Should I Go To The IAAPA Expo in Orlando?
Looking through some theme park fan message boards around September, you get a common theme: people ask about / want to go to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) expo in Orlando, mostly because, “it looks like fun.”
Still others post that, “It looks like Disney’s D23, only for the whole industry,” while others say, “…the website is written in business-speak…”
Let me clear up a few things for you all. First, IAAPA isn’t held for park fans. Don’t be confused by some of the coverage you see on some of those other park blogs – IAAPA is about just three things: buying goods, selling goods and networking for jobs.
Millions upon millions of dollars are transferred in the four days this show is held. There’s a literal ton of business being done on the floor – so – if you do decide to attend this expo as a park fan, you have to know “the code.”
Attending as a park or ride fan and just barreling up to the B&M or RMC booth to swoon over Walter, Fred or Alan – especially while they’re trying to talk to potential buyers – is a massive faux paux. In some cases, a company’s livelihood can depend on the meetings they have at this expo.
Also, snapping photos or video without permission is a HUGE no-no. ALWAYS ask booth vendors if it’s okay to take a photo or record part of their booth the booth for a video.
If you’ve got actual business to discuss (such as inquiring about a job or internship) then feel free to speak to them…when they’re free. If you’re a fan and just taking in the convention for fun, it’s best to just grab some literature and move on. Speaking of discussing business…
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. This expo gives you the rare opportunity to meet and network with prospective employers face to face, as well as the opportunity to give them a copy of your resume and cover letter.
Take it from me – I’ve been hired because of connections I made at this expo in the past, as have several of my friends!
Now, despite what you might think from some of the other bloggers out there – the way you dress 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 vendors. If you want to make a good impression, stand out from the other “schlubs” and come in a suit and tie.
If your registration permits it, one of the least talked about (but best parts) of the expo are the educational seminars they hold. 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 tons 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 a day-long ERT session.
If you truly love this industry and want to make it part of your career, I would make it a point to someday visit the annual IAAPA Expo in Orlando. However, if you’re looking for a place to nerd out with other theme park fans, save your money and stick with D23. You’ll end up having more fun there, anyway.
Why All Roller Coaster Enthusiasts Should Know the Name Eric Laithwaite
There are several names synonymous in the roller coaster and theme park community: Karl Bacon, Ed & Dana Morgan, Anton Schwarzkopf, Walter Bolliger & Claude Mabillard and Walt Disney, among many others.
But one in particular seems to have fallen by the wayside – Eric Laithwaite. And yet every enthusiast who’s ever enjoyed a modern, launched roller coaster owes those very thrills to him, because he is “the father of linear induction.”
Laithwaite’s most famous work centered around using magnetism to provide frictionless travel, on maglev trains. He had figured out that if you uncoiled a standard, electrical motor, an object could simply glide over it on an electromagnetic wave – and it would stay on course with the attraction and resistance already natural to those magnets.
Perhaps his most famous work of the time was the magnetic river from “The Spy Who Loved Me”
But for parks, chain lifts were just fine modes of gaining potential energy – and the technology wasn’t seen for amusement purposes until 1975, with the debut of Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland Transit Authority. While it kept a consistent pace to the ride – it’s hardly a thrill ride, too.
People at the time did not see the true potential of the futuristic, potential acceleration system. Computer control systems were still rudimentary by today’s standards – plus the weight drop and flywheel launches of Schwarzkopf and Arrow were doing the job just fine.
It would take over two decades before amusement ride manufacturers would take the technology to it’s full potential, with the debut of Premier Rides’ “Flight of Fear” indoor coasters at (then) Paramount’s Kings Island and Kings Dominion in 1996.
And, after a year of technical issues, the technology would reach it’s top speed, with the debut of Intamin’s spectacular Superman: The Escape at Six Flags Magic Mountain. It still holds the record for fastest linear launched coaster on Earth at 100 mph (on a good day).
With the explosion in launched coasters over the past two decades, just remember to add the name Eric Laithwaite to your coaster lexicon. Because without him – you would literally be going nowhere, fast.
California’s Great America’s Winterfest forgot New Year’s Eve
Yesterday, California’s Great America made their official announcement on Winterfest – a holiday-themed event that will extend the season nearly to the end of the calendar year.
And yet, the park appears to have missed out on a major marketing and event opportunity…New Year’s Eve.
For decades, the South Bay has tried to find its identity, beyond the shadow of San Francisco. For those of you not from the area, it’s actually a big deal to South Bay people, especially considering we’re the larger population area. One only has to look at the coverage for the recent Super Bowl for evidence of that. San Francisco also has a tradition of a massive fireworks show at midnight to commemorate the New Year.
In sharp contrast, the South Bay does not have a marquee New Year’s Eve show. Instead, we have to remind our residents not to shoot their firearms into the sky.
So, it was a bit shocking to me to see in the park press release yesterday that Winterfest festivities will end the day before New Year’s Eve, which this year falls on Saturday night.
Are you catching my drift yet?
Simply put – how can you put on a first-time holiday event and not throw a New Year’s Eve celebration – especially if you’re already open the day before and more importantly, in an area DESPERATE to find such a tradition? Just imagine for a moment: an evening of fun capped off with one of the coolest new traditions in the South Bay – falling into 2017.
You heard me right. New York says they “drop the ball” in Times Square, when in reality a computer controlled winch slowly lowers that ball down a flagpole. Why can’t California’s Great America use the park’s tallest “flagpole” – Drop Tower – and give 24 lucky people the opportunity to leave the ground in 2016, and “drop in” to 2017, all at the stroke of midnight?
But Kris – how are you going to ensure they drop precisely at midnight?
Easy! The ride has a manual mode – which allows the operator to release the cabins manually from the ground. When the clock strikes 12, all they have to do is push the button on the control panel and wheeeee here comes 2017, complete with fireworks going off in the distance (or even better – off the top of the tower itself).
And here’s the best part – the 24 seats could be auctioned off, with the benefactor being local charities.
Okay Kris, but what if the weather isn’t conducive to riding Drop Tower and what about families who may want to come? (I.E. rain and wind)
No problem – you simply move to the other “ball drop” – or in this case – “ball raise” – the Star Tower. It’s enclosed, also able to do manual modes and breaks down maybe once every other season.
That same auction could take place, albeit with more participants – and anyone can ride (with chaperone, of course).
To me, this seems like a no-brainer, probably because I proposed this very event all the way back in 2003. I was much younger then; a wide-eyed, new employee of the park who didn’t understand how corporations worked. The idea never made it past the suggestion box and I didn’t make it past my second season.
Nonetheless, if you’re going to make a new event stick in this industry, you have to go big that first year to make it beyond memorable. Otherwise, it won’t warrant additional capital for the next year and worse – people won’t come back.
Discovery Kingdom did it their first year by bringing in the world’s largest Christmas tree – what will CGA’s big selling point be?
To sum up – without a New Year’s Eve celebration to cap it off, Winterfest at California’s Great America isn’t really as good of an event as it could or more importantly SHOULD be.
Oh and since I’ve been giving away so much free advice in this article, CGA folks – you may want to A.) just hire me to do this full time for you or B.) check out several other ways how you can score big points for your 40th anniversary.
The Launch Coaster Theme That Should Have Happened
Admit it – this is probably one of the best coaster themes that never happened.
I’m not sure about you – but this just screams Intamin hydraulic launch…
And it wouldn’t be that hard to do, either. As you dispatch from the station, the lights dim slowly to black. The train makes a turn to hide the launch. Projectors show stars and galaxies around you.
And just as the music hits that crescendo beat, you go to warp drive.
Ah, what could have been!
What’s your “dream” coaster theme? Tell me in the comments section below or on my social media networks!
IT SHOULD BE NOTED: “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and all related indica are property of Paramount Pictures. No rights are implied by sharing on this site. They are simply presented here under the “Fair Use Act” of U.S. Copyright Law under “commentary.”
Throwback Thursday – Triple Wheel at Great America
If this photo doesn’t capture my love of amusement and theme parks, then I’m not sure what photo could…
Yours truly on the venerable (and sorely missed) Triple Wheel at Great America in Santa Clara, CA. Here’s hoping it brings as much joy to you as it did to me finding it in an old photo album.
For those wondering what the ride looked like that I’m pictured on, this great video from GreatAmericaParks.com should help you out – the sound ALONE should spark your memory:
Renewing a Classic Coaster
Fans of classic roller coaster designs rejoice – one of the original looping coasters has received a new lease on life.
If you’re a hardcore roller coaster fan – you should instantly recognize the the motion being mimicked in this commercial – for the uninitiated, it’s the famous profile and movements of the Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop.
Sadly, only half of the installations of this compact, but thrilling ride remain in the world today. The one we’ll be focusing on resides at Walibi World in Belgium.
The ride, originally called “Turbine,” had been closed since 2008, when parts simply ran out to repair the ride. (Schwarzkopf went under well over a decade ago). But the park had an idea – they contacted current coaster manufacturer Gerstlauer and asked, “Could you modernize the launch system on ‘Turbine’ to make it faster, more reliable and cheaper to operate?”
Turns out they could!
With a newer, more reliable launching system, utilizing all of the original track, mind you – Walibi went a step further, by giving the attraction an entirely new theme and completely enclosing the ride’s track. “Turbine” would enter the new millennium with a modern, linear induction launch system and be re-born as “Psyké Underground,” a dance club themed coaster.
Now at first thought, the theme might be a bit too much – a bit “over hip,” if you will. But after seeing the effects and how they work in tandem with the storyline of the ride – well, it WORKS!
For fans of this type of ride (and you know who you are), you’ll also be happy to know the ride still goes “all the way” up the back spike as well.
With the success of this transformation, my attention turns to another classic shuttle loop that has cheated the wrecking ball several times: “Montezooma’s Revenge” at Knott’s Berry Farm.
Because Schwarzkopf went out of business in the mid-1990’s, many of the parts for the ride have become scarce or must be manufactured in-house at enormous expense. When the clutch for the flywheel system burned out in the mid-2000s, many fans wondered if the ride would simply be removed, because of the lack of available parts.
With the recent closure of “Greezed Lightning” at Kentucky Kingdom, many of the parts and indeed the train from that ride (which itself was a combination of the original “Tidal Wave” weight drop shuttle loops from the two Marriott’s Great America parks) were purchased and shipped to Knott’s earlier this year to assist in keeping “Monte,” as it’s affectionately known, up and running.
Built in 1978, it’s the last flywheel shuttle loop of it’s kind in the United States, and one of only TWO left operating in North America).
A modification and modernization such as the one done to “Psyké Underground” in Belgium not only could keep the ride around for many more years, but could also significantly lower overall operating costs. No need to enclose the ride – though it would certainly make for a different riding experience with those strobe lights in a tube!
Now, I know, it’s not the “classic” launch system…but to me – it’s still the same ride if the track layout and design isn’t modified. The renovation done at Walibi World just goes to show, that a brilliant design, no matter the age, will ALWAYS stand the test of time!
And for those who are fans of the bouncy, modern dance soundtrack for the ride, you can find it here and on iTunes:
Happy Friday the 13th!
Got a case of trixadexaphobia? (Fear of the number 13?)
Better take a pass on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, found at several Disney parks. Just a perfect theme for a free fall ride.
Fun fact: For many years during it’s development, the ride was going to utilize the original Intamin “first generation” free fall technology:
I hear the wait time is low today, too…
…only 13 minutes according to MouseWait!
A Difficult Day for the Amusement Industry, But Don’t Rush To Judgment
An unprecedented two major news-making events took place at two separate amusement parks in the U.S. within minutes of each other on Friday, bringing up the inevitable media hype over ride safety.
At Six Flags Over Texas and Cedar Point, two major incidents occurred that have splashed across the media.
In the wake of yesterday’s tragic event and subsequent investigation at Six Flags Over Texas, Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas has been closed as a precautionary measure, according to a park representative. The ride features the same style of “Iron Horse” track as the Texas Giant and same train manufacturer, Gerstlauer of Germany.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved in today’s tragic events.
When reporting news, there’s always the possibility of reporting inaccurate information. When the story is breaking, that risk is even bigger. These stories are no different.
One of the more glaring items that stands out to me is from the The Dallas Morning News. They reported that eyewitness, Carmen Brown, who was in the loading station of the Texas Giant, “…said the woman had expressed concern to a park employee that she was not secured correctly in her seat.”
“He (the ride attendant) was basically nonchalant,” Brown said. “He was, like, ‘As long as you heard it click, you’re fine.’ Hers was the only one that went down once, and she didn’t feel safe. But they let her still get on the ride.”
Here’s the problem – the Texas Giant doesn’t use “clicking” restraints. In fact, according to Gerstlauer, the manufacturer of the trains for the Texas Giant, “The cars feature four self-restraining seats with T-shaped lapbars.” It continues, “The use of redundant hydraulic cylinders ensures that each lap bar can be infinitely adjusted and offers maximum security.” in other words, these restraints come down in silence.
As I was just out at Six Flags Over Texas about five weeks ago, I can attest to this fact. The Texas Giant also features an electronic indicator light on each train, (one for each restraint) which alerts operators if a restraint is too high for safety. The light turns from red to green.
It should not be lost on anyone, but you should know – your odds are far greater of being injured DRIVING to your local amusement park then they are INSIDE your local amusement park. In addition, if you do not feel confident in a ride – you always, ALWAYS have the choice of simply asking to be let out.
Photo of the Day: El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure
Since opening on June 11th, 2006 – El Toro has maintained the #2 or #1 spot in the world for wooden roller coasters. With the second steepest drop in the world (78 degrees), speeds up to 70 mph and airtime hills that would make any coaster phobic just looking at them, you can see why this next generation wooden coaster ranks so high.
I swear that I caught Bubba the Love Sponge and (then) wife Heather Clem in the front row that day. Can anyone validate that claim?
Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.
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Star Tower POV (Point of View) Video
Need a break at work today? Then come along for quite possibly the SLOWEST point of view (POV) video that you will ever see of any amusement park ride on Earth – here’s the complete ride cycle for the 200 foot tall Star Tower at California’s Great America. That being said, you’ll see all of the major attractions of the park in action – a rare feat to capture in just one ride!
Celebrating George Ferris’ 154th Birthday
For most people, today is a holiday about love. For others, it’s about the over commercialization of a natural human emotion.
For me, it’s cause to celebrate – to hold my hat up high and say, happy 154th birthday to George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.!
One of the most recognizable names in the amusement industry – maybe only behind Walt Disney – Ferris is responsible for the engineering and building of his namesake, the Ferris wheel.
Debuting at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Ferris’ wheel was steam driven and used 36 cars the size of train cars to take 60 passengers EACH as moving observation decks.
The ride was never designed to be thrilling (the ride lasted about 30 minutes with loading) but rather, to be an observation attraction. The wheel was beefy in construction and simply dwarfed all other structures at the fair. It was meant to be an answer to the Eiffel Tower – and it delivered. The construction methods and engineering is strikingly familiar to the Parisian icon.
Even by modern standards – Ferris’ first wheel was massive. While most wheels today are transported via trailer and rarely break the 100-foot mark, Ferris’ observation wheel in Chicago was 264 feet tall. (That’s over 25 stories!) To this day, only a small number of wheels have eclipsed this number.
Sans the occasional upgrade to the passenger compartments, or the frightening concept of the eccentric wheel (Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Wonder Wheel) or the ultramodern spoke-less wheel (Big O) the general concept of the ride has not changed much in over 100 years.
It’s a true blast from the past that is in quite the renaissance – and we’re not talking carnival wheels, here. You see, the large wheel is making a huge comeback that would make Ferris proud.
Attractions such as the London Eye and Singapore Flyer have brought back the original concept – large, observation attractions. Four, count ‘em FOUR wheels over 500’ tall are either under construction or currently proposed in the United States alone, including a proposed 625’ wheel on Staten Island. Makes you wonder why no one out here in the Bay Area has called to build one yet. (Talk about scenery to see!)
Sadly, Ferris’ legacy is somewhat tainted these days – it’s become more fashionable to call them “observation wheels,” rather than the name which was connected to them. A “Ferris Wheel” it would seem, should only be found at a fair – an “observation wheel” is more likely to be found in a trendy metropolis.
His wheel met an unfortunate end as well. After being packed and shipped to the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, it was simply blown up – not popular enough to turn a profit. Ferris met an equally untimely death – he died of
tuberculosis at age 37.
So the next time you’re at your local amusement park and see a Ferris wheel, look skyward, and thank Mr. Ferris – for creating one of the most prolific amusement attractions in human history.
And maybe, just maybe – it IS appropriate that Ferris was born on what would become Valentines Day – what other ride allows you to make out with your sweetie in public – without almost anyone knowing?*
*Except the person sitting behind you…
A wonderful video collage of the Great Wheel while in Chicago:
The BEST Great America site on the planet, featuring the Sky Whirl triple Ferris wheel: