The Art of Attractions - November 2017


Sally Corporation originally debuted its Joker animatronic at IAAPA Attractions Expo. (Credit: Six Flags)

From Exhibitors’ Booths to the Midway: Preview the Magic

by Arthur Levine

As a journalist covering the industry I love, one of the coolest things I get to do every year is wander the IAAPA Attractions Expo trade show floor and speak with exhibitors. It’s even cooler, however, to later see and experience the attractions and innovations I discovered at the Expo.

To use an analogy, going to the Expo is like poring over the Sears Wish Book catalog. (Google it, kids. This used to be a thing.) It’s overwhelming, exciting, and filled with wondrous anticipation. But seeing concepts and plans come to life at parks is like Christmas Day. The unbridled joy I feel is like that of a 9-year-old finally getting his hands on the shiny new bicycle he has long coveted.

For example, when I headed over to Sally Corporation’s booth a few years ago, Chairman and CEO John Wood flashed a mischievous grin at me. That was moments before an animatronic Joker pointed his cannon and blasted me with a healthy dose of green laughing gas. John proudly described the sophisticated attraction he and his team were conjuring. A few months later, I was blown away when I rode the wow-worthy “Justice League: Battle for Metropolis” ride at Six Flags Over Texas. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the Joker in action and recalled John’s impish smile. (Of course, the maniacal villain, who once again literally blew me away with his wacky weapon, might have been the cause of my uncontrollable laughter.)

The Triotech gang always has a lively Expo booth filled with the company’s latest creations. It was one thing to get a demonstration of their interactive Maestro hand gesture technology a couple of years back. It was quite another to karate chop baddies to smithereens in “Lego Ninjago The Ride” at Legoland Florida Resort.

Similarly, I was fascinated when the folks at The Gravity Group showed me the steerable wheel system they had developed for their Timberliner trains. But I was positively floored by the silky smoothness and dynamic ride experience I had aboard “Wooden Warrior” at Quassy Amusement Park some time later.

At this year’s Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC) Expo booth, it’s likely that coaster gurus Fred Grubb and Alan Schilke will display the single-rail IBox Track system they crafted. I hope to be there as they evangelize about its ability to accommodate lightning-fast twists and turns and deliver impossibly smooth rides. But I’ll be salivating like Pavlov’s dogs until I actually get to ride the new RMC coasters coming to California’s Great America and Six Flags Fiesta Texas in the spring.

Take full advantage of the opportunities available to you at the Expo. For those of you hosting a booth, remember to whet the appetites of your visitors.

I’ll see you at the parks. I’ll be the one drooling for no apparent reason and mumbling about Raptor track.

A lifelong park fanatic, Arthur Levine has been writing newspaper and magazine travel features about the industry he loves since 1992. He’s been the Theme Parks Expert at since 2002, and is a regular contributor for USA Today.