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IAFE / SLA Convention Kicks off in Las Vegas (day 1 report)

12/9/2014

By Ron Weber

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Las Vegas - The International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) Convention and Trade Show, held at Bally's and Paris Hotel Convention Center, Dec. 7 - 11, began with an opening session on Monday morning with scheduled Keynote Speaker Chris Boleman, PhD.  Dr Boleman is Assistant Director & State Leader for 4-H Youth Development, in Texas.  He has published three books on youth leadership and was scheduled to present on the topic "Leading Change in a Changing World." 

The IAFE had round tables and presentations scheduled throughout the day including topics such as "Seeding Ideas on a Small Budget" and the "Farm to Fork" series which focuses on educating the public about how food gets from farm plate.  The overall theme for the 2014 convention is "Seeding Change" as chosen by current IAFE Chairman Debbie Dreyfus-Schronk of the San Antonio Livestock Show and Exhibition.  

The first session of the trade show opened later in the day at 2:30 pm and all exhibit space was sold out for the event.

The Showmen's League of America holds a simultaneous trade show in the Bally's hotel on Monday and Tuesday at 11 am and the show has grown in popularity with each passing year.

Vendors reported excellent traffic and most importantly, "the right people" in attendance.  The intimate, no-frills setting lends itself to more in-depth conversations between vendors and prospective purchasers, resulting in quality face time that can be hard to come by.

Zamperla's Ramon Rosario is an enthusiastic supporter of the event, calling the 2014 edition "the best show ever", even before the trade show was half over. "There was lots of traffic this year and people seem to be buying", said Rosario, emphasizing Zamperla's commitment to stay in the carnival industry as a manufacturer of rides and equipment.

Zamperla reported strong demand for its new Balloon Wheel which the company will have on outdoor display at the IISA Trade Show in Gibsonton in February.  Other popular rides are the Lolly Swing, the Happy Swing and the Jump Around.

Rosario said he has sold many Jump Arounds to Cedar Fair where he has been helping to develop their Planet Snoopy concept within the larger theme parks. Rosario recommended the ride to company officials and they installed the first edition in Kings Dominion in Doswell, VA.  Based upon the popularity of that instillation, Cedar Fair added the ride to other editions of Planet Snoopy.   

Bear Country of Pigeon Forge, TN is another happy client of Zamperla's according to officials.  The park features the company's Jump Around, Tea Cups and Lolly Swings.  

Rosario, who spends about 50% of his time on the road for Zamperla, is looking forward to the IISA trade Show in Gibsonton in February where the company, in addition to the Balloon Wheel, will also feature a Lolly Swing.  The ride has a capacity of 32 adults and children and is the #1 family ride according to Rosario.

Several other ride  manufacturers were present at the SLA trade show but perhaps the biggest news was the return to the carnival business of Chance Rides.  

The amusement ride powerhouse never fully left the business but with the introduction of the new Freestyle ride purchased by RCS and the hiring of industry veteran salesman Jeff Miller to head its carnival sales, the company has stepped back into the industry it once dominated.

As we reported at the IAAPA convention, Chance sold its first Zipper since 2002 to Skinner's Amusements for a May delivery.  The ride has updated drives and safety features and will also sport an all-new LED light package.  

The Zipper is one of the most iconic US carnival rides and according to Chance, there were over 200 made.  The company is hoping to spark interest in the new version of this classic ride.

In fact, Chance has made over 5,000 rides over the years, many of which are still in operation today.  Miller pointed to the Chance-made equipment's ability to hold value.  Versions of the Century Wheel and Pharaoh's Fury have recently sold for close to the original purchase price said Miller.

With a rich history and successful track record behind it, Chance's renewed focus on the carnival industry included a recent email sent to carnival operators with video of the new Zipper along with an information sheet.  Miller said he has seen many interested parties with many expressing their happiness in seeing a return of Chance Rides to the carnival world.

Miller said Chance is back in the business for the long run and they will have all of their back catalog available for new builds.

Also spotted on the trade show floor this year were Matt and Ricky Reithoffer, sons of Reithoffer Shows' co-owner Rick Reithoffer.  Matt, 24, was just completing his first full season on the road and his father wanted him to learn the business from the ground up.  During the season, he moved the Super Himalaya, the Zero Gravity, Avalanche and Bumper Cars.  

Older brother Ricky, 27, spent a good part of the year learning about the front office.  He says he learned quite a bit from his father, especially the importance of controlling expenses in a largely cash business.

Along with Concession Manager Bobby Pugh's son, Beau, Ricky ran one of the units when the Reithoffer Blue unit split in two for a portion of the season.  Beau and Ricky serve the same roles as their fathers Bobby and Rick do on the main unit.  
In addition to Rick's sons, the brothers said they work closely with cousins Ryan, Susie and Patrick, uncle Pat's kids, as well as other extended family of their generation. 
 
The brothers Reithoffer said the cousins get along very well and they fully expect the 116 year-old business to continue through the next generation.  They said all the cousins are encouraged to learn every facet of the business so they will know the operation inside and out and be able to effectively manage one of North America's largest carnival companies into the future.

Check back tomorrow for our Day 2 report.



IAFE / SLA Convention Coverage

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