The typical theme park goer has probably never heard of IAAPA, the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions, let alone the annual IAAPA Attractions Expo. I recently visited the IAAPA Expo in Orlando to get the scoop on just what goes down at this huge exhibition.

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The IAAPA Expo is an industry-only tradeshow event which serves as a meeting place for professionals in the amusement park, theme park, attraction, water park, family entertainment center, casino, zoo, aquarium, resort, museum, themed entertainment and party rental industries.

According to IAAPA, “Thousands of qualified amusement park and attractions buyers from more than 100 countries meet at IAAPA Attractions Expo.” In addition to the hundreds of vendors from across the industry, the IAAPA Expo features interactive games, ride experiences and as much free Dippin’ Dots as you can eat! It serves as a place for manufacturers to unveil new products and ground-breaking technology, like the new 525-foot “world’s tallest” Polercoaster. At the IAAPA Expo you will see functional water and pyrotechnic displays, entire 4D theaters, massive ropes courses, in door roller coasters, haunted houses, shooting galleries, and inflatables the size of houses!

The sheer size of the Orange County Convention Center is beyond impressive.
The sheer size of the Orange County Convention Center is beyond impressive.

For those interested in themed entertainment design, this is the place to be. Its not uncommon to see industry legends like Phil Hettema, Gary Goddard, Garner Holt or Cecil Magpuri perusing the show floor or meeting in custom build glass conference rooms. A number of design firms have booths at the Expo which proudly display concept art and photographs of recent projects – some companies even bring functional models of dark rides, audio animatronics or ride systems.

Let’s check out some of the more intriguing sights from the Expo!

Marty Sklar, Jack Lindquist and Lee Cockerell address the audience during the Legends Panel.
Marty Sklar, Jack Lindquist and Lee Cockerell address the audience during the Legends Panel.
The showroom floor is massive.
The showroom floor is massive.
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Much of the action at IAAPA takes place at the TEA booth. Many folks in the themed entertainment industry tend to congregate here.
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Many TEA members showed up for the annual THEA Awards.
The TEA booth is a great place for industry professionals to scout for young talent. Here, several Graduate students from Savannah College of Art & Design take a break from the showroom.
The TEA booth is a great place for industry professionals to scout for young talent. Here, several Graduate students from Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) take a break from the showroom.
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Oceaneering was on sight to show off there new trackless ride system.
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The Oceaneering booth was located next to the TEA booth and drew a lot of attention.
Millennium had an impressive booth situated next to many ride manufacturers.
Millennium had an impressive booth situated next to many ride manufacturers.
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Millennium cleverly displays their selection of roller coaster wheels.
Companies like MVR ensure that wooden coasters were well represented at IAAPA.
Companies like MVR ensure that wooden coasters were well represented at IAAPA.
MVR booth.
MVR booth.
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Premier made certain to promote Full Throttle.

 

Premier Rides boasted an impressive booth.
Premier Rides boasted an impressive booth.
B&M displays a vehicle from Cedar Point's GateKeeper.
B&M displays a vehicle from Cedar Point’s GateKeeper.

 

This wing coaster has a seriously impressive design.
This wing coaster has a seriously impressive design.
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Are you ready for Goliath!? The tallest, fastest and steepest wooden coaster in the world!
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Goliath is making its way to Six Flags Great America and Rocky Mountain Coasters was proud to show off this new beauty.
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Gerstlauer’s booth featured coaster cars and track models.

 

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A train from Fire Chaser Express was on hand to give guests a glimpse into Dollywood’s future.
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Gerstlauer shows off their “Infinity Coaster” system with this model of the Smiler from Alton Towers.
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S&S was busy displaying images of the new Polercoaster which will supposedly be erected in a Florida location. There is also talk of a 650 ft tall model to be constructed on the Las Vegas Strip.
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Polercoaster will use S&S’ existing El Loco platform.

 

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Zamparela had a huge booth complete with a functioning Air Race ride.
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The screams of riders on Air Race could be heard clear across the showroom floor

 

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Huss made sure to bring a classic ride presence to the expo. Many of our favorite flat rides are the product of this beloved company.

 

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Zierer has been producing rides for over 30 years – flat rides, coasters, kiddie rides, you name it!

 

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Dotto is an Italian company that produces charming little trains which do not need a track to operate. Many parks and zoos use Dotto trains for their tram systems.

 

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Maurer Söhne is responsible for many of Europe’s most trilling coasters, some of their rides have even made it out to California – Undertow at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk just opened last month!

 

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The Mondail booth was showing off a pretty cool Ferris wheel model. I wanted to go bug them about Windseeker…I decided against it.

 

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Interested in carnival rides? Look no further than the Sartori booth!

 

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The Fabbri group has been making quality Italian rides since the 50’s, their sleek booth did not disappoint. The folks at Fabbri were helpful and friendly.

 

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This gem was proudly displayed at the Zamperla booth.

 

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These incredible Luna Park signs remind us of where our industry started.

 

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Great Coasters International is one of the world leaders in extreme wooden coasters.

 

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GCI shows off their recent work.

 

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I have to take a moment to brag about my home park. Gold Striker is one of the best wooden coasters I have ever been on. GCI did an amazing job with this ride, if you ever find yourself in the Bay Area it is a MUST RIDE!

 

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The folks at GCI were great to talk to.

 

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Sweet Coca-Cola Millennium Flyer!

 

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One of my favorite booths belonged to Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters.

 

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These classic coasters have been around since the early 1900’s. It warms the heard to see a company like PTC still thriving.

 

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One of the gems at the show was the new car for Kentucky Kingdom’s new Lightning Run hyper coaster by Chance Rides.

 

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The chance booth is a great place to check out ride systems of all types.

 

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Even carousels!

 

 

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The Vekoma booth was always busy.

 

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Gravity Group shows of their new Roar-o-Saurus train for Story Land.

 

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Mack is one of those ancient ride companies that’s been around forever.

 

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Mack showed off a functioning model of their Drop N’ Splash, way cool!
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By far the coolest booth at IAAPA belonged to The Carousel Works.

 

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An artisan hand carved a carrousel horse for the enjoyment of guests.

 

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Its is beautiful to see the same methods being used today that were used to create our first carousels.

 

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Tools

 

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The end result is an absolutely stunning carousel figure of the highest quality.

 

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Polin was there showing off models of their award-winning King Cobra slide.

 

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Proslide had a huge booth.

 

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There is plenty to see for all of you Haunt fans out there!

 

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You want entire haunted attractions? You got it!

 

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ScareFactory had an impressive display of creepy goodies.

 

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ScareFactory made sure to bring some of their most impressive animatronics to IAAPA.

 

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There was even an entire haunted shooting gallery. Of course, it was set on free play!

 

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Speaking of shooting galleries, Toonstone was a barrel of fun!

 

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Not only does Daniels Wood Land make world-class tree houses, Their shooting galleries are a blast!

 

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These highly interactive shooting galleries were a hit with guests.

 

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Daniels Wood Land will be featured on a new reality show on Animal Planet called Redwood Kings.

 

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This massive structure also featured a giant steampunk robot.

 

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This guitar playing donkey from Gilderfluke & Co. is an IAAPA Expo mainstay.

 

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Garner Holt is the industry leader in audio animatronics. They supply AA figures to Disney, Knott’s Universal and a multitude of other parks.

 

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Wendell the Animatronic Unicyclist wows everyone at the expo.

 

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LifeFormations shows off their impressive AA figures.

 

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Chances are you’ve seen figures from Advanced Animatronics before, most notably in Ariel’s Undersea Adventure in the Magic Kingdom and California Adventure.

 

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This giant dragonfly was particularly cool looking.

 

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Even smaller fabrication companies like Artistic Contractors Inc. are well represented at IAAPA.

 

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Giant bugs…need I say more?

 

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Industry giants like Sally brought impressive animatronic figures to the show.

 

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Cyborg figure from Justice League 3D in Warner brothers Movie World, Gold Coast Australia.

 

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Are you ready for Forbidden Island!?

 

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Naturemaker showed off an impressive collection of synthetic wood products that look just like the real thing!

 

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It may seem silly but man themed attractions require fake greenery, its a vital part of the industry.

 

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Creating a convincing natural surface is imperative to making a false facade believable.

 

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Garmisch Consulting Group creates massive themed props and environments for the industry. This giant catapult provided a great birds-eye view of the expo.

 

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Design firms like KCC Entertainment Design out of Belgium ocupied their own section of the showroom floor.

 

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Forrec, a design house out of Toronto, is responsible for many of the designs that went into building Island’s of Adventure, Fiesta Texas and the LEGOLAND parks.

 

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the designs for the new Grad Texas park were all done by Bruce D. Robinson who is also behind parts of Kennywood Park, Canada’s Wonderland and Six Flags New England.

 

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Falcon’s Treehouse had a wonderful Boothe complete with circular glass conference room.

 

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This functioning model for a rotating dome theater was quite impressive.

 

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Steelman Partners is a talented design firm who’s done master planning and interior design work for hotels, resorts and themed attractions all around the world.

 

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Roto is a fantastic company out of Cincinatti. They’ve done designs for many of the world’s favorite zoos, museums, and science centers.

 

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Jack Rouse Associates constructed a simple and elegant booth for IAAPA. Their past work includes LEGOLAND California and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.

 

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The Goddard Group had one of the most impressive booths at the show with a ton of concept work and promotional material to go along with it.

 

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Weber Group Inc. Had one of my favorite booths at the expo.

 

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Even entire parks like Wuhu Fantawild Adventure Park in China were part of the expo.

 

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Fantawild Adventure had an entire model of their park on display.

 

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Dreampark shows off some impressive concept art.

 

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Dreampark International in South Korea had a lot of concept work in thier booth and promoted their park well.

 

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Giant LED play areas attracted a lot of people.

 

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Visitors to the expo can strap in for a free climb on some very fun looking climbing structures.

 

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Everything is for sale at the IAAPA Expo, even entire water shows.

 

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Even Christmas gets in on the action.

 

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Giant steampunkesque 4D experiences thrill guests.

 

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SimEx was at the show to promote their amazing 3D films.

 

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Need LED lights?

 

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Need billions of plush toys?

 

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Need a gigantic 3 story tall ropes course?

 

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Need killer black light carpet in your house? I know I do!

 

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Need water slide tubes?

 

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Need a double decker carousel?

 

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Seriously, everything is available at the IAAPA Expo, even the cardboard novelty frames you get with your flattering Space Mountain photo.

 

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The Pacman zone really PACked in the guests!

 

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Is the outside of your drug store lacking coin-op kiddie rides? Worry not!

 

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The humungous Optimus Prime at the SEGA booth attracted a lot of onlookers.

 

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There was an entire section dedicated to coin-op.

 

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As many free games as you can stand to play.

 

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All fun. All free. All at the IAAPA Attractions Expo.

 

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If you like keeping up on the latest pinball games this is the place!

 

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I don’t even know what this game is.

 

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The outdoor exhibits give you the opportunity to sample rides, inflatables zip lines and more!

 

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Just because folks come to IAAPA for business doesn’t mean they cant have a little fun in the process.

 

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Inflatables the size of your house!
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Did I mention the free food? As much popcorn, doughnuts, pizza, candy and ice cream as you can eat!

 

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Thirsty? How about free Coke products.

 

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By far the best booth at the IAAPA Expo was the guy with the vacuums…exhilarating.

 

Well, that’s all for today! Hope you enjoyed this installment of Designed to Thrill!, be sure to let us know what you think!

– SP

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Dusty is the founder and CEO of MiceChat.com. When he's not visiting theme parks and writing, editing or speaking about Disney and theme parks worldwide, Dusty stays busy as the Executive Director of both the Walt Disney Birthplace AND the Dick Van Dyke Foundation. He also runs O-Zell Soda (the company originally operated by Walt Disney's father and at which Walt once worked). If you've got news or photos to share with the MiceChat community, or would like to book Dusty for an upcoming event, please contact [email protected]
  • jcruise86

    Thank you, Morgan!
    That was OUTSTANDING! ! ! !

  • XxBellaThornxX

    Looks like a ton of fun!!!

  • Amazing. I’ve got to get to IAAPA one of these years.

    Sure does look like a lot of different companies are capable of Imagineering quality work!

    Aside from the vacuums, what was the highlight of the show for you?

    • Morgan Richardson

      Oh, without a doubt! If any one thing proves that Imagineering is not the center of the universe it’s the IAAPA Expo. In fact, many of the larger design and fabrication firms are contracted by WDI to pick up their slack or fabricate things that they cannot do in house.

      Personally, I had a number of stand out moments at the expo – the opportunity to mingle with folks from The Bezark Company, Forrec, JRA, Thinkwell and others was a real treat. Having lengthy discussions with guys like Phil Hettema and Gary Goddard was an eyeopening experience as well.

      The vacuums still trump everything though.

  • Jeff Heimbuch

    Amazing photos, Morgan! I’m especially excited for the vacuum ride!

  • Amy VandenBoogert

    I can just see it now…

    NEW at your local Six Flags….. Vacuum; THE RIDE! 😉

    One of these days I gotta go to IAAPA. The general public can attend but it’s on the spendy side (like $200-something for the whole week… unless they sell single day tickets I’m not aware of).

  • Dinodak

    Thanks for the rundown. Great job!

  • topdad1

    That was great, thanks for sharing it. Can the public attend? What is the cost of registration ?

    • Morgan Richardson

      It is generally reserved for people in the industry but the public is not excluded. I am an IAAPA and TEA member which dictated the cost of my ticket. I’m sure pricing is available on the IAAPA Attractions Expo website.

  • topdad1

    Thanks for posting. These were great. Is it open to the public , what is the registration fee, Did you get in as press?

    • It was $218 for non-IAAPA members to attend the Expo (5 day pass). I didn’t see any options for a day pass.