By Ron Weber, MCW Editor
Gibsonton, FL — The IISF Trade Show entered its fourth day with attendance up over last year for the combined three opening days. Incoming President Steve Ianni said the organization was very pleased with the results. Many vendors, despite the poor economic conditions, are also happy with the results so far.
Ed Bush is owner of Jersey Shore Imports, LLC and a first time vendor at the show. His company has exhibited at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions trade show and others and he says his business in Gibsonton has been very good. “We have over 100 leads so far”, said Bush. “We saw a lot of people and they were the right people”, he added.
Jersey Shore sells licensed sports jerseys and merchandise from the NBA, NFL, NCAA and MLB as well as NASCAR. He has been working with these products for two years, mostly as game prizes.
His prizes are featured at the Florida State Fair in Wes Wilbur,s Blockbuster game. Bush says that he has seen game grosses double with the addition of the licensed equipment.
Another big show supporter is Jim Frederiksen of Fredericksen Enterprises, builders of portable slides. Fredericksen has sold three slides so far this year including one at the trade show to a carnival in Norway. “He wanted to buy two but decided to get the first and see how things go”, said Frederiksen.
2008 was the second best year for the company. They had sold 10 slides by the end of the trade show in Gibtown. Frederiksen is hoping for a good year in 2009 as well.
The company keeps its factory going year-round. “We have never stopped building in 19 years”, said Frederiksen. The company keeps slides in stock and sells throughout the year. About 75% of his business is in carnivals and 25% in parks. He estimates there are over 200 of his slides on traveling carnivals.
Fredericksen developed the 5 lane “State Fair Slide” which travels on one trailer. He has sold 5 of those over the years. Fredericksen has blueprints to build a larger, approximately 30 foot tall Giant Slide which will travel on two dually loads and has 8 lanes. He said several shows have expressed interest in this new, larger model slide.
As mentioned in a post yesterday, Jeff Miller of Amusement Sales, Inc. has already had success at the show. Miller represents the Fabbri Group and is working in conjunction with Wisdom selling their new Mega Slide.
Miller was very happy to report he sold two rides at the show so far, a Booster/Vortex, to Playworld Amusements and a Chopper Hopper to A.D. Toler. “Any time you come here and sign contracts at the show it,s good”, said Miller. “People are a little nervous”, he observed, “but we sold two already and have some more deals in the works”.
Miller said he would be rolling out a new line of kiddie rides later this year. He said they were unlike any other rides out there and he was pursuing patents for design work. He hopes to have them rolled out by mid-summer.
Joe Skerbeck of Skerbeck Brothers stopped by the booth to review his website and report on his new purchase of a 455 KW plant from Showmen,s Supplies. “We bought one this year and hope to purchase another next year”, he said. The show also purchased a Mulligan Wheel earlier this year from Belle City Amusements.
As for purchases in 2009, Skerbeck said he would be investing mainly in infrastructure. 2008 was not the best or the worst year for the show. Grosses were close but costs were up, especially the cost of energy. Skerbeck said rides and food generally held their own but games were off 10%.
Pat Crabtree of Crabtree Amusements made some big changes to his show in 2008. He has moved almost exclusively to a token system for his carnival. All rides, games and food stands take tokens for payment at about 90% of all of his events.
In some cases, Crabtree has worked with the fair to use tokens on their part of the grounds as well. In some cases they operate the system and in others, the fair handles the accounting and sales.
Crabtree has up to 52 machines on the grounds for token sales so he is able to save money on employees. Token are sold for $1 each and there is an accounting of each ride, game and food stand. Sometimes the fairs are paid one percentage for everything and other times there may be a percentage on rides and flat rate on concessions. “All of our fairs were happy about it”, said Crabtree.
Crabtree was very happy with the effect the system has had on their game operation. He is able to use clerks in the booths. He is now interested in changing his business plan so that all workers will be employed by the show and work on salary instead of commission. He believes this system will result in better workers in the long run.
While the business of the trade show with new purchases and equipment is the focus, there are a myriad of causes and fundraisers that are going on throughout the week. Showmen’s fundraisers, scholarship drives and raffles are all a part of the landscape during trade show week in Gibtown and thanks to the influx of visitors during the week, they are able to raise a significant amount of money for their worthy causes.
One new effort this year is being undertaken by the Concerned Citizens of Gibtown. They are conducting a campaign to restore the monument of “The Giant”, Al Tomaini,s boot where his business, The Giant Camp, was located until it was recently sold to Mosaic Company.
For those not familiar with the story, Al Tomaini and his wife Jeanie, moved to Gibsonton in 1941. Al reportedly stood 8′ 4 although the Guinness Book of World,s Records listed him as 7′ 4. His wife Jeanie was born without legs and was only 2′ 6 in height. Together they made quite the couple.
After retirement from the circus and carnival business, he and his wife built a bait shop and TV repair shop, a marina with boat slips and 30 rental boats, 25 cabins and 12 mobile homes and the Giant,s Fish Camp restaurant.
They were known for their friendliness and Al’s citizenry. He helped build the community hall, was president of the Chamber of Commerce and bought the equipment and trucks to start Gibsonton’s Volunteer Fire Dept. He was a true community leader. Al passed away in 1962 and shortly thereafter Jeanie mounted one of his boots to a concrete pedestal as a memorial to him and a Gibtown icon was born.
The boot measured 25″ long by 34″ high. It came from an advertising job he did around 1957. The boot became an unusual tourist attraction for Gibsonton and remained a favorite site for picture takers, curiosity seekers and history buffs. Unfortunately, about two years ago, the boot, after failing into disrepair, was stolen from the site.
The CCOG were discussing plans on re-erecting the monument which will feature a sculpted boot sitting atop a granite pillar and accompanied by a plaque about Al, Jean and their life in Gibsonton.
During the time of initial organizing the property was sold by Al,s daughter to the Mosaic Company. Mosaic has agreed with CCOG to provide some of the land for the monument. The goal of the drive is to raise $10,000 for the project. They are also considering wrought iron fence, landscaping, a pathway and lights to round out the exhibit.
For those interested in donating to the efforts or if you want find out more, you can visit CCOG,s website at: concernedcitizensofgibsonton.org.
On Saturday, a memorial service will be held once again by the IISA to remember those who have passed away in the industry during the year. President Dee Dee Starkey will give a welcome address followed by invocation and sermon from Rev. Malcolm “Mac” Clements and Fr. John Vakulskas, Jr. Paul Jeonotte will read the names and make announcements.
The dead to be remembered are: Bertrand Atlas, David Bailey, Paul Bailey, Jerry Bohlander, Amy Brutsch, Neal Carlin, Belmonte Christiani, Perry Clauss, Tom Cooper, Owen R. Cox, John R. Crampton, Steve E. Davidson, Gee Gee Engesser, Robert J. Fairchild, Jim F. Gazella, Greg F. Gregory, Bobby Hakes, John Holt, Bert Johnson, Patricia Kunz, Wayne Lacey, John A. Marra, Ozzie Mostowy, Toby Nemmers, Charles J. Osak, Felicity Perez, William M. Rodgers, Constance Royal, Gary Sanders, Donald F. Shaw, Duke B. Shumow, Claude F. Skrivanie, Gene (Kelly) Spezia, Jack. E. Swenson, James T. Tilton, Ronald (Shorty) Totten, Granville Trimper, Pete Ulyanisch, Robert J. Wainman, Robert C. Webster, Charles White and Pete Wilkinson.
The service will be held at 12 noon in the Carousel Pavilion. Mass will follow the service.