Inflatable Obstacle Course: Rental item of the week

Front view of a massive colorful obstacle course

Welcome to Rental item of the week, where every Thursday Bouncer Rental NW highlights pros and cons of a different rental item. We provide an in-depth review and suggestions on how to incorporate the rental into your next event. Our goal is to inspire event planners to be creatively bold and move outside the normal event scope. 

Welcome Seattle Event Planners! This week’s RIOTW is the inflatable obstacle course. The great thing about about obstacle courses is that they appeal to all age groups. Unlike a traditional bounce house that is only designed for kids up to age 12, teenagers and adults can participate in races. Most courses have separate lanes for the participants, meaning that parents can race against their children without risking a potentially dangerous interaction. The biggest cause of injuries in inflatables comes from larger participants falling on the smaller ones and obstacle courses conveniently rid events of this issue.

In addition to great safety features, obstacle courses can be incredibly large, impressive rental items that can help you theme out your event. They have high throughput, allowing two individuals to enter the ride approximately every 30 seconds (at least 240 people per hour). Rides with high throughput are always preferable for large events because of their ability to constantly entertain more guests. As opposed to a bounce house that can only service 6 to 8 children every few minutes, the constant flow of guests gives the added psychological impression of constantly moving lines.

So what exactly does an inflatable obstacle course consists of? Most courses consist of  four different actions; weaving, squeezing, climbing, and sliding. More often than not, the challenges present themselves in that order, though on larger tracks there can be multiple iterations of each. Participants start by weaving through multiple upright vinyl pillars. The pillars aren’t particularly difficult to get past, but when you are running through racing your best friend, they can definitely trip you up. Following the weaving section comes two horizontal vinyl columns so close together you can’t always see through them. You have to force the air out of the baffles and push your way through. The limited space makes this harder for adults than it is for children. Players will then encounter a wall of varying heights (depending on the obstacle course). The wall will usually have foot and hand holds and isn’t particularly challenging to climb, but doing so fast will take some serious effort. The final and most fun leg of the course is the slide. Guest will race down the slide (feet first!) and out the exit in attempts to be the first one out and rejoice in their glory.

If you want to increase the challenge, you can rent several obstacle courses, or incorporate other non-bouncy challenge items. Great options include last weeks Monster Trikes, mud pits, tires, and whatever else you might be able to get your hands on that is lying around.

So now that you have established that obstacle courses are definitely something you want to be a part of your event, how you can integrate the attraction into the overall mood of the party? Fortunately, these inflatables come in a large number of varieties. Match them to your events theme, or get inspired to create a theme from the one you choose to rent. Here are some examples of themed courses:

Wild West – Get your cowboy on! Clearly a good rental for Western themed parties. Other great events it can compliment are Chili Cook-offs, Rodeos, Ho-downs, and any other Southwest special occasions.

Treasure of the Caribbean – This pirate themed obstacle course is both impressive in size and decor. While it is an obvious choice for pirate themed events, you could also have it at a pirates of the Caribbean outdoor movie party, seafood cook off, or day at the pier.

Crash Course – The mother of all race car themed inflatables. This massive figure-eight race track is both challenging and great looking. A great centerpiece for any Nascar or Formula 1 party.

When booking your obstacle course rental, remember that these inflatables are typically on the larger side of things. If your event is indoors make sure you have ample room in a high ceilinged gymnasium or conference space. If outdoors, just make sure your party area is large enough and you plan for the footprint of the ride accordingly. Thanks for joining us for this weeks Rental item of the week. We look forward to setting up an obstacle course at your next Seattle company picnic location.


Tips for Planning a School Carnival

Girl playing on an inflatable ride at her school carnival!

Your school carnival will be the talk of the town!

Schools all over Washington have been hosting carnivals for the past several decades. One of the unique features of a school carnival is that the event is organized by a different group of PTA parents every year.  This can give the Carnival a fresh look every year, but also means that the planners are starting from scratch. Often, the PTA doesn’t know where to start this daunting task, so here are a few tips when you are ready to get started.

1. Pick A Date

Pick a date for your upcoming school calendar

June 7th, 2013 is booking up fast!

Before you can do anything else, you need to decide when you will be entertaining hundreds of families. Most schools host their carnivals onsite, so make sure you communicate with your principal on what day you would like to celebrate.  Most school carnivals take place on a Friday evening starting around 5pm.  Consider picking a Monday through Thursday instead. Many equipment vendors will give you a 20% discount for not booking on a Friday through Sunday. Additionally, carnivals that have switched their date to a weekday see higher attendance as people haven’t left for weekend trips or other family activities. If you are charging to participate, more people means more money for your school.



2. Decide Whether To Charge Or Not

Budget, demographics, and previous history are all important variables to consider when making this decision. Knowing who is attending your carnival is the most important. Can the attending families afford to pay for tickets if you decide to charge?  What is your PTA budget and will you be able to eat the cost of hosting the carnival for free? Have you charged in previous years? If you have charged, how much did you charge per ticket?  We have seen successful carnivals that are free to attend and participate as well as pay-to-play events that actually generate money for the school. Make sure you take everything into consideration when making the determination.


3. Know Your District’s Risk Management Regulations

Every school district has different restrictions on what they allow at the schools. These rules and regulations are determined by ‘Risk Management Groups’ and are constantly changing. Recently, King County School District’s risk management group changed their rules on inflatables. Any inflatables that kid’s can enter and jump around in are no longer allowed. This includes obstacle courses, bouncers, and combo units. Interestingly enough, inflatable slides are still a viable option with their new rules. If you are planning a school carnival in Seattle and you have depended on traditional inflatables in the past, you will have to look at alternative entertainment options. Another common risk management rule is no standing water at the event. If your school has had a dunk tank in the past, you will have to look into dunk tank alternatives. Whatever equipment you decide on, make sure you communicate with your risk management director to avoid a potential conflict.


Pirate themed events are fun for everyone!4. Choose A Theme

Increase the excitement at you carnival by choosing a unique theme every year. While not absolutely necessary, it can make everything a lot more fun for all of the families involved. Choose from themes like Plundering Pirates, Wild West Rodeo, Hawaiian Luau, or Classic Carnival.  Pick your equipment and decorations to match. You can make most of your own decorations using construction paper and other simple craft items. Themes will help turn your event into an experience that families won’t soon forget.


5. Pick Your Entertainment Vendors

There are plenty of activities that you can host without the help of a professional vendor.  Some options are a cake walk, homemade carnival games, pizza by the slice, and field activities. If you want to bring in unique entertainment such as inflatables, performers, or mechanical rides, search for local rental companies and call them to determine pricing and availability. Before selecting your vendor make sure they are a fully insured, licensed, and inspected company and that safety is their top priority. If you have picked a theme, find out if they have inflatables or carnival games that coordinate with the event.

Once you have selected a rental company, you will need to work with them to get the equipment you want within your budget. You can often get discounts by providing volunteers to run the attractions. If you are having trouble enlisting parent volunteers, offer incentives such as free tickets or food for their children.


6. Execute Your Event

Once you have all your ducks in a row, you are ready to have a school carnival! The week of the event, touch base with your entertainment vendors and verify times, location, and equipment. Make sure you have your army of volunteers lined up to help decorate and coordinate.  Double check with the school facilities management that you have enough power to run all of your attractions. If everything is ready to go, your school carnival should go off without a hitch.

You should now have some direction if you are just starting the process of hosting a school carnival. It’s almost March, so make sure you start planning if you haven’t already. Rental companies book out early and have limited availability. If you still have questions, just ask your local rental company! They will be more than happy to assist you with planning every step of the way.