By Paula @ Holiday World
Published

November is IAAPA Expo time around here.

Several of us head to Orlando as speakers, committee chairs, or buyers.

It’s an incredible trade show.

Here’s a series of HoliBlog posts from November 2007′s trip to the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions Expo:

Destination: Orlando. 

The night before I left, I told my youngest son, eight-year-old James:

Me: James, honey, I will be gone the next several days on a business trip.

James: Where are you going?

Me: My trip is to Florida. I’ll be at a convention in Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday.

James (suddenly very concerned): Mom… be very, very careful. O.J. lives there. (Note: he wasn’t expressing an aversion to the freshly squeezed breakfast beverage.)

Later on, James wanted to know more.

James: What’s a convention?

Me: It’s a big meeting. People from all over the world who work at theme parks and water parks and zoos and aquariums get together to talk and learn.

James: Is there cake?

The subhead for this post should perhaps be: Lesson learned: Don’t travel on the same day as the President

Although a number of us attended the IAAPA Convention this week, we all seemed to have different schedules. By Tuesday, Will, Mrs. Koch, and Eric had already gotten a start on their week. Matt flew out earlier that morning; Marketing Director John and I had a very reasonable flight time out of Louisville: 10:30 am EST.

So we’re flying out of Louisville Tuesday morning … remember who else was flying in that same day? (Cue: Hail to the Chief music.) That’s right, Mr. Bush had a speech to give in nearby New Albany. The gate crew was all a-twitter. They told us they hoped we could get out ahead of Air Force One’s approach, but if we didn’t make it, the entire airport–including our flight–would shut down for about 15 minutes. (I later heard her say 30 minutes. It was 45.)

John was all excited to see Air Force One land. I think he’d already had too much coffee, as he couldn’t sit still. "Is that it? Is it landing over there? I can’t wait to see it again!"

Again?

It suddenly hit me I hadn’t put on mascara yet, so I dug it out of my purse. The nice gate lady came by to put a pink tag on my carry-on luggage.

"You got that by Security?"

Hmmm?

"Security let you through with that?"

I looked around and realized she really was addressing me with her question.

This? Mascara?

"Yes, it’s a liquid."

A liquid? It’s goop!

"Well, maybe it’s a gel then."

No…it’s more like tar. What kind of threat is mascara? I foolishly pointed the wand in her direction and joked, Am I going to poke someone in the eye?

That really wasn’t smart of me; since she wasn’t a Security Agent I didn’t get in trouble. The nice lady left me in peace and moved on to tag someone else’s bag.

John was quaking with laughter. My dangerous mascara became the theme of the trip.

We settled back, waiting to hear if we’d get to board our plane before the president arrived. It was not meant to be. I was checking emails on my cell (we don’t have Blackberries; I call mine a Hollyberry, given the location of our park).

Suddenly, the screen went blank.

Then, in place of the email, up popped two words in unusually large type: ACCESS DENIED.

Access denied? What the…? How did John get me fired over the mascara incident so quickly?

We later figured out that when Air Force One is approaching, all wireless communication is halted.

Makes sense. Good idea.

Once onboard, we had another delay. Ten minutes later, though, the pilot got on the horn: "Ladies and gentlemen, Dub-ya has left the premises."

So we got to taxi past Air Force One. "Nice paint job!" John commented, admiringly. "Can you see it? Look! You don’t want to miss it! Isn’t it something?!"

Yes, yes, I see it. Very nice. Ugh. You are such a guy.

"At least I don’t smuggle make-up past the security guards. I don’t think I want to travel with you again. You’re a loose cannon."

I started digging in my purse; maybe I could do some damage with that stick of L’Oreal goop after all…

Okay, so this is even more embarrassing than the mascara incident. John and I sat behind the cutest pair of grandparents and grandchildren. A ducky little boy and girl who behaved perfectly on the long plane ride. As we stood in the aisle ready to get off the plane, I couldn’t resist.

Are you going to see Mickey?

"Oh yes!" the darling children chirped in unison.

That’s wonderful! I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun! …and maybe next summer, Grandma and Grandpa will take you to visit us at Holiday World.

Be honest. Was that tacky of me?

(It’s okay; I know the answer.)

Mrs. Koch told us today she was recognized in the Orlando airport, "Hey, Mrs. Koch! Is it really you?" And Matt stayed behind in Florida a few extra days with his lovely wife. In the Mission: Space queue, a family sported Colts Football shirts, so he started up a conversation with them. "Sure, we love Holiday World! In fact, the kids just said yesterday they would rather have spent four days at Holiday World instead of here in Orlando."

Wow.

The love-fest, sadly, did not extend to my feeble outreach program. Grandpa turned with a pleasant, yet quizzical, look on his face. "Holiday World? Never heard of it!" I quickly surmised they must have stopped in Louisville en route from some foreign land. Yes, of course, that must be it.

Oh, sorry. So you’re not from Louisville?

"Sure, we used to live there. Now we live in Florence." Judging by his accent, I really don’t think he meant Italy.

"Now, where is that park?"

Okay, by now it was getting embarrassing. And John was right behind me, snickering.

Oh, we’re in the town of Santa Claus, Indiana — isn’t that fun?

Grandpa smiled kindly and nodded, then turned to follow the rest of his family off the plane. After all, Mickey was waiting.

For this last story, we have to get back on the plane and up in the air again.

We’re high in the sky and I have to pull the shade since it’s so sunny as we head south.

John is suddenly more animated than usual. "Oh, boy! Here comes the cart!"

The cart?

Yes, the beverage wagon the poor flight attendants have to ram down the aisle inch by inch.

John was craning his neck, hanging over in the narrow aisleway. Looking, looking. "I think we get … yes! Cookies!"

Ah, the childlike wonderment of a grown man getting excited over cookies.

Prepackaged airline cookies.

John, you can have mine.

"No! I wouldn’t think of it! These cookies are great!"

No, really … they obviously mean something special to you. You’re welcome to mine.

"But just think about it for a minute. If you don’t want them, bring them home to James as a gift. I’ve done that for years — my girls just love it." At this point, he was trying to shove some in my purse. "Trust me. They make great gifts!"

I can only imagine what it looks like under John’s tree on Christmas morn. "Oh, Daddy. thanks! I love my shower cap! Oh, and Mommy got a shoe-shine-kit-in-a-bottle! You’re the best!"

To make matters worse, John then struck up a conversation with the flight attendant. He wanted to know about additional inventory. She admitted to stashing some cheese crackers and promised to bring some back later. Once off the plane, we and our crumble of snacks headed over to the convention center. First stop was to search for my presentation room, since IAAPA had asked me to speak about communications.

Up on the third floor, a bit more lost than we’d have ever admitted to each other, I let out a tiny scream. Coming toward us was a lady on stilts.

Really, really high stilts.

We were on this kind of balcony thing and she was way far away from the edge, but it still made me woozy. The stilted lady was in a Mardi Gras outfit. And we were the only other people around. Although she was fairly far away from us, it only took a few steps for her to be, well, in our faces.

Her knees, anyway.

She asked us if we were going to an awards event that evening. I was about to thank her for the invitation and explain we already had plans, but John jumped in, "Well, why don’t you tell me more about the event?"

That’s the big difference between the two of us. I say "no thanks" and move on; he likes to talk for half an hour and make sure an exchange of business cards takes place.

I guess they call that networking.

I wandered away, calling behind me, "John I’m going to look over here for the room…"

Wait! They have beads! What color do you want? He was suddenly ecstatic again. Free beads. All sorts of pretty colors.

Stocking stuffers.

"No thanks," I said, forcing a weak smile. When John caught up with me, I detected a slight hint of admiration in his voice.

Wow. It’s sort of impressive that you can be this grouchy a thousand miles from home.

Later on, I caught up with Matt in the vast convention hall. He was shopping for scooters, on behalf of Vanessa. I tried to stay out of range, but a second sales guy approached me, pitching a new style of strollers. When he found out I wasn’t there to buy, he quipped: "Well, maybe Matt can buy some and then you can write a news release about it."

Okay then.

Happily, soon after we ran into Will and Mrs. Koch. He’d done it again. Stopped by looking for Mr. Bigfoot, but to no avail. "They told me to come back tomorrow. They say he works all night and sleeps all day, so he doesn’t show up until late afternoon."

Will was stoked.

When I asked him this week if he’d ever found Sasquatch’s creator, Will’s face fell. "No, and I stopped by their booth three times."

Ah well, there’s always next year.

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