Gibtown kicks off 2021 trade show: Carnival operators optimistic about 2021 reopening
The Gibtown 2021 trade show kicked off on Tuesday, February 16 in Gibsonton, Florida, despite many other industry events being canceled. In fact, it could be the first post-pandemic trade show to take place in the entertainment industry. The resilient staff at IIAS decided to move forward with the show in Florida to bring fairgrounds together, plan opening strategies, and chat with friends and colleagues about how they weathered the storm.
The living room, while much smaller than normal, nonetheless presented a decent presentation given the circumstances. Amusement ride makers were on display, food trailers were on display, gambling, power providers and joint stock companies were all in their usual locations awaiting another year of operations somewhat normal with optimism.
While the show certainly didn’t set an attendance record, there was a nice compliment from people on opening day, with most people just happy to be part of an annual event, without too many restrictions and a cautiously optimistic mood for the future.
Speaking with show owners and carnival operators, the majority told stories of sporadic operations in 2020, with a lot of planning and rescheduling as events close, but most were optimistic their states would be open to ‘one way or another at the carnivals this year. With the exception of California operators, most believed they would operate during the 2021 season. Some carnivals said the biggest frustration was not knowing what the opening policies would be, while others planned to travel. in states that had more event-friendly policies. Each area of the country poses different problems and challenges, but those in areas that are more “open” or capable of adapting to the instructions imposed foresaw a good season.
In almost all cases, those that opened last year and those that are open now generally report excellent business and results. A Midwestern carnival owner who operated multiple malls this summer said some of his dates had increased by 50-60%, saying people wanted to go out and thanked him for opening up and giving them something to do. family. Here in Florida, more than half a dozen county fairs have already taken place this year and many set dates are being played. Early reports indicate that the events have been very successful and that people, when given the opportunity, are happy to go out and enjoy time spent with their families.
For IIAS, coming together to share stories and experiences has been the driving force behind an industry in need of a boost, said Lee Stevens, president of IIAS. The club never really intended to cancel the show but were always eager to produce the event. Stevens said the organization wanted to put a positive spin on the business and show that if they moved forward, the rest of the industry, fairs included, could operate safely and successfully.
Although production of the show was somewhat difficult with some vendors unable to come due to travel restrictions, government-imposed travel restrictions and quarantine issues, the club was able to persevere and muster a large number of sellers. Foreign suppliers in particular were affected as they were unable to travel to the United States to participate in the trade show, although they wished to do so. While not all vendors were able to bring and display rides and equipment, many took advantage with displays or even borrowed second-hand material to display.
The local Fox News affiliate took note of the event and came to interview Stevens, who gave an interview to a local presenter who will appear on local news Tuesday night, promoting the show and the industry.
Regarding the annual festivities surrounding the trade show, Stevens said the club has its annual parties; Hall of Fame, Past President’s Reception, Current President’s Banquet and Ball and the club’s annual Appreciation Party, but have combined them into one event held at the Carouse Pavilion. This has reduced participation costs and participant expenses and may be an idea that continues into the future. The club will be holding seminars on the reopening and other important topics. The OABA and NICA will also be holding their annual events in the Tampa area, so with the exception of the Florida State Fair moving their dates to April, many activities will remain similar to previous years.
Stevens said he has kept the club open year round in 2020 – operating Thursday through Saturday as a gathering place with inexpensive meals and drinks to show people off the road for an extended period.
When asked what the club are waiting for to attend the show, Stevens said he anticipates coming from people who are more serious about buying and buying. There would be fewer “tire shooters,” he predicted. This sentiment arose from several vendors who said that although traffic was slow, they had a serious interest in buyers ready to open for the 2021 season. A show owner who Carnival Warehouse spoke to said that this was only the third time he had attended the show in 35 years of activity, as it would function normally during that time.
“Most people came up to me and thanked me,” Stevens said. “The show gives them hope and that’s what they need right now,” he added.
Lifetime Products’ Gary Otterbacher visited friends and customers on day one of the show