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Re-Opening Seminars Highlight Second Day of the IISF Trade Show
Watch Re-Opening Seminars Online

Re-Opening Focus
In nearby Kissimmee, Strates Shows re-opened at the Osceola County Fair, its first major event of 2021. Re-opening plans have been the top discussion during the Gibtown Trade Show, with seminars on Wednesday focused on re-opening plans, procedures, tips and tricks.

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Attendance at the IISF Trade Show on Wednesday was hampered by a persistent drizzle reaching into the afternoon.  The sun came out later in the day and brightened spirits a bit.  The day was filled with important seminars on reopening paneled by industry experts who have been involved in the reopening process.

Crowds were thin but a stream of amusement industry professionals could be found navigating the booths, making deals or gathering information on reopening.  While many of the attendees were people who have been coming to the Trade Show for years, other whose schedules were abbreviated saw an opportunity to attend the show when they usually don't have the opportunity.

Sun Valley Rides

Steve Mattfeldt was one example of someone who hasn't been to the trade show in years, but attended due to changes in his schedule.  In fact, the visit to Gibtown was only the 3rd time in 35 years Mattfeldt has attended.  The Sun Valley Rides owner, who is based in Arizona, was able to work 7 weeks in the Phoenix area last year and then play from Memorial Day until July 4th with a small unit in the White Mountains as closings grew.  

The company operated on weekends only, getting some money for payroll and paying a few bills to keep things running.  By July though, Arizona had rising numbers of cases and there was growing pressure to close the show, which had operated without incidence.  “We were going to stay but Arizona numbers were up and the state began to shut down operations”, said Mattfeldt.  

By July 15th, they wound down operations and sent their H2B workers to a landscaping business in Tennessee and roofing company in Louisiana.  
“We were hoping to open in the fall, but as events canceled, and we had lost most of our help, so it was the first time in 35 years we haven't had employees in late summer”, added Mattfeldt.

Albert Frieden (Battech Enterprises) visits with Janel and Steve Mattfeldt of Sun Valley Rides


Looking ahead to 2021, Mattfeldt sees a few hopeful signs, like kids returning to schools by the order of the Arizona Governor.  Sun Valley Rides plans to open around the 1st of May in the Phoenix area before moving to Utah, Colorado and Western Nebraska.  One part of their route, New Mexico, is still up in the air as events have not started to operate yet.  Although many of the early Arizona county fairs, such as Pima and Maricopa have canceled, Mattfeldt still thinks the fall dates will hold and smaller celebrations should be good to go so they will wait and hold on the fall route.

Routing of course is one of the biggest challenges facing the show as events cancel or hold and states allow operations or remain closed.  “Last year from the middle of May, we had to redo the route about every week”, said Mattfeldt.  The uncertainty has carried over into 2021.

On the bright side, Mattfeldt said the spots they did play in 2021 were strong.  They were up 50 - 60% in some places as guests were happy to be able to participate in outdoor activities.  

Looking ahead he said, “If we can get open, I think we will be ok”.  

Mattfeldt sees politics as one of the biggest factors affecting reopening in many places.  “Most places leave decisions up to the local heath departments”, he said.  Each department has a different take on what is required, what state mandates say and how they are interpreted, and what procedures are needed in order to reopen he explained.  This only adds to the uncertainty as some localities are open for business and other remain closed, never able to make a decision and passing the buck in order to avoid a final answer.  Getting out in front of the issue, Mattfeldt hopes to avoid as many problems as possible.

Sun Valley Rides operates 16 rides plus food stands and games, all owned by the show.  They play a mix of still dates, sponsored community events and fairs through a route covering Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Western Nebraska.

Re-Opening Seminars: Advice from the Experts

About 40 people attended the Re-Opening of Events Seminar held the Carousel Pavilion at 1pm.  

The panel was moderated by Tom Gaylin and included Debbie Powers of Powers Great American Midways, Wayne Pierce of Adventure Law, Marla Calico, President and CEO of the IAFE, and Michael Wood of Wood Entertainment Company.

Watch "Events That Operated During the 2020 Season" seminar

Wood and Powers started off the seminar by talking about what it took to be open in 2020.  Wood played his usual Florida events through March, when the Pandemic hit and then ceased operations until he was able to bring his portable Giant Wheel to Trimper's Rides in Ocean City for the summer.

Debbie Powers and her family opened in March in North Carolina until they were closed by the state.  They remained closed until they received a call from Frank Zaitshik of Wade Shows, offering to share the midway at the Delaware State Fair, the first major fair to re-open in the country in July.  After operating in Delaware, the company moved to Northern Virginia where they operated for 8 - 10 weeks before heading to South Carolina.  Business was ok in VA but better in South Carolina.  They then tried to open once more in North Carolina at the end of the season but were denied a permit at the last minute.

Calico picked up on that theme and pointed out that the most challenging situation facing events was the patchwork of authority allowing events to open throughout the county.  In all, 24 IAFE members went forward with their full events and there was no reported increase in community disease after the events closed.

As Powers pointed out, it only takes one official to say “no” and stop events from operating.  She recommended always asking “why” when faced with a “no” answer.  Sometimes, Calico said, Health Departments sometimes don't say “yes” or “no” for fear of having to justify the decision.  They sort of give tacit approval for moving forward.  

Watch "“Reopening During A Pandemic - Creative ways to produce income during a pandemic."

This is a time when many officials are essentially making law and exceeding their authority said Wayne Pierce and companies should be on the look out for health departments and other agencies implementing rules which act as laws that have not been passed by the legislature.  If you look behind the curtain, he said, the attitude of many officials may change when pressed to show their authority for implementing restrictions.

All panelists agreed that a key to reopening is to have a plan and be proactive.  Get in front of the permitting and health department and show them you have a plan that has been developed using information from other events that have operated successfully.  Put your plan on your website for consumer confidence, so guests that are anxious about returning will know that you are making steps to operate safely.




Al Derusha of the OABA and son Glenn visited CarnivalWarehouse.com prior to the start of the reopening seminars.  Derusha hopes to resume fundraising for the OABA through Jamborees in 2021.
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