Silver Dollar City’s new ‘Pumpkin Nights’ and million dollar show to continue growth with “The Year of Shows & Festivals” in 2019

By | January 2, 2019

BRANSON, Mo. —  Silver Dollar City’s $26 million investment in Time Traveler, the world’s fastest, steepest and tallest spinning coaster, along with its other award-winning attractions, shows, and food proved to be a winning formula for the 1880s-style theme park, reporting nearly 2.2 million guests (actual total 2,184,000) visiting the park in 2018, the highest numbers in the park’s 59-year history.

Part of the successful year is also attributed to the globally-acclaimed “An Old Time Christmas” event, closing out the year with the highest-recorded attendance in the festival’s history, even winning the top spot in the USA Today/10 Best poll for Best Theme Park Holiday Event for the festival’s third straight win.

“This year’s record-breaking attendance is contributed to the fact that throughout the entire year, increasing numbers of families and adult couples are making the journey to visit both Silver Dollar City and Branson,” said Brad Thomas, President of Silver Dollar City Attractions. “In addition to award-winning rides like Outlaw Run and Time Traveler, in 2019, we will add focus to shows and festivals.  We will continue to provide new, creative and original ways for families to create memories worth repeating, while still paying tribute to the values that built this truly special place. These new shows and events will join the schedule of our already impressive live-entertainment lineup.”

Media coverage in 2018 for the park and Time Traveler included articles and reviews by The New York Times, The TODAY Show, Time, CNN, Travel Channel, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, the Associated Press, Thrillist, and Daily Mail.

The Year of Shows and Festivals in 2019 marks a new era of even bolder entertainment, larger-than-life shows and festival adventures. Additions like the new, original mega-production Reuben’s Swashbuckling Adventure and new fall, nighttime experience Pumpkin Nights, are just a few of the new adventures Silver Dollar City will present in 2019.

Funtrackers takes the cake for Best Kids Parties in Corpus Christi

By | January 2, 2019

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Family Entertainment Group (FEG) is thrilled to announce that Funtrackers Family Fun Center in Corpus Christi, Texas has won 1st Place in the Caller Times “Best of the Best Reader’s Poll for Kids Parties.”

Caller Times’ Best of the Best gives the Corpus Christi community a chance to cast their votes in multiple categories to showcase their favorite businesses and to celebrate local excellence.

Caller Times is the primary newspaper in Corpus Christi, Texas that has held this showcase since 1998. Throughout the years, more than 185,000 people have attended the annual showcases to cast votes for their favorite local businesses.

This year’s 21st annual Best of the Best Showcase was held at the American Bank Center with over a thousand attendees, including celebrity appearances from “Selena” star Jon Seda and mixed martial artist Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens.

Funtrackers takes pride in always being at the forefront of family fun.  Known for amazing birthday parties, a great arcade and go karts, they are excited to now be undergoing a massive renovation, which will include brand new attractions, an expanded chef-inspired menu, and a fresh new look.

FEG, Funtrackers parent company, is a recognized industry leader in game room design, development, consulting and operations. Owning and operating world-class, family-oriented entertainment facilities both nationally and internationally since 2004, FEG provides services and innovative arcade solutions for a wide array of industry sectors including water park resorts, amusement parks, bowling centers, family entertainment centers, and more.  

Robust year for Liseberg

By | January 2, 2019

An uneven 2018 ended on a high-note for Liseberg, with a very well attended Christmas season. More than 520,000 guests visited, what has recently been voted, Sweden’s best Christmas market – and in combination with a strong Halloweens season, Liseberg can again this year note an attendance of more than three million. 

Liseberg’s summer season was negatively affected by an unusually warm summer, the World Cup in football and the delayed opening of Valkyria; Liseberg’s 2018 Bolliger & Mabillard Dive Machine. All in all, summer attendance decreased with approximately 4%. 

The Halloween season, on the other hand, once again grew considerably, and when Christmas at Liseberg closed on Sunday, more than 520,000 guests had passed through the gates – 40,000 more than in 2017. 

The total attendance for the year ended up at 3,055,000, which is in line with the 2017 year’s numbers. Despite the fact, that Liseberg’s business model is very sensitive to weather and economic conditions, these guest figures have varied very little very little in recent years. 

– Liseberg’s visitor numbers have stabilized at the higher level established with the launch of HELIX in 2014. This is very very satisfying, as Liseberg operates in an extremely mature market, says Andreas Andersen, CEO & President of Liseberg. 

However, visitor numbers have varied greatly between seasons, and in recent years the Halloween season and Christmas at Liseberg have taken more place.

– It shows that Liseberg’s investments in seasonal events is successful. These create a more stable financial foundation in an otherwise sensitive and complicated business model, says Andreas Andersen.

Turnover is also in line with 2017 year’s numbers, forecasting a turnover for 2018 of around SEK 1.225 billion for the Liseberg Group.

– Both sales and profitability have consolidated at a satisfactory level, which is important for the large and necessary investments in the business we are facing in the years to come, says Andreas Andersen.

In the coming years, Liseberg plans to invest in both the park (extension of Children’s area 2020) and in a larger expansion of the park with a 450 room themed family hotel and Scandinavia’s largest indoor water park (Liseberg’s Jubilee Project 2022-2023).

Silver Dollar City Wins #1 Spot Best Theme Park Holiday Event

By | December 26, 2018

BRANSON, Mo. — Silver Dollar City is named to the top spot in the nation for “Best Theme Park Holiday Event” in USA Today’s 10Best poll, announced today by the newspaper. The honor followed four weeks of voting by USA Today’s audience that included their readers, theme park guests and fans, members of the media and even some national stars.  The title is now proudly rooted in the Ozarks as this is the third time the park has taken the top spot with the holiday festival An Old Time Christmas.

“The results of this poll exemplify the fact that Silver Dollar City’s Christmas event has raving fans from around the nation,” said Brad Thomas, President of Silver Dollar City Attractions in Branson. “We are thankful to our fans and we are also thankful for the men and women who invest thousands of hours to ensure Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas continues to be one of America’s top holiday destinations.”

Thomas said these type of honors benefit tourism for Branson, Springfield and Northwest Arkansas. High-profile people such as Eric Stonestreet of ABC’s Modern Family & iconic performer Tony Orlando used social media to express their support for Silver Dollar City.

In additional recent features, Silver Dollar City was named in CNN’s 9 of the Best Places to See Christmas Lights in the USA, MSN Travel’s The Most Amazing Christmas Light Displays in America and featured in a USA Today spotlight on Christmas in Branson.Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas runs through December 30, featuring Christmas In Midtown, Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade, a 5-Story Special Effects Christmas Tree and holiday dining. Additionally, the park presents two legendary Christmas stories in Broadway-style productions, A Dickens’ Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life. A New Year’s Celebration follows December 31 and January 1.

Kennywood Holiday Lights named among nation’s best

By | December 26, 2018

WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. — A nationwide poll conducted by USA TODAY confirms what many Pittsburghers already know: when looking for family-friendly fun this time of year, Kennywood’s Holiday Lights is a must-see attraction!

Kennywood Holiday Lights was one of twenty theme parks selected by a panel of USA Today and 10Best.com editors and expert contributors. After a month of voting, the public voted Kennywood’s Holiday Lights as one of the country’s Best Theme Park Holiday Events, finishing in the top ten at number seven. With the brilliance of nearly two million lights around the park, Pennsylvania’s tallest Christmas tree (100 feet), and the new Thomas Town at Kennywood among the main attractions, Holiday Lights earned the recognition of voters near and far. Kennywood is one of only two theme parks in the state to be included on the list, including Kennywood’s sister park, Dutch Wonderland.

“It’s a great honor to see Kennywood recognized as one of the nation’s best theme parks to visit during the holidays,” says Kennywood General Manager Jerome Gibas. “We’re thankful to all those who took the time to vote, and to our Team Members who have been working since September to make Holiday Lights sparkle.”

Along with stunning displays, visitors to Holiday Lights will find a petting zoo, a model train display covering nearly 3,000 square feet, live shows and entertainment, and many of Kennywood’s signature family and children’s rides decorated in the spirit of the season.

Kennywood enters its final days of operations for 2018, with Holiday Lights open December 26-30 from 5 – 9 p.m., weather permitting. Special discounts abound for these final days of the year, with free admission for military (active duty, retired and veterans) all week, plus online-only deals for guests 55 and older ($7 admission) and 4 for $40 offers for the rest of the family. Children three years of age and younger are free, and parking is also free.. To see a full list of activities, including schedules, discounts and more, visit www.kennywood.com/holidaylights.

Amusement Today offices closed during Christmastime

By | December 21, 2018

The offices of Amusement Today will be closed Friday, December 21, 2018 starting at Noon, and will reopen on Tuesday, January 2, 2018, so the staff can enjoy the holidays with their families.

From the entire staff of Amusement Today, we wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!

Amusement Expo International Doubles Down on VR in Vegas!

By | December 20, 2018

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The AAMA/AMOA Amusement Expo International (AEI), the annual event for the coin-op and revenue generating amusement, music, and family entertainment industry, is reaffirming its focus on the rapidly growing virtual reality entertainment industry at the conference and trade show. Following a tremendous response to last year’s inaugural VR focus, the AEI is doubling down on VR in 2019. Please visit the AEI website at www.amusementexpo.org.

Over 3,200 attendees and 1,700 buyers attended the 2018 AEI looking for information on new games and attractions for their family entertainment centers and other location-based entertainment venues. This year’s conference will once again welcome the owners, operators, manufacturers, and visionaries of virtual reality companies to experience the products and meet amusement buyers at their industry’s primary business event. 
Location-based VR entertainment will double in 2018 to $1.2 billion globally and could grow to over $8 billion by 2022, according to Greenlight Insights. There are tremendous financial opportunities for amusement operators to add virtual reality to existing locations and routes, from standalone VR equipment pieces that earn, to all-in-one compact multiplayer arenas as anchor attractions that draw crowds.

“Amusement Expo International is the perfect venue for VR content developers and game manufacturers to cultivate new relationships with location operators”, noted Peter Gustafson, Executive Vice President, AAMA.  “Last year’s inaugural VR focus was overwhelmingly positive, delivering above and beyond exhibitors’ expectations and the VR Summit was a smash success – standing room only from the first seminar to the last.”

VR SUMMIT EDUCATION DAY: TUESDAY MARCH 26, 2019
VR Summit is an entire day of panels and seminars devoted exclusively to educating amusement operators about location-based VR. The 2018 VR education program was very well received, with standing-room-only attendance at VR sessions. VR speakers included representatives from Greenlight Insights, HP, Cineplex, Upload, Inc., Hologate, Caesars Entertainment, Minority Media, Virtuix, Hyperverse, Blueprint Reality, and Two-Bit Circus.

The 2019 program will once again be curated by Bob Cooney, location-based VR guru and the man who literally wrote the book on Location-based VR, “Real Money from Virtual Reality”. 

“The virtual reality market tends to be insular and most of the VR events have become echo chambers, with the same people talking to each other”, noted Bob Cooney, Speaker, Author, Mentor (bobcooney.com). “Amusement Expo International brings two unique audiences, who need each other, together. I believe we will unlock massive value for the entire location-based entertainment market.”

Sessions will include:

  • The Virtual Reality Hardware Roadmap: Where is the Tech Going?
  • What Operators are Making Real Money with Virtual Reality?
  • How will VR and AR Impact the Laser Tag Business?
  • Storytelling Meets Gaming: Are VR Escape Rooms the Perfect Mix?
  • How Location-based Entertainment Centers can Capitalize on the Esports Explosion 


Get in touch if you can speak to these subjects or have experience to share in: marketing and positioning; operations; selecting content and equipment; or other relevant topics. If you are interested in speaking opportunities, please contact Bob Cooney at vrbob@bobcooney.com

SPOTLIGHT ON VR EXHIBITORS: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27 & THURSDAY, MARCH 28 2019
AEI will be THE place for traditional amusement operators to learn about opportunities and products from the VR attractions market and for VR companies to connect with a large group of influential new customers who are unlikely to attend other virtual-reality focused events. AEI is committed to providing opportunities for VR discovery and maximum booth traffic, with exhibitors distributed throughout the hall. The Amusement Expo International 2019 will also highlight VR exhibitors on the AEI digital app and in the AEI pocket directory to make it easy for buyers and sellers to connect. 
 

“It is crystal clear, Amusement Expo International is a natural home and a great fit for the VR community”, noted Lori Schneider, Executive Vice President, AMOA. “VR exhibitors and attendees have the perfect format to exchange information about this emerging technology and how it will integrate into location-based entertainment businesses.  There was keen interest in the VR exhibits on the show floor last year, so it is a unique win-win opportunity for both audiences.”

Many of the 2018 VR Exhibitors have gone on to great successes and greatly expanded their sales and distribution channels since the show. Some of the VR companies who have blown up include:

  • HOLOGATE – Now at 150+ locations, 200+ units sold worldwide
  • VIRTUAL RABBIDS: THE RIDE (LAI Games) – 2018 AMOA Innovator Award Winner, distributed by SEGA
  • VIRTUIX’S OMNI ARENA (Funovation) – 3,000 units/500 operators, new 4-player VR eSports platform
  • ESCAPE VR – VR/escape room hybrid with 20 locations in 5 countries
  • MODAL VR – Founded by Nolan Bushnell, now running VR tournaments
  • WEPLAY VR (AiSolve) – Award winning room-scale distributed by Bandai Namco

To reserve a booth, please contact Brian Glasgow, Show Manager at 708-226-1300 or brian@wtglasgow.com

Claire Morton, first woman president of the Showmen’s League of America, passes

By | December 19, 2018

Our condolences go out to the family of Claire Morton who passed away December 16.  Claire was an amazing person who became the first woman president of the Showmen’s League of America in 2005. She was so involved with the SLA she even moved to Chicago during her presidency to ensure the historical preservation and financial stability of our organization. The SLA was lucky to have such a dedicated president and we are better because of her leadership.

She will be greatly missed. Services will be held January 11 at the First Southern Baptist Church at 1pm in Wickenberg, AZ.

Carnival business icon JoAnn Davis passes

By | December 18, 2018

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — JoAnn Delores Davis, of Rancho Mirage, CA passed away on 12/6 following a fall while on vacation with family in Hawaii. JoAnn was 82 years old. She was preceded in death by her husband of 52 years Larry Davis in 2004 and is survived by her beloved daughter, Debby (Davis) Helm and her husband Dave, of Redlands, and son Tommy Davis and his wife Sharie of Fontana. JoAnn was blessed to have five grown grandchildren, Davey, Jason, Thomas, Larry and Erin all of whom lived nearby and saw her often in her later years. In addition JoAnn is survived by seven great grandchildren.

Born JoAnn Delores Weiss, in Butte, Montana on November 3, 1936. Her destiny was fulfilled early in her life as she met and married her life long love Larry Davis of San Francisco on April 21, 1952 in San Francisco. Larry an aspiring golf pro and JoAnn a savvy and beautiful young women jumped into the outdoor amusement business with both feet in 1958, and never looked back. In the early years of their marriage their lives revolved around building the Carnival. Indeed, Carnival Time Shows, Inc. became the largest most impressive travelling Carnival on the West Coast. Together they charted a course that saw their unique business holding contracts at every major State and County Fair in California. Including the California State Fair for 19 years, the Orange County Fair, Sonoma County Fair, their hometown Fair, the Kern County Fair and many many more.

JoAnn was the person behind the growth and success of Carnival Time Shows, she controlled the checkbook and ran the office ensuring that their plans, dreams and strategies could be funded and implemented. Her ability to save, manage and stretch a dollar were crucial in the early years. Later as the business was humming along her interest in philanthropy came to the forefront. When Larry and JoAnn moved to Rancho Mirage in 1982 they immediately assimilated into the community of like- minded philanthropists. Always the avid golfers many friendships were forged on the golf course and with unique tales of life on the road with the travelling Carnival Larry and JoAnn became fixtures in the social scene in the desert.

In 1998 Larry and JoAnn had had enough of the road and decided to retire. Few Carnival owners have ever successfully pulled off such a feat. Most went bankrupt, died or lost it all over time. But because of JoAnn and her skills in the office they were able to turn those years of back breaking hard work into a comfortable retirement. Even in retirement though neither completely stopped working. In fact, their passion and dedication to conceive, plan, fund and build the West Coast Tribute at Expo Park on the grounds at the California State Fair, an ongoing living permanent memorial to the hero’s, innocent victims and their families, commemorating the 9/11 attacks on our country may be the most unselfish and important part of Larry and JoAnn’s legacy.

Throughout their years as owners and operators the business they built together from scratch, Larry and JoAnn were honored by and participated in virtually all of the fair and outdoor amusement industry organizations and associations. Joann was inducted into the Showmen’s League of America’s Hall of Honor in 2010. She held leadership and officer positions in the Pacific Coast Showmen’s Association, the Ladies Auxiliary of the SLA, San Francisco Showmen’s Association, The Royal Hawaiian Showmens Club and many others. She was the first woman allowed into the Showmen’s League of America. Always a doer, it was hard to say no to JoAnn when she asked for help with a project or charity. It is estimated that throughout her life she raised millions of dollars and most likely contributed an equal amount of her own.

To say that JoAnn was an icon in the world of Showman and the outdoor amusement business would be an understatement. Always impeccably dressed she carried herself with the elegance and grace of a former beauty queen with a splash of grand Hollywood glamour. And in true Hollywood fashion JoAnn and Larry were honored with a spot between Elvis and Colonel Tom Parker on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.

When her beloved husband of 52 years passed in 2004, JoAnn became an avid traveler. She traveled extensively around the world right up to her death. Making friends all over the world JoAnn was rarely still and always looking ahead to her next adventure.

Aside from her participation in industry groups JoAnn busied herself by diving head first into charities and social organizations in the Palm Springs Valley. She was a founding member of the McCallum Theater and current member of the Theater Board of Trustees. JoAnn rarely missed a performance and believed deeply in arts and education she gave her time and money to The Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs Art Museum, Friends of the Philharmonic, The Virginia Waring International Piano Competition , The Desert Symphony, The Steinway Society, Palm Springs Opera Guild, The Barbara Sinatra Center, Angelview, Loving all Animals, Guide Dogs of the Desert, The Living Desert, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs and many more. Someone once said of JoAnn’s charitable giving, “If it’s possible to give to charities more money then you have and still have some left over, JoAnn could find a way to do it!” 

An icon in the Carnival business, a legacy of giving, a lasting tribute to a national tragedy, a loving mother, grandmother and great grandmother and most of all a devoted and loving wife and partner, JoAnn joined her lifelong love for an everlasting last dance. Godspeed.

A mass will be held on Tuesday, December 18, 2018, at 11:00 am at Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 43774 Deep Canyon Rd. in Palm Desert. A Celebration of Life will follow at 12:30 pm at Acqua in Rancho Mirage on Hwy 111.

Showboat Branson Belle Cruises Through New Year’s Day

By | December 18, 2018

BRANSON, Mo. —   Wondering where to take the kids and family for fun during the Christmas break? Silver Dollar City and the Showboat Branson Belle stay open December 26 through January 1, with entertainment options ranging from shows and lights to rides (weather permitting), dining and shopping.

An Old Time Christmas continues with all the lights and shows, just without Santa, from December 26-30. Then for the second year, Silver Dollar City presents an event for families to ride, dance and play into the New Year: the “New Year’s Celebration.” The park will be open New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with rides and special entertainment:

  • A dance party with Members Only, a tribute band performing the hits of the ‘80s from bands like Chicago, Journey and Kansas
  • Comedy and music from The Cleverlys, Grand Ole Opry performers and viral video stars who play songs from Beyoncé to Flo Rida bluegrass style
  • Chad Chesmark, performing comedy, magic and entertainment
  • The Biff Barker New Year’s Radio Show creates the Golden Age of radio with a live broadcast at KSDC, an original music and comedy show in the Silver Dollar Saloon

New Year’s Celebration hours are: 11 am to 7 pm December 31, and noon to 8 pm on January 1.

The Showboat Branson Belle presents the main season variety show on cruises December 26 – January 1, with two cruises on New Year’s Eve, including the 8 pm to 12:30 am New Year’s Celebration Cruise, including music, dancing, and a countdown to the New Year with sparkling grape juice and party favors. New Year’s Day cruises are at noon and 4 pm.