- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2006

It’s not a joke when we say we take fun seriously here,” Charles Bray says of his job. Mr. Bray, 56, is the new president and chief executive officer of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). More than 4,500 manufacturers, suppliers and operators from more than 90 countries are members of the Alexandria organization.

Mr. Bray, who was promoted from chief financial officer, oversees the organization’s annual trade show, representing the industry to legislators and promoting it to the public.

“The one thing an association executive should never forget is that first and foremost our responsibility is membership,” said Mr. Bray, who spends time on the phone every day discussing concerns with members.

One of his top responsibilities is to bring together attractions — amusement parks, theme parks, water parks, family entertainment centers, zoos, aquariums and museums — with suppliers of food, landscaping or other services at the IAAPA trade show.

“A day doesn’t go by that I don’t focus on some element of that annual event,” said Mr. Bray, who has nearly 30 years of trade group experience. He also has served as president of the International Association of Food Industry Suppliers and the Electronic Retailing Association.

Mr. Bray said the show is like “the largest amusement park that you can imagine.” This year’s show in Atlanta will fill 1 million square feet of exhibition space.

“When you walk on the show floor, you have the sight, the sound, the smells of an amusement park,” he said. “You see rides, you smell the hot dogs and the popcorn, you can play the games, you hear kids squealing with delight as they go around on a ride.”

The IAAPA also produces trade shows abroad because 30 percent of its members are outside the United States. Mr. Bray has visited parks in Germany, India, Singapore and Hong Kong and is planning a trip to Shanghai this summer.

Rob Norris, chairman of the IAAPA board of directors, said Mr. Bray “has a proven track record in the trade-show industry, having managed shows listed in the top 50 by Tradeshow Week magazine and launching two shows in the Pacific Rim.”

Although certain rides or attractions appeal to specific cultures — Western Europe has a rich tradition of traveling carnivals, for example — all amusements have one thing in common, he said.

“It’s a shared family experience. I think with our busy lives, with school and both parents working, kids growing up faster and everybody going in different directions, our industry offers that opportunity where there’s something for everybody,” he said. “Frankly, it’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about this job: We do well for our industry as well as the patron.”

Mr. Bray lives in McLean with his wife, Becky. They have a daughter, Sara, 27, and a son, Andrew, 24.

— Kara Rowland

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