Art of Attractions | A Grand Return to IAAPA Expo
After last year's cancellation of IAAPA Expo (thanks, COVID-19), I’d imagine that most folks who attended IAAPA Expo 2021 were, like me, delighted to return to the annual gathering and at least a bit surprised by how, well, normal it seemed. It’s not that there weren’t acknowledgements of the pandemic, with mask wearing, abundant hand-sanitizing stations, and education sessions on coping with the disruptions caused by the virus, for example.
But the joy of being able to join together and celebrate the industry in person allowed me (and you?) to, at least temporarily, forget about the months of isolation and dreadful Zoom meetings. The optimism and energy on display—an IAAPA Expo hallmark—were palpable and especially welcome this year. Connections were being forged. Meetings were being conducted. Deals were being made. Dippin’ Dots and cotton candy were being scarfed down.
And manufacturers, owners, and others used the Expo, as they always have, to make announcements of new attractions, parks, concepts, and other great developments. It was an opportunity for members to loudly proclaim to the industry, and to the world, the projects on which they have been working and the fun they have in store. Lord knows we could all use some fun.
IAAPA Expo’s revelations were harbingers of exciting things to come in what we hope will soon be post-pandemic times. Brogent Technologies announced “Rise NY,” a flying theater attraction set to open soon in Manhattan. Gerstlauer Amusement Rides and Ride Entertainment surprised attendees when they declared that “Palindrome” would come to Cotaland, a new park in Austin, Texas. Sally Dark Rides revealed two of its attractions that will debut next year. “Volkanu – Quest for the Golden Idol” will be the centerpiece at the new Lost Island theme park in Iowa. And how’s this for demonstrating confidence in the good times ahead? In partnership with Daniels Wood Land, Sally Dark Rides will also be designing, owning, and operating “Treasure Hunt: The Ride” in Monterey Bay, California.
That’s just a small sampling of what was shared at IAAPA Expo 2021. The announcements, the dynamism, and the enthusiasm lend credence to the pandemic-era pent-up demand that people have for our industry. David McKillips, CEO of CEC Entertainment, the parent company of Chuck E. Cheese, said that attractions are “so well-positioned to be places that people want to seek out and create memories” at one of the sessions, adding that he thinks this is a “long-term opportunity for all.”
I’ll see you at the parks. I’ll be the one deleting my Zoom app while I wait in line for a new attraction.
- 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 TripSavvy.com (formerly About.com) since 2002, and is a regular contributor for USA Today.