by Paul Ruben
In this month’s Big Question (see page 5) we ask selected park operators what caught their eye at this winter’s trade shows. Nobody asked me, but I’ll tell you anyway.
Dolly Parton caught my eye at IAAPA. But even that admission will cause me trouble, so I’d best not say more.
The new games displayed at Bob’s Space Racers intrigued me, especially Stinky Feet. It’s a group water race game, as are so many of Bob’s products, but on this one contestants sit on toilets to fire their water guns. So here I am, at their booth, taking care of business. A little potty humour goes a long way. But I’m good at it; the water race game, that is.
Chipstix, a spiral fried potato snack on a stick had eye appeal, and was delicious, too. This will be a popular offering at parks in the years to come.
Stan Checketts’ (ex-S&S, now Soaring Eagle) belt buckle was a surprise; a surprise he got it through show security. I’m sure he didn’t wear it while flying into Orlando. Part of the buckle was a tiny detachable pistol. His belt buckle wasn’t for sale, but his new zipline, which looks both comfortable and thrilling, is.
Erik Sprague (see facing page) caught my eye, but I think he caught just about everyone’s eye. Brought in by Ripley Entertainment, he’s the Lizardman who has tattooed his entire body with green lizard scales, sharpened his teeth to a point, and split his tongue. Eric is a smart guy who has transformed himself into a freak. Maybe seemed like a good idea today, but 30 years from now?
Young Jordon Dietrich displayed his working model of a perhaps improved “fourth dimension” coaster. He spent his own money to come to the show, so I hope the exposure pays off for him. He was hoping to license his lighter weight rotating seat version of the ride featuring two intertwined tracks, but I know from experience that patents can be problematic. His model was ingenious.
Both S&S Worldwide and Zamperla brought new family swing rides to the show. Both versions should find multiple buyers. I’ll bet next year we will see more companies offering this simple but effective kind of ride.
Then on Friday there was the five-person bowling team manning the Maurer Söhne booth in their Ferrari-red shirts. They said it was to honour their new racing coaster at Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World. But they couldn’t fool me. You know how popular bowling is in Bavaria.
I’ll tell you what I didn’t see. About 10% of the companies I usually catch up with during the show were not there. Tight economic times kept several away, and I can only hope that is temporary. I believe the Euro Attractions Show in Rome, held just six weeks earlier, may also had an effect on attendance.
But best of all, what I did see was 20,000 of my closest friends. I’ve been doing this for about 25 years now, so every year seems like a gigantic family reunion. So many good friends, so much fun. I didn’t want it to end.