The Art of Attractions - November 2018


Mack Rides unveiled the ride vehicle for Silver Dollar City’s “Time Traveler” at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017. (Credit: Arthur Levine)

Breaking the Fourth Wall at IAAPA Attractions Expo

by Arthur Levine

When I visit IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando, I look forward to both expected and unexpected moments.

Among the expected moments are the pre-arranged interviews I know I’ll be conducting for the articles I’ll be researching, writing, and filing. Although I’m often surprised by what’s actually shared at the “Legends” panel assembled by Bob Rogers of BRC Imagination Arts, going to the presentation is an annual tradition I cherish. I know I’ll catch up with my Funworld colleagues and other journalist pals covering the industry, as well as my buddies working for and with parks and attractions.

I don’t know exactly what I might discover, but I expect I’ll be exploring some of the latest whiz-bang technology on display and getting in line for the rides companies bring to the Expo. And I know I’ll be sampling popcorn, frozen treats, and other goodies that are all but impossible to resist on the trade show floor. (Admit it, you can’t resist them, either.)

It’s the unexpected Expo moments that can really make an impression. For instance, I knew about “Time Traveler,” the Xtreme Spinning Coaster that was coming to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. But I just wasn’t prepared for the sheer scale or stunning design of the ride vehicle until I saw it in person last year at Mack Rides’ booth.

One of the most unexpected Expo moments also took place last year while chatting with the Skyline Attractions gang. I was interviewing Jeff Pike, Skyline’s president, about the company’s new Skywarp ride. I told Pike I had one final question, and that it was a bit existential and a whole lot geeky. “Is Skywarp a coaster?” I asked, referring to its tire-propelled drive system.


The first Skywarp attraction opened at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in August as “Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster.” (Credit: Scott Fais)

On cue as if he had been waiting in the wings, Duane Marden, the stats guru behind the wonderful Roller Coaster Database (, swooped in and said, “Funny you should ask that.” He then went on to authoritatively describe why Skywarp does, in fact, meet the definition of a coaster.

I felt as if I were in a movie that broke the fourth wall. Specifically, it reminded me of the “Annie Hall” scene in which a pompous guy mentions the philosopher, Marshall McLuhan, only to have Woody Allen bring in the actual McLuhan to confront and refute him. Although we had been in contact with one another, I had never personally met Marden before, so it was a treat to connect with him.

Be open to Expo moments. You never know where they might lead. I’ll see you on the show floor. I’ll be the one swooping in when you least expect it.

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 (formerly since 2002, and is a regular contributor for USA Today.