Big Fun

Some of my job’s more fun moments come from the theme park beat. This week, a giant theme park/amusement center trade show was held in Orlando and I wrote a couple of stories and did video.

How would you like to ride an elevator 120 feet up in the air, then flip head over heels six times as the lift plummets back down to the ground? Or fight good and evil with a laser blaster while dodging a lifelike, creepy-looking Joker?

Those are just two of the new theme park attractions opening in 2015, announced this week at The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo in Orlando, Florida.

It’s the theme park industry’s biggest trade show, with 27,000 attendees, 1,000 exhibitors and nine miles of aisles snaking along the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, America’s theme park capital.

New parks, rides, products and foods are announced each year at this show. Some, like the opening of Shanghai Disney Resort and the expansion of Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, focus on overseas trends. In France, Le Puy du Fou announced the addition of “Neopters,” luminescent drones used to create aerial shows over the park.

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But there are challenges to the purveyors of fun.

A decade or two ago, folks went to theme parks big and small to experience the latest in entertainment and technology. Now, attractions need to come up with something better than the amazing quality of entertainment you can get on your computer or TV.

“There’s clutter and noise everywhere nowadays from all of these different channels about things you can do with your time. You have to have an exciting product and you’ve got to be able to do things as a family together,” said Jim Pattison Jr., president of Ripley Entertainment.

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