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20 Reasons IAAPA 2014 was Unmissable

IAAPA 2014 was so crammed full of  events, announcements, fantastic products, extravagant booths and functions that the impact was overwhelming.  So, how to make sense of such a week, how to properly document such an avalanche of stimulation and information? 

Rather than using an original approach, I am taking a leaf from the estimable Martin Howe’s book, who has adopted the Japanese art of Pecha Kucha and who recently reported on the technology on display at IAAPA. 20 bite sized chunks with the reader invited to spend no more than 20 seconds on each. So eyes down, stopwatches at the ready and here goes.

By Charles Read

Size matters

Sometimes it is all about size. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) held their annual trade show and conference at the Orange county Convention Center in Orlando and it was huge. Over 30, 000 attendees, two thirds of whom were buyers, walked the 8 miles plus of trade show floor. Over iaapa 2014 logo banner10, 000 attended the 100 education sessions and participants raised over $120, 000 for Florida chairity Give Kids The World (GKTW),  through golf, motorbikes and walking.


An event this size has an enormous amount of support and sponsors were not in short supply. These included:

The Weather

Here in the UK when we are not talking about royal babies we talk about the weather. The IAAPA show in Florida is an outstanding opportunity for networking and business, but also a chance for those Brits attending the show to experience some pleasant, warm weather as the nights draw in at home. If you are struggling with standing on a booth for 8 hours or tired from walking up the 23rd aisle of the day, you can always seek solace in the fact that your colleagues back home are warming their frost bitten hands around a brazier. But not this week. The ice storms of the North East had sent a blast of cold air to Florida so that Orlando managed to be far colder than the UK. As Kevin Keegan famously said when getting back into his helicopter to leave St. James’ Park, “It was not what it said in the brochure”.

Dragon at Gringotts at Diagon Alley, Universal Studios, Electrosonic partyParties

As fundamental to the success of the show as the booths, the aisle surfing and the education sessions are the countless opportunities to wind down and relax at the myriad of functions, networking events and parties in the evenings. My week began with a rush from the airport to Marlow’s Tavern, where Gateway Ticketing held a “Mix n’ Mingle” session.  It was good to see UK Operations Director Andy Povey, a recent father of twins and looking forward to a few nights of unbroken sleep. From there I moved onto BRC Imagination Arts’ European Dinner at Charley’s Steak House. Great company and an enormous steak to start the week!

Other fabulous functions I attended included those of accesso and Hettema, both at The Hilton and Electrosonic’s annual – and final – bash on-site at Universal Studios. The temperature at the latter – we were outside – was sub-optimal if not sub-zero but there were, as ever, a sparkling collection of people and a superb new ride to experience so a good time was had by all.

An IAAPA institution,  I am always honoured to be at the Ripley’s & Premier Rides party. It’s only since we have been organising our own events that we fully appreciate the effortless cool of the late night penthouse.

To all who invited us to parties.  Thank you.

Another party

Blooloop IAAPA 2014 Party

Oh go on then, yes we had a bit of a party too. Held at BB King’s Blues Bar on the Tuesday evening and very generously supported by our kind sponsors, ALES UK, LCI Productions, PGAV Destinations, Picsolve and Polin Waterparks, around 450 friends and clients attended.

A real cross section of the industry enjoyed nachos, beer and cross-attraction networking. Aquarium directors danced with museum professionals, theme park investors chatted with zoo execs and waterpark professionals danced up a storm. The band,  Trae Pierce and The T-Stone Band,  was fantastic and the evening drew to a close with them joined on stage by a disparate group of attractions professionals for the closing numbers.  Who knew we had such lovely movers in this industry?*

Thanks to everyone who attended and a very special thank you to Rob and Danny from LCI Productions for arranging the projection mapping and video, and to Picsolve for the excellent pictures of the evening.   (See also the Blooloop album at, login, password:orlando2014)

Blooloop IAAPA 2104 Party Sponsors

The Brass Ring Awards

IAAPA’s Brass Ring Awards were again a big deal, highlights included:

Whitewater West won two awards, the first Best New Product (for themed design on the AquaPlay RainFortress™ installed at Zoombezi Bay) the second, an IAAPA Outstanding Service Award for Franceen Gonzales, WhiteWater’s Executive VP – Business Development.

TRIOTECH also won two IAAPA 2014 Brass Ring Awards for Wonder Mountain’s Guardian at Canada’s animatronic man at iaapa 2014Wonderland. The two were for Best New Product in the Major Theme/Amusement Park Ride category and the Impact Award for a new product that will have the biggest positive impact on the industry’s future

Magic Memories won a 2014 Brass Ring Award for its’ San Francisco Dungeons Photobook.

accesso’s Passport eCommerce solution won an award for Best New Product (Revenue and Admission Control/Wristbands/RFID Technology), the company’s fourth in the last six years.

Other winners included JRA and ProSlide Technology,  with best booth prizes going to Cruden Simulators, Mack Rides and Sally Corp.

The THEA Awards

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) announced the winners of its THEA Awards, with the gala itself to be held in March 2015. Highlights included:

Multimedia and Technology

Triotech Voyage to iron reef

Technology was well represented at IAAPA.  The development of multi-dimensional rides continues and this year saw many industry leaders displaying their domes, screens, pods and other entirely legal methods of creating increasingly immersive and realistic experiences. Martin Howe looked at the technology that struck him in  – An IAAPA Top 20: Technology and Secrets.

For me the technology that made an impression included:

The Sights and the Sounds

lady in a snow globe at iaapa 2014

There are an almost limitless number of tradeshows around the world in a bewildering variety of industries.  But none, surely, assault the senses with so much colour, activity and invention as the attractions industry. The tony whittaker of elton games at iaapa 2014booths themselves are often extravagant creations, with exhibitors showcasing their skills and the aisles are buzzing – sometimes literally – with mascots, superheroes and costume characters.

It is sights such as these that remind me how glad I am not to be attending the Airline Technology, Toiletry World or Dermatology Today shows.

For a full gallery of images from the IAAPA 2014 show click here.

Sponsoring and lounging around

In a week of logos and in a hall in which something of a marketing frenzy is taking place it is tough for any one sponsor to stand out from the crowd. Sponsors I noticed included:

Leisure Development Partners (LDP) had sponsored the International Lounge, a smart move as hundreds of meetings a day were held in the room and it was constantly full.

JRA again took the lanyard slot. If not in-your-face marketing (more on-your-chest) this meant that each attendee was, effectively, branded.

BRC Imagination Arts had the IAAPA mobile app. More and more institutions work on the assumption that everyone is equipped with a mobile phone (the IAAPA kiosks with show floor plans etc seemed to have disappeared this year) and our industry is no different. The neat and user-friendly app from IAAPA worked well and proved a nifty sponsorship opportunity.

The Asia Pacific Breakfast and the Latin American Reception were sponsored by The Producers Group and International Play Company respectively. Fine-tuning your marketing dollars to a niche and growing market of your choice is a smart move.

To Booth… 

cruden powerboat simulator at iaapa 2014

While Sally Corp‘s booth was probably the most photographed booth of the week, in a business brimming with invention there were many booths and exhibits that caught the eye. Memorable exhibits included the Redwood tree section on display at Daniels Woodland booth (rings on the tree are date labelled back to the ancient Greeks – remarkably the slice was taken not from the base of the tree but from 100 foot above the ground) and Cruden’s Powerboat simulator (above), making its debut at the show. I am always taken with the simple but effective colours of the IdeAttack booth (below).

ideattack booth at iaapa 2014

On the B & M booth the ride vehicle for Holiday World’s new launched wing rollercoaster, Thunderbird, was revealed. Set to take flight in Spring next year the cars are a thing of beauty.

b & M rollercoaster for holiday world

…Or not to booth

Many established and internationally renowned companies opt not to take a booth at the show but to establish a presence in other ways. BRC Imagination Arts in taking the App were present digitally and literally in having both a party and a dinner. PGAV Destinations didn’t have a booth but did sponsor the Blooloop party and had a number of their consultants in attendance at the show. Similarly The Hettema Group held a glittering event at The Hilton and The Nassal Company hosted their annual and rather lavish party at Tommy Bahama’s.

How it all panned out … 

Moving away from high tech, there were some nice quality offerings around at the show.

Sandy Creek Mining Company fossil cardTrending in popularity this year we noted the lovely glitter and metallic tattoos as well as cool i-phone cases personalised with your own photos.

I also had fun panning for treasure (very nice gemstones and fossils, including sharks teeth!) with the Sandy Creek Mining Company.

Innovation in Waterslides

I saw continued innovation in waterslides this year in terms of new ideas, aesthetics and design.

WhiteWater’s Slideboarding has come along since it was first seen at last year’s IAAPA.  Can’t wait to have a go.

WhiteWater Slideboarding

Polin Waterpark‘s new Natural Sound Effects to compliment their Nature Light Effect waterslides creates a gorgeous new look.

Polin Natural Light Effect waterslide

And ProSlide Technology have won so many awards that we noted a bigger cabinet was necessary on this year’s stand.  (Below: ProSlide’s President and CEO Rick Hunter)

ProSlide President and CEO Rick Hunter

Get the message

Personalisation and interactivity are big news these days, so I had some fun doing just that with Vortex Aquatic Structures International and Pale Night Productions.

Vortex Aquatic Structures were exhibiting their new product at IAAPA.  Watermark is an architectural installation that creates patterns and words by synchronizing lights and manipulating the flow of water.  The display is controlled via an app on a tablet.

It’s always nice to see Pale Night Productions whose booth just gets bigger, better and scarier every year.  Here’s Bill with a cheeky message for Blooloop.


Legends and future legends were the star turns of the education sessions this year.  

IAAPA 2014 Legends Bob Rogers, Bob Gurr, Marty Sklar and Tom Fitzgerald

The Legends Session “50th Anniversary of the New York World’s Fair” was moderated by Bob Rogers, founder of design company BRC Imagination Arts and IAAPA Hall of Fame member. The panel included Bob Gurr,  Disney designer of vehicle systems including the Abraham Lincoln animatronic; Disney writer Marty Sklar and Walt Disney Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald, who is currently the creative lead on Epcot and Disneyland Paris. The session also included an exclusive video recorded by Disney composer Richard Sherman. (Image: IAAPA)

Future Legends

IAAPA 2014 Future Legends

The next day the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) presented “Future Legends: Transforming Experience”.  The Future Legends panel comprised Roberta Perry (ETI) as chair,  Christian Lachel (BRC Imagination Arts) as moderator,  Clara Rice (Jack Rouse Associates), Steve Trowbridge (Rhetroactive) and John Paul Geurts (Nickelodeon). The session explored the impact of new technologies, eg telepresence robots, on experience design.

In Brief

For those of you not lucky enough to attend in person,  Jack Rouse Associates have helpfully produced a fun video – “IAAPA in 2 minutes or less” which captures some key moments:

I-Drive 360, Orlando EYE

I finished the week with a tour of  I-Drive 360.  John Stine (Director of Marketing and Sales) very kindly took some time to show us around.

Orlando Eye under constructionLocated on International Drive, the new development will centre around a cluster of Merlin attractions which will include the 425 foot Orlando Eye observation wheel, a SEALIFE Centre and a Madame Tussauds.  In addition, the $200 million development which is set to open in Spring 2015 will boast dining and retail outlets which will offer entertainment for visitors throughout the day and evening.  

A 4D pre show experience, “The Dream Wheel” by AO&A, shown below under construction,  will set the scene for a trip on the wheel and a visit to Florida.  I look forward to visiting again next November!

The Dream Wheel 4D pre show by AO&A for the orlando eye under construction

And Finally

After the show on Friday I took in Cirque Du Soleil’s La Nouba at Walt Disney World Resort. Death-defying acrobatics, extraordinary theatre and a fantastic score made for a memorable evening.

Another superb IAAPA show, the largest for years, with a healthy attendance and a lot of new and exciting products and announcements, IAAPA 2014 was a great week. If Asia is where it is all happening and where the most exciting developments are planned, Orlando still feels like the themed attractions industry’s home and the IAAPA show reflects this. It is a confident, developing business and this was again manifest in a hugely successful show.

*Monterey Bay Aquarium – those cats can move!

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