The 2019 IISF Trade Show could not have started with better weather and hopefully the sunny skies will be indicative of the season to come. Blue skies and beautiful weather met those attending on Tuesday.
Despite a last minute computer glitch with badges, amusement business professionals came out with vigor and looked to be in a buying mood. One pall that was cast over the atmosphere at the show was the impending H-2B cap limits for foreign guest workers that many shows and concessionaires use for staffing. As of this writing, the caps have not been increased and many shows on the second half of the cap will not be receiving their workers unless cap relief is passed by Congress. Needless to say, many show owners are struggling to find additional help to start the season without their usual number of foreign workers.
An important class on the subject entitled “H2B Apocalypse - Strategies for Industry Survival” will be presented by James Judkins of JKJ Workforce Agency and cover the current H2B situation and changes to the program and compliance issues. The class will be held in the Carousel Pavilion from 1 -3 pm.
The Carousel Pavilion was also the site for a digital marketing, online ticketing and website presentation presented by carnivalwarehouse.com. The class covered website design and implementation, online ticketing sales and digital marketing. Topics explored included how to use digital advertising to grow sales a for your show, the benefits of online ticketing and how a professionally-designed website is important to your public image. By reaching your guests through the internet, capturing their emails through your website and having the ability to remarket to them through digital means, you can effectively and affordably grow sales and increase revenue.
Also included in the Carousel Pavilion Seminars and classes was a Documentation of Maintenance & Daily Inspection class taught by Avery Wheelock and Sharon Hupalo and they followed that class with a review of what safety classes a carnival needs at 3pm.
Wednesday's classes include the aforementioned H2B class plus ‘What the OABA is Doing For You” at 3pm and “H2B Update and PAC Reception” at 4pm given by Wayne Pierce and Michael Wood. All classes are held in the Carousel Pavilion.
One big change to the show for 2019 was an adjustment in times. The trade show will be open from 11 am to 5pm, making for more compact days. In line with the upbeat mood experienced at the show over the last couple of years, manufacturers have more rides on display than at any time in recent memory. Manufacturers, both foreign and domestic, have equipment to sell and are optimistic about deals to be made.
Len Soled of Rides 4-U already made a sale by late Tuesday with the closing of a Crazy Car deal with Majestic Midways. Soled, who has had a solid presence at the show through years both fat and lean, was very optimistic about the show's success.
“The Crazy Cars has been very popular”, enthused Soled. He said the company has sold 12 park models and now the carnivals were beginning to catch on to the ride's success. The first carnival model was sold to Eric Bates who made some suggestions for improvements as have other buyers. “The manufacturer takes the time to listen to feedback and does a great job of implementing portable improvements”, said Soled, pointing to the just-sold model on display. “This piece is going to be a big winner for us”.
Also on display at the Rides 4 U booth:
Other rides on display at the show along with manufacturer:
With over 30 rides on display, the show has more to do and see and in many years. While the novelty segment and inside building space showed some holes and open spaces, the outside ride and concession space had the most vibrancy of recent memory.
One new exhibitor under the Rides 4 U umbrella is GOPO Trains, a company that started in Belgium and now is based in Naples, FL in the US. Luc Goemaere, who created the train company in 1986 was following in his family's business manufacturing agricultural machinery. His grandfather started the business after WWII, making trucks for farmers after the war. The business grew over the years but as time wore on, Luc, seeing a decline in the agricultural segment of the economy, decided to use his manufacturing skills to make rides for the amusement business.
GOPO specializes in people movers and trains for amusement parks, fairs, zoo, aquariums and other entertainment spaces.
The first train the company built was completed on April 31st, 1986 for tourist transportation between the Red and Black Mountains in the Flanders area of Belguim.
Luc eventually moved to the United States where he built a factory in 2005 and continues to make people movers of all shapes and sizes. From kid's trains to large bus-like people movers, the company has cut a niche for itself in the amusement business and hopes to expand its business through exhibition at the IISF show.
The name GOPO comes from an amalgamation of the name Gomaere, the family name, and Poperinge, the city where the company started.
With an influx of new rides from at home and abroad, from Wisdom's new Y-Factor to all the new Czech companies exhibiting at the show, has created new energy for the annual confab. Coupled with an optimistic outlook on the economy, the only factor putting a damper on the coming season is the labor situation faced by many carnivals.
We will have continuing coverage of trade show and industry trends tomorrow.