Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day 13: IAAPA Continues

Day two of the IAAPA Attractions Expo got a slow start. After two full days of amusement parks and then walking the massive trade show floor all day yesterday, my body was exhausted. I took advantage of the opportunity to get a little bit of extra rest in the morning, seeing as I had no formal classes today. The only thing set on my schedule would be the Brass Ring Awards at 4:30, a celebration of the best hospitality in the amusement industry.

I started the day by doing some work on the iBook, but before long it was time to head over to the convention center. Even though the ceremony would be at 4:30, I did want to spend a bit more time on the trade show floor. There was a lot to see, as always - I enjoyed seeing several companies unveil their projects for the coming season at their booths: 4 new wood coasters for China, new roller coaster car variants, etc. It was all very exciting, but of course I also had to try a few more of the ride models on the floor.

The first stop was at the SBF Visa group, a prominent manufacturer for smaller rides and attractions. They were showing off a small spinning roller coaster, which was really quite fun for its size. For anyone who has not ridden a spinning coaster, they really are quite an experience! Next it was over to Zamperla, who easily had the most insane-looking ride. All lit up in full nighttime colors, this flat ride spun and flipped riders forward and backwards. Despite having the longest wait (no more than 5 minutes) of any ride on the floor, I insisted on trying it. I've gotta say, it was very fun but it's only time I've ever actually started to feel nauseous on a ride before. Zamperla makes some incredible rides and this is certainly one of them!

Before long, it was time for the Brass Ring Awards. This is a huge industry event every year and I was really looking forward to attending. As we entered the theater, they had provided goodie backpacks and  programs on every seat. Inside were Mickey Mouse ears, IAAPA mugs, Hersheypark chocolate bars, and other IAAPA-branded souvenirs furnished by the parks. Up and down the aisles, performers danced on stilts or marched around in British army uniforms. It was quite a show, and in a few minutes the program started. It was an hour and a half of the best live performances, marketing programs, customer service, and food offerings in the industry.

By the time the show ended, the trade show floor was closed for the day. After a quick dinner, I headed to Fun Spot America to see their new expansion. Fun Spot America has been around for a while with popular go-kart tracks, a SkyCoaster (think RipCord at Cedar Point) and a few small rides. This year, however, they doubled in size and added more rides and attractions, including two major roller coasters that I was excited to try. Both coasters were very impressive, but I was particularly surprised by the little wooden coaster from Great Coasters International, Inc., "White Lightning." Little did I know upon arriving the park that the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) were holding an event at the park. After noticing several of them marathoning White Lightning (I may have been doing the same), I realized that I had just joined an ACE event. ACE is an excellent enthusiast organization with a special focus on preserving historic roller coasters, and I have been a member for several years. I highly recommend joining ACE for anyone who enjoys coasters; their events at parks across the country are great fun and offer a lot of unique experiences for amusement park fans.

Fun Spot America's addition of these two coasters has done wonders for their attendance numbers, and after riding their new attractions I can completely see why. Both offer great experiences for visitors while costing the park relatively little to add. White Lightning cost $3.5 million, a relatively small amount for a wooden roller coaster and especially for one of its caliber. Where Fun Spot succeeds is in offering an experience that other Orlando attractions do not. While resorts like Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando offer fantastic multi-day experiences for no small fee, other attractions along Orlando's famous International Drive largely tend to be tourist traps, with perhaps a go-kart track or other small attractions. Fun Spot has risen out of this group into a new class with its additions, offering new experiences to the public at competitive prices. White Lightning is Orlando's only wooden roller coaster, and their pay-per-ride policy (with all-day wristbands available) offer flexibility to locals and other customers that don't necessarily want to pay close to $100 for a day at Disney or Universal.

After a great time at Fun Spot America, I headed back to the hotel. Thursday will be a big day - more IAAPA and three classes! I can't wait to share with you what I do tomorrow, come back soon for more updates!



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