The 126th IAFE Convention and Trade Show kicked off in Las Vegas this week as we outlined in our preview issue published yesterday. The convention welcomes over 4,00 attendees from 400 different fair throughout the United States. The IAFE has developed a new mobile app for the convention that is easy to use and provides some great information. With the app, you can peruse a list of trade show vendors, design your own schedule for the event and even see other attendees who choose to make their profile public to others. By using the app, you can plan your day a little more easily, see conflicts and learn more about upcoming speakers and topics.
The trade show, a major showcase for the event, opened Monday for three days of vendors and e
xhibits. The trade show takes place in the Paris convention center where many of the talks and presentations take place as well.
Showmen's League Exhibitors Lounge
Over in Bally's, the Showmen's League of America holds its annual Exhibitor's Lounge on the 26th floor. The Lounge was completely sold out this year as vendors and exhibitors recognize the effectiveness of the show, especially the presence of so many West Coast show owners and the ability to have quality face time with decision makers at your table.
With the new influx of exhibitors, the layout was changed slightly and the exhibit space on the floor expanded.
Philip Tomber, of Rio Syrup Company of Saint Louis is an exhibitor at the show and the newly elected President of the Saint Louis Chapter of the Showmen's league of America.
Tomber has been Treasurer of the organization for 11 years, before assuming the Presidency, replaced in the Treasurer role by David Penn.
The chapter recently held a $5,000 raffle to raise money for its scholarship program. They awarded scholarships to 26 kids, all to relatives of Showmen's league members who are headed to college to further their education. The winner of the raffle, for the second time in recent history no less, was Richard Tinsley from Tinsley Amusements of High Hill, Missouri.
Tomber, a proud Notre Dame graduate, has been with the company for 64 years. His father started the company in 1940, supplying vendors with syrups for shaved ice drinks, snow cones and other treats.
The 76-year old company is still going strong, with 6 full time employees. They ship to clients all over the country and the business is now largely Bag-in-the box sales.
The SLA Exhibitor's Lounge runs Monday and Tuesday from 11 am - 4pm.
IAFE Trade Show
Over at the Paris Hotel, the trade show opened at 2:30 pm and crowds were strong. Warren Lucas of the Western Carolina State Fair in Aiken, SC was looking at entertainers in the B and R Management Booth.
Lucas has been with the fair for 40 years, first as a member of the Jaycees that ran the fair for many years before forming a fair foundation several years ago. That non-profit now runs the fair as many of the Jaycee members who ran the fair for years began aging out.
Lucas called the 2016 edition of his event, the "best fair ever" for the organization. While final numbers are still being tabulated, he could report that they had record attendance, record gate revenue and record ride gross.
Reithoffer Shows provided the midway and featured their new Air Race which Lucas said had long lines and was well received. Reithoffer has been with the fair since 1987, pausing only for a few a years when Belle City Amusements was awarded the contract in the 2000s for a couple of years. The almost 19 year relationship has been a strong one between the fair and Reithoffer's orange Unit.
Lucas, as a long time fair board member, was especially know for his advocacy of the Arts and Crafts exhibits at the fair. He developed a strong Arts and Crafts program that was housed in a building along with Horticulture Exhibits. As the program grew, the fair believed there was a need for a new building to house the Arts and Crafts exhibits in a separate building. When funding was approved, the Western Carolina State Fair built a new 4,000 square foot building for that purpose.
Fittingly, the building will be named after Lucas, honoring his strong support of the Arts and Craft exhibits at the event.
At the Artists and Attractions Management booth, in addition to Lucas, there were dozens of representatives of the company along with some of the acts they represent.
A and A books hundreds of acts in fairs, festivals, cultural centers and performing arts centers all over the country. Events such as the Wisconsin State Fair, the State Fair of Virginia and the North Carolina State Fair all books acts from A and A.
Alan Nogiec, of Artists and Attractions, a former fair manager in VA and former President of the VA Fair Association, said he sees his animal acts becoming more and more in demand as the number of acts dwindles. "They are highly sought after, especially, the big animal acts", he said. He pointed to the paucity of lion and tiger acts available and the high demand and also said elephant acts were extremely difficult to find and book.
New in 2016 for Artists and Attractions is the Ready, Set, Grow, an "agricultural magic show". The educational exhibit features Farmer Ed as the host and takes kids on a magical, musical and educational tour through the amazing world of agriculture. Nogiec expects the act to be popular with fairs, eager to present the agricultural message in a relevant way.
Nogiec was proud to announce that one of his feature acts, magician Josh Knotts, won the 2016 Fair and Festival Entertainer of the Year Award as well as the prestigious Merlin Award. The Merlin Award is described as the Tony or Oscar for magicians and he joins recipients such as Penn and Teller, Siegried and Roy and David Copperfield. The award is presented by the International Magician's Society to magicians all over the world.
Knott's act consists of over $100,000 in large scale illusions that he presents at fairs and festivals throughout the country.
Stay tuned for Day 2 of our coverage.