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The IAAPA Attractions Expo Experience

As I was looking at some of the park fan message boards online, a common theme emerged recently: people wanting to go to the IAAPA convention in Orlando, “because it looked like fun.” Another posted that, “It looks like Disney’s D23, only for the whole industry,” and another said, “…the website is written in business-speak…”

Well, of course it is, because IAAPA isn’t held for park fans. Don’t be confused by some of the coverage you see on park blogs, IAAPA is all about three things: buying goods, selling goods and networking for jobs. Orange County Convention Center IAAPA

Millions of dollars of purchases are done in just the four days the event is held. There’s a ton of business being done on the floor and if you decide to attend as a park fan, you have to know when to respect that boundary.

Barreling up to the B&M or RMC booth to swoon over Walter, Fred or Alan – while they’re trying to talk to park owners – is not going to go over very well. In some cases, a company’s livelihood can depend on the meetings they have at this show.

Also, snapping photos without permission is a BIG no-no here. ALWAYS ask vendors if it’s okay to take a photo or record part of the booth for a video.

If you’ve got actual business to discuss then go ahead and speak to them when they’re free. If you’re a fan and just taking in the convention for fun, grab some literature and just move on. Speaking of discussing business…

Standing next to one of my photos in the Great Coasters booth.

Standing next to one of my photos in the Great Coasters booth.

The amusement industry – despite being worldwide – is a very tight knit group of individuals. Everyone knows everyone and word gets around fast. That’s why IAAPA is the perfect event to go to if you’re looking to get a job in the industry. The show gives you the opportunity to meet with prospective employers face to face – as well as give them a copy of your resume.

Despite what you might think from some of the other bloggers out there – the dress code says a LOT about your purpose. Shorts and a t-shirt emblazoned with your blog’s logo are not commonplace nor looked upon well by attendees. If you want to make a good impression, stand out from the other “schlubs” and come in a suit and tie.

One of the least talked about parts of the Attractions Expo is the seminars they hold. As members of IAAPA, they’re free with an expo badge. From learning about the business from Disney legends, to how to properly curate social media for your brand, to symposiums on laser tag – these edu-sessions give attendees quite a bit of insight, but tend to not get the fanfare that the show floor does.

Speaking of the show floor – yes, it’s true – there are a few rides and attractions you can go on at the show. It’s just like purchasing a new car. Just remember that those vendors are there to sell that ride – not entertain you with an ERT session.

GCI Booth IAAPA

If you truly love this industry and want to make it part of your career, I would make it a point, nee a pilgrimage to visit the annual IAAPA Attractions Expo. However, if you’re going to the convention because you think it’ll be a giant version of D23 and you’ll get to play all day – save your money and don’t bother going.

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Kings Island Unveils Mystic Timbers and Teases with #WhatsInTheShed

There are four things every public relations person at an amusement /theme park should do in preparation for a big ride announcement:

1.) Think to yourself, “What would Jeffrey Siebert at Six Flags Fiesta Texas do?”

2.) Release computer animated point of view video (POV)

3.) Tease a unique, mystery element in the ride

4.) Have ride merchandise hidden and ready to be purchased, just moments after the official announcement is made.

Kings Island 2017 Teaser What's In The Shed

Kings Island in Ohio hit all of those on Thursday evening, even with major online streaming issues, when they officially announced Mystic Timbers – their record-setting 5th wooden coaster.

Not only did the park release the official animated POV (which has already been stolen and monetized by multiple “coaster media outlets” – the park also teases at something else…

You see, the POV wasn’t complete – there’s a little section at the end that they purposely omitted – only to show yet another hashtag: #WhatsInTheShed.

The coaster community online LOST IT’S DAMN MIND – and loved every bit of it:

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And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you keep the coaster enthusiasts satisfied, curious and talking up a ride that isn’t even built for another 10 months on this project. We’ll all find out what’s in that shed come the 2017 season.

But for now, this is truly one of the best times of the year for park fans!

Are YOU excited for the 2017 season? What’s your most anticipated coaster or park announcement?


Roar wooden coaster at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to close August 16

On Thursday, July 16th, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom posted across their social media outlets – as well as via a press release – that their GCl wooden coaster, Roar will be shutting down forever on August 16th. The timing is fortuitous – the last day of operation will be National Roller Coaster Day in the United States.

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Photo credit: Kris Rowberry, http://www.GreatAmericanThrills.net

“We are a dynamic and evolving entertainment venue,” said Don McCoy, park president. “Although Roar continues to be a guest favorite, sometimes hard choices must be made to allow for future expansion.”

Roar opened in 1999 as the park was officially re-branded as the “New Marine World Theme Park” – which brought several new shows and attractions, restaurants and shops to the park. An estimated 11 million guests have experienced the 10-story coaster which features the first use of GCI’s throwback “Millennium Flyer” single bench, articulated trains.

According to the park, a special fond farewell to Roar will include a series of events for guests and Season Pass holders, the highlight of which will be a special last rider event.

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How much will this skyline change after Roar is shut down forever this year? Only time will tell… (Photo credit: Kris Rowberry, http://www.GreatAmericanThrills.net)

The shutdown fuels rumors that the ride may be next in the Six Flags chain to receive some sort of renovation from roller coaster manufacturer, Rocky Mountain Construction. While none of this has been confirmed by the park or RMC,  a job posting several weeks ago that advertised several temporary positions available in California has had some in the industry speculate that the Roar project was what they were advertising for.

The ride had become particularly rough over the past few years, culminating with a major track replacement which involved removal and replacement of approximately 1/4 of the total length of the ride last year.


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Photo of the Day: Gold Striker at California’s Great America

After many years of becoming a park known for REMOVING rides rather than ADDING them, California’s Great America in Santa Clara, CA made a major statement this year with the addition of Gold Striker. Billed as the tallest, fastest (and certainly most intense) coaster in Northern California, Gold Striker is easily one of the top five wooden coasters I’ve ever had the privilege of riding – and should be under consideration for the Top Ten in the United States.

Despite some minor setbacks and delays in opening, mostly due to ongoing noise abatement issues – the ride is now roaring every operating day, to delighted and packed crowds.

A winner all around, this coaster is seen by many as the catalyst for revival at California’s Great America – and fans are loving every moment of it. But don’t take my word for it – check out Westcoaster’s recent review.

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BREAKING NEWS – Gold Striker at Great America CLOSED

Photo and graphic by Kris Rowberry
Photo graphic by Kris Rowberry

Gold Striker has been closed, pending additional sound mitigation to quiet the coasters’ noise levels.

Screamscape is reporting that Gold Striker, the new wooden coaster at California’s Great America has been CLOSED due to sound levels being too high for nearby corporate building owner, Prudential Real Estate Investors. Park officials were unavailable for comment at this time.

Screamscape is speculating that, “…the primary cause of loud noises isn’t due to the coaster at all, but rather due to the riders.”

The park has already responded to the complaint by submitting additional blueprints to the City of Sant Clara on June 28th for additional sound mitigation devices, including tunnels, walls and foam.

We’ll be posting a more thorough report here tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned to Great American Thrills for the most up to date and accurate reports on this breaking news story.