by Mike Schneider, Associated Press | November 20, 2019
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Detroit has the auto show. Las Vegas has the electronics show. In Orlando, it's all about theme and amusement park rides, food, and amenities.
The annual convention of thrills, flashing lights and whirling rides was back in town Tuesday, when the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions opened its trade show at the Orange County Convention Center, where it has been hosted for years. With 1,100 exhibitors from around the world, a person who visits every aisle would walk almost the distance of a half-marathon. Vendors hope to find new clients, sign new contracts and show off their new zip-line rides, virtual-reality headsets, ticketing systems and ride seats.
"The clients get to see our products. They get to touch them. They get to experience them. They get to enjoy them themselves," said Lori Larsen of RCI Adventure Products, which was displaying an aerial course called Sky Trail.
Amusement park rides in nontraditional places like cruise ships and dozens of virtual-reality attractions were piquing attendees' interest.
"We can emulate a roller-coaster experience but with a smaller footprint and for a lot less money than putting in a roller coaster, but you'll have that same thrill," said Jay Miller, a Pennsylvania-based partner at MajorMega, which was showing off the virtual-reality attraction Hyperdeck on the exhibition floor. "You can get more for a smaller space."
Traditional midway games that have been updated with of-the-moment intellectual properties such as "Baby Shark" also were popular.
There were splashy roller coaster unveilings, including Carnival Cruise Line's debut of the car for its Bolt ride, which will be the first coaster on a cruise ship when it starts operating next year. Former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, the cruise line's "chief fun officer," joined Carnival president Christine Duffy on the firetruck-red ride car, which will go aboard the Mardi Gras ship.
"Isn't she beautiful?" Duffy asked TV cameras, photographers and reporters as she climbed on the ride car.
Busch Gardens in Tampa unveiled the lime-green ride car for the Iron Gwazi roller coaster, which will be the tallest hybrid roller coaster at more than 200 feet when it opens next year.
More mundane exhibitors included a "Hands of Wax" display in which attendees created wax models of their hands and others showing coin-operated lockers.
"It's the biggest shopping mall for the attractions industry," Susan Storey, IAAPA's director of global communications said of the trade show. "There's nothing like being able to meet people, shake their hands, make the connection and see, touch and feel some of these things."