Tim's Turn | Reflections from the Show Floor
I missed IAAPA Expo last November for only the second time in the past 35 years. “Going to IAAPA,” as most people say, has clearly become in-grained into my yearly routine. It is when I look forward to visiting with my extended industry family from around the world, before going home to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy my immediate family.
I informed only a few members of the committees on which I serve that I wouldn’t be there, thinking that others wouldn’t take note of my absenteeism. I was mostly right but was totally touched when a few of my “annual” friends missed my presence.
Texts and emails from those who had not seen me on the floor or at the Chairman’s Reception voiced concerns over my well-being. I was heartened by those missives, buoyed by their sincerity. In addition to making me miss the event even more, they made me start thinking about my years attending, and as any amusement industry veteran (read: old-timer) out there knows, thinking of this sort can be dangerous and will invariably take you down a rabbit hole.
Yep, down I went. Most of my immediate memories were associated with my 18 years as an editor with the now-defunct Amusement Business (AB) magazine.
“Hey Tim, I have a great story for you,” was a greeting I often heard during the first few days of IAAPA Expo every year. While those words usually caught me at a bad moment, I would dutifully pull out my notepad, take notes, take a picture or two, and move on. After all, we journalists go to Expo to gather news and chronicle the industry in which we serve.
Next up came my memories of gathering attendance records for AB’s popular annual park attendance charts, which I compiled for 17 years. I would troll the floor hunting for park executives who could shed light on their seasons. Some would give me an exact attendance figure, but most would make it a dance as we went round and round, until I came up with a number that we could both live with. As we would depart, the most com-mon phrase I would hear was, “Remember, Tim, you didn’t get that information from me.”
That task was always the biggest challenge I faced all year. Most parks followed Disney’s lead and quit announcing attendance figures around 1986, requiring me to scrape, plead, and research each. I would need to come up with a number, then pray that it was somewhat accurate. Each year, after the charts were published, I could count on the same marketing execs calling to ridicule me and assure me that the number I printed with their attendance was way wrong. “You are far off again on our attendance. Give up, Tim; you’ll never get it right.”
But, of course, these guys never would give me their right figures. Ironically, I would also get calls from the top execs of those same parks wanting to know how I got the numbers. “Tim, your numbers are way too close to reality. Who gave them to you?” Those calls would always validate my hard work.
I also thought about the myriad people I met along the way each year at Expo, the people who bought me drinks, people who would smile at me, and people who wanted nothing from me but a fun, lively conversation. I always took time for that group, but I miss them all. And I am looking forward to IAAPA Expo 2022. See ya on the floor!