Monday, August 31, 2009

'Coasting for Kids' UPDATE: Nearly $10K Raised

GKTW President Pam Landwirth (front) with the "Coasting for Kids" riders at Cedar Point's "Gemini."

Reports are flowing in from the "Coasting for Kids" Give Kids The World event at Cedar Point I posted about last week.

According to GKTW Communications Director Susan Storey, nearly $10,000 has come in since Wednesday when 30 coaster enthusiasts (who hang out at CoasterBuzz) spent their day marathoning on Cedar Point's "Gemini" wooden coaster. The top rider lapped "Gemini" 130 times. GKTW President Pam Landwirth took 30 trips herself, bringing in $1,000. Riders ranged in age from 14 to 60 years old

"We were amazed in just two short weeks Cedar Point and CoasterBuzz planned this fun event for us—we had a ball!" Storey said. "The 'Gemini' crew really promoted the marathon and kept the spirits of the participants up. They also intrigued the park guests so much that many came down to the GKTW table afterwards with donations to 'help support the guys.' I collected $210 from park guests! And then at day’s end, the ride crew—who had been with us since 7 a.m., working so hard to keep our riders going—gave us $60!"

Pam Landwirth with Andrew Walsh, the youngest participant at age 14.

Friday, August 28, 2009

September's FUNWORLD Now Online

The cover of FUNWORLD's September issue features Audrey O'Connell of London's Natural History Museum. The cavernous structure she's standing in is the entryway to the museum's new Darwin Centre, and it leads into one of the main focuses of this edition: How museums are changing their mindsets to engage and entice visitors.

O'Connell speaks to this as part of our cover story on her, the Natural History Museum, and Darwin Centre, and you can read that article here. News Editor Keith Miller talked to several other facilities and designers, though, to get even more perspective on the issue; you can read that companion piece here.

Some other articles of interest this month:
• Departments Editor Marion Hixon has an in-depth look at zero-depth waterplay attractions, and how they're booming in popularity—and in some places you might not expect.
• Our Las Vegas resident writer extraordinaire, Steve Friess, offers all you could ever want to know about dining in Vegas during IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009.
• Contributing Editor Mike Bederka examines how mascots can help FECs extend their brand images.

And much more!

Monday, August 24, 2009

'Coasting for Kids': GKTW Fund-Raiser at Cedar Point

This Wednesday, charitable souls will spend the day on Cedar Point's "Gemini" coaster to raise money for Give Kids The World.

The "Coasting for Kids" marathon runs from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Sandusky, Ohio, amusement park. Up to 60 participants will ride the wooden coaster as many times as they can during that stretch; each rider is gathering pledges for how many laps they can make. All of the money donated will go to GKTW.

There are two ways you can contribute:

• Registration to ride "Gemini" is still open; if you'd like to participate in the marathon, click here.

• To make a pledge, click here.

And for more information about the event, click here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More from FUNWORLD: Live on a Wire with Nik Wallenda

Think riding a speeding roller coaster at more than 50 miles per hour is thrilling? Try walking a tightrope more than 150 feet in the air, above a gasping audience and overlooking a theme park skyline. That’s exactly what Nik Wallenda, holder of two Guinness World Records, has done this summer at 11 Cedar Fair parks across the United States. In the August Quick Hits department, I briefly delved into Wallenda’s love for his craft and for theme parks. Read the full interview about this famous daredevil and his plans for next year here.

What inspired you to attempt this feat and how does it compare to some of your other stunts or high-wire attempts?
I’ve always had a heart for amusement parks. I’ve gotten so many lifelong friends at parks—the industry’s full of great down-to-earth people; it’s a family environment more than a working environment. It’s so alluring once you get started in it, that how can you get away from it? We get paid to make people smile in this industry—what more could you ask for?
I was contacted by Cedar Fair as they were looking for something to draw people into the park on weekends. So now we’re doing a 10-city tour: “Nik Wallenda Walks Across America.”

Does every walk feel the same if you’re up high enough?
No, it’s never the same thing twice. The stabilizers are actually held by park employees—they come off the cable sideways, which stops it from swinging back and forth. The size of the employee and how focused they are affects the walk. A lot of time they’re watching what I’m doing and not what they’re doing. You never know what you’re gonna get, so it’s different each time I walk a wire.
We have different volunteers each time; often they’re from the audience—it’s been done like that for several generations. As I’m crossing over a specific cable, my wife and father are at opposite ends helping those volunteers stabilize. If it’s a really long walk, I’ll bring four people with me instead of two.
At Worlds of Fun, the challenge was in the rigging. I had to walk from the “Detonator” [a 200-foot drop tower] to a crane and there was no way to get down from the crane. So I had to wave, turn around, and walk all the way back again.

Do you have a favorite type of ride at the park?
My kids take me on all of them, but my favorite at Worlds of Fun is the “Patriot.” I like how smooth the steel coasters are engineered—they’re a blast. We’re incorporating rides into my walks all summer. At Kings Island, I’m going to walk from their “Eiffel Tower” to the new “Diamondback” roller coaster!

What role does the audience play in your performance—can you hear them when you’re on the wire?
I can hear it all, and I see the actions of people moving around underneath me. They play a big role in the walk and that’s why I do it. If I win the lottery tomorrow, I would not stop performing—I just can’t imagine not doing it. It’s a lifestyle more than a career or a job for me—it’s my hobby. When we’re home and not performing, I’m on the wire five times a week and my whole family’s there with me.

Your family—some of them having belonged to The Flying Wallendas—has a strong connection to the performing arts. Tell us what you’re all involved in.
Sarasota, Florida—where we live—is the circus capital of the world. My son is 11 and recently performed a high-wire act in his school play. Generally at that age, you’re a little timid in front of an audience, but he kept doing more tricks in front of the audience. He’s a born performer—there are eight generations of performers on my father’s side and nine on my wife’s. I think my son sees the gratification his parents got and wants to be a part of that.
My wife Erendira’s family was the first to do quadruple somersaults on the flying trapeze. She also performs with wave poles. And during my show in Detroit, she walked an 80-foot wire with no safety net.

(above photos: Wallenda walks the wire at Worlds of Fun, photos courtesy Worlds of Fun)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Does Health Care Reform Have to do with IAAPA Attractions Expo?

As you're probably aware, the U.S. Congress is currently considering legislation that would drastically reform the health care system in the United States and has the potential to dramatically impact the attractions industry in the U.S.

Currently there are four different health care bills and each addresses the situation differently, but in none of them does there appear to be any recognition of the unique challenges in providing health insurance to seasonal workers. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) successfully amended one of the proposals (the bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee) to exempt a small number of seasonal businesses. IAAPA is leading a small coalition of like-minded groups that seek to expand this amendment to cover seasonal businesses in the attractions and other seasonal industries.

We have met, and will continue to meet, with key senators who are shaping the health care bill to educate them about seasonal workers. During these meetings, a few questions have been raised about the size and composition of the work force in the attractions industry.

To provide the U.S. Congress with the most accurate information available, we are asking IAAPA members to voluntarily share their employment information.

If you complete our brief survey about the size and makeup of your work force, you will be entered into a drawing to win one free admission to IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 in Las Vegas, one free night of hotel accommodations at New York, New York, two tickets to see Blue Man Group perform live, and two tickets to the exciting Opening Reception at IAAPA Attractions Expo.

The drawing will be held Monday, Aug. 24, so make sure you complete the survey before then!

We realize the sensitivity of this information and will only share it with a select group of individuals as it pertains to this health care issue. You may even take the survey anonymously if you do not want to enter the drawing. Even if you enter the drawing, we will never identify your company by name, unless you give us permission otherwise. This information will help us greatly in our lobbying efforts to craft an exemption for part-time and seasonal workers.

In the coming weeks you will see more from IAAPA concerning the health care debate. If you have any questions about this information, health care legislation or government relations activities in general, please don't hesitate to contact us at or +1 703/836.4800.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Exhibiting—From A to Z

As you gear up for your exhibiting experience at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009, there are endless details to consider. For tomorrow’s exhibitor webinar, taking place at 2 p.m. EDT, IAAPA staff and veteran exhibitors will count down 26 of these items from A to Z, covering general trade show advice and Las Vegas-specific tips. Here’s a sneak peek at a few of tomorrow’s topic areas:

Exhibitor Services Guide
Sponsorship Opportunities
Convention Center Rules
Union Jurisdiction in Nevada
Training Your Staff
Lead Retrieval
Booth Etiquette
On-site Vendor Tours
Freight/Material Handling
Having fun!
...and much more!

To register for this webinar and to find out more about future sessions, click here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More from FUNWORLD: An Interview with Cirque du Soleil's Calum Pearson

As an admirer of Cirque du Soleil and a lover of all things Beatles, I had a blast interviewing Calum Pearson, senior director of technical and show support–Resident Shows Division for Cirque du Soleil, for August’s FUNWORLD. He’s been with Cirque since 2004 and currently oversees all technical elements of the company’s stage shows, ranging from Macau to Ontario to Nevada. Before settling in Las Vegas, Pearson built a hefty resume both onstage—as a guitarist in the 1980s rock ‘n’ roll scene—and off—managing technology for legendary acts like Van Halen and Bon Jovi and later engineering and producing “Disney on Ice” productions.

Here’s my extended interview with the man who knows what goes on behind-the-scenes. If this sparks your interest, consider signing up for the behind-the-scenes tour of “The Beatles LOVE” at IAAPA Attractions Expo this November.

FUNWORLD: How do you describe “The Beatles LOVE” to people who've never seen a Cirque show?
Calum Pearson (left): It evokes emotions related to music guests grew up with; however, people will enjoy it even if they didn’t live through the Beatles era, but do appreciate good music. It’s an encompassing environment where you get immersed into the show and rekindle memories.
“LOVE” isn’t as acrobatic as some of our other shows, so there’s a lot more expressive dance mixed in. If a song doesn’t call for high energy tumblers, using a dancer makes more sense. You’re going to appreciate the subtleties of the visuals to support the lyrics but you’ll feel flattered that you didn’t have something pushed on you.
We never do the same thing twice—you’re going to have a certain level of quality, a level of creativity—and we provoke the senses.
Everything you watch, when you walk into one of our shows, as soon as you set foot past handing your ticket in, you’re in our environment. For instance, at the theaters in Vegas, we use tinted glass to reflect sound and keep out noise from the casinos, and we double AirLock doors so slivers of light can’t creep in.

How do you manage time and maintain efficiency in such intricate productions?
Cirque has a lot of people working across boundaries. With every bit of choreography happening onstage, there are three backstage movements that are just as choreographed.
What’s unique about our shows is that we give the directors carte blanche to create. Once we have the creative element, we start looking for efficiencies—but without changing the artistic vision. Time management must maintain artistic integrity, and a lot of that is achieved by the internal training we do.
Since all of our shows are contracted for 10 years, we don’t second-guess spending a lot of time and money on training. It’s worth it because it pays off in the end. From the point of creation, we’re looking at how we can maximize the time of the individuals.

What’s one lesson you’ve learned from working with Cirque du Soleil that translates to both small and large productions?
You really have to do your research on what’s been tried before so you don’t reinvent the wheel. A big part of our process is to document every single stage production, no matter how innocuous it may seem at the time. If you do a similar show four years from now, you need to know what you spent time and money on doing wrong.

What can IAAPA Attractions Expo attendees expect at the behind-the-scenes “LOVE” experience?
It’s more of a workshop where we show what we’ve changed through the years and bring everything from behind-the-scenes to the front. Our technicians will demonstrate some of the elements built specifically into the theater for “LOVE”—we’re going to air our dirty laundry a little. People will get a chance to see the nuts-and-bolts visuals of the show. Some of the artists will be there to talk about their roles and of course we’ll conduct a Q&A at the end.

With such a varied career, how have your different careers built on one another?
I wouldn’t replace a single second of the rock ‘n’ roll days—I was in my 20s and loving every minute of it. When I moved over to produce the “Disney on Ice” shows, I actually experienced the culture of each city because we stayed for a week or two. That period culminated in 16 years of touring around the world. When my first child was born, there was no better reason to stop touring and settle in Las Vegas. I got to open “Ka” at MGM Grand and two years later Cirque asked me to overlook all their shows. With Cirque, I get to do what I’ve been doing all my life for a company that is—without a doubt —the most existential in the world. There’s no limit to anything they do. Everything I’ve done in the past was leading me to what I do now.

The difference between the shows in Vegas and those in the rest of the world?: “Everything’s bigger here,” says Pearson. “Here in Vegas, we have soon to be seven shows. We keep challenging ourselves to come up with different products.”
“Mystére” – The show at Treasure Island is Cirque’s traditional big top show
“O” – The production at the Bellagio, incorporates a 1.5 million gallon tank of water
“Zumanity” – Smaller and more intimate, "Zumanity," playing at New York New York Hotel & Casino, shows a more sensual side of Cirque in adult cabaret fashion. “It utilizes the circus arts in a very provocative manner,” Pearson says.
“Ka” – The $200 million production, showing at the MGM Grand, is one of the largest on the planet. One of the seven stages weighs 300 tons and is mobile—a prop that almost steals the show. Pearson calls the experience like “walking into a vast arena; just a large spectacle.”
“LOVE” – Marking the 15th anniversary of Cirque in Vegas, “LOVE” debuted in 2006 and was born from a friendship and mutual admiration between late Beatles member George Harrison and Gilles Ste-Croix, vice president of creative for Cirque du Soleil. Harrison’s widow, Olivia, continued developing the show after the guitarist's death, and Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were involved in production details. Featuring Beatles music remastered by the band’s original producer, George Martin, and his son Miles, Pearson calls the show “unbelievable with a feel-good factor. If you’re a fan of the Beatles’ music, it brings the characters you know to life. And if you know nothing about the Beatles, it’s a great high-energy show everyone can love.”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Our Thoughts Are With Kennywood Today

The attractions industry lost one of its own this week, as 46-year-old Heidi Overmeir, director of school sales at Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, was one of three people murdered at a fitness club in Pittsburgh Tuesday night.

This morning, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran an excellent, albeit heartbreaking, story about Heidi's life and death. Kennywood representatives are quoted throughout and mention what an upbeat, hardworking, beloved employee she was. You can read the full article here.

All of us at IAAPA are saddened for Heidi's family, and Kennywood.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Read FUNWORLD's August Issue Online: New Rides and Attractions 2009

One of my favorite FUNWORLD issues of the year is now ready for you to peruse via our online digital edition.

This month's installment features our annual New Rides and Attractions special section, which for four years running now has rounded up some of the biggest, brightest new entries in the industry from around the world. Leading the way in 2009 is "Manta," the new B&M flying coaster/aquarium at SeaWorld Orlando. We also have pieces on four big new coasters in Germany this year, and a look at the benefits of refurbishing a ride.

And oh, there's more:
• A look at the massive amount of entertainment Las Vegas has to offer as everyone gears up for IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009
• A look back at IAAPA's record-breaking Asian Attractions Expo 2009 in Seoul
• A Q&A with the technical director for Cirque du Soleil

Check out these stories and more by clicking here. And THANK YOU for reading!