Bouncers, Moonwalks, and Inflatables: A Who’s Who and What’s What For Renting A Jump House


Child jumping in bouncycastle

Party Planning. What are Bouncers?

So you’re planning a party and are looking at bouncers for rent, or is it a moonwalk? No, it’s a bouncycastle. Castle!? But your kids don’t even like Harry Potter. Why does this party rental website call it an obstacle course bouncy house? What’s the difference between that and a regular inflatable obstacle course, and what the heck is a hard ride?

If you’ve ever wanted to rent an inflatable activity or game for kids you may have found yourself asking the above questions? If so, worry no longer. This blog should help clear the blurry lines that lie between the oft confusing lexicon of we inflatable carny folk.

Inflatables, or Inflatable Attractions, are all devices that are designed to elicit enjoyment and are comprised of high-strength fabric or film that achieve structural stability and shape through the persistent application of air forced throughout its superstructure. Within that particular genus are two distinct species: inflatable rides and inflatable games. The governing bodies in charge of amusement regulations for the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia distinguish the two by the composition of the “floor.” If the floor is filled with air it is an inflated ride, if not it is a game. So, while the Mega Thrill Obstacle Course is considered to be a ride, the giant hamster ball race (a.k.a. The Rat Race) is considered to be a game even though the Zorb Balls in which participants race are inflated, because the track’s floor is a single non-inflated layer of heavy duty vinyl. Ironically, inflated twister is considered to be a ride. It can be somewhat confusing, but the good news is that the difference is usually only meaningful to those in the industry. The one exception is if you try to research an inflatable amusement company’s state certification. Websites like that of the West Virginia’s Department of Labor: Division of Amusement Rides list each of an amusement company’s rides that The State has inspected and certified. So, if you are concerned about the legitimacy of the inflatable company as well as the safety of your guests and don’t see a particular bouncycastle on it don’t fret until you’ve used the aforementioned criteria to determine that it is a “ride” and not a “game.”

A History of Bouncers

You may be surprised to learn that inflatables have been around since 1959 when mechanical engineer and plastics specialist John Scurlock began designing and experimenting with inflated pool and tennis court covers only to discover his employees jumping on them. Mr. Spurlock was a pragmatist and was really only interested in the practical applications of his inventions.  Therefore, while between stints at NASA, he focused his creative efforts on inflated tents, domes, and the safety air bags still used by fire and rescue as well as Hollywood stuntmen today. It would be nearly a decade later in a city renowned for its frivolities that would first begin the manufacturing and then renting of bouncers to schools, birthday parties, corporate events, and more. John’s wife, Frances, saw the possibilities and founded the company that would eventually be known as Space Walk, which is still family owned and operated today.

In the pursuing years, inflatable amusements have evolved considerably, from materials used to safety features. While the Space Walk company began by manufacturing small non-sided bouncers, decades later inflatables now come in all shapes and sizes. Today there are inflatable fun houses shaped like monsters that stretch half a football field in length and incorporate animatronics, sound effects, lighting effects, and other special effects. Portable laser tag arenas have become a very popular inflatable game. You may have seen the Giant Human Sized Hamster Ball, or Zorb, Races that have been gaining in popularity in the last couple of years. Even mechanical bulls are considered by many states to be inflatable amusements. Most recently inflatable water slides have made a splash into the inflatable amusement arena.

So What Are Bouncers?

Exciting and portable mobile mechanical hard ride. The Gyro Extreme

Exciting and portable mobile mechanical hard ride. The Gyro Extreme

However, what you want to know is what is the difference between bouncers and jump houses. The answer is (dunt dunt DAAA) nothing. They are two different names for the exact same thing, an inflatable ride in which you jump or bounce. They are known as space walks, moonwalks, bouncycastles, bounce houses, jump houses and more.  When you see a website add the words “bounce house” as a suffix to any other inflatable, as in obstacle course bounce house or bungee run bounce house, it is only there for one reason: SEO purposes (that is, to increase the likely hood that their site shows up at the top of a Google search). An obstacle course bounce house is just an obstacle course, and a bungee run bounce house is just a bungee run.

Now we move on to hard rides. Hard rides are just that, mechanical amusement rides (a.k.a. carnival rides) primarily made of solid materials (i.e. steel, plastic, fiberglass, or aluminum). They can be a massive stationary rollercoaster, or a smaller but still exciting mobile Gyro Extreme spinning ride. The main difference between hard rides and inflatable attractions, aside from their construction materials, is that of passivity or lack thereof. A mechanical ride moves the riders, while an inflatable ride provides a venue for the riders to move themselves. For example, the carousel at the county fair moves kids and adults up and down and around while an inflatable obstacle course just sits there and waits for you to run through it.

Well there you have it, more than you ever wanted to know about bouncers and inflatable and mechanical rides and games. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.


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