There’s something about shooting produce out of an air powered cannon that attracts crowds and opens wallets. We have found that a well-done cannon type attraction can add many thousands of dollars of revenue to your bottom-line each season. In this article we are going to give some tips and tricks to making sure your launchers are safe and your guests are lining up to give it a try.
Make it irresistibly fun!
Picture this awesome looking cannon fully loaded and ready to shoot. The guest walks up, hits the trigger, and the produce soars through the air into ….. an empty field. Give your guests something fun to hit! Here are some of the things we have done in the past (keep in mind that all our mazes were themed)
On a presidential election year, we had George Bush inside a pickup truck, John Kerry sitting in a speed boat, and Osama Bin Laden hiding out in a porta-potty. We had turned our corn cannon area into an army-like bunker with camouflage netting and sand bags. People loved taking out the opposing candidate or fighting the war on terrorism.
For our Bears and Packers theme we had popular players from the teams, cheerleaders, field goal posts, referees, and more. Our guests could take out their frustration from that weekend’s game.
For our NASCAR theme we had a variety of cars including one that was suspended from its bumper from a 14’ high cross beam.
Set it up like the laser BB Gun game at the carnival with a cabin, with stuff on the porch and in the yard to hit. The more noise or damage that gets done when a target is hit, the more your guests will keep coming back to do it again.
Make it a contest
Hitting stuff is a ton of fun. Setting it up so they have a chance to win something is even better!
Give away prizes for hitting certain targets. It can be as simple as a free snack from your concession stand or something more valuable for that hard to hit target.
One year we used bowling pins strategically place around our other larger targets. If certain bowling pins were hit, they won a T-Shirt. At Leatherberry Acres, they have a pumpkin cannon that shoots nearly 1000’. Anybody who hits the Van parked around the 850’ mark wins $50. (Listen to their podcast interview for more details). The desire to win a prize can be another motivation for your guests to keep trying. Get creative with your contests!
Make it efficient
Don’t get cheap when it comes to your compressor. We have tried many different things over the years but it didn’t take us long to learn that a commercial tow behind compressor is the key to keeping up with the heavy demand that you will see on your busy days.
Lines get long and people get impatient if your staff has to stop and wait for the compressor to build up pressure or are not happy when the low pressure they experience during their turn results in weak propulsion.
The additional money you will make be keeping up with demand will far out-weigh the cost of the tow-behind rental in most cases. We are big believers in sponsors and most years, our tow-behind compressor was provided by a sponsor.
A couple other efficiency tips:
Have a place to buy tickets for the cannons close-by or allow your staff to accept cash at the station. There are many times where in the “heat of the moment” guests will want to keep going and are ready to pay for more shots. If they have to get out of the line to get more tickets, you may have lost that additional sale.
Staff heavy. If you are running multiple cannons, have enough staff there to keep the produce stocked and cannons loaded as quickly as possible on those high volume days. It will make a big difference to your bottom line and will far out-weigh the staffing costs.
Make sure your staff is trained how to effectively handle the typical jams, barrel changes and other functionality issues that will occur without having to track you down for assistance.
Buy shucked corn. Don’t hope your staff will be able to shuck enough corn during the slow times to keep up with demand on the busy times
Don’t be afraid to re-use. Not all produce will hit their target and as such some of it can be gathered and re-used. A great way to keep your profit margins up. Just be sure the cannons are shut-off when the staff is out reclaiming the produce ammo.
Make it safe!
These cannons will present one of the higher risk activities that you offer. There are several things that you should do to ensure the safety of your staff and guests:
Shut-off switch for loading. Whether you are building or buying a cannon, a shut-off switch is a must. After each shot, your staff member hits a switch so the cannon cannot be fired accidentally while loading.
Limited Swing. The barrel of your cannons should have mechanical limits put in place so it has a limited range of motion both side-to-side as we well as up and down. This will prevent someone from spinning the cannon around and firing somewhere other than the target range.
Front Barrier. Your cannon barrels should extend slightly over a fence or other barrier. This will eliminate the possibility of a staff member or guest accidentally wandering in front of the barrel but still allows for effective loading and operation by your staff.
Fenced Target area. Be sure your target area is fenced off. This will eliminate the possibility of guests wandering into the battle zone. It will also keep guests from climbing on potentially dangerous targets such as old cars, etc.
Target Backdrop. Be sure your cannons are firing towards an area where it won’t matter if the produce sails further than expected. You will find that there is a perfect size that will increase the distance of your shots significantly. As such you want to be sure you don’t run the risk of shooting into people, buildings, or cars
Air powered cannons such as a corn cannon or pumpkin cannon can be a great draw to your venue. If I were starting a new Agritourism venue, this would definitely be on the list to offer in year 1. You can put them alongside your apple slingshot for more options for your guests while using the same staff and targets.
I believe the key in making it irresistibly fun is in the targets you give them to hit and the contests that go with it. Be creative! The more creative you are the more revenue you should generate. Lock and Load!