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  • Free admission helps New Yorks Oswego County Fair

    Robin Seaman, secretary of the Agricultural Society of Oswego County, New York, believes there is one word that may have significantly contributed to the overall success of the 2014 Oswego County Fair - FREE.

    As it has been for several years, admission to the fair was free and parking was free. That way, people could roam in and out of the fair day after day as they desired. They could eat all they wanted, explore all they wanted and ride all of the rides they wanted. Of course, they had to pay for the rides, but the concept gave everybody a sense of freedom they would not have felt in another setting, she said.

    The weather was grand and everything went very well for the run of the fair from July 2 through July 6.ƒnƒn"We had a little rain here and there, said Seaman.ƒnMaybe it rained just a little every day. But it was definitely nothing like the year before. Last year, it rained hard every single day. It was a washout."
    It was hard to keep track of the attendance numbers with fairgoers roaming in and out of the main gate, but it was not hard to see that there was record-breaking attendance at the BMX motor cross show and also at the demolition derby, she said.

    One of the most popular shows at the fair was an old-time lumber jack show, where men demonstrated the historic traditions behind cutting the timber from rural forests.
    Another popular act featured at this year¡¦s fair was "Buffalo Barfield and his wife Michele, aka ¡¥Miss Rumadean¡¦". Barfield is a singer, songwriter, storyteller and country Comedian who has written songs in country, bluegrass, gospel and children¡¦s music genres. He also plays multiple instruments like guitar, mandolin, harmonica, spoons, Cajun/ƒÊydeco rub board and Cajun accordion.

    The old-time country music show presented by Barfield and Barfield is presented like great traditional country music shows such as The Grand Old Opry and the 70ƒus country variety show "Hee-Haw".

    "We had no known national acts but plenty of entertainment," said Seaman.

    There were also truck and tractor pulls, arts and crafts exhibits and competitions, a popular bearded iris show that attracted people from all over the state of New York, a dog show and a regional talent show.

    This year was the 167th fair for Oswego County, said Seaman. It¡¦s been going on since 1857 except for the World War I and World War II years. It¡¦s always been based on Oswego County¡¦s proud agricultural traditions and is owned and operated by the Agricultural Society of Oswego County, in Sandy Creek, New York.

    The fair was advertised throughout the county and around the region through newspapers, billboards, radio, television, social media and a traffic alert operated by the local sheriff¡¦s department, according to Seaman. Advertising fliers were also sent out to local businesses, and the fair had its own website.

    Sandy Creek, New York is located on the western border of Lake Ontario. It¡¦s about 44 miles north of Syracuse, New York. The theme of the fair this year was "Pride in Oswego County."

    The county is probably most famous for an incident that happened in 1835. That¡¦s when Sandy Creek resident Thomas Meacham decided to make the world¡¦s largest cheese as a gift to President Andrew Jackson. The finished product was four feet in diameter, two feet thick and weighed nearly 1,400 pounds. The cheese was delivered and sat at the White House until February 22, 1836 when the president invited the public to come to the White House and eat the cheese. This event was made famous in an episode of the television show The West Wing.

    There was no free cheese at the fair this year, but new to the fair were alpacas, those llama-like animals - except somewhat smaller than llamas  - prized for the fiber content of their coats. Three times a day, visitors had the chance to walk an alpaca. All you had to do was sign up at the barn corner.
    In and around the barn area, you could also contact the animal experts whose job it was to answer any and all questions fairgoers could come up with that had to do with animals.

    "Ask Me" experts were available at all times to answer the public¡¦s questions about animals and about Oswego County agriculture. Anyone wearing an "Ask Me" T-shirt was available to offer their expertise. The "Ask Me" program was provided by the Oswego County 4H, Oswego County Fair and the Tractor Supply Company.
    Since 1858, the fair has featured fun for the entire family including children¡¦s activities, tractor pulls, demolition derby, rides, commercial vendors selling their wares, a wide variety of food and attractions and much more.

    The agricultural competitions and exhibits were a big part of the fair this year, just as they are every year.

    "Almost all of the youth in the county participate in 4H," said Seaman. "There aren¡¦t as many farms here now as there once were, but we still have lots of farms in the area. Oswego remains rural."

    There were youth and meat goat shows, a junior and open poultry show and dairy show. There was harness racing, a spelling bee and an Oreo stacking contest for senior citizens. There was a skillet throwing contest and a frozen T-shirt contest.  Military Appreciation Day was held on Friday, July 4. The day included exhibits on the Civil War as well as on other veteran¡¦s research projects.

    Sunday, July 6, was Fraternal Organization Day, when the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution and members of the American Legion, Masonic orders and Eastern Star, the Grange and Lions were welcomed to the fair. There were also exhibits displayed about several of the organizations.

    Seaman said she thought one of the best events was held on the day before the fair opened. Children with special needs were invited to enjoy the fair and to ride the rides for free all afternoon on "Special Times for Special People" Day.

    During that event, the local businesses group held the first of its drawings for free bicycles. Four or five bikes a day - complete with bike helmets - were handed out to youngsters at the fair, Seaman said.

    "It¡¦s a great program, and it always goes very well," she said.

  • Carnival Americana 2014 Season Shines with New Look

    A little more than half-way through his season, which runs February through October and covers Texas, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota, Alan Cockerham, owner of Carnival Americana, is upbeat about business specifically and the fair industry in general.  "Our schedule continues to grow and this season is going well," he told Carnival Warehouse.

    Carnival Americana operates a single unit of 15-50 rides, with 15 fairs and/or comparable events listed on his website calendar. "There are many factors that go into whether a season is good is not, and weather plays a bigger contributing factor than the economy to how well the midway performs," he said.

    Cockerham admits the weather has mostly favored the fairs on his 2014 circuit; while hesitant to prognosticate about the economy, he acknowledges some signs that consumer confidence continues to strengthen. "Things may be a little better than last year," he said.

    "They have not gotten worse. The fairs are well attended and people may be spending more.  Our numbers are up compared to this time last year, but last year we had a good year too."

    Fair Industry Strong
    Cockerham declined to go into detail about the extent of the increase as of mid-July 2014 compared to mid-July 2013, but he is confident about the viability of the industry he has spent his life in. "People are still going to spend money on the fair, if you give them good value. The Fair industry is strong and continues to be strong. The Fair industry is so sensitive about every little glitch, such as fuel prices or all the other indicators. But what I care about is seeing that people are at the midway with smiles on their faces and are happy. The fair industry is healthy because we deliver a good product."

    In other words, don't sweat the small stuff and stay true to solid, proven values.  "I keep a positive outlook in everything I do, and anytime I can make improvements, I do," said Cockerham. "We are constantly reinventing and reinvigorating Carnival Americana, so we are confident about this season and the future."
    Cockerham has been in the business 45 years, and was General Manager for Bill Hames Shows, before starting Carnival Americana. "We're an extension of the Bill Hames Shows, and we are building on that tradition he started."

    Fresh Look, New Vertigo
    But that tradition does not mean living in the past or being satisfied to rest on their laurels. Carnival Americana gave its midway a makeover this year, generating a new excitement that has been well received. "We have a fresher look this year," said Cockerham. "We have a strong winter headquarter program and refurbished our equipment with a variety of bright and vibrant finishes. We improved the product, we have a more colorful midway appearance, which fairs really appreciate."
    The exterior enhancement of the midway though is part of the Carnival Americana philosophy, "We continue to reinvent ourselves, and the fresher look is probably the most noticeable change this year," he said.

    The most attention-grabbing ride is a new A.R.M Vertigo Ride. "This new ride is a highlight of this year, it is extremely popular. At any of our fairs, it runs full the entire day."

    One area of the midway that continues to thrive, if in a more limited capacity than the newest ride, has been the games of skill and chance.

    "Games are doing very well," said Cockerham.

    Where many other companies have found games to be an increasingly anemic component of the midway, this less is more approach has enabled Carnival Americana to retain a thriving game business. "With our game operation we don't book any outside games, we handle them all," he said. "We don't overcrowd the games section. There's not a lot of competition in the midway. We have a few, select games that do well and are popular."

    Fair Partnering
    During the 2014 fair season for Carnival Americana, Cockerham identified a trend that has been growing in recent years, maintaining a closer marketing relationship between fairs and midways. "We have always been strong in marketing for the carnival, and actually used to do a lot of self-promotions, which we still do of course," he said.

    "This year we are partnering more with the fairs for their promotions, especially their pre-sale programs."

    In fact, the ticketing relationship with fairs has noticeably reaped rewards in 2014. "Fairs are doing a much a better job in their own ticket department, by packaging admission with other events and with the midway in their ticket sales," said Cockerham. "Fairs are offering better discounts and in a better way too. We partner with the promotions that are being handled through the fairs and those promotions are effective."

    Carnival Warehouse spoke with Cockerham about his midway reflections while he was little more than mid-fair at Cheyenne Frontier Days – the largest outdoor rodeo in the nation – held in Cheyenne, Wyoming since 1897. "We've had great weather and our numbers our up," said Cockerham.

    "This is a really a first class event. Our midway has been well received, everybody is raving about the appearance of our midway."

    Brazos Valley
    The most exciting new gig for Carnival Americana in 2014 will be the Brazos Valley Fair & Exposition  in Bryan, Texas, one of the youngest fairs in the Lone Star State. The Brazos Valley Fair & Exposition first opened in 2012. This 4-day fair and rodeo attracted 16,000+ attendees, including more than 900 entries in livestock and competitive events, It was awarded the Best New CPRA Rodeo of the Year in 2012.

    The Brazos Valley Fair & Exposition  runs October 16-19. This long time midway provider is eagerly anticipating the event, the final stop on the 2014 circuit. "Brazos Valley has become a good regional event in a relatively short time," said Cockerham. "They sought us out as their carnival, and were able to arrange their dates to accommodate our schedule, which was very generous. They want to improve their midway.

    It was quite an honor to be selected by them and I am really looking forward to the fair."

    An early stop for Carnival Americana is the South Texas Fair in Beaumont, Texas, (March 26  - April 7). Cockerham has been a long-term relationship with this event (Hames was the fair's previous midway provider), where he operates a full-capacity midway – 50 rides. In late April, he told Carnival Warehouse: "Per capita spending is basically unchanged from last year. The South Texas Fair is a very good fair on my circuit, it is a good-sized fair."

    The Carnival Americana season is rounded out by smaller, Colorado events, including Community Carnival ( June 6 -15), in  Highlands Ranch, Greeley Stampede (June 26 - July 5) in Greenly, and the Larimer County Fair and the Loveland (August 1 - 5).  "The smaller  fairs do very well, and they round out our season, and they act as a bridge between the other fairs," he said.

    One the other side of the western fair spectrum is the Central States Fair & Rodeo in Rapid City, S.D., which runs August 15 - 24 and features a 35-ride midway. "This is a very major fair," said Cockerham.

    "There is a lot going at that fair, and 35 is about all the rides we can fit on the fairgrounds. It is always well attended and a good fair for us."

    The most noticeable contrast between the spring, summer and fall dates is not so much the revenue but the differences in peak demand. "Summer means vacation for the kids," said Cockerham. "It doesn't really have any bearing on our overall success, but it does affect our daily operations. We open earlier, which seems to level off the traffic.

    There is more consistent traffic throughout the entire fair, the weekends can be more moderate, versus the spring and fall, which are always very weekend oriented, and there can be more crowds in a shorter span of time."

  • Delaware's Attendance Increase Formula: Updated Marketing, New Facilities, Bigger Midway, Sold-Out Concerts

    Fair organizers declared the 2014 edition of the Delaware State Fair successful, but no single reason can explain the positive result. The main factors were conducive weather, a concert line-up that beat the booking challenges plaguing this summer's entertainment market, a re-imagined plaza that encouraged fairgoers to stay longer and an expanded midway - and while individually each factor may not have been sufficient on its own, together they added up to a popular, thus prosperous, 2014 Delaware State Fair.

    "The fair did incredibly well in the aggregate, per-capita spending was up across the board," said William J. DiMondi, General Manager. "We are not a percentage sale fair and so our informal polling of the concessionaires indicated sales were up significantly. Everyone was very positive about this fair."

    Slow Grazing Temperatures
    He added, "there were more bodies, the meteorological conditions were favorable, which lended itself to cause slow grazing by the fairgoers, they were eating and drinking more. They couldn't help but come earlier than they usually might to the fair, and were slow to go to their cars. When we have a heat index of 105, after the show people made a beeline to their cars."

    Although late spring and early summer tended towards the wet and stormy for the Mid-Atlantic region, by midsummer the temperatures hovered in the comfort zone of the 80s. The Delaware Sate Fair saw attendance jump by nearly 25 percent - topping 282,000 - for this July event, which ran July 23 to August 1. "The biggest contributor was the weather," said DiMondi. "We had a string of ten days and ten nights, where it was low temperatures and mild weather. At night, people were wearing sweatshirts and hoodies. Usually we have boiling heat for least a few days, but not this year."

    Improved Economy
    According to Danny R. Aguilar, Assistant GM & Director of Marketing, some of the uptick in attendee numbers can also be attributed to an improving economy, which fair promotions help extend by offering discounts and other price promotions. "The concert attendance and overall gate attendance does represent a recovery of purchasing power and disposable income for fair patrons."

    Things may have improved, but money is still tight and many of more effective promotions the fair implemented revealed a sensitivity to patron's pocketbooks. Delaware State Fair promotions were underscored by offering fairgoers value.
    "With the recession it is challenging for folks to justify spending," said Aguilar. "In order to make the fair more accessible in times of recovery, we offer multiple days for admission discount, as well as discounted multi-day passes, carnival ride deals and discounts, etc. The challenge is still out there as the region rebuilds from economic hardship, however, with 3 sold out shows, and increased gate attendance, it is recognizable that recovery is in progress."

    Major promotions for the 2014 Delaware State Fair included: Pepsi Day - $2 off admission with any Pepsi Product; Food Lion Hunger Relief Day - free admission for five Food Lion (a regional supermarket chain) brand canned goods, which were then donated to the Food Bank of Delaware; Monday Ride Madness - discounted carnival ride discount available at 10 local Food Lions; Kids' Day - free gate admission for those 17 years and younger; Seniors' Days - two days of free gate admission to senior citizens, 65 years and older; Armed Forces Day - anyone with valid military identification receives free gate admission.
    Concerts Sell-Out
    The concert lineup at the fair's M&T Bank Grandstand included name acts such as Train, McClain, Keith Urban, Brantley Gilbert, Jeremy Camp, and Lady Antebellum, with ticket prices ranging from $16 to $94.

    According to DiMondi, this year's line-up and profitability were an improvement over last year, with 3 sold out shows. But considering the talent buyers' market, he attributes the success to "luck."

    DiMondi describes the situation as a sellers market, with competition and challenges as stringent as ever. "It is increasingly difficult to get big name groups and acts, especially in the country genre, because there are so many sheds and now so many festivals and only so many tours. Booking windows have tightened, and there are more radius clauses in contracts."

    The Delaware State Fair is equidistant between Philadelphia and Washington D.C./Baltimore, thus impacted by radius clauses from two vastly profitable urban markets, further complicating booking. "It takes longer and longer for confirmation," he said. "It's best if you can put some shows on sale by Christmas but now it's closer to January and February. But that is only one or two, and we are booking perilously closer to the fair date. If they are not touring, then you are into paying for a one-off, flying them in, renting equipment and instruments for their backline, but that gets cost prohibitive."

    Unfortunately, DiMondi doesn't see the entertainment market shifting closer to a more favorable buyer's climate. In addition to nationally renowned music acts, the grandstand also featured two demolition derbies. Aguilar added that the fair's "rodeo was revamped, and brought back to the main stage at the grandstand."
    Re-Invented Plaza
     The 2014 Delaware State Fair also featured the grand re-opening of the Discover Bank Plaza, which underwent a comprehensive renovation and expanding, transforming the facility into an anchor of the fair, featuring seven hours of daily entertainment and new food vendors.

    With the various agricultural exhibits - including a new Poultry building - the bedrock core of the Delaware Sate Fair, as well as attractions such as the Hollywood Circus, the Giraffe Menagerie Petting Zoo, and the Hollywood Racing Pigs, fairgoers are often lured to various parts of the fair, while missing other enticements. The Discover Bank Plaza, directly adjacent to the M&T Bank Grandstand, has been transformed into a "hub of entertainment, a friendly gathering place, a central focal point of the layout of the fair and a place to relax and grab a bite to eat," said DiMondi. "We not only renovated, but reconstructed the plaza, increasing its capacity by 75 percent."

    The selected food vendors - mainly deserts and a woodfire pizza - reflect a more laid back atmosphere compared to the antic-driven excitement of the fair. This calmer respite from the noisy, glittering fair excitement gave patrons the opportunity to pause, which in turn also achieved a needed objective of any fair- encouraging attendees to linger. "Because of our new plaza, people stayed longer at the fair, and if they stay longer enjoying themselves, they are spending more," said DiMondi.
    Donuts Delight
     The fair also added new grounds entertainment, further inducing fairgoers not to leave, including Hockey Circus Show featuring Paz, an acrobat and juggler; Junk Rock, which makes music on "found" instruments, such as trash cans and shopping carts, and Cutting Edge Dueling Pianos, an all request show. "These new acts took off, with many great reviews from fairgoers," said Aguilar.

    There were 96 food vendors, with new vendors including Chester's Tators & Gators, Georgie's Steamed Crabs, Pickle Barrel Sirloin Tips, Outlaw Fries, and Spaghetti Eddie's Homemade Italian Foods. According to Aguilar, the newest trend in fair cuisine indicates a direction away from the traditional food items. "these vendors offer non-typical fair foods that are just as delicious as their names imply," he said.

    The most popular of the newer food concessionaires at the Delaware State fair was Nothing Better, which specialized in mini-donuts. "They offered a variety of donut flavors including the hit flavor, cheesecake."
    Wade Midway Expands
    According to DiMondi, the Wade Shows midway had an increase of 17 percent in revenue and he credits the ride selection. Wade Shows featured 55 rides, the largest Delaware midway for the provider in its 11-year stay at this end-of-July event.

    "Wade played it right this year given the cooler temperatures," said DiMondi. "I'm not sure if they routed their units in anticipation of the weather, but they didn't bring the water slide or water boat rides, which people go on to cool down. The rides they brought were weather appropriate and the crowds responded."

    "We had a fantastic fair in Delaware, it was either a record or near record," said Frank Zaitshik of Wade Shows. "It was the best year in the last five years. We are so weather dependent, but we got great weather, we had great rides and the fair has great management. You put those three things together, you get record revenue."

    Wade Shows increased the size of its Delaware ride arsenal for this year, including a First State debut of the Rock Star. "A very popular ride," Zaitshik said. "New rides creates excitement and enthusiasm, but also we were able to add rides, our ride capacity increased and we were able to accommodate demand. When people got to the midway, they were pleasantly surprised and pleased that the waiting times were less."

    Zaitshik added that Wade Shows just signed a new long term contract with Delaware, but adds, "We don't look at the length of a contract, we look at our presentation and we make our best presentation every day of the year and at every spot we play."

    Market Research & Implementation
    Selecting the optimum rides, food vendors and entertainment - and the unplanned pieces of luck like good weather - are all crucial components of a successful summer event.

    Delaware added another ingredient creating a cohesiveness making the whole surpass the parts. According Aguilar, while the media mix for fair marketing is undergoing the predictable shift towards increased use of digital platforms, the emphasis is on identifying the various segments of fairgoer, with an approach that "targets multiple generations through our marketing efforts. As we strategize to reach these clusters of fairgoers, we evaluate the best use of media . We still utilize the traditional print medium,  highlighting human interest stories and a full schedule of events in the newspaper. Another traditional marketing tactic we use is radio advertising; targeting similar customer segments through genres/styles of music based on radio station genre and geographic reach."

    Delaware Fair 2014 marketing began in the days following the previous year's event. At the conclusion of the 2013 fair, Aguilar implemented a comprehensive marketing study, following a review of the results from a customer survey of that year's fairgoers.

    "We researched further how our fairgoers were consuming information," he explained. "How are we reaching the most people based on their responses? With this information in tow, we strategized how to effectively divide our marketing mix and outreach to consumers over multiple platforms while keeping a strong, synergistic approach with the marketing message. We focused in on the most effective ways to reach our consumers that would yield the greatest return for both their information needs and our marketing efforts."

    In addition to targeting how to optimize utilizations of traditional media platforms, social media platforms -Twitter, Facebook, Google Ads, YouTube, etc. - were taken advantage of for what they did best:

    "Direct marketing campaigns to reach our consumers in a more personable way," said Aguilar. "With the average consumer demands for increased, personal customer relationship needs and connection to a brand, we have found that continuing to be highly interactive and present through social media has benefitted the overall social media efforts of the Fair. Consumers are looking for a more specialized experience, and interacting directly with our consumers through social media during the off-season and through Fair week promotes the customer-brand connection we are looking to have with fairgoers."

  • Winona Steamboat Days:  Lighting up the Mississippi

    Although the Mississippi River is often associated with the Deep South, its source is actually in northern Minnesota.  Wikipedia explains that it then "meanders slowly southwards for 2,340 miles..."

    Named after the legendary Princess We-Noh-Nah (who is said to have leaped to her death rather than marry a suitor she didn't love), the City of Winona, Minnesota sits amidst picturesque bluffs along the mighty Mississippi.  Ever wonder how Winona Ryder got her name?  She was born and raised in this region.
    In a very real sense, Winona Steamboat Days owes its very existence to the river.  Fred Benning, board-member and Chairman of Carnival, Parade and Vendors, explained:  "Our festival goes back before the turn of the century.  It was called other things before 1946, things such as Riverboat Days and Pancake Days.  It then turned into Winona Steamboat Days in order to honor the steamboat captains who were still alive in the area."

    Winona Steamboat Days pretty much ends with a bang each year.  Paying homage to "the  chief river of the largest drainage system in North America," the festival illuminates these  fabled waters with a spectacular display of fireworks.

    Grande Parade
    Another renowned event, the Grande Parade, was also eagerly anticipated.  Benning stated, "Our parade is second to none, including those in the Twin Cities.  We have an estimated 20,000 watching, along probably the best parade route in the country.  We have a four-lane  street that is straight as an arrow and loaded with shade trees." Benning continued, "Ours is the largest summer parade in the Upper Midwest, and is a  top-ten parade for the Midwest.  In our line-up, everything's got to have entertainment value.  People are therefore entertained for over two hours, and there's a lot of ‘Visiting Royalty' involved."

    Winona Radio reported that this year's Grande Parade featured the following:  a host of  regional High-School Marching Bands, a Commercial Units category, a Visiting Royalty competition, and a World War Two planes fly-over.

    Festivities Galore
    Benning also mentioned that Winona Steamboat Days is a festival, rather than a fair, focused solely upon entertainment.

    This entertainment includes name acts like Hairball and the Johnny Holm Band, shows like Seussical and the HoChunk Native Dancers, learning experiences like the National Eagle Center, and competitions like the Car Show Awards and the WATA Steamboat Days Tennis Classic.

    Annual preparation for all this entertainment is extensive.  Benning explained, "We start promoting it back in January, after we've gone to the fair convention and picked out some entertainment.  This is our first year with a big-name group that we paid quite a bit of money for, and it worked out well.  For the first time, we also had a minimum cover charge."

    He continued, "Our advertising budget breaks down to about a third newspapers, a third radio, and a third TV.  The biggest advertising we do is for our Car Show.  We spend a lot of money on that, and it almost requires a separate budget.  The cars come from all over the United States, and in the auction part of the show there's about a 60 percent sell rate.  They are, for the most part, about 95 percent collector cars."

    As for how it all went, Benning reported, "There was a significant increase this year.  Our food vendors were all up probably anywhere from 10 to 15 percent, and the carnival was up about 25 percent over the previous one."

    Midway gets a Gold Star
    Because Benning had felt that it was time to change carnivals this year, he researched some new possibilities before deciding that "Gold Star Amusements was the one."  This turned out to be a great choice. Benning stated, "All their rides were very clean, and there were ones we've never had before.  They have such a big show that we can alternate rides from year to year."

    The festival's website explains that armbands were $17 during advance sales and $22 at the carnival.  Benning said that "the most popular ride this year was the big gondola Ferris Wheel.  People also loved the tower-drop ride in which people were strapped four abreast.  A huge swing ride was another favorite."

    Benning also stated, "The food went really well this year.  We changed the vendor area around and made it more open.  I moved one row up on the sidewalk, and increased the distance between vendor stands.  Then we put in a lot of picnic tables, which drew a  large lunch crowd."

    He then added, "I don't get a big turnover in vendors, they want to stay.  We never duplicate vendors, they're all different."

    Growth Partnerships
    Benning is thinking of promoting the carnival to a greater extent next year because "people were in awe of it."  He added, "Our festival is growing, and is probably one of the largest around right now.  We're also able to partner with the Minnesota Marine Art Museum here in Winona."

    According to the museum's website, its mission is to engage "visitors in meaningful visual arts experiences through education and exhibitions that explore the ongoing and historic human relationship with water."

    Winona Steamboat Days also partners with nearby Elmer's Auto & Toy Museum.  Benning explains that it "has the world's largest collection of pedal cars."  Elmer's website states that this museum is located on Eagle Bluff, "which is the highest point along the Mississippi River."

    All in all, Winona Steamboat Days hasn't strayed far from its river roots.  Benning stated that it has "one of the top ten Water Ski Shows in the country, although this year the show got rained out."  Benning reminisced, "We've weathered many years here.  I started back in 1967 with the festival, and we've been creatively expanding ever since."  As the great Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, "You can't step into the same river twice."  Make that a double for festivals...  

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HEADLINES from the web
Minnesota State Fair
St. Paul, MN
8/21/2014 - 9/1/2014
Wade Shows
New York State Fair
Syracuse, NY
8/21/2014 - 9/1/2014
Miller Spectacular
DuQuoin State Fair
Du Quoin, IL
8/22/2014 - 9/1/2014
Wade Shows
Nebraska State Fair
Grand Island, NE
8/22/2014 - 9/1/2014
Maryland State Fair
Timonium, MD
8/22/2014 - 9/1/2014
Amusements of America
Columbia County Fair
Chatham, NY
8/27/2014 - 9/1/2014
Houghton Enterprises
Wyoming Fair
Tuckhannock, PA
8/27/2014 - 9/1/2014

IAAPA Attractions Expo - Orlando, FL
[more info..]

Annual IAFE Convention and Trade Show - Paris Hotel - Las Vegas, NV
[more info..]

I.I.S.F. Gibtown Extravaganza - Gibsonton, FL
[more info..]

2013 TOP 50 FAIRS
1. Texas State Fair - Dallas, TX
2. Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo - Houston, TX
3. Minnesota State Fair - St. Paul, MN
4. San Antonio Livestock Show & Ex. - San Antonio, TX
5. Eastern State Exhibition

View Top 50 Fairs

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The Industry Buzz
McDonagh's add new features to Big Bamboo Fun House
During a recent visit with Tom and Jeanne McDonagh at the Minnesota State Fair, the couple reported that they were awaiting delivery of a new trick from Italy for their spectacular fun house, the Big Bamboo.  The initial part of the fun house is on ground level and features a unique walkway over a water tank and a rock cave with overhead waterfall.  The new trick will be located just after guests pass through the cave and will be a platform "similar to a Whac a Mole Game where guests have to walk over objects popping up from the ground" described McDonagh.  At the Minnesota State Fair, they added a fog element to the fun houses smoke stack located on top of the tug boat.  For 2014, the fun house has played the Florida State Fair, Houston Livestock Show, San Diego County Fair, Wisconsin State Fair, the Minnesota State Fair and will conclude its season at the State Fair of Texas.  So far, McDonagh reported a successful season.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 8/29/2014
Showmen Supplies to carry Fabbri ride parts

Showmen Supplies has reached an agreement with the Fabbri Group, an Italian manufacturer of amusement rides, to be the exclusive distributor of Fabbri amusement ride parts for the United States and Canada.

Scott Siefker, Vice President of Showmen Supplies, said, "Because our core business already revolves around the logistics of component part supply, we felt we were ideally suited to managing a ride parts distributorship to service Fabbri ride owners." When asked what would be the greatest benefit of this deal, Siefker stated, "We have 48 years of customer service experience in the amusement industry. This will be a great advantage to owners of Fabbri equipment whose business depends on having their rides in operation and not out of commission while they wait for shipments to arrive from Europe. We know that when they call they need replacement parts to be in stock and shipped quickly and we have a great history of doing exactly that."

Last month, Showmen Supplies acquired the existing US-based Fabbri parts inventory from Amusement Sales, Inc. and has embarked on an expansion of that inventory to have the most commonly sought parts readily available to Fabbri ride owners.  Confronting the task now before them, Scott Siefker said, "We'll have lots of work to do in expanding our parts database, learning the equipment functionality, and familiarizing ourselves with new mechanical systems but I know we're up for the challenge and will do a great job for our customers."

  Posted by Matt Cook on 8/15/2014
New rides for the MN State Fair
Several new attractions will be making their debut in Minnesota for the 2014 Minnesota State Fair including Reithoffer Shows' spectacular Stinger, built by Technical Park of Italy.  The Stinger will be taking the place of the Freak Out, which Reithoffer has been bringing to the fair the last couple of years.  Other new attractions slated for the fair include Myers International Midways Crazy Dance, Wave Swinger, and Monster Truck as well as the Dartron Hog Rally from Rose's Rides.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 8/8/2014
Dixieland Carnival adds KMG Experience
Billy Tucker's Dixieland Carnival added another spectacular ride to its lineup, the KMG Experience.  The Experience is one of only two traveling in the USA and previously belonged to Phoenix based Ray Cammack Shows.  The other Experience is owned by Frazier Shows, also based out of Arizona. 
  Posted by Matt Cook on 8/8/2014
In our efforts to chronicle the history of our industry, we could think of no better way to further this endeavor than to interview industry pioneers and preserve their videos for posterity.

Wade Shows -HIRING for 2014, NOW BOOKING, Office Manager & Assistant wanted, Custom Fence & Signage available!!

KMG is a leading builder of spectacular amusement rides such as the Freak Out, Fire Ball (Afterburner), Speed, Inversion (Nemesis 360), and many more.

Berk Concession Supply is the number one source for concession supplies.  Call 800-323-3547 or visit for more information.  Lemonade Cups and much more!

Schantz Manufacturing has over 60 years of manufacturing award winning custom concession trailers.  Visit our web site at or call 618-654-1523.

Harley Concessions is seeking IMMEDIATE HELP for games including balloon store, bank a ball, beer bash, and more.  Call Terry at 502-404-1401.

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