Another beautiful day was in store for attendees of the annual IISF Trade Show on Tuesday, February 6th. Sunny weather reached the 80s which was a nice treat for those traveling from up north as far as Canada.
Speaking of Canada, several Canadian companies were on hand and it seems like Canada's outlook as well as the US's was positive. Beauce Carnaval, a large Canadian company, was said to have purchased a Crazy Cars / Mini Breakdance from Len Soled of Rides 4 U. Soled said the show has been good so far and the company has several pending deals.
Another Canadian show, Fun Show Amusements, owned by Mario Laruuere made a purchase from Expo Wheel of a new Giant Wheel to be delivered later in the 2019.
Another showmen keeping warm in the Florida sun was R.C. Cole of Cole Shows of Covington, VA. Cole had just spent some time in the Bahamas and has a wheel rental in Florida. His new Giant Wheel was on display in the Luna Park booth.
New Czech manufacturer Fun Light has perhaps the most eye-catching ride on site at the trade show, a 4-story funhouse, themed Jurassic Escape. While Fun Light is new to the show, they are not new to amusement ride manufacturing, billing themselves as the “largest ride manufacturer in Eastern Europe.”
Adam Swika is the proud new owner of the ride and the road to purchase has been a seemingly long one. Swika, while searching the internet for a used funhouse, came across the company's website and stopped to talk with them during the 2017 IAAPA show in Orlando. Liking what he heard and saw, Swika worked with the company to design the Jurassic Escape which was completed after about 18 months of design and manufacturing.
Swika said this was the second 4-story ride the company has built and will travel on one trailer and a small boat trailer for the slide. The ride is outfitted with LED lights throughout.
The funhouse has photo ops built into the trailer itself and plenty of room at the base of the slide for flow of traffic. The manufacturer estimates that the ride will take 3-4 guys 3 hours to tear down and 4 hours to set up, depending primarily upon the time it takes to level the ride. Swika said he will take a look at the set up and tear down procedures for the piece and then make some modifications and adjustments his family calls ‘Swika-izing” the ride.
Adam Swika's grandfather and mentor in the business was Steve Swika, Swika said “everything I learned in this business, I learned from him”, calling his grandfather a true legend and genius when it comes to the amusement business.
Swika has always been fond of fun houses, starting when his grandfather built one from the ground up with a partner. Later, Adam Swika was put in charge of the Owens Monkey Maze, which was state of the art at the time. As funhouses got bigger and bigger however, he always dreamed of owning something even larger.
Swika travels with his uncle Steve's show, SwikaS Amusements in eastern Pennsylvania for much of the year. Combined, they have about 15 rides. He also plays with Morris Vivona of Amusements of America for a few dates in PA and NJ.
Swika realizes the new ride will need to play some larger events and he has been busy reaching out to carnival owners to see about booking the ride independently at larger fairs and events. He thinks that between some independent bookings and some of his family's better events, he will have a nice route for the ride.
Taking a wait and see attitude on future purchases, Swika said he wants to see how he does with this first big purchase before thinking about the next step.
The IISF convention is not just for carnivals, many fairs personnel stop by the show and attend the related activities in the Tampa area. Mark St. Jacques, manager of the Washington County Fair in Greenwich, NY and Director for IAFE Zone 1 was attending the show and stopped by the Carnival Warehouse booth to say hello.
The Washington County Fair ran August 20 - 26 in 2018 and had about 150,000 in attendance, making it one of the largest in the state. This is St. Jacques' 22nd year as manager and with some great weather, it proved to be a record. The fair was up about 5% from 2017 and St. Jacques said the carnival also likely had a record ride gross.
With 7 days of of straight 70 degree weather and sunny skies, it was kind of difficult not to have a good year, he joked. Entertainment included the Hansen Circus and a ventriloquist.
While the fair is “dry”, St. Jacques said he worked with local microbreweries and wineries to do sampling and educational exhibits for the fair. “They are part of agricultural and we want to support their efforts and make them a part of the fair”, he said. While there was some resistance from parts of the fair board, in the end, showing how beer and wine is made, how hops are grown locally and grapes are planted turned out to be a big hit and welcome addition to the event.
For the third year in a row, the fair has received a grant from the state of $96,300 which is used for capital improvements. The Washington County Fair built a much needed sewer system and are upgrading horse facilities, fencing, stables and goat pens.
The State of New York has approved $5 million in grants for fairs the past few years which are divided among the 50+ fairs in the state. The fairs are hoping the grants will be extended for a fourth year again. “Its been like 10 years since we have received any funding before the recent grants”, he added.
While the fair was very positive, one incident did dampen the spirits of all those involved in the event. Morris Vivona, eldest of the five Vivona brothers who own Amusements of America, the fair's carnival company since 2000, passed away during the fair at Saratoga Hospital. Vivona, 97 was the oldest working showman and still very active on his show. With his passing during the fair, management and the carnival, including Vivona's son, Morris Jr., decided Morris would want everyone to continue with the event and be successful. After a moment of silence, they returned to entertaining the people of Washington County, honoring a man who spent his entire life bringing smiles to millions of people throughout the country.
We will have more coverage of the IISF trade show tomorrow.