International Independent Showmen’s Association

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By Chandra Broadwater, St. Petersburg Times staff writer

Ladies and gentlemen, your attention, please.

The International Independent Showmen’s Association proudly presents one of the few carnival museums in the country. Location? Across the street from the group’s headquarters in Riverview.

The Showman’s Museum in Riverview has been a work in progress for seven years.

The Showman’s Museum in Riverview has been a work in progress for seven years.

It has been years in the making. With more money to complete the project in the organization’s coffers and the right zoning in place, the professionals who travel the country setting up Ferris Wheels and Tilt-A-Whirls look forward to having a place to document their own past.

“A lot of people call carnivals the circus,” said Ivan Arnold, president of the showmen’s group. “But it’s not. The circus has a big tent. We’ve got the rides.”

In a world where the luster of winning giant stuffed animals has dimmed, the organization thinks it’s more important than ever to preserve the past.

This gang of carnies plans to get back on their way to completing the museum, located near Palmer Street and Riverview Drive. They have been working on the building, now a concrete shell about 52,000 square feet, for nearly seven years.

The goal is to have it finally complete in another two years. Visitors can expect to pay some sort of nominal fee to enter the museum, but the showmen still have to make a final decision, said Jim Elliot, the association’s secretary.

Elliott said the group has spent about $900,000, and needs another $2 million to finish it. With about half that amount raised, they continue seeking contributions.

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By Ron Weber, MCW Editor

Gibsonton, FL – The International Independent Showmen’s Association is busy at work preparing for the 2009 Trade Show and Extravaganza. The show will be a week later this year, February 10 – 14 due to the Super Bowl’s visit to Tampa in 2009.

The club sees several benefits in the move. First, the event is after the conclusion of several fairs, including the South Florida Fair, so this will free up many people to visit the trade show. Second, the trade show will be the second week of the Florida State Fair which will give vendors, concessionaires and ride operators a chance to get settled in Tampa before coming to the trade show.

2009 posed several challenges for the IISF, chief among them a faltering economy. While the number of vendors will remain the same several are “cutting back on space because of the economy”, said incoming IISA President Steve Ianni.

Some vendors such as Wisdom Industries will be bringing new rides and attractions. Wisdom will be debuting their new Windsurfer ride along with Wade Show’s new Drag Strip Mega Slide. The ride which Frank Zaitshik, owner of Wade Show calls “breathtaking”, promises to be one of the highlights of the show.

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