Many of my friends are headed down to Orlando this week for the annual IAAPA conference and trade show, which is "the" amusement industry's big show. They're all going for professional reasons, of course, since they mostly work in the industry.
When I launched CoasterBuzz in the beginning of 2000, I ended up going to the show for the first time that November. It seemed like a good idea, running a Web site that covered news from the industry. I ended up going for the entire week, staying in a crappy hotel there in Atlanta. I even came back one day to find all of my crap missing from my room, including my laptop, because they thought I checked out.
In any case, that was way too long to be there. I spent a lot of time watching the fallout of the 2000 election from my room, and did the CNN tour. I also had to live with the disappointment of what I already knew about trade shows: They're awful, like an endurance contest. Being about that industry doesn't make them better.
The next year, I went again, when the show was in Orlando. In the fallout of 9/11, I lost my job and needed something to distract myself from the world. Stephanie and I had bought passes for all of the Busch parks, so I figured at the very least I could also make a quick stop at SeaWorld and Busch Tampa. I spent about a day and a half on the show floor that time, which was enough to find some stories and do the appropriate networking. The real highlight was the social event at Islands of Adventure, where I first fell in love with that park (and famously got lost in the Dudley Do-Right queue with a couple of friends from TGG, then CCI).
As the years went buy, I did a couple of speaking gigs at the show, but 2008 was the last year I went. The reasons were many, but mostly because in 2009 I had just moved to Seattle (which didn't stop us from going to Disney World the week after Thanksgiving), then I was a parent in 2010, and in 2011 had just moved back to Cleveland. This year, honestly it's just an issue that I didn't want to incur the expense. That, and it's more of a social call to catch up with friends more than anything else. There isn't really that much of interest at the show anymore that we haven't seen before.
I have no idea what next year will look like, but I wouldn't mind going, if only to volunteer at the GKTW booth, because that would feel more useful. Otherwise, it's more of a social opportunity than anything. It's crazy to see how much my industry friends have moved around over the years, and I don't get many chances to see many of them in person.