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  • At 10 Years, N.A.M.E. Succeeds with Basics

    Officially North American Midway Entertainment (N.A.M.E.) celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, but the company represents decades of midway experience. The self-proclaimed "largest midway provider in the world," is the rare carnival that traverses both sides of the Canadian/United States border, with a circuit that begins in March and winds down in November, but for Danny Huston, Owner / Chief Operations Officer, regardless of the milestone of ten years, his outlook remains optimistic.

    "We expect 2014 to be another huge success for North American Midway Entertainment and our clients," said Huston.  

    While declining to discuss his revenue results, Huston insists that the company has continued the upward trajectory since its founding. "In 2013 our overall revenues were up and we expect 2014 to be another success," said Huston.

    10th Amalgamated Year
    North American Midway Entertainment was incorporated on October 13th, 2005, an amalgamation of what at the time were five leading midway providers in the Outdoor Amusement industry. The merging companies included Conklin Shows, which was founded in 1927 and at the time of amalgamation had become the largest midway provider in North America; Farrow Shows, incorporated in 1981; Astro Amusements, incorporated in 1973; and All Star Amusements, incorporated in 1974. According to Wikipedia, in 2006 N.A.M.E. also acquired Mid America Shows and several contracts and rides from Cumberland Valley Shows. Four years ago, on December 20th, 2010 Huston and Jeff Blomsness purchased N.A.M.E. from the Cypress Group.

    At the time of the original merger, Conklin was the major midway providers to the Canadian market, which enabled N.A.M.E. to establish a foothold in the lucrative north country market. "We have so many great and long-standing partners in both countries and we make every effort to provide the best services possible," said Huston.

    While the Canadian market is still profitable, rising energy costs remain a concern. "The main challenge for us is the fuel and trucking costs with all the miles we travel," he added.

    Canada & U.S.
    According to Huston, N.A.M.E. owns more than 200 rides, food and games concessions, providing entertainment "to approximately 15 million attendees at over 130 events annually, including 10 of the top 50 fairs in North America, in 20 states and 4 Canadian provinces."

    He added that this "number is a steady number," but "we have several new events this year and currently are in the process of signing contracts with new clients."
    The leading N.A.M.E. fairs in its 2014 season include: Eastern States Exposition - Springfield, Mass; Canadian National Exhibition - Toronto, Ontario; Calgary Stampede - Calgary, Alberta; Indiana State Fair - Indianapolis, Indiana; Illinois State Fair - Springfield, Illinois; Edmonton K-Days - Edmonton, Alberta; Mississippi State Fair - Jackson, Mississippi; Kentucky State Fair - Louisville, Kentucky; Miami Dade County Fair - Miami, Florida and South Carolina State Fair - Columbia, South Carolina.

    "We truly do not have a favorite event," said Huston. " All of our events are important to us and we strive to always do our best no matter what size the venue is."

    In other words, the company prides itself on its flexibility. "Our company is diverse and we have the ability to provide smaller events with 20 rides as well as the ability to play large events such as state fairs with as many as 100 rides," said Huston.

    Enhanced Games/New Rides
    Around the country, games are not as popular as they once were, but Huston insists that N.A.M.E. has mitigated the decline, maintaining top-of-the-line plush prizes and implementing an overall enhancement of the games division. "We begin with the simple concept that everyone likes to win and then we inundate our midways with quality stuffed animals and toys," said Huston. "Our Upgrade Program theme, together with the newly-designed canvas, clear and professional signage, and our energetic staff makes playing the games almost as much fun as winning. Our games are supervised by our management team to ensure that they meet our exacting standards."

    For the 10th anniversary of the company, N.A.M.E. has re-introduced Remix, one of its signature rides. In fact, the company also acquired a new Remix so now two of its touring units can feature this crowd favorite.  "Remix has been refurbished and we bought a new one," said Huston. "This high speed ride can best be described as an extreme version of the classic ride the Scrambler. The ride holds 36 passengers and sends riders spinning on six arms with each end holding three cars rotating on a vertical axis at approximately 21 RPMs.  Each arm supports a cluster of cars, which rise into a 90 degree angle at a horizontal position.  The center spins in one direction and the satellites spin in the opposite direction while the arms simultaneously spin outward.  The brilliant colors on Remix make this a high-speed exciting ride that very few thrill riders will ever pass up."

    Introducing new and/or refurbished rides is essential to the N.A.M.E. philosophy, "We always keep our Midways fresh with new rides each year, which attracts new guests and also retains happy guests who come back every year," he said.

    While the Remix may get some new attention, the mainstays of the N.A.M.E. midway remain, "Our Giant Ferris Wheels and Roller Coasters are always perennial favorites for our guests."

    In addition, he added that other new rides include a Himalaya, Fun House, and Zero Gravity as well as Elephant Ride and a Wacky Worm roller coaster, which are children's rides. "We are also refurbishing a Camel Fun House that will be ready soon," said Huston. 

    The most important improvement to the N.A.M.E. Kiddeland occurred in 2006, when it became smoke free. "We place smoke-free suggestion signage at all entrances to Kiddieland and placed other signs throughout Kiddieland," said Huston. "This is a volunteer / suggestion program that we do not enforce but have found the vast majority of our customers choose to not smoke while in the children's area.  We also have implemented family-friendly pricing that is affordable for families."

    One of the first shows of the year for N.A.M.E. was the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition, an 18-day Florida fair that concluded March 31st. According to fair organizers, per-capita spending was up more than 5 percent, including midway revenues and reportedly, Miami-Dade granted N.A.M.E. a contract extension through 2017.  For Huston, the fair was a positive harbinger for the season. " We just completed the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and it was another success with increased attendance," he said. "We are expecting an overall great season.  And, we are hoping after the long cold winter, fairgoers will be raring to go to have tons of fun on our Midways."

    The secret is a simple one, making sure every experience at the Midway is a positive one. "We want each guest to leave our Midway with a smile and a happy memory of their day at the fair," Huston said. " We do that by providing the safest and most exciting rides, delicious food, fun games and workers who are attentive and kind to each guest."

  • Robust Comeback of Miami-Dade Youth Fair is Credited to Improving Florida Economy

    The 18-day Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition had what most fair managers desire: Good weather and an attendance that outpaced by several percentage points the tally of the previous year's fair. But the robust record of the 2014 edition of this distinctive South Florida event suggested developments of a larger scope than just a upbeat outcome. According to Bob Hohenstein, President & CEO, Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition, the success of the this year's fair was a certain indication that economic recovery in South Florida, a region of the United States that was severely impacted by the recession, has arrived.

    Hohenstein pointed out that only a few years ago, South Florida - "in terms of travel, tourism, housing, business, was slammed by the great recession" - and as result the fair suffered. Cautious optimism still permeates, but Hohenstein sees reasons in this year's fair justifying increased optimism. "Our 2014 Youth Fair went extremely well with our attendance reaching 590,000 guests or a 2.5 percent increase over prior year and 21.4 percent up over 2012," he said. "We saw very strong spending from our guests. Guest per capita spending based on the preliminary figures was up 5 percent versus the prior year."

    These figures lead Hohenstein to conclude, "South Florida's economy is improving and on the rise."

    Ag Revival
    A less tangible, but perhaps more significant, in terms of an improved business climate were the number of "student displays" - more than 50,000. "It was our highest number of displays," he said. These displays are essentially exhibits and other projects by tens of thousands of Agricultural students. Although the "Youth Fair," as the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition is known locally, has a distinctive focus on students and new professionals in one of the leading industries in the region,  showcasing livestock and agriculture are essential to its mission.  The increase in exhibits, "means that more young people are again entering the industry, which wasn't the case a few years ago," said Hohenstein.

    In addition, Hohenstein pointed out that, "one of our tenets is to promote South Florida agriculture. South Florida agriculture is, like the general economy, on the rise.  The recent "Great Recession" hit South Florida agriculture very hard especially within horticulture, landscape and so forth.  A bounce-back is very evident however."

    Supermarket Promotions
    The Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition did implement some new marketing strategies that aided and abetted the revived fair attendance, the "most effective 2014 promotion was with Sedano's Supermarkets." According to Hohenstein, this regional supermarket chain with about 30 locations, has been a fair partner for three years. "They are a tremendous partner and sponsor of the fair. They did a great job advertising the fair"

    Hohenstein added that the advance sales through this chain "more than doubled. The advance sales were magnificent. As a fair, you want that that commitment by your customers as soon as early as possible. That's money in the bank."

    New P*O*P Culture
    In addition to the pre-sale of admission tickets and sheets of ride coupons, Sedona Supermarkets also sold the Pay One Price (P*O*P) Unlimited Ride Passes. The fair added a new twist to this wristband program, which has been in place for a few years but only as weekday incentive. In 2014, P*O*P wristbands were available on weekends.  Passes purchased in advance at a Sedano's Supermarket location were $20 each for any day of the week, including Saturday and Sunday and $25 on weekdays and $35 on weekends when purchased at the gate on the day of visit.

    This year's Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition's successful experiment  with the P*O*P bands on weekend fair days, was launched in conjunction with North American Midway Entertainment (N.A.M.E.), the fair's long time midway provider. 

    "We were very, very pleased with the results generated by having the P*O*P Unlimited Ride Wristbands available on weekends," said Hohenstein. "We had been discussing this option for a few years and with N.A.M.E.'s input, counsel and so forth elected to test it in 2014. This was the first time in our 63 year history we have done this."

    What long seemed counter intuitive - giving a midway incentive on weekends, the most well-attended days of nearly any fair - turned out to be an effective response to the customer's expectations for added value. As result, extended midway bargains increased overall spending.  As Hohenstein explained, the weekend P*O*P wrist bands meant "that guests do stay longer on the weekends than previously as our per capita spending results show."

    New N.A.M.E. Contract
    According to Hohenstein, N.A.M.E. has been the midway provider for the fair "for decades," and featured 95 rides this year. "We recently renewed our agreement with them through our 2017 Youth Fair," said Hohenstein. "Midway revenue was up single digits versus 2013.  Very, very pleased with the midway ride results to say the least."
    N.A.M.E. rides that made their Miami-Dade debut were Backdraft, a fire-themed coaster where seven cars - holding up to four passengers each -"light up" then climb three levels before rushing down, Crazy Dance, where a dodecagonal platform rotates and the cars rock back and forth, while incorporating backdrops, a sound system, elaborate light displays and special effects and the latest in virtual-reality technology, 7-D Cinema, where participants sit inside an enhanced 7-D simulator, where spectacular footage and thrilling special effects gives them the experience of taking a breathtaking journey that traverses an array of landscapes, from prehistoric era forests to enchanted tunnels. NAME favorites that returned to the midway included Space Roller, Mark 3, Twister, Cliff Hanger, Ring of Fire and the Giant Wheel. The Kidde rides included Bear Affair, Kite Flyer, Raiders, Speedway and Teacup at KiddieLand.

    New & Traditional
    The Miami-Dade County Youth Fair featured 170 food concessionaires, about the same as the previous fair. According to Hohenstein, fair attendees tend towards the predictable when it comes to this fair's cuisine.  "The hot items here in Miami are traditionally Elephant Ears and Roasted Corn," said Hohenstein. "The same held true in 2014."

    New concessions included, Juicy's Outlaw Grill, the self-proclaimed  "world's largest mobile outdoor grill" and boasts the capability of cooking 1,000 foods simultaneously, Bianco's Foods, family-owned and operated since 1981, offers Chicken & Waffles, a full Belgian waffle with two pieces of hand-breaded chicken topped off with maple syrup;  The Bird Dog-  two chicken tenders on a bun smothered with cheddar cheese and bacon and The Waffle Dog, A frankfurter/waffle hybrid where a hot dog dipped in batter is cooked to look like a waffle; Opa Opa Saloon, a craft beer and wine saloon, Island Noodles, which specializes in "Hawaiian Style Wok-Fired Soba Noodles," Up-N-Smoke, a Mexican barbecue, and Mr. Sticky's, a family-owned business from Amish Country  that offers five varieties of re-imagined but still traditional sticky buns.

    Exceeding Expectations
    Engaging agricultural exhibits, an exhilarating midway and a diverse food court are the main components of most fairs. At this year's Miami-Dade County, it was not enough just to show up, but go above and beyond. "Absolutely The Youth Fair exceeded expectations," said Hohenstein. "I firmly believe we met and exceeded our guests' expectations by providing a world-class, clean, safe, secure and very family friendly 18 day fair."

    Although no records were set during the fair, "we exceeded our prior year's attendance number, we exceeded our budgeted attendance number, we exceeded our 5 year average attendance number, and we exceeded the prior year's revenue number," said Hohenstein.

    The highest 2014 attendance for a single day - 53,225 - was  reached Saturday, March 22, Day 10 of the fair. In addition, mother nature cooperated. "Weather was good during our run," said Hohenstein. "We had a bit of morning rain one day, a bit of afternoon rain one day and severe thunderstorms on Saturday, March 29 at approximately 8:30 PM, but overall we were blessed with great early spring South Florida weather."

    Hohenstein declined to speculate on industry implications of his fair success or identify signs that the economic rebound in Miami-Dade may be felt in other parts of the nation. "Each fair and each market it operates in is different," he said. "I will say if the fair has created and developed a great 2014 business and marketing and sales plan, has the resources, facilities and talent to execute it and is blessed with good weather during its run, the  end results will be nothing but good." 

  • Southwest Florida Fair celebrates 90 years

    Celebrating 90 years of food, fun and fund raising was a great success for the people of southwest Florida this year. The Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair was held  February 27 to March 9, and it couldn't have been a better experience, fair manager Fran Crone said.

    "We had one of the best years we've ever had," Crone said, a few days after the fair closed. "We had four record-breaking days. We had two days that were kind of rainy, but the rest of the time, it was sunny and mild."

    Perfect weather for a perfect fair, held in celebration of "making memories since 1924."

    The fair started in 1919 at Terry Park with $250 allocated by the Lee County commissioners. In 1924, the name was changed to the Southwest Florida Fair. The Southwest Florida and Lee County Association and the local Shriners worked together to expand and improve the fair. The fair was re-located to the Lee Civic Center in 1979.

    Even through the years of World War II, unlike many fairs across the United States, this fair went on, said Crone, who is in her first year of fair management. The civic center provides about 100 acres of grounds, and about one-fourth of that area is taken up by the fairgrounds, said Crone.

    This year, the admission price to the fair at the gate was $8 for adults and $5 for children. But there were pre-advance tickets offered for $5 and $3. On Senior Citizens/Veterans Day and Harry Chapin Food Bank Night from 2 to 6 p.m. on March 3, admission was $5 for those two groups but a $2 free coupon featured in the fair program took the price down to $3 for all.

    There was also a Mega-pass available for $25. That price covered fair admission and all rides for one day. Monday and Tuesday night had a $12 ride band available, and Midnight Madness offered everything for $25 from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

    The senior and veterans'  day and the food bank night offered one of the best experiences of the fair, said Crone. On food bank night, admission was free for fair visitors who donated three cans of food. Proceeds from gate admissions also went to the food bank. Last year, the fair raised more than $5,000 in cash and took in 7,500 pounds of food to help feed the hungry in southwest Florida and Lee County. This year, the amount exceeded 2013's figures.

    In addition, the fair also partnered with Sheriff Mike Scott of Lee County to help distribute 36,000 fair tickets to public, elementary-aged school students to allow them to attend the fair for free, said Crone. The Junior Deputy Fair Pass promotion was available for students from ages 5 to 11.

    "The fair association is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization and re-donates to a number of other non-profits," Crone said. "We give to a number of local 4H clubs, United Way, Breaking Free and the Shrine. We also offer scholarships to graduating seniors. In 2013, more than $48,000 was donated back to the community."

    The Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair doesn't typically present concerts at the fair. Fair officials have long advocated presenting more community-inspired entertainment and making it a part of the fair admission .  At the seniors/veterans event, for example, the Hat Boys Band performed as well as the popular Calendar Girls of Florida. There were also health screenings sponsored by the local hospital, Lee Memorial Health Services. Snead Eye Care, insurance companies and the veterans' administration  also participated in the health fair held at the Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair.

     The always popular agricultural and animal events were also a big hit, according to Crone. There were 300 exhibitors on several days with both large and small animals, she said. Both the Future Farmers of American and local 4H chapters participated in the exhibits. Several of the students sold the animals they had raised and put money in their own pockets to help pay for future college expenses.

    One popular act at the fair was the Gator Boys, an Animal Planet television show where the "boys" tame wild alligators with their bare hands. Grizzly Bears, based in  Florida, also entertained. The Grizzly Experience brought fair visitors in close contact with a 700-pound grizzly bear named Tonk and two adorable cubs named Boo-Boo and Yogi.

    A motorsports arena was a new feature of the 2014 fair. The new facility hosted Grasscar Lawnmower Racing and a demolition derby put on by Hardcord Events and Entertainment, LLC.

    The midway was  operated by Reithoffer Shows of Gibsonton, Florida. The midway came with 46 exciting rides, and Crone said she got several positive comments from fair visitors about the midway features.

    There was also a magic show, plenty of live music, photo opportunities with Jimmy Riffle from the Gator Boys and also photo opportunities with Those Funny Little People of America's Got Talent fame.

    Quilt making, canning and crafting exhibits provided a link with the past. A new horse arena was unveiled, and there were so many entries for the livestock show that some had to be turned away, said Crone.

    "Goat agility contests brought smiles to young and old," she said. "Local students and 4H members showed off their projects. People had the opportunity to learn how the cowboys do what they do, and there was an impressive beef breeding show and sale. Rabbits, chickens and horses were judged. Those were just a few of the many agricultural events that are at the heart of the nearly century-old fair."

    The Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair is held on the grounds of the Lee County Civic Center, located on Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers. The fair is dedicated to promoting agriculture, horticulture, creative arts and educational opportunities while also providing quality entertainment for the citizens of the area.

    The Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair  is a district fair, covering the counties of Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.

  • Innovative Marketing & Boomtown Economy Spurs Houston Rodeo Attendance

    Tech-savvy marketing, special promotions targeting key demographics and a stellar line-up of headline entertainment all contribute to making the 20-day Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo a record breaking success, but for Leroy Shafer, Chief Operating Officer (COO), the city itself has turned this fair around.

    "Houston is hot," he said, quoting a recent headline in the Houston Chronicle. A revived domestic oil industry, coupled with job-creation that pumped up tech and healthcare industries, has meant that the city recovered faster from the great recession than much of the nation. "The city is growing in population and Harris County is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. The fair is affordable fun that both long time residents and newcomers love."

    While exact revenue figures are not yet available, the 2014 edition of the fair had an operations budget of $128 million, "we are well north of $130 million in what we took in," said Shafer.

    2013: Hard to Beat
    Attendance reached 2,485,721, breaking last year's attendance by 4.9 percent, or about 20,000. But, as Shafer points out, that milestone is qualified by an asterisk. Last year's overall attendance was higher, but the rodeo ran 21 days instead of 20 in order to accommodate a special show of the retirement tour of country music legend George Strait, his final concert in south Texas. However, if the Strait show is removed from equation and the comparison is based on the equivalent days, "we are up, which exceeded our expectations. We had three full rain days. There was no way we were going to beat last year with George Strait, but we never thought we would be up this year for the 20 days."

    The robust economy and growing population of Houston only partially explains the appeal of this 2-day, late winter fair. Few cities support their fair with the committed fervor that Houston exhibits for its Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is held on Reliant Park, a 350-acre complex, whose grounds encompass the fair's carnival and also includes the 1.4 million-square-foot Reliant Center, which features the live-stock show and the 349,000-square-foot Reliant Arena, which hosts equestrian events and Reliant Stadium, which hosts the fair's dual main attractions - the Rodeo and evening block-buster concerts. Enthusiasm begins pre-fair with Go Texan Day, where Houston residents are encouraged to dress up in cowboy garb, the Downtown Rodeo parade, and the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, held the days immediately prior to the fair. "We have 28,000 volunteers," said Shafer, who added that in the stadium, which can seats upwards of 75,000 - including standing room and suites - 42,000 seats are season ticket holders. "So, we already have a built-in audience."

    The fair received more than $37 million in donations and contributions through sponsorships. "In kind was $18 Million and pure cash, $16 million. "It was our best show ever for sponsorships. We are also a member organizations and we now have more than 35,000 members, which is also a record."

    In addition, there were nearly 1.4 million paid tickets - meaning the attendees are allowed on the grounds with either a reserve or standing seat in the Rodeo Concert presentations - a 5.3 percent increase over last year.

    Targeting Youth
    The Winter fairs held in the most southern reaches of the continental U.S. - whose near tropical climates make summertime outdoor events infeasible - face the challenge of trying to increase attendance while schools are in session. Not only does the Houston offer educational and student outreach programs, including School Tours and Field Trips that create group sales opportunities, the fair usually falls during spring break for local systems. In fact, a lucky quirk in this year's school calendar resulted in a two-week spring break, coinciding with the Houston Live- stock Show & Rodeo.

    In addition to twice as many spring break days coinciding with the 20-day fair, spending at least one Spring Break night at the fair has become a recent tradition for area college kids. Houston's economic recovery may have been quicker and more robust than much of the nation, in 2008 when the economic downturn begun spiraling downward, Houston was not immune to this negative impact. According to Shafer, marketing the rodeo to younger adults proved to be the rare upside to the Great Recession's onslaught. College kids, usually headed to Cancun or Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break, started taking their version of the more economical "staycation" at the rodeo. "The kids started staying home and we had started expanding how we target them with our marketing and programming," said Shafer. "There's been a growing continuation of that since then."

    Shafer has always insisted on constant change when it comes to media messaging. "You need to continue to continue to change your product and its presentation to meet a changing demographic," said Shafer. Party With Your Boots on Houston - this year's marketing tagline, exemplifies the fun and excitement of the event, while also reinforcing the rodeo's relationship with the host city, making the Houston Live Stock Show & Rode as identifiable with Houston as Mardi Gras festivities are with New Orleans.

    Changing the presentation has meant shifts in the advertising media mix. "We are using less conventional television, radio and print and more unconventional in broadband delivered content," said Shafer.

    Not only did this mean an increase in online advertising for the fair, but seeking "old media" advertising partners with significant online presences. Navigating this ever-changing media landscape remains a constant challenge. "It seems 50 percent of the old media is adapting and the other 50 percent is not," said Shafer.

    The growth of internet-based and other wireless components has made year-round promotions easier for the Rodeo. "We're constantly in the ear bud or on their screen," said Shafer.

     One program, "Text to Win,"  promotes the fair year round with contests and prizes, reaching the smart phones of more than 60,000 "Mobile Club" subscribers. Rodeo Houston's E-newsletter subscribers number more than 83,500. In addition, show sponsors tag #rodeohouston on their media newsfeeds, further augmenting the marketing.

    Social Media Strategies
    "The Show uses social media as not only a way to promote Rodeo Houston's concerts, ticket sales, etc., but also as a way to engage with a wide-variety of fans in an instant," said Shafer. "We want our fans to have the best experience possible with our social outlets, therefore we make sure to stay on top of their questions and concerns, share their thoughts and excitements, as well as help them create new memories by entering contests hosted on our outlets. The overall strategy is to keep our fans engaged with the Show throughout the year. "

    With social media, the marketing strategy is long-term brand building, but also building up interest and demand as the opening day of the fair gets closer.  RodeoHouston currnet social media followers are: Facebook -402,612; Twitter - 60,981; and Instagram - 18,502 - but those numbers for the six months leading up to the fair were: Facebook - 82,649; Twitter -30,745; Instagram - 12,125

    The online presence was further expanded in 2014 with #RODEOHOUSTON Unplugged - a new YouTube series ( which features a total of 36 videos and garnered 101,966 total views by the closing of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.  The most viewed were Maroon 5 "Moves Like Jagger" - 27,944 total views and Selena Gomez "Meet & Tweet" - 20,284 total views.

    Booking Philosophy
    As their YouTube presence indicates, Shafer's successful targeting of the youth market seemed most evident in the booking of the headline concerts.  The stage included what might be considered prime bookings for at a rodeo-centric fair, such as country music stalwarts Keith Urban and Reba Macintyre, and newer country stars like Brad Paisley and Jason Aldean, but the 2014 line-up included Selena Gomez, Usher and Maroon 5, each of whom sold more than 75,000 tickets, essentially filling the stadium to capacity.

    "That was the only fair stage Maroon 5 played this year and they are the hottest thing," said Shafer. "We were able to partner with their marketing for the show and it turned out great. We want to hit the traditional demographic for fairs, but we are constantly looking for the younger crowds and they are coming to the fair."

    Besides an emphasis on diversity and catering to the Gen Y/Millennial demographic with the headline shows, Shafer's other booking philosophy is do not under-sell weekdays. With the potential of drawing spring breakers, top youth-market stars such as Jason Aldean and Robin Thicke played to near sell-out crowds on Tuesday Nights, typically one of the weakest nights of any fair. "The weekends will take care of themselves, we go right after the kids on spring break with our weekday bookings on what would normally be a slow night," said Shafer.

    Midway Muscles Up
    "Our carnival pre-sale tickets were massive, and we sold 286,650 Fast Pass tickets, the most we ever sold," said Shafer, referring to the premium elite Midway ticket program. Ray Cammack Shows (RCS), the Rodeo's midway provider since 1994, marked its 20th anniversary in Houston with 80 rides, 54 games and 37 food booths. According to Shafer, "more than 2.4 million total riders enjoyed the rides and more than 1.5 million total players took their chances at the carnival games… Sixty-two 18-wheelers full of stuffed animals were awarded at the carnival."

    Shafer stated that 75,000 rode RCS's famed La Grande Ferris Wheel with other top ride contenders being the Sky Ride, Windstorm and Euroslide.
    Stepping Down

    According to Shafer, numbers were up for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, despite needing to compete with last year's 21-day blockbuster and not always cooperative weather patterns.

    "We had a few days of colder than normal and rainy weather but overall we saw good crowds on all days," said Shafer, who celebrated a milestone of his 40th Show on the Show's management team. It was reported in the local press that Shafer will soon move to an "emeritus" position with the fair. What he feels best about is strengthening the bond between area residents and the winter fair they call their own. "We had a tremendous fair this year and tremendous support from the community."

    Advice to other fair managers from this veteran marketer? The Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show is not just an annual event, or a stop on the professional rodeo circuit and a quasi-trade show for the regional livestock industry, but part of the fabric of what it means to live in this part of the Lone Star State. "It is not age, it is not gender, you market to," said Shafer. "It is lifestyle."

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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
Industry veteran Jeff Pugh passes
We are sad to announce the passing of industry veteran Jeff Pugh.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the Pugh family and their friends.  Visitation will be held Monday April 14, 2014 from 1-4pm and a celebration of life ceremony at 6pm.  Services will be held at Victory Hill Church - 4000 Coonpath Rd. Carroll, Ohio 43112.  All donations to be made to his church that he loved in his memory.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 4/11/2014
Wade Shows adds fourth roller coaster

Wade Shows announced the purchase of its fourth major roller coaster, a Zamperla Crazy Mouse spinning coaster from an indoor theme park in Wisconsin Dells, WI. The coaster is in top notch condition, relatively new, and has spent its entire life in the indoor theme park. Wade Shows owner Frank Zaitshik said "We are very happy to add a fourth coaster to our lineup. We will be taking the coaster back to our winter quarters in Florida to rack it . Being a park model, it didn't have many lights so we will be adding a lighting package."  The show plans to debut the new piece this June at the Livonia Spree in Michigan, contingent on if the piece is ready in time. Other dates the new coaster is slated to appear at include the Delaware State Fair, New York State Fair, Oklahoma State Fair, Tulsa State Fair, North Carolina State Fair, and the South Florida Fair.

The show also announced the purchase of a Wisdom Landslide from Deggeller Attractions.

To view photos of the ride, click here.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 4/3/2014
TJ Schmidt Carnival adds equipment; new concessions for 2014
Standish Michigan based TJ Schmidt & Company expanded its ride offerings for 2014.  The company added a Eli Eagle 16 Wheel, purchased from Arnold Amusements; a Cliff Hanger, Mulligan "Sky Quest" Swings, and a Zipper, purchased from Jeff Brady's Playworld Amusements.  In turn, the show sold its Quasar, Sea Dragon, and Tip Top.  The show also welcomed the addition of a new concessionaire, Case Concessions, headed by Harold, Debbie, and Christine Case, who will be playing their route with food concessions and several games.  Posted by Matt Cook on 3/26/2014
Chicago area carnivals add new equipment for 2014

Chicago area carnivals have been busy this winter adding new rides and attractions to bolster their arsenal of attractions.  Among those purchases, Skinner Amusements purchased a new Cliff Hanger from Dartron.  The new Cliff Hanger will replace their existing Cliff Hanger, which has been sold to Richard Tinsley's Tinsley's Amusements.  Fantasy Amusements purchased a new Wacky Worm family roller coaster from CMD Enterprises / Fajume and a Frog Hopper from Rides 4-U.  The Frog Hopper, was on display at this year's Gibtown trade show.  Modern Midways took delivery of a new ARM Rockstar, a Motorcycle ride from Dalton, and also added a full LED lighting package from Denny's Electronics to their KMG Fire Ball.  The Rockstar will replace the 1001 Nachts that the show was using last year.


As reported earlier, three new KMG Freak Outs will debut in the Chicago area including one for Alpine Amusements, All Around Amusements, and Windy City Amusements.  All three, of which, have different paint schemes and lighting packages.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 3/24/2014
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.

WINDY CITY AMUSEMENTS - Ride Help, Electrician, Mechanic wanted for 2014 season!

Victor Products -Concession Supplies & Equipment Sales


Carolina ATM - Providing ATM service, installation, and sales to the Carnival and Amusement Industry is now open for business!  Visit to purchase Wisdom Ride Parts and LED lighting!

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