2021 IAAPA Expo Recap: This First Timer’s Jam-Packed Day
The IAAPA Expo is a yearly conference held at the Orange County Convention Center, and features the latest and greatest in theme park technology on display all in one place. The conference is typically five days long, and it’s a real challenge to see all there is to see and do all there is to do in less than a week. But how about in just one day? Due to pandemic restrictions this year, we were only given access for Friday, the final day of the trade show. And this being my first experience at IAAPA after hearing about it for years, there was no better way than jumping right in. Trial by fire, right? Read on below to get a glimpse of all that I saw and did in my whirlwind six hours at the IAAPA Expo 2021.
Let’s start at the beginning. At the very start of the day, I entered the massive Orange County Convention Center with high anticipation for the day ahead, somehow immune to the fatigue of the two prior days of going to theme parks, Wednesday at SeaWorld Orlando and Thursday at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Once I picked up my press badge from the office, I stepped on the escalator and descended down to the show floor. I picked the perfect entrance for the show (by accident, but still!) because the escalator I chose ended right in the middle of the rides area of the trade show.
There were multiple drop towers, a Chance Rides Freestyle, and of course the famous “hamster wheel” coaster, the SBF Visa spinner on display from its current home at Big Rivers Waterpark & Adventures in Texas. The first thing I did was ride the illuminated rotating drop tower, and it gave me a fantastic view of the show floor from the very top of the tower. I got to see the absolute enormity of the event, and knew for sure in that moment that I had my work cut out for me.
After a quick ride on the Freestyle, I decided to get walking, and did a lap around the immediate area, home to many ride manufacturer booths. B&M’s booth had the lead car from Mako on display, and it looked a lot bigger at eye level than when I had actually been sitting in the identical train just two days prior.
The Gravity Group had the gorgeous trains from the Tonnerre 2 Zeus on display, as well as a braking mechanism, which was very interesting to see up close.
RMC had their trains from the upcoming Arieforce One, the new I-Box coaster coming to Fun Spot America, and one of the biggest announcements at this year’s event. These trains are one of the more unique RMC trains, and I like the added detail of the control panel look from the inside.
The booth also had all three of the current RMC track designs on display, which are the I-Box track, the Raptor track, and the 208 track, designed for retracking old wood coasters.
Next up were the trains from S&S’s Axis model, and man were these weird to see up close. These bizarre trains are sure to give one of the most unique sensations on a coaster, and being right in front of them made me become even more excited for one of these to come to the US.
The Great Coasters International booth was one of the more expansive ones from a manufacturer, and featured a large model of their proposed dueling wood coaster.
The booth also had multiple coaster trains on display, both featuring the awesome light function, and one of them was positioned on the new GCI Titan track.
Sally Dark Rides had a display showing off their animatronic for the Volkanu: Quest for the Golden Idol dark ride heading to Lost Island Theme Park.
Next up was Skyline Attractions, and they were heavily promoting their aptly-named P’Sghetti Bowl Children’s Coaster, with models of many of the layouts on display.
The booth also had a track piece from the P’Sghetti coaster, which was massive in person, something I was not expecting. You can also see the model of the Skywarp II in the background, another working model the company had on display.
We had a great conversation with Dustin Sloane, a representative and designer from Skyline, who actually did all of the coaster animations himself! He gave us some great insight on the P’Sghetti design, including the weld-free track design that’s also customizable with different lights and colors and cars that accommodate adults and kids.
Dustin also talked about some of the updates to the Skywarp II to make it more comfortable and more marketable than its predecessor. Something I found very interesting (and exciting!) is that all of the P’Sghetti models, the Skywarp II, as well as the Horizon II and Orbit II are all designed to be able to operate indoors as well as outdoors. Imagine walking into a Family Entertainment Center and seeing a Skywarp looming above all the arcade games and the bounce house.
The ProSlide booth had some fantastic models of their waterslides, including some from Universal’s Volcano Bay right down the street, and some from as far away as Dubai.
Last up for the manufacturer booths I visited was Zamperla, where I spoke with friend of the site Adam Sandy. I got to actually sit in the Lightning train, and check out the new ride vehicles for the log flume coming to Luna Park, which I look forward to checking out when it opens in 2022.
I had the chance to talk to Kris Rowberry from Ride Entertainment about Gerstlauer’s new Palindrome and Defiance coasters, but there was enough material from our conversation for its own article, so keep an eye out for that in the future!
I had several hands-on experiences on the show floor, and one of my favorites was from Immotion’s virtual reality experiences. I got to demo two of the experiences, one in the entertainment category, and one in edu-tainment. The edu-tainment demo was Swimming with Humpbacks, and featured some stunning up close footage of the creatures. The motion based seats provided an immersive feel to the experience without being too intense, so this experience is more accessible for anyone with motion sickness.
The second experience we got to try was a little more in our wheelhouse, called The Tower Coaster. This experience is designed to be placed at the top of tall structures in large cities, and gives riders the experience of riding a roller coaster around the city or monument. Something I really found fascinating was that even though the coaster was computer generated, the location and footage was all real, captured by drone footage following the layout of the coaster. Thanks to Rod and Mikala for accommodating our demo and providing some insight on Immotion VR!
Aside from the virtual reality, one of the other attractions we got to try was at the Triotech booth. This was Trotech’s largest booth that they have brought to IAAPA, and it was truly huge. They had models of all of their rides, and a full shooting dark ride demonstration as well as a circular layout for their Hyper Ride system. We got to demo both, and while the dark ride was everything we have come to love from Triotech, the Hyper Ride is sure to be a new favorite going forward. Thanks to David Swafford for letting us test it out!
This tracked ride vehicle is now custom made by Triotech, as opposed to outsourced, and features four across seating with blasters at each seat. Not only does the ride vehicle spin and pitch, but the individual seats are now movable as well. Even in the small layout that we got to try, the ride was a ton of fun, and given a longer track with some larger than life screens, this could be the star of the show at any regional park, but also feel right at home at one of the resort parks.
Overall, I had a great day at the expo, and I hope you enjoyed checking out all that I saw at the trade show. I’m looking forward to returning next year, and having more time to experience all that is IAAPA.