Review of IAAPA show in Orlando, Florida

If you weren't able to attend the IAAPA Attractions Expo this year, you can still experience it second-hand. Randy White was among the 30,000 attendees, and he offers highlights - and lowlights - of the record-setting trade show that covered 1 million square feet in Orlando, Florida. Did he spot the "next big thing? Read on to find out.

The annual November pilgrimage to the IAAPA Attractions Expo (convention and trade show) is now over. This year, 27,000 attendees descended on Orlando, Florida, to attend educational seminars and walk the 1-million-square-foot (93,000 square meter) trade show, the biggest ever.

The redemption prize vendors with plush (stuffed animals and characters) seemed to have even more dramatic displays than in past years. The inflatable suppliers took up, according to our estimate, about one-sixth of the trade floor with each trying to outdo each other with theatrical units.

Operators come to the annual show looking for the next big thing. It wasn't there, unless you consider it to be inflatables - and we don't.

Every year some company comes up with something outrageous that gets a lot of press. This year it was Dinner in the Sky, which that allows up to 22 people to dine suspended 164 feet (50 meters) in the air by a crane (just hope a large wind doesn't develop). Forbes magazine has selected Dinner in the Sky as one of the 10 most unusual restaurants in the world.

A few new products caught our attention. One was a Sky Trail adventure ropes course by Ropes Courses Incorporated that takes up little space, as most of it is elevated, leaving the floor space below open for other things. It should have appeal to grade schoolers and tweens. The one issue is that it has limited throughput (capacity per hour)

Xtraice introduced a new non-ice skating surface for ice rinks that can be used 365 days a year. For venues going green, EATware showed its 100% biodegradable disposable tableware.

The two most creative new products we found:

  • A coconut tree you climbed by Spectrum Sports
  • The Carmi Flavors One Shot ice cream machine that allows you to dispense a flavor choice of ice cream into a cone or cup using a single-serving container of ice cream kept in a freezer. The One Shot is a great solution for small operations that don't have the volume needed for a soft serve machine.
Coconut tree climb Carmi Flavors One Shot ice cream machine

And, although PrimePlay's Ballocity is not a new product, the company deserves special recognition for displaying what we consider to be the first properly themed Ballocity or soft-modular-play type unit we have seen at any show. The theming was suggestive, but not overpowering, and they maintained visibility into the unit rather than obstructing it with the theming elements.