As the rest of the world looks to Punxsutawney Phil to predict whether or not we will have 6 more weeks of winter ahead, the carnival industry gathers in Gibtown every February to make purchases, catch up with old friends and look for signs of how the current season will go. The International Independent Showmen’s Association’s (IISA) Gibtown Extravaganza concluded its 2006 run on Saturday, February 11th. After shortening the event in 2005, the trade show added a day in 2006 to make it a five day run.
The Gibtown club made many improvements to the showgrounds that were clearly evident to visitors. "We spent $5,000 on aluminum benches, $4,000 to $5,000 on furnishings for the Tiki Hut, we added new trashcans, flags for the entire building, a new stereo, T.V. and a new playground, said Steve Ianni, incoming 3rd Vice-President of th
e IISA and frequent MCW poster known as "Lotman”. "We also added a new food court in front run by Vinny Valentino. Our focus was on outdoor beatification and making the grounds more appealing”, Ianni added.
Initial reports from the club indicated that food and bar sales were up and the tabulated reports from Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of 2100, 2,800 and 3,100 respectively were also up from last year. Total attendance was estimated to have exceeded 11,000. Comments on the MCW board and from some vendors indicated that attendance seemed to be slow but the numbers reported by the club and interviews with exhibitors did not bear out this speculation. We had the best show we have had in 6 years!, an excited Tommy Coffing of Used Rides.com and Sunbelt Capital reported. Used Rides reported selling 18 pieces and closing numerous financing deals with Sunbelt, Sterling Financial and Charter Financial. "We didn’t lose any big manufacturers and we had very few complaints from the exhibitors, in fact, we had many positive comments this year", said IISA’s Ianni. "There were definitely less rides on display and a little less exhibit space but you can attribute this to manufacturers not bringing rides to the show that are not already sold and the rising fuel prices. Also, there was a large trade show in Europe many of the manufacturers attended and they did not have the time or the money to transport equipment to both places. The people that came this year had the money and they were spending it”.
Len Soled of Rides 4 U of Somerville, NJ heartily agreed. Representing such big names as SBF, Visa and Moser, Soled said it was the best show for his company in three years and while traffic may have been down, spending was up. "We sold over a half dozen of our new "Traffic Jam” rides manufactured by SBF. It is a family ride that takes two people less than an hour to move”, said Soled. Other rides such as his Mini Pirate and Dragons also were doing well. "It was a good show”, he concluded.
On the concessions side of the business Ianni was not only a show organizer but also a customer. "I purchased a new "Dog Pound” water race game from Bob’s Race Racers of Daytona Beach, FL. The day I purchased mine they told me they had sold five other pieces that day. I also made several stock orders for the season”, said Ianni. Other suppliers also echoed the generally positive attitude. "I was a little nervous on opening day, given the season many of my customers had. Each day got progressively better and we had a phenomenal day on Saturday”, said Sid Karmia of The Toy Factory, a major industry stock supplier. "I attribute our success to two things, first, our product line is the strongest it has ever been and our customers have been responding positively. Second, we were able to hire a great industry sales veteran Chaz, formerly of Allentown Toy and many people stopped by our booth to see him”, said Karmia. Mr. Karmia also reported that the early fairs this year including West Palm Beach, San Antonio Live Stock Show, the Florida State Fair and Laredo were all holding their own or even a bit up when the weather was good. "It was the best trade show we have ever had and I am looking forward to a great season”, he added.
Of course, the best way to get a feel for the pulse of the industry is to "follow the money”. "This was the most successful show in terms of generating leads in my 11 years”, said Larry Yaffe, senior vice president of Firestone Financial, a leading industry finance company. Yaffe said he believed that many companies had used the last several years to pay off debt and combat the increase in fuel prices and bad weather. This year however, it seemed that customers were ready to make purchases. "From our perspective the show was great… we had positive feedback from our customers and other vendors. I am very optimistic about the season”, he added.
Judging by the reaction of vendors and participants at this year’s premier season opening event, an early Spring, in the form of a profitable season, may just lie ahead.