Day 2 of the IISF Super Extravaganza and Trade Show began with some unseasonably cold weather again. Those coming from the harsh weather of the northern regions of the US did not find much respite in the Greater Tampa Bay area.
Mike Knott of the Canadian National Exhibition brought the event's newly appointed Operations Director Mike Cruz along with hopes of sunny weather. The two were celebrating an outstanding year for the CNE where they climbed to the #5 spot on the MCW Top 50 Fairs list.
Knott and Cruz attributed the increase this year to good weather and innovative promotions. Knott said the fair was especially proud to be called the "Greenest Fair in North America" due to their efforts to keep
the fair environmentally friendly.
Knott and Cruz were making the most of their Florida visit. In addition to their visit to the Super Extravaganza and Trade Show today, the will visit the Florida State Fair, the NICA seminars and they have a special backstage tour of Legoland planned.
Joey Fowler of Jersey Joe's Concessions is undergoing a makeover with his concession operation. In his case, bigger is better.
Last year at a state fair, Fowler saw a food stand that had extra high banners and signs. Intrigued by the operation, he took a closer look at the construction and decided he could make some improvements.
Fowler's gyro stand needed upgrading and he thought the new model could be a perfect fit. Fowler investigated trussing from Galaxy Amusement Sales, the type generally used for staging, and purchased large banners that displayed far and wide the food he serves in the stand. The banners stand a whopping 24' high when mounted on the trusses and Fowler debuted his new gyro stand at Santa's Enchanted Forest in Miami.
Sitting on a similar location, and in what many considered to be a tough weather year, Fowler saw dramatic increases in food grosses. Even the committee was impressed with the stand, offering him an additional location in 2017.
Fowler is now in the midst of framing a grab with trusses and banners and he hopes to have it ready for the 2016 season. What Fowler sees as a great benefit to the new stand type is the adaptability of the concession. Is a change in menu items needed? You only need to change the banners.
Fowler's enterprising ways are not new. He started in the business at age 17, working in his mother's corn dog stand in the North East. His interest in the business grew and soon he framed his own long range basketball on the side of his mother's freezer truck. He started on Myers' International Midways and in his first year he doubled his game operation.
Opportunity came knocking again when he joined Arthur Lampkin in the early 1980s when Lampkin headed to NYC to play a route that included New York City parks and landmarks such as Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium and Nassau Coliseum. The show played some of the spots twice a year and business was good, with Fowler on the ground floor.
It was a new event the show played over the summer that proved to be another turning point in Fowler's career. The Meadowlands Fair, run by Marty Garin, was a new event at the iconic Giant's Stadium complex in New Jersey with incredible visibility on major highways in this populous region. Amusements of America had booked the event but booked Lampkin in to cover year one.
Fowler met Garin and soon became a big part of the independent midway at the growing event. The Meadowlands Fair is unusual in that it had an independent game and food midway and Fowler filled as many as 20 locations at the fair. Fowler continues to play the fair to this day, now one of the largest events on the East Coast.
Fowler's reentry into the food business also came through his connections with the Meadowlands Fair. Marc Garin, Marty's son, was a food operator and Fowler and the younger Garin developed a close friendship. In the mid-2000s, Marc left the business to move to Thailand and he asked his friend Fowler if he would be interested in purchasing his food trailers. Fowler again took the initiative and his business took on a new dimension.
Fowler now plays a largely independent route while also sometimes booking with carnivals. Some of the events he plays include the New York State Fair, the Iowa State Fair, the Indiana State Fair, the Florida State Fair, the Kansas State Fair, the Mississippi State Fair, the Miami-Dade County Fair, the Nebraska State Fair and the Ohio State Fair.
Fowler reported that the 2015 season was good - he was even on a record pace for a while - until rain came in the late fall and affected some of his events such as Santa's Enchanted Forest. Unfortunately, the beginning of the 2016 season has not been much better. Cold weather and rain have hurt so far at the Florida State Fair.
IGPM Group's Keith Romack was manning his booth selling punching bag machines and photo booths. The company is fairly new to the fair and carnival business, having worked in FECs, malls and other retail locations for many years.
The company has developed machines designed specifically for outdoor use and are hoping to grow their presence in the carnival market. The photo booths, for example, are built with overhangs for rain, they are built on wheels, have bars for easy transport and are sealed throughout to keep them dry in inclement weather.
The photo booths have green screen technology so they can create many different types of backgrounds and scenes for the pictures.
The company also makes several different size punching bag games. One unit has a combination boxing machine and soccer kick. Another version gives prizes if the contestant can hit a triple digit number on the machine's display. When the number is hit, the shelf drops and the prizes drops down to the bottom for retrieval by the player. The game measures accuracy
more than strength
The beauty of the machines, according to Roamck, is that they have a very small footprint but generate a significant amount of revenue. The company currently has several units on the midway at the Florida State Fair under a revenue share agreement.
More on the trade show tomorrow including updates on some Midwestern shows and a report on a new safety consulting company.
2016 IISF Trade Show Coverage