The International Association of Fairs and Expositions has one of the most eclectic and vibrant trade show floors of any industry conference. There is nothing like being towered over by a walking tree to get ideas flowing for fair programmers. From ticketers to liger (tiger and lion hybrids) breeders, attendees can discover everything they need to host a successful and entertaining fair. Amplify strolled through the rows of animated dinosaurs, magicians, and celebrity impersonators to bring you some of the convention’s most colorful acts. Check out six of the most unique performers IAFE had to offer below.

alan sands

Alan Sands with business partner Lisa

Alan Sands the Comedy Hypnotist

Bay Area, Calif.


How would you describe your act?

I call it PG12-and-a-half. It’s not naughty. It is nothing I would embarrass a priest of a nun with, but I’m not naughty enough to work in pubs. I’m a family show and it goes over the heads of anyone 12 and under.

Who are some performers that you look up to?

There’s many that I consider my mentors and major influences in my life. Terry Stokes Sr. was without a doubt a major influence in my performance. My father did hypnosis and magic, so he was my mentor in every way that you can imagine when I started out. There are people who have passed away like Ormond McGill who wrote the encyclopedia on stage hypnosis. I purposely went to my clinical training at a school where he was part of the staff.

What does your family think of your job?

My father passed away in 2008, but he was proud of me. He was glad that I could make a better living than he ever did. He was an artist. It takes three thrings to be star quality. One of them is god given talent, one of them is presentation and how you look when you walk on stage, and the third is marketing. If you have one of those things you’re an artist. If you have two of them, you’re a professional. You’ll make a living.

lady houdini

Kristen Johnson the Lady Houdini


How would you describe what you do?

It is a female escape artist stunt show. My signature piece is the full view water torture cell. I am the first person in history to do the water torture cell in full view. I get handcuffed, shackled, chains around my neck and waist and then I drop into 140 gallons of water. The lid is locked on. I have a hatch on the inside that has an additional lock owhich I must pick in order to get out. I am under water for about two and a half to three minutes on one breath.

How did you get started doing this act?

I actually started with my husband doing an illusion show. This is a second life kind of thing. I was in corporate America and my mother became ill and had to have surgery and chemo therapy. I was able to take leave from my job from a Fortune 100 company and run her business for two and a half years while she went through recovery. I started performing because it is an entertainment company that my mother owns. Ultimately, my husband and I decided to put an illusion show together. I started doing to escape because I wanted to be an equal part in the show and I didn’t want to be replaceable. I wanted to do something that was empowering, in particularly to young women and girls because I think that having strong role models is really important. If I can inspire someone who sees me and goes “If she can do that, I can do this.”

Do you have direct mentors or are you self-taught?

Some of it I gleamed from other performers. When I do an aerial I am working with circus performers. We work with riggers. I work with California Highway patrolmen on my handcuffs. I have a locksmith and a safe-cracker that will help me. I worked with a dive master for my breath-holding. It’s all about surrounding yourself with the people who have the skills you want to obtain. People have no idea what has gone into it for the training. I trained for over a year before I did the water cell.


Shawn Newborn from Balloonopolis

Columbia, South Carolina

How would you describe what you do?

We build large balloon installations. We come in a few days before the fair starts, build some basic structures so people have something to see when the fair opens and then we entertain by adding components and pieces to it. People can come by, watch us work, ask us questions and see the final product comes to life over the course of the first seven or eight days of the fair.

How did you get started doing this?

I started with balloons 16 years ago, sitting in a restaurant with my two little girls. They got a balloon animal from a gentleman and one popped on the way home, so I went out the next day and bought a book on balloons. I learned to make dogs and elephants. Now 16 years later I’ve gone from one balloon dog to 20,000 balloon carousels. We got into this because the manager of the South Carolina State Fair saw a small project we had done for a tradeshow booth and said “Could you take this and blow it up to full scale?” and I said “Sure I can” and now here we are. That was three years ago and we’ve been doing fairs since then.

What does your family think of your job?

My oldest daughter is about to turn 21, about to graduate from the University of South Carolina and she is a balloon artist. She wants to do this full time. She’s been a part of the business all along, but she’s becoming a real significant part now. And my parents, as long as I am paying the bills Dad is happy. He does wonder about the MBA and why I bothered. But you never know where life is going to take you.

What advice do you have for someone trying to get into your line of work?

It’s not like anything you’ve ever done before. It takes a lot of hard work and practice, but it is so incredibly rewarding.



From left Rob Nolli and Robert Castillo from BMX Trickstars

Rob Nolli from BMX Trickstars

Orlando, Florida

How did you get started doing this?

It was just fun for a kid. I had a bike when I was 10-years old. I also had a magazine that had tricks that other people were doing. Back then I was just reading the magazines and trying to imitate the tricks I would see. The better I got, the more fun it was and I’m still doing it 32 years later. I have a medal from the X Games. I competed professionally for over 10 years and now I just perform in the shows.

Who do you admire or look up to?

All the guys that were pros when I got into it, the guys who were in the magazines that I started out reading. Guys like Mat Hoffman and Kevin Jones are probably two of the bigger influences for me in our sport.

What does your family think of your job?

It’s all they’ve known since I’ve been doing it for so long. They are used to it and they benefit from it as well. My younger daughter gets to go on some of the trips and the family gets to travel. So they like it. I’m on the road about 200 days a year.

What advice do you have for someone trying to get into your line of work?

Just don’t give up. The kids, they get into and first year or two things don’t work out, so they get out of it and move onto the next thing. It’s got to be something that you want to do whether you are successful or not just because you enjoy it. So just don’t give up and have fun with it.


Twinkle from Twinkle Time

Los Angeles

How would you describe what you do?

I am a pop star for kids and the show is Twinkle Time. The show is high energy, very colorful and bilingual. I’m Hispanic. My mom is Peruvian. So I perform in English and Spanish. Sometimes we do a set all in Spanish, some locations we do a bilingual set, and then our normal set. It’s a glam rock pop concert for kids. When we travel, depending on budget, sometimes I do live to track. Our show is a spectacular so it is live singing, choreographed dancing, and then skits in between our songs. We also have a full live band, then it’s like Katy Perry meets KISS for kids.

How did you get started doing Twinkle Time?

I’ve been a performer my entire life. I’ve done everything from TV to Broadway. I have gold record from my girl band days. I was signed to Hollywood Records. My band was called Nobody’s Angel and we opened for Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys. When that stopped I started teaching kids and fell in love with teaching kids. What I realized was that they were listening to music that I grew up listening to like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the Itsy Bitsy Spider, which are great. But I wanted to do something cool and positive with music that we would all like to listen to. My music is very Gwen Stefani, very pop.

Can you tell us about a time you bombed a performance?

Kid audiences are so forgiving. The energy that they give you is so different than when I was in my pop girl days. I opened up for Ashanti and she was late. We were the opening act and people were booing us because we didn’t go on early enough. They were throwing pennies. But kids and families, they just get into it and love it.

We’ve had many shows where music cuts out and so you have to sing a capella with no mics. We’ve had those kind of nights, but as a performer you’re job is to always give a million percent. And if you’re not giving your all then get out. If I hadn’t gone through my years as a performer, when music cuts out or if someone is hurrying you off stage or you have gone over, I might not have known how to deal with those situations.

Who are some performers that you look up to?

I grew up listening to Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince. We were lucky. We had really good artists to look up to and to be influenced by. Gloria Estefan, Gwen Stefani. Gwen Stefani is such a role model because she started out with her band, then did her own thing. She still goes back to her band, has created this huge empire, and she’s always evolving. I also love Bruno Mars. He’s a showman all the way.

What does your family think of your job?

My parents are super supportive. I would not have gotten into this industry if it hadn’t been for my parents. They would drive me all the time to my auditions. They love that I am passionate about what I do.

What advice do you have for someone trying to get into your line of work?

You have to love what you do. There are different types of shows. You’ve got TV which is a super cushy gig and you have your performing arts centers. But then you have shows where you don’t have dressing rooms, you’re doing three shows a day. And three shows a day for three or four months, it can get really taxing if you don’t love what you do. Also, never give up. There are so many people who are going to shut doors on you and not get what you are trying to do. You have to believe in yourself.

Lou Mack

Lou Mack with Chewy

Lou Mack from Cool Dog Productions with Jump the Ultimate Dog Show

Las Vegas, Nevada

How would you describe what you do?

We produce trick dog shows for the amusement industry: theme parks, fairs, special events, half-time events. We travel around and educate folks on keeping our dogs happy and healthy. That’s through exercise and good nutrition. The fair shows, we perform with 10 dogs per show. It’s about a 30 minute show. It’s a produced show where we start from the 70s or the 80s or 90s and then we end with the new school tricks. We produce dock diving, racing, jumps, trick frisbee, novel pet tricks as well. We incorporate the crowd into the show and then we educate folks on pet adoption and spade and neutering as well.

How did you get started doing this?

I was a general contractor in my early twenties and my partner produced frisbee dog shows in Davis, Calif. We were workaholics at that time and he said why don’t you come see this show that I produce. I went and saw it and long story short I wound up finding a dog that won that day that ended up being one of the world’s greatest performing frisbee dogs. He won two world titles. He ended up being the mascot of the San Francisco 49ers. His name was Scooter the Wonder Dog.

Can you tell us about a time you nailed a performance?

We did a show for a NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This was about 10 years ago and they stuck me out there on the finish line and there were 100,000 people there. I was out on the speedway where they do the burnouts when they win. I’m out there and they hand me the mic and I said “I know there’s a lot of NASCAR fans out there, but how many dog fans out there?” and 100,000 people roared. I just got this rush and thought this is awesome.

Who are some performers that you look up to?

Evel Knievel was a big inspiration in my life. I spent a lot of time with him. I was kind of his second son. I learned a lot from Evel. He is very motivational and positive.

What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

I have a three-legged dog. His name is nubs. We get a lot of people who are vets that will fly in to be with nubs and take pictures with him. You can tell they just connect with this dog.