their company, the showing of the 8-minute OABA-produced video, "Safe Fun at the Carnival", followed by another 10 minutes of a coloring or drawing activity and questions from the audience.
Material for the course, including an outline for the talk, downloadable coloring pages and drawing topics can be found on the OABA and AIMS websites. Sullivan said that customizing the program to the show or event is also a good idea. The coloring pages can bear the show's logo or mascot and a promotional offer can be printed on the back of the paper, encouraging the kids to visit the fair after the talk.
Several enthusiastic suggestions were made about the program. Reed Williams recommended using the program in conjunction with the "Read to Win" program his show currently uses. Sullivan said that keeping the presentation fun and making a lasting impression on kids was most important. By focusing on issues such as wearing proper shoes, staying seated in the cars and observing the attraction before riding the talks would have a long term positive impact on the safety record of the industry in an area many overlook, customer education.
Kerry Shephard of International Truck and Engine conducted a seminar on "Trucks and Fuel" in light of the changes in diesel fuel. Shephard explained that the federal emissions standards are 15 years old but are phased in over time, culminating in the 2010 changes when emissions will actually be cleaner leaving a vehicle than they are upon entering.
Around 1998, low sulfur diesel (500ppm) was introduced. Many trucks reported problems with pump and ring failures due to the decreased lubricity of the product. With the introduction of ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) this year, Shepard said many owners could expect similar problems.
New trucks manufactured in 2007 and beyond will use ULSD as well as low sulfur engine oil. You can use the new oil in an older truck but you can't use the old oil in a new truck. Many fuel stations will be offering both LSD and ULSD for a period of time and the pumps will be clearly marked and segregated.
Using ULSD for the first time in an older truck will result in a cleaning of soot that may result in the plugging of fuel filters in the short term so drivers should keep extra filters on hand. "The introduction of Ultra low sulfur diesel was supposed to be seamless. However, the Atlanta City School System ran a test using the new fuel with their fleet which resulted in fuel system failures of some sort of 40 - 50%", said Shephard.
The positive result of the new engines is the noise levels. The new engines will be quieter, having dramatically less noise. Ford will be making a new 6.4L Power Stroke engine for the new trucks and Cummins will also grow their engine size as well.
One other change of note is coming in 2010 when off-road engines will have to meet the same standards that are now in place today for on-road trucks. Generators, which use fuel with sulfur content of 2,000 - 3,000 ppm will have to use LSD fuel with sulfur content of 500 ppm. The same sort of fuel system failures can be expected on older generator engines using the new fuel.
Shephard recommended using a fuel additive to help with lubricity when introducing the new fuel into older engines. Users should make sure the additive is '07 standard compliant.
"Successful Game Operations for Today's Midway" was the topic for the OABA -sponsored afternoon session. Marc Janas of Powers Great American Midways, and Tony Cassata and Jack Cook of Bob's Space Racers made presentations. Janas began by explaining what qualities games need in order to compete on the modern midway. "Games must be clean and brightly-lit with well written signs explaining the rules to win", said Janas. Most importantly, games must effectively merchandise the prizes offered and offer a great value for the customer.
Employee appearance is also important. Game attendants should be friendly, knowledgeable and dressed in uniform. Janas said he had recently played the South Florida Fair in West Palm Beach where Wade Shows mandated that all employees wear black pants at all times. The dress code gave the midway a clean, professional look that was pleasing to fair guests.
Listening to patrons for ideas on games, their operation and merchandise offered is also very important for games to succeed in the future. "Providing clean, wholesome, family fun is the way of the future", he concluded.
Following Janas, Jack Cook of BSR talked briefly about his 31 years of experience in the industry, including 26 on the road. Cook said a good strategy for a successful game business is to observe your operation carefully, assessing what is being done, how expenses can be cut, how you can operate the game to make more money.
Cook said fair guests pay for rides first, food second and games third so games had to work harder for their money. He offered the following strategies for accomplishing this goal:
1) Give away as much merchandise as possible. This makes guests happier and ultimately results in increased revenue.
2) Merchandising the game well is vitally important. Anyone can buy a game but how you merchandize will help you succeed or fail. Watch guests play your game. What is their reaction after playing?
3) Judge your operation. Are the signs informative? Do they have pricing and rules? Are your attendants friendly? "Bad impressions can last a lifetime", he said.
4) Monitor pricing. $2 per game was standard for years but now many operators are trying to get $3 per play. Some are struggling and others are finding success at the new price point.
After the talk, a question was posed about using tickets for games. Citing positive examples in Minnesota and Canada, Cook endorsed the idea with a caution that sales drop during Pay One Price promotions. He said he has experimented with E-ticketing systems for the past 6 - 8 years, including purchasing two sets of equipment but we "don't have it down pat yet."
In addition to the three seminars attended above, there was also a safety seminar conducted by PLH consulting about dealing with regulatory inspectors. On Thursday, seminars include "Intro. To Midway Coordination", "ASTM Standards Update" and "NDT Testing".