LAS VEGAS -- The National Bulk Vendors Association has chalked up another successful convention and trade show. The 66th annual confab, collocated with Amusement Expo International 2016 at the Las Vegas Convention Center from March 15 to 17, is being hailed as a success by operators and exhibitors alike. Hosted by the Westgate Resort & Casino and adjacent Las Vegas Convention Center, the event was cosponsored by the Amusement and Music Operators Association and the American Amusement Machine Association, with participation by the NBVA and the Laser Tag Convention.
Marking the fifth successful year of collocation, the 2016 NBVA get-together included a full day of the associations' membership education programs, followed by two days of bustling tradeshow activity.
According to show officials, the NBVA pavilion housed 16 exhibitors in 35 booths, compared with 20 exhibitors in 40 booths in 2015. Attendance also dipped, from an even 300 registrants last year to 250 in 2016. However, NBVA sources on the show floor said that the decrease in booth space and registered visitors does not necessarily reflect a decline in the industry. It demonstrates, they explained, the ongoing convergence of traditional bulk vending and the amusements sector of coin-op. This trend has seen an increasing number of bulk vending operators integrate amusement equipment, such as skill cranes, into their routes, while amusement operators in growing numbers have begun to offer bulk vending equipment, too.
"I feel that this was one of the strongest shows to date," said NBVA president Judi Heston-Donnell, Theisen Vending Co. (Minneapolis). "Our educational seminars came together in an exemplary fashion, and there was a lot of enthusiasm on the show floor. The collocation of shows is working out even better than we had anticipated."
High Marks For High Points
Highlighting this year's show was the full day of educational seminars, again followed the "New Ballgame" convention format first adopted in 2014. Designed to offer "something for everyone," the seminars focused on topics ranging from basic bulk vending and recordkeeping to locating and Internet marketing. By many accounts, the high point of the day was in the competition for Most Innovative Operator, which saw the winner, Brian Angell of Angell Vending (Golden, CO) take top honors, along with $300 in prize money in recognition of his Do-It-Yourself coin mech that accepts $1.25 and $1.50.
"Everything went great, and the operators were enthusiastic," said NBVA administrator Amy Contre. "A large part of the credit for such a great show goes to the co-chairs, Judi Heston-Donnell and Northwestern Corp.'s Diane Olson."
The NBVA held its annual membership meeting and election of officers during the expo. Heston-Donnell was elected to an unprecedented second two-year term as association president -- the first time in the association's long history that an elected president will serve two terms. Serving under her are vice-president Steve Schechner, Capital Vending (Florence, AL); treasurer Scott Ausmus, National Entertainment Network (Broomfield, CO); and secretary David Kochan, DK Vending (Norcross, GA).
Heston-Donnell observed that this year's convention was a bittersweet event. During the opening ribbon-cutting ceremony, she dedicated the show to the memory of one of her early mentors, Neel Clark. A bulk vending legend, Clark, who died in November 2015, worked in route operations and then for a number of companies before founding Kid Zone Inc., a bulk vending supplier headquartered in Chicago. He later worked for Parisi Vending (Oceanside, NY), maker of the All-American Chicken Machine. Heston-Donnell also expressed her gratitude to her employer, Tom Theisen, who continues to serve as a mentor and affords her the latitude to perform her duties for the association.
Get This Party Started
Climaxing the festivities in Las Vegas was the NBVA annual gala dinner. The theme this year was a beach party that gave the revellers an opportunity to dress casually and relax. "I think we really knocked it out of the park this year with our beach-themed dinner gala," said Heston-Donnell. "Everyone was in high spirits and in a festive mood. You could tell people were having fun when the beachballs started flying around the banquet room."
In addition to flying beachballs, the gala featured the annual "Best Of Awards," the winners of which were determined by member votes. The winners were:
Best 1" Capsule » Brand Vending Products for its Sqwishland Polar.
Best 2" Capsule » A&A Global Industries for its NFL puzzle erasers.
Best Candy/Gum » Concord Confections for Dubble Bubble (assorted 850 ct.).
Best Tattoo » SSM Vending, in recognition of its Game Over theme.
Best Sticker » Allstar Vending's Dress Up Girls #8.
Best Licensed Sticker » Flatline Corp. for Disney's Frozen.
Best Machine » Northwestern's Mega 60 10" vender on a Square Deals 4 stand.
Best Crane Mix » A&A Global's 3.5¢ candy crane mix.
Best Redemption Toy » A&A Global for DC Comics plasma lights.
Best Plush Toy » A&A Global's jumbo neon bears.
See Y'all Next Year
"Right now we're anxiously looking forward to the Dallas show in 2017," said Contre. "That show will bring us back to old-school networking. We haven't been in Dallas since 2000, and I know a lot of operators are looking forward to getting back to our networking traditions." Next year's show is scheduled for March 14 through 16, with the Sheraton Dallas Hotel hosting the event.
NBVA, founded in 1950, maintains an office at 1202 E. Maryland Ave., Ste. 1K, Phoenix, AZ 85014. Information on NBVA programs and events can be had by calling (888) NBVA-USA [828-2872] or by visiting nbva.org.
HAVING A BALL IN VEGAS: NBVA president Judi Heston-Donnell (l.), Theisen Vending (Minneapolis), and Diane Olson, Northwestern Corp., served as convention co-chairs for recent Las Vegas event. Heston-Donnell made history by becoming NBVA'S first twice-elected president.
CLASSIC STYLE: Northwestern Corp.'s Melanie Goode (l.) and Diane Olson show off factory's colorful 7-head bulk rack at recent NBVA confab.
THE GANG WAS ALL THERE: NBVA board members officers, and committee members take a moment away from the beach-themed gala dinner to pose for a group portrait. Pictured, front row from left, are Shawn Dumphy, SSM Vending; John P. Winters, John P. Winters Vending (Wayne, MI); Jon Backlund, Donivan's Vending Service (Eau Claire, WI); Steve Schechner, Capital Vending (Florence, AL); David Kochan, DK Vending (Norcross, GA). In back row from left are Ken Recker, Vendomatic (Frederick, MD); Mark Brooks, Quality Candy Services (Hampton, GA); John Lander, Concord Confections; Scott Ausmus, National Entertainment Network (Broomfield, CO); and Judi Heston-Donnell, Theisen Vending Co. (Minneapolis).
ANIMAL SELLERS: Leonard Daitch (l.) of Sweet City (Walled Lake, MI) and Cardinal Distributing Co.'s Tom Paszkiewicz check out Cardinal's new line of animal-themed bulk vending lines for 1" and 2" capsules.
STAR POWER: Allstar Vending's Sharon Shlien (l.) and Elissa Dorfman greet Talbot Sumners of Service Vending (Aurora, MO) and Dan Spitzer of DSI Vending (Fairfield, CA) during the National Bulk Vendors Association's 2016 trade show in Las Vegas.
CHEW ON THIS: Ford Gum's Barbara Deleon and Andrew Laka show off their company's latest offerings during the annual NBVA exhibit at the Las Vegas Convention Center in mid-March.