IAAPA stands for International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Each November the organization holds an expo in Orlando, at the Orange County Convention Center. Last year was the exception, the in person event was canceled because of COVID-19.
There were safety precautions in place for the 2021 IAAPA Expo, which began on November 15. One of those precautions had to do with press passes. Media outlets were allowed to attend one day instead of the entire Expo. This seemed to include television stations, there has been a lot less local coverage this year.
I was given the opportunity to attend on Friday, November 19, which was the final day. I did not get to pick which day to attend, which wasn’t a problem. I was just happy to be able to go.
There was one drawback to attending only the final day of the IAAPA Expo. The panels were all held earlier in the week. At these panels there were exciting announcements, such as the reimagining of Toontown at Disneyland and that the upcoming Peppa Pig Theme Park will be a Certified Autism Center. Still, the Show Floor was an exciting place to be, and I was glad to be able to experience it.
The IAAPA Expo highlights the best of the Theme Park and attraction industry. Many of the exhibitors are trying to sell their ideas to prospective clients.
There were several rides as soon as people walked onto the Show Floor. One was a mini roller coaster with a car in the front that would spin upside down. There were a couple of drop rides that Guests could try. There was also a spin ride that was similar to a ride that I remember from my childhood.
An entire section was devoted to Water Parks. One company, Vortex, had a Dream Tunnel that people could enter. It showed different patterns, called Dreamscapes, that would go over and enclose a lazy river. The possibilities included a jungle, the ocean, and hyperspace.
It’s not just Water and Theme Parks that the convention caters to. There were miniature golf courses, bounce houses, playgrounds, and even a portable escape room. There was a lot of virtual reality; more on that in a moment.
There were other vendors who showcased things that could be used in a theme park or even in a mall. There were ice cream dispensers, three minute pizza ovens, and cotton candy machines. There were plenty of arcade games, photo booths, carnival games, and carnival game prizes.
The major event of the final day was known as Shave the Beard and Make It Weird! When the world shut down because of COVID-19, Jim Pattison Jr., President of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, said that he was not going to shave until all of the Ripley’s attractions across the planet reopened. He decided to turn the removal of his facial hair into a fundraiser for Give Kids the World Village.
At the Orlando Ripley’s you’ll find a creation named Hoss. Hoss is three feet tall and eight years old. He is on his way to becoming the world’s largest ball of human hair. It’s not as gross as it sounds.
People could stop by the Give Kids the World booth at the IAAPA Expo and donate both hair and money. Over $30,000 was raised for the organization.
Since all of the Ripley’s attractions are open again, it was time for the beard to go. The artist who created Hoss cut off Pattison’s beard and added it to Hoss. A barber then completed the shaving.
It was all in good fun for a great cause. Hoss still has not broken the world record, but Floyd’s Barbershop is going to collect hair through the end of the year to help Hoss get closer.
My personal highlight of the day also had to do with Give Kids the World Village. I had a short chat with CEO Pamela Landwirth. Give Kids the World Village provides week-long vacations to Wish kids and their families at no cost to them. Landwirth has a deep love for critically ill children, and she is a reminder that there are still good people in the world.
A few days before the IAAPA Expo I received an invitation to stop by a virtual reality exhibit that was hosted by Immotion Group Limited. The company currently has a VR experience at Sea Life Orlando Aquarium.
I was treated to a different experience. For three minutes I watched a family of gorillas in Rwanda during a power struggle for the alpha male position. It was both interesting and beautiful. The entire gorilla virtual reality experience will be around seven minutes long, so this was just a sneak peek.
Steamroller Technologies had another type of virtual reality. Their presentation was called Haunting Olivia. A group of us sat in a haunted room, but instead of wearing a headset we each held a VR viewer in our hands.
Olivia wasn’t happy that we were there (she doesn’t like being looked at) and we needed to move the viewer around to find her. The experience was more than just virtual reality, because different things would happen around the room, depending on where Olivia was. The experience could be as large or as small as a buyer wants.
I talked with many of the exhibitors about their products. Like Haunting Olivia, most of these experiences are adaptable. You could see something from the IAAPA Expo in your local strip mall, or it could become a major attraction at a large Theme Park. The possibilities are endless.
The IAAPA Expo showed that it is possible to hold a large event in this day and age and still care about safety. This was the least crowded I’ve ever seen the Orange County Convention Center, and it was that way on purpose.
Even though I would have liked to have been there for some of the panels and announcements, I was happy to attend the IAAPA Expo. It will return November 14-18 next year, and I’ve already marked it on my calendar. This was my first time attending, and I hope it won’t be my last.