Tim’s Turn

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TOP: Mid-’90s IAAPA Hall of Fame Committee BELOW LEFT: Charles Wood accepting the 1992 IAAPA Hall of Fame award

BELOW RIGHT: Gina Romano and Larry Cochran “pass the gavel.”

An Association Worth Celebrating

100th Anniversary-w dates-colorAs an eager cub reporter for Amusement Business magazine, I first stepped onto the IAAPA Attractions Expo floor in November 1986. The magazine had been in business 92 years, I was 39 years old, and the association was 68 years old. 

As a “retired” reporter, I last stepped off the Expo floor this past November. I was 70 and the association was about to begin its 100th year. A lot of interesting history has been made during that century, and a lot has yet to be told. 

In this issue of Funworld, you, dear reader, have had the opportunity to read an in-depth report of IAAPA, the world’s largest attractions industry association. And while I have only been involved for less than a third of its existence, I have been proud (and lucky) to have been involved with this organization and with some of the greatest attraction operators to ever live. 

My Funworld assignment for this incredible historical issue was to research and write short biographies of some of those who were (and still are) important icons within IAAPA during the past century. When the final list of 15 had been established, I was astonished I had been lucky enough to know and to have interviewed 12 of them.  

I wasn’t writing for an industry publication when I first met Chip Cleary in early 1980. He was running Adventureland amusement park on Long Island, New York, and I was a reporter for Good Times magazine. I say to this day that his enthusiasm about his park and the industry as a whole helped cultivate the amusement park seed within me that had first been planted some 20 years earlier at Buckeye Lake amusement park in Ohio, where I was a lifeguard at the park’s Crystal Pool.

Meeting Chip was my first encounter with one of the greats. Then during my 18 years with Amusement Business, I met the other 11—not knowing, of course, how important they or their contributions would be for the association and the worldwide industry as a whole.

The mini-bios printed in the timeline earlier in this issue highlight those who were exemplary in their dedication and service to the association, but they certainly didn’t do it alone. Since 1918, there have been thousands who have served on the board, on committees, and who have been featured as speakers and panelists during IAAPA’s creation and growth. 

While we celebrate the history, we should pay attention to today and our future, as well. New rides, new promotions, new management, new parks—everything happening now will be the history we write about 50 years from now. YOU could be an icon I write about in 50 years.  

While we were only able to single out a few to feature, we certainly realize that every member and everyone who has attended the trade shows and seminars over the years have played an important part of making IAAPA the strong organization it is today. It has been you who add the energy, heart, and soul to our association on a daily basis.


Tim O’Brien is a veteran industry journalist and former vice president of Ripley Entertainment. A longtime Funworld ­contributor, he is author of several books chronicling the industry’s ­attractions and personalities.