Friday, November 30, 2007

Attractions Expo on the 'Today' Show

A crew from NBC's "Today" show dropped in on IAAPA Attractions Expo earlier this month to check out one of the most high-profile exhibits at the show (literally): Dinner in the Sky.

Follow this link to see the four-minute spot. It mostly focuses on DITS, but there are some cool shots of the Expo thrown in, too, along with a few great aerials, as you might expect.

Friday, November 16, 2007

CPSC Amendment Knocked Back, but It's Not Gone Yet

Congressman Ed Markey is attempting to offer an amendment to the Consumer Product Safety Commission reauthorization bill (H.R. 4040) which would bring fixed-site amusement rides under the jurisdiction of the CPSC. CPSC authorization of fixed-site rides is unnecessary, ineffective, and costly.

Congressman Markey's amendment was not considered during the mark-up of H.R. 4040 Thursday by Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, but the issue is not over. The full Energy and Commerce Committee will consider the bill in early December.

Amusement rides are already one of the safest forms of entertainment available, so adding an additional layer of redundant regulation is absolutely unnecessary. Maintaining a safe facility is at the core of our business. Not only do we hold ourselves to high standards, but we must meet the standards of our insurers, adhere to ASTM standards, and we are regulated by state officials.

The CPSC is an important agency, but it is starved for resources. Adding amusement parks to their jurisdiction will only dilute their already limited resources and could jeopardize the current successful state-level regulatory scheme.

Please visit the IAAPA Grassroots Action Center to contact members of the House Energy and Commerce committee and express your opposition to the Markey amendment to the CPSC reauthorization bill. Tell them to let the CPSC focus its financial and staff resources on the areas where it has expertise: the more than 15,000 consumer products it is currently responsible for regulating.

For more information, please email me at

Monday, November 12, 2007

Exhibitor Move-In in Full Swing at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2007

The Orange County Convention Center has been taken over by IAAPA! It is pretty amazing to see how a big concrete room slowly morphs into what looks like a huge amusement facility filled with every product under the sun. On one aisle alone you can find a Sno-Cone company, a kiddie train manufacturer, an inflatable acrobatic ride, haunted changing portraits, light up toys and a filtration company as neighbors. IAAPA Attractions Expo 2007 really is a sight to see. I have started to take pictures from one spot on the floor to show how move-in progresses over the many days here. I'll be uploading a few pics shortly to show how the floor is looking. You will see the most drastic change as Monday draws to a close and I will share the final picture in the coming days to see the complete transformation.

Today is the busiest move-in day as we usually see the majority of the smaller booths set up. Most of the larger booths started their set-up on Thursday of last week and have been working long days to get everything ready. We already have a few full-sized rides on the floor as well as some truly amazing creations coming out of many of the top Theming companies. Best Booth winner last year, Pizzazz Scenic Contractors, brought back their award winning dragon-themed exhibit that is surely a sight to see. IAAPA Attractions Expo exhibitors really pull out the stops for their booth designs, so walking the trade show floor is always one surprise after another. Just yesterday we saw an elaborate mirror maze going up that we are all hoping to get a chance to visit. Of course, we can't forget our many food vendors, such as veteran exhibitors Perky's Pizza, Mini-Melts and Dippin' Dots, who will soon be drawing crowds of attendees hoping to get a sample of their snacks.

With almost 300 First-Time Exhibitors at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2007, there are many new faces and products at the show this year. It is always exciting to see exhibitors who walk onto our trade show floor for the first time as there is often a similar look of awe on their faces. It is hard for us to describe what this show is like over the phone, so seeing it in person tells the real story of why IAAPA Attractions Expo is THE show to be at.

I have to get back to helping our exhibitors move in, but I will check in again to report on how the show floor has shaped up. Looking forward to the trade show opening tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Unofficial Guide to Attractions Expo 2007: First-timers

Excited, overwhelmed, energized, and anxious … all emotions that make it sound like I’m preparing for my first high school dance, but I’m really just attending IAAPA Attractions Expo for the first time. After months of hearing about towering inflatables, ride debuts, and exclusive park announcements, I’m more than ready to attend my first show.

I started as IAAPA’s communications coordinator this past August, and quickly grew accustomed to show preparation: constantly changing schedules, truck-loads of supplies heading to Orlando, and mini-celebrations being thrown when we find out more exhibitors are coming. To stay organized in all of the excitement, I’ve concocted a personal tip sheet to prepare for it all; hopefully you can benefit from it, too.

  • Create a “Must-See” schedule: The week will go by so fast that it will be Friday before you know it. Pick up your show program at the beginning of the week and mark the exhibitors and booths you can’t miss. Visit IAAPA’s Virtual Trade Show for an easy exhibitor reference.
  • Wear comfortable shoes: The trade show floor is more than eight miles long, so comfy shoes like these are essential. I’ve heard co-workers rue the day they wore uncomfortable shoes on the show floor, so I’m taking blister precautions.
  • Meet as many people as possible: Networking between attractions proves invaluable when you need an outside opinion on a project. Some of the best places to do this are IAAPA’s roundtable sessions, which focus on open discussions and common challenges among different facilities. And as long as you’re branching out, drop by the Press Office and introduce yourself to me!
  • Mix it up: After seeing the trade show program, I can’t believe how much action will be taking place off the trade show floor. Our education sessions cover everything from FEC marketing to press release writing, and our socials (like the Young Professionals Get-Together) make it easy to meet other industry workers in your position. Make the most of your time; this only happens once a year!
  • Enjoy Orlando! Check out our recent press release to see what Orlando has to offer and plan festive nights and weekends when the show closes down. I want to experience the Blue Man Group show at Universal and visit Mickey in my off time.

For more pointers, check out this great tip sheet Ana Elisa, our V.P. of marketing and membership, created for first-time attendees.

If you’re going to the trade show, look for me in the press room. I want to match names with faces. And finally, if you’ve been to IAAPA Attractions Expo in the past, drop me a comment below and fill me in on tips I’ve missed.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Update from the Mississippi Gulf Coast: New Waterpark/Hotel on the Way

There was some exciting news out of the Mississippi Gulf Coast last week, as this story in the Biloxi Sun-Herald unveiled Florida-based Sterling Resorts’ plans to build a $10 million “condotel” in Biloxi, dubbed Revelay resort, which will include a waterpark and arcade.

This is music to the ears of Larry Barnett, executive director of the Harrison County Development Commission in nearby Gulfport and a leading economic official in the region. When I spoke with Barnett this summer for my cover story on the post-Katrina recovery effort in Mississippi, he told me the goal is to make the Gulf Coast a “top-tier destination” for tourism. The casinos are already doing big business in the area, but tourism officials there believe it’s going to take more family-oriented attractions (such as the already established Gulf Islands Waterpark in Gulfport) to seal the deal.

Revelay is a great first step, Barnett told me earlier today when I chatted with him to gauge his reaction to the new facility, set to open in 2009 or 2010.

“We need facilities like this so when families come to visit the Mississippi Gulf Coast, they have activities,” Barnett said. “This is a great development for us. It demonstrates a confidence people have in our market and our tourism. Other [developers] should see that and maybe look a bit closer at the Gulf Coast. It’s a first step, and getting more facilities like that is critical for us as we go forward, where we can entertain the children as well as the adults.”

Barnett said he knows of at least one other project being talked about that is “not exactly” like the hotel/waterpark combo proposed by Revelay, but is along the same lines. It’s too early for him to say anything more, but “there are other family-oriented facilities looking,” he confirmed.

One thing is for sure: Barnett remains convinced the Mississippi Gulf Coast is heading in the right direction. “I’m feeling very good about how things are progressing,” he said. “When you look at our area, we’ve made a lot of progress. We spent a lot of time cleaning up and preparing for the future, and now we’re in that rebuilding mode. I feel real good about what the future’s going to bring.”

Barnett and another member of his staff will be attending IAAPA Attractions Expo 2007 next week, and their focus is recruiting new attractions and investors to the Gulf Coast. He believes the region has huge potential for growth in multiple areas, including family-friendly amusements and attractions.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Unofficial Guide to Attractions Expo 2007: Membership and Communications

As he prepares for his second Attractions Expo, IAAPA V.P. of Communications David Mandt (otherwise known as my boss), has pulled together "An Unofficial Guide to Marketing and Communications Programs" at the trade show, and he'd like to share it with all of you.

The myriad offerings throughout Expo week can be overwhelming if you try to take them all in one gulp. So David's compiled everything a marketing/communications professional needs to know about the show and listed them in the handy document found below. He highlights all the educational sessions pertinent to his chosen field (writing a press release, new marketing technologies, etc.). He also rounds up all the various networking opportunities marketing/PR professionals might like to attend.

With an event as massive as IAAPA Attractions Expo 2007, any little tips can help. Click here to download David's cheat sheet for the show.