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Gibtown 2024: Thursday Trade Show Highlights & Supplier Updates

New Rides & Attractions on Display at the IISF Trade Show
A Balloon Race from Equipment Solutions International and a Wadkins Expo Wheel were on display.

Rides 4U - New & Used Rides Giant Wheel Foreman Wanted
On day three of the IISF Trade Show, the weather was a bit overcast, but warm. The bulletin board, advertising used equipment and for sale items, began to fill up and by Thursday, was full after a slow start. Like Wednesday, the show opened slowly but picked up as the day wore on, and by the end of the day, we had seen quite a few faces we hadn't seen through the week.

What makes a good show? Over the years, opinions have varied. Back in the day, the lot was filled with equipment, brought to the show by manufacturers hoping to sell a ride on “spec”. Deals were made until the last day of the event as equipment that wasn't sold was bargained for by show owners hoping to get a last minute deal.

As time wore on, and the industry changed, there was less equipment that was present for sale and manufacturers, if they had rides on hand, would bring pieces they had sold that were awaiting delivery. This change was not a result of the show being “smaller” or less attended, but more on changes in the ride business. We asked Seller Manufacturing at one time why the rides were not brought on “spec”, like they were in the past. The answer changed our perspective. They explained that in the past, they would sell just a red Tilt A Whirl, but as time went on, customization became the rule of the day. Shows wanted their equipment to stand out with custom colors, specialized lighting and other details. The result was that building on “spec” became more risky and hence the change to bringing rides that were built and being delivered. The industry had evolved and changed, and likely for the better.

Now, at the IISF Trade Show, there are dozens of manufacturers, including European companies, but with smaller booths and no rides present. Despite the lack of equipment, there are more manufacturers and more choices for purchases than ever before.

Big Top's Magic Midways

Joseph Stephens is starting a new venture in 2024; Big Top's Magical Midways, after a career that included stints with Link Shows, Megerle, and Otterbacher Shows where he had maintenance and ride supervisor positions. Before the carnival, he grew up on Carson and Barnes Circus where he performed a clown.

For the last decade, Stephens has had food trailers on the road, selling cheese fries, cotton candy and funnel cakes in Ohio. Over the years, he began to see a need for more carnivals in the state as many events were looking for shows. He decided to start a carnival; Big Top's Magic Midway.

Stephens currently has a funhouse and some kiddie rides and he is looking to add more majors during the show here in Gibtown. Good used equipment is hard to come by in the current market. He stopped in Pennsylvania on his way to the show to look at a Ferris Wheel, but the condition of the ride was not to his liking, so he passed on the deal.

The show will travel throughout the state of Ohio playing fairs and festivals. He has already signed the Lucas County Fair, the Erie County Fair, “a bunch” of Catholic Churches and the Blueberry Festival in Lexington.

Once the show is complete, he will begin the season in June. He first has to go through inspections and engineering for the rides in the stringent state. He hopes to be on the road into October in Ohio and then head to Florida to work with a few pieces. Last year he bought dozers and worked them in Florida but it didn't go as well as he had expected. He is hoping to be booked in with existing shows this year to achieve better results.

On the road, Stephens will be assisted by his grandson, Thomas, who will run the front end concession operation.

Triangle Poster

“The poster business is still good,” said the team at Triangle Poster Company. Customers are still buying posters, coupons and coupon holders, even in this digital age.

Ed Kengerski, President of Triangle said the biggest changes have been a move to 11 x 17” size paper posters, which are easier to get into stores; customers are adding pictures of their actual show instead of using stock images; and the orders are more compact.

The 11 x 17” size paper poster is cheaper to ship and easier to put up. Shows customize the poster by adding QR codes linked to their website. While the smaller size makes them easier to get into stores, the poster order size has decreased to an average of 50 - 100 an order, down from 200 or so in the past. Many customers are adding pictures of their actual equipment to give potential event-goers a better idea of what will be at the event rather than a stock art image.

In rural areas, stakes and posters go hand in hand. When there are less stores, shows put stakes and double sided posters in the ground to get the word out. When things turn more urban or suburban, the posters go directly into windows of stores.

In addition to the posters, coupons and coupon holders are selling well too. Coupon holders, which sell for about $1 each, are a popular and affordable way to help get the word out in stores close to an event.

Speaking of the continued success of posters and coupons, Kengerski said, “It's the visual thing. Older people don't go online as much for information but they see the signs up and they are usually the ones that pay for their children and grandchildren to go to the event”.

Talking about the trade show, he said, “The show's been good. The first day was excellent. People came in wanting to do business.” He said he had several new customers and he has seen many old friends as well. He commented people were optimistic about the season and were in a buying mood. He was especially surprised how many customers were waiting to get started on orders, even texting or calling prior to show opening to get their orders in and make arrangements to meet during the trade show.
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