Thursday 16 February was another beautiful sunny day for the IISA exhibition. Crowds have been constant, and vendors and vendors have continued to report steady sales. You could hear some people walking around and moaning about the ‘old days’ when the show was packed with equipment, but if you looked closely, there were a lot of manufacturers and suppliers making their way to Gibtown.
Sellner Manufacturing once told Carnival Warehouse that bringing a ride to the show a long time ago was easy. You could bring in an unsold ride and sell it at the show. Back then, though, the ride was a red Tilt A Whirl with very few options. Now, almost everything is custom built, so carrying an unsold ride is a much more speculative endeavor.
The show has European producers such as Bertazzon, Technical Park, Moser, SBF, Lamerink, KMG and Gosetto as well as Wisdom, Wadkins, Fredricksen, Battech, Eli Bridge, Majestic, Dalton, ADM and others from the USA.
Solutions for international equipment
Steve Lisko and Tommy Coffing were present at the Equipment Solutions International stand, representing the Italian manufacturers. They had their new swing ride on display which was getting a lot of attention from attendees.
The ride on display was sold to Wright’s Amusements, but they have since sold three more to Trans America Amusements, Brown’s Amusements, and MidWest Shows.
Lisko and Coffing said the ride is getting a lot of attention because it has a nice presence at the midway point, standing 40 feet tall, with beautiful painted murals and dazzling lights. The carousel also has a large capacity, can hold 40 people at a time, and is a carousel for both children and adults; a real family ride.
Perhaps best of all, the ride is easy to set up and take down, taking just 2 hours to get on or off. In addition to the swing ride, Lisko mentioned that he was closing some deals on kiddie rides that we hope to reveal here tomorrow.
In addition to family and children’s rides, Equipment Solutions International also represents the Technical Park, with a wide range of attractions.
Tommy Coffing and Stephen Lisko of Equipment Solutions International
For over 100 years, Eli Bridge has been building some of the most iconic rides in the United States, including the Scrambler and #5 and #16 wheels. Nearly every carnival in the United States has had and continues to operate one of these two attractions. Even the parks come to Eli Bridge for the permanent versions of the attractions.
With such a large market share in the amusement park and amusement park industry, the company has found some exciting new outlets for its equipment.
One of the biggest new customers for Eli Bridge isn’t a carnival or park, but Scheels, a North Dakota-based sporting goods company. The company has 31 locations in 14 states. In 2012, Scheels announced it would be opening a new flagship store in Overland Park, KS. When the store opened in 2015, it not only had entertainment options for shoppers, but also an Eli Wheel at the center of the store.
Tim Noland, general manager of Eli Bridge, says the goal is to keep guests in the store with activities and that in turn helps ring the cash register. Noland says the stores sell $1 wooden tokens for the ride, which are purchased at the store.
Eli installs the rides and briefs employees on maintenance, while a third-party inspection company trains employees on safe operation of the wheels.
The company has now installed more than 10 rides in Scheels stores, some #5 and some #16 and the partnership between the two family-owned businesses has continued to grow.
Stefano Moser of Moser rides was among the Europeans happy to be in Florida in February.
The company was proud to introduce its portable models, which they are trying to sell to expand their market. Moser hopes the portable models will become popular in the US and thus his trip to Gibsonton.
Among the rides Moser offers are 30- to 45-foot rides that can be made even larger in size, a Speed Flip ride that’s a spectacular ride like an Orbiter but has free-spinning gondolas, and they’re also bringing back a portable version of his Swing Ride, the dream machine.
Moser recalls selling a portable model of the ride to Jim Murphy of the Bluegrass Shows 1993. The ride opened in Nashville, TN to rave reviews and received a lot of attention in the US market.
The Speed Flip holds 24 riders at a time and takes approximately 6-8 hours to set up. The towers, on the other hand, seat 10 and only take about 2 hours to set up, making moving the ride, in a labor-shortened market, a big plus.
Moser said he received the attention of not only US buyers in Gibtown but also ride operators from Australia, the UK and Canada who attended the show.
The best shows in the world
Speaking of Canadian shows, World’s Finest Shows was busy looking for rides and ticketing solutions after a couple of down seasons due to Covid. “Let’s just hope this year is 1/2 as good as last year,” enthused WFS’ Patrick Jamieson.
Jameison was so ready to get back to work during the pandemic that he kept a detailed account of how long he was out. Holding the phone, it read 21 months, 92 weeks, 642 days, 15,406 hours and 924,366 minutes – the length of time the show closed before it reopened.
WFS operates approximately 40 rides across two units in Ontario and have been forced to condense units a bit due to labor shortages following the pandemic. For example, they only managed their Himalayas for a week last year due to lack of help. The show had to hire over 20 foreign workers to keep things on the road.
Jamieson purchased a used Lifetime dorm and funnel cake trailer from Danny Ottaway. He is also researching ticketing options in hopes of finding a ticketless solution to combat his shortage of employees, including ticket vendors.