Tim's Turn - February 2019


1902_Tims_TurnTied Up in History

by Tim O’Brien

This is a tale of a necktie. If you know me or have ever seen a photo of me at an IAAPA event, you have seen the tie of which I speak. It’s a special tie to me, and I have worn it for the past 25 years with pride. It’s a bit thread-worn and has a nice collection of not-so-discreet red wine and food stains from the multitude of parties and receptions I have attended over the years. 

I wore it when I served on an IAAPA marketing panel in 1995, during the IAAPA Brass Ring Awards ceremony in the late ’90s, when I accepted the IAAPA Lifetime Service Award in 2001, and when I was inducted into the IAAPA Hall of Fame two years ago. It is red and has Ferris wheels on it. Tiny people are standing in line to board the wheel. The label on back says it is a “Handmade, Perry Ellis” tie. 

While several people through the years have pointed out the stains, it wasn’t until IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017 that someone questioned me about the tie itself. I was moderating the IAAPA Hall of Fame panel with important people sitting on the dais, and when I opened the room for questions, it happened.

I was expecting a question for one of our distinguished panelists. Instead, I heard, “Tim, every time I see you, you are wearing that same tie. Don’t you have any others? What is the story here?” asked Reinoud van Assendelft de Coningh from the Netherlands.

Here’s the story. In addition to writing about parks and attractions during my 18-year tenure with industry publication Amusement Business, I also chronicled fair, carnival, and circus activity. During that period, I ran into Dick VanderVorste, an independent showman from Texas who traveled the circuit with Zyklon roller coasters. 

I immediately liked Dick, and we struck up a friendship that lasted until his passing in 2012. During the Expo one year in the mid-90s, as we walked and talked our way across the trade show floor, I commented on his tie and how appropriate it was for this event. He smiled, thanked me, and went about taking the tie off and handing it to me. “You’ll get more use out of it than I will, so here, wear it in good health.” I, in turn, took off my tie and presented it to him. I can’t remember anything about that tie, but I knew I should reciprocate. Hopefully, it wasn’t too mussed up. 

Each year after that, when he would see me wearing it, he would smile. He couldn’t remember where he had purchased it but remembered wearing it for events at the Oktoberfest in Germany and several other showmen’s gatherings. 

I’m not sure how many more major events the tie (or myself) will be able to survive, but I plan on wearing it as long as I can to pay homage not only to Ferris wheels and the attractions industry, but also to a great showman, Dick VanderVorste.

It’s probably good nobody has figured out a way to make a tie talk. I’m sure this one could tell some great stories!


Tim O’Brien is a veteran outdoor entertainment journalist and is a longtime Funworld contributor. He has authored many books chronicling the industry’s attractions and personalities and is the only journalist in the IAAPA Hall of Fame.