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  • Santa Barbara: Attendance Uptick, Pirates & Butler Amusements Extension
    The Santa Barbara Fair & Exposition found a counter intuitive result from a change most fairs dread: an increase in the price of the fair admission resulted in an uptick in attendance. 

    It wasn't an overall increase - but at the suggestion of their midway provider, Butler Amusements - the fair increased its weekday admission to match the weekend cost.
    Up 3 Percent
    According to Scott Grieve, Chief Executive Officer, Earl Warren Showgrounds, the previous strategy was to boost the weekday attendance by creating an incentive for the weekdays of the fair. "Butler talked us into looking at it differently, and it worked,"

    Grieve estimated that attendance reached 48,528, and overall increase of about 3 percent, and a five year high.

    "We just thought that the weekday price was a little low for such a high income area and compared to similar events that we play it was too much of a discount," said Sean Butler, Unit Manager, Butler Amusements. "We think that the price worked this year and we did not hear any complaints from our customers."

    Originally, Grieve anticipated that the cost would "push more people to the weekend," but admittedly, it was hard to create a metric due to the fact that the weekdays and weather for the opening days - which also happened to be weekdays - was less than optimal. "The first day was windy and cold," said Grieve. "Thursday was windy."

    In other words, weekday meteorological conditions negatively impacted attendance, regardless of admission costs. But the end result was an attendance increase, and in many segments of the fair, spending was higher. 

    Food Spending 
    "Food was up 7 percent and our alcohol sales were went through the roof on Saturday night," he said. 

    "The fair features 14 food vendors, "we have a limited area, we try not to duplicate cuisines, we have one Mexican food vendor, for example, one oriental, one for barbecue, etc."

    He added, that the vendor selling deep fried items did very well. "They were selling deep fried Twinkies, and this year they were doing deep fried pork chops, which did really well."

    Midway spending apparently did not benefit as well as other sectors from the spending uptick at the fair. Butler blamed the weather for impeding ridership. "The midway was down a little bit compared to last year, but it was a little chilly compared to 2015," said Butler.

    The Butler Amusements midway featured 29 rides, including two new rides for the Santa Barbara Fair & Exposition, a KMG Inversion and the A.R.M Quasar. Butler said the top three rides were the Giant Wheel, Inversion and Pole Position Coaster

    Beneficial Updates
    A few seemingly minor updates to the fair also seemed to encourage spending. The presale for tickets was up nearly 70 percent, which Grieve credited with an expanded, fundraising ticket sale program with regional schools. The schools have a fair ticket sale drive, where they receive 15 percent of the cost. "It's a huge fundraiser for them, you have PTA members selling tickets, and it's become a huge marketing thing for us."

    Another upgrade is that the fair had ATMs onsite and accepted credit cards for admissions - "we were an all cash fair," he said. 

    The uptick in presale tickets combined with the convenience of credit card purchases, Grieve saw as  fuel for increasing sales. "My theory is that people come to the fair with a certain amount of cash to spend and if they have already bought the ticket, or if they buy the ticket with a credit card, they save the cash to spend on food and rides."

    According to Grieve, the local economy "is improving compared to last year, the unemployment rate is down, and housing prices are up, which is always a positive sign. The state has gotten out of its deficit, and the last three budget cycles have been favorable to fairs. We have kind of slowly gotten back into the boat."

    California's drought was still apparent at the fair, although no new restrictions were in place. "We can't make everything green around here, the drought can still be seen, it is the 5th year of the drought."

    He added, "water rates continue to go up. We use recycled water for the landscape. Two years ago we mandated a 25 percent reduction in water usage. We already ripped out parts of the lawn. We are not required to go any lower than we have, but you do the best you can." 

    Yo Ho Ho
    The Santa Barbara Fair & Exposition also discovered lost treasure with its marketing theme this year - Pirates. Yo Ho Ho and a Barrel of Fun, which the fair emphasized throughout the grounds, including an exhibit building renamed Pirates Cove, which featured interactive and educational displays on the role of pirates in history. The two free concert stages at the fair also were renamed Shiver me Timbers Stage and Walk the Plank stages. "We did a lot of different things, we had a poster for the fair that looked like a treasure map, said Grieve. "We had a big pirate shop near the box office. We kind of went crazy this year with our theme."

    Of course the most famous pirate in contemporary pop culture is Jack Sparrow, star of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise. While an appearance by Johnny Depp was apparently cost prohibitive, instead a regional pirate performer - Capt'n Jack Spareribs' Shipwreck Show, featuring Maynard the Talking Monkey. The act - Voted Best Family Fun in the San Francisco Bay Area 7 years in a row, according to the fair's website - was described as "a fast paced mix of swashbuckling, rib tickling, pirate mayhem combined with magic, juggling, ventriloquism and the world's worst pirate jokes." "He was a big hit," said Grieve.

    Butler willingly walked the plank for the Santa Barbara Fair & Exposition. "We brought our Pirate kid ride and some of our staff wore pirate hats to get into the pirate theme," said Butler. "We also had our Maxtron digital board on the Giant Wheel show different pirate images to tie the rides in with the fairs theme."

    The closing Sunday of the fair - an optimum weather day - featured the fair's traditional Hispanic Concert - "It was one of our best in attendance, Sunday is historically family day for Hispanic families," Grieve said. "The adults go to the concert and they turn their children loose on the midway." 

    "The fair exceeded expectations," said Grieve. "We negotiated a new carnival contract with Butler Amusements, which was our second straight renewal, and will take us together through 11 years."

    "Santa Barbara is a great event for Butler Amusements," said Butler. "We were very excited to extend our partnership for another three years.  We hope to have record setting years for many years to come and we look forward to that beautiful Santa Barbara weather every year." 

  • Citing Unauthorized Raises, Wisconsin State Fair Board Fires Director
    In 2015, the Wisconsin State Fair marked the third straight year its attendance exceeded the one million mark, reaching 1,030,881. The continued success of this high profile Midwestern fair has been largely credited to Rick Frenette, an industry veteran who had been Executive Director of the Wisconsin State Fair since 2010. 

    On May 12th, the Wisconsin State Fair Board terminated Frenette, three months before opening day of the 2016 Wisconsin State Fair. The announcement was the result of a four hour closed session meeting, where the voted unanimously to immediately terminate the employment of Frenette. The board named an interim replacement, Kathleen O'Leary, who was the chief operating officer. Human Resources Director, Ryan Burns, who was complicit in the sequence of misdeeds or mistakes - depending on who is telling the story - that revolved around unapproved wage increases that led to Frenette's dismal - resigned the following day. 

    Violated Trust
    John Yingling, Chairman of the Wisconsin Board, said, that although state and fair attorneys were present when Frenette and his legal representative met with the board, "this was not a legal proceeding or hearing. But (the presence of council) speaks to the severity of the situation. His (Frenette) position is one of public trust, and he violated that trust." 

    The reason for the dismissal was unauthorized merit increases to staff members that included Frenette.  The board alleged Frenette ignored the approval process for Defined Merit Compensation (DMC), which are how raises are classified under Wisconsin state government statutes.  Frenette was accused of giving himself a raise and giving himself and staff members hourly increases in salary, instead of a lump sum payout - i.e., a bonus - which is how DMCs are to be calculated and awarded according to Wisconsin statutes.  While Frenette admits he misconstrued the procedures he was not aware he was included on the list of people submitted for merit increases.

    "Simply put, as Executive Director, you cannot give yourself a raise," said Yingling. "That was the major problem. You cannot break policy."

    Under Frenette, the DMC given to other fair employees - which Yingling described as a mix of executive level and other staff - were not in a bonus format, but an hourly increase. "Increasing the hourly amount was  building base salaries, which is not allowable under state guidelines," he said. 

    The way it is supposed to work - and a format Frenette followed in previous cycles - is that Frenette approves the DMC for other employees, and Yingling approves the raise for Frenette - approval occurs in October, with the increase going into effect the following year.  Yingling said that in the February, the department of Administration contacted him about hourly increases for fair staff including Frenette, a total of about $78,000. 

    "I do not why know why Rick decided not to follow the proper procedures like he had in previous years," said Yingling. "You cannot look into another man's mind." 

    Frenette - who said he was not aware that proper procedures were not being followed by the Human Resources Director - said that hourly increases were not allowed for fiscal year '16, a change from the procedure of previous years.  "The merit raises I recommended for my staff to HR were meant to reward them for their efforts in turning a money-losing state agency into a multi-million dollar profit center for the state".  Fair revenue increased from 17 million to 24 million dollars over the last five years of Frenette's leadership, going from a 15 million deficit to an average annual surplus of 1.5 million per year.  "I did not recommend an increase for myself, only my staff, my misstep was failure to review the paperwork submitted by the fair's HR Director which included my name and as head of the Agency I have to take responsibility for that oversight". 

    Following Advice
    Besides firing Frenette, the Board also rescinded all hourly raises to the approximately 30 Wisconsin State Fair employees, which mean that the hourly increases - in effect since January - were removed. Yingling said that the increases were "transitioned" into the bonus type DMC's  they were supposed to receive. 

    Frenette told Carnival Warehouse, because the system uses direct deposit, he did not notice the increase in his paycheck until April 1st,  at which time he contacted Burns, the Human Resources Director. "He told me that is how he was doing the merit increases this year and that he put his raise in along with everyone else's. He told me the system allowed him to put it through like that ," he said.  "I assumed that was the end of it, because he handled the input of the raises." 

    Frenette said that when he realized he had received a raise, "it was as much of a surprise to me as it was to anybody. In retrospect, I should have had more oversight of the process."

    Frenette spoke with Carnival Warehouse a little more than a week after his dismissal,  and he admitted he was "still reeling" from the ordeal. "It is a situation you cannot be prepared for." 

    He has retained an attorney and said he was unable to comment regarding future legal action. "There were some character assassination things that were said, but I cannot comment on what action I will take," he said.

    He added that he is confident this setback will not permanently blemish his career, which includes 11 years as General Manager at the Ohio State Fair, and six years as Executive Director of the Utah State Fair.  "This industry is built on personal relationships, and I have built those relationships over the course of my career," he said. "I love the fair industry and have spent my life in the fair industry. I hope to put this behind me." 

    Wisconsin Politics
    Adam Heffron, currently Chief Operating Officer of the Washington State Fair, served as  Director of Event Services at Wisconsin State Fair Park under Frenette for four years. "He is one of the most professional people in the fair industry," he said. "He turned that fair around, made it one of the best fairs in the country. He created Spin City, the independent midway. He was a true leader and encouraged everyone under him to thrive and achieve more."

    Heffron left his position in February of this year, and said while he did fill out some evaluations for employees, he was never part of the process that awarded DMCs. Although effusive in his praise of his former boss, he said he had only become aware of the situation by reading Wisconsin news reports online. "I suspect there is something political going on here. It is an election year in Wisconsin, there is a Republican Governor, and cutting the budget is a big thing. Firing Rick could be a way to score political points."

    Although the current governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, is not up for reelection, according to Yingling, the entire House of Assembly and half the State Senate are. Several members of the Wisconsin State Fair board are elected officials, including State Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), who made the motion to fire Frenette. Senator Vukmir declined comment to Carnival Warehouse.
    The search for Frenette's replacement will not begin until after the 2016 fair, said Yingling. It will be an extensive search for this high level position - Frenette's salary was a reported $127,000 a year - and ideally "we will have somebody in place after the first of next year," said Yingling.

    He added that the process of awarding DMC's will stay in place, with one minor change. The Human Research Director will inform Yingling, the Chairman of the Board, in writing, of all staff raises and DMC's. Previously, Yingling only directly monitored the Executive Director's DMC. 

    O'Leary, now Interim Chief Executive Officer of the state fair, was one of the staff members who received unallowable DMC hourly raises that resulted in Frenette's dismissal. She is the first woman to be at the helm of the Wisconsin State Fair, and for the time being will also hold down her duties as COO, a position she was promoted to in March. She has been with the fair since 1998. 

    Her focus is now more on the fair in August and not the fair leadership scandal of May. "While the situation with Rick certainly presents some challenges, we have an extremely experienced, talented and passionate staff at Wisconsin State Fair Park," O'Leary told Carnival Warehouse. "I want all of our fairgoers, partners and vendors to know that we are all dedicated to putting on a successful 2016 fair, and look forward to celebrating 165 years of tradition during the best 11 days of summer in Wisconsin."

  • New Management Company Brings Local Energy & Expanded Entertainment to Ostrich Festival
    The Ostrich Festival in Chandler, Arizona is unique not just for the celebration of  the  titular bird, but the fact the fair management is essentially outsourced.  This year was the first year of a two-year contract for Steve Levine Entertainment (SLE), attracting  87,000 attendees, an increase over last year. According to Terri Kimble, President/CEO, of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, new management resulted in some of the top revenue days in the 28-year history of the fair.

    Ostrich farming  began in Chandler in 1912,  and was still a thriving industry there when the fair was founded nearly three decades ago. While ostriches are popular exhibits and ostrich races a popular attraction, ostrich ranches are a thing of the past in Chandler.  In the last decade or so, the community has become a tech corridor, attracting companies such as Microchip, GoDaddy and PayPal. "We have a lot of large tech companies, and we have evolved into a digital community," she said. "But we still celebrate ostriches, which is something we are still know for." 

    Ostrich Evolution
    SLE replaced the Chandler Chamber of Commerce's previous long-term fair management company, Universal Fairs. When the contract with Universal Fairs reached term, Chandler put the management contract out to bid, and had five bidders, one of whom was Universal, vying for the Ostrich Festival contact. The main deciding factor was entertainment. "We wanted to focus on the entertainment, and take that to the next notch."

    The Ostrich Festival did add a range of entertainment this year via SLE, but the midway company, Butler Amusements remained, indicative of the balance that Chandler strikes between outsourcing fair management but also making sure the chambers exerts control over the event. "The chamber has the final say so, but it's been a great partnership with Butler Amusements and Steve LeVine Entertainment," said Kimble.

    In the first two decades of the Ostrich Festival, the Chamber of Commerce had hands on management of the event. But, "the actual fair started to grow and continues to grow," said Kimble. And the city of Chandler and its chamber of commerce also evolved. Today, the organization manages more than 300 events. 

    About eight years ago, the Ostrich Festival - which averaged 2,500 attendees in its earliest days -  moved to the 91-acre Tumbleweed park, and  contracted with Butler Amusements for a full-scale midway. It was at this time management and marketing of the festival was outsourced to a third party, Universal Fairs, an outdoor event production company. "The Chamber of Commerce is still involved with planning, volunteers and really every aspect of the fair, especially the parade on opening day," said Kimble. "But we contracted with experts to put on the actual fair. Butler is a top-notch carnival company. 

     "All the decisions are up to the fair," said Brooke Benavides, Public Relations & Marketing Manager, SLE. "We brought a fresh outlook and were given free reign but we also didn't go too far off the norm, we kept the valued relationships the festival has built up." 

    Entertainment Expansion 
    Probably the biggest change in 2016 was a revamping of entertainment. Expanding entertainment was a decision based on extensive community survey, following last year's fair and through social media outreach. While many fairs - citing rising costs - have reduced and in some cases completely eliminated musical acts and theatrical entertainment - the Ostrich Festival moved in the opposite direction, setting up three different stages for ongoing entertainment throughout the event. Local and regional bands, musicians, dance troupes and other entertainers were showcased on these stages. "We listened to what our customers had to say," said Kimble.

    According to Brooke Benavides, Public Relations & Marketing Manager, SLE, the entertainment bookings "wanted to hit several different demographics, from baby boomers to teeny boppers, something for everybody. We relied on the connections and relationships we've built up over the years, and were able to fit into routings, so we were able to keep the costs down."

    The entertainment included :  Parmalee, an American country band from North Carolina known for their songs "Musta Had a Good Time," "Carolina" and "Already Callin' You Mine," Kalin and Myles, the hot pop duo from San Francisco who had the hit, "Love Robbery." They are huge with the teenybopper and tween crowd, we had a lot of kids with their parents," said Benavides., The English Beat, the new wave/ska band founded in 1979;  post-punk band Ozokids, a multi-genre music group, who "performed a special interactive kids show before their main stage performance," said  Benavides.. " and Ozomatli is a Grammy-award winning multi-cultural band from Los Angeles, whose international hits include "Brighter" and "Burn it Down. "

    In addition to the entertainment makeover and expansion, SLE brought more technology to the event. " One of the things we as a production company brought to the event was an electronic ticketing system that allowed us to track ticket purchases, scanned tickets, etc. for the first time in the event's history," said Benavides. "There really is no way for us to analytically compare with previous years. But we were able to provide accurate numbers, and constantly provide reports and data to improve the fair next year." 

    In awarding the contract, the "transparency of their ticketing system was a big plus," said Kimble. "Their level of tech was very impressive in their presentation. The Tech industry is very big here, and also we were able to integrate their technology very well with the festival."

     Advertising & Marketing
    Ostrich Festival marketing also had an expanded reach. According to  Benavides, the 2016 marketing targeted the "growing west valley area, which is expanding with families, and we also reached further west. We targeted the Hispanic and Latin communities," she said. 

    In addition, "the multi-pack promotion with Fry's Food Stores was extremely successful, featuring two adult tickets, two youth tickets and two all-day carnival ride wristbands for $70 ($90 value)," said Benavides.  

    The marketing budget was $100K, about the same as last year, with the largest spending still on television. The media spending allocations were - TV, 30 percent;  Outdoor, 8 percent; Radio, 18 percent; Online, 5 percent; Print, 8 percent; Merchandise, 2 percent; Signage, 21 percent; Miscellaneous, 8 percent.

    The allocations are somewhat misleading, said Benavides, because it downplays the actual online presence of festival marketing. Print, radio, and television all have websites and their purchases included those outlets as well. In addition, "we switched up the media partners from the previous fair. We had a great TV partner, who stepped up their game in terms of visibility, so we not only ran commercials but they had broadcasts from the Tumbleweed Park grounds, and more of a web presence." 

    Butler Midway
    The midway was provided by Butler Amusements, who "ranked our second day, a Saturday, as one of their Top 5 revenue days ever here," said Benavides, who added that midway was spending "was up" compared to 2015.

    The midway featured 41 rides, included the Ostrich Festival debut of The Inversion, Quasar and 100 Nachts. The hottest ride at this year's fair was the Inversion.  

    The Ostrich Festival featured  58 food vendors, and included Food Truck Alley, a first for the fair and something the Chamber wanted. "Food trucks have become such a big part of the city, and we had all kinds of food trucks," said Kimble.

    Food is instrumental to the fair, and Kimble pointed out that all the traditional favorites were there, "people come to the fair, so we were able to incorporate the food trucks into the fair, keeping it relevant to contemporary tastes, blending the new with the old. But everybody remembers the good old fair foods from the good old days, like Deep Fried Twinkies, Turkey Legs, and Cotton Candy." 

    Benavides. said  that this year, "we had more local vendors than previous years, and we have strong relationships with the local community and local restaurants. We didn't want to loose the fair food vendors that have been here, but because we are more of a local company, we had those connections. We tried to keep the community as involved as possible." 

    She added, "the one thing the chamber felt very passionately about was getting back to the local roots, and putting an emphasis on the local community and have festival attendees feel like they were involved, that was part of the RFP." 

    First Fair
    SLE is an outdoor event management and marketing company, this was actually their first fair - a multi-day event with a complete midway and multiple spaces. "We had never done something of this magnitude, especially with the amount of rides for days in a row," said Benavides. 

    While the entertainment company's first foray into the actual fair business might have been a logical segue from other outdoor events, Benavides  was quick to emphasize, "overall it was a blast. It is an all hands on deck experience. We've done major events, but the entire staff got behind the festival in a big way, with our marketing, talent booking, management and public relations."

    She added that the local experience "was really appreciated, we could bring more communication than a national company, there were a lot of phone and in person conversations. The chamber also helped us understand the process and were with us every step of the way planning festival. We also worked with the tourism department, and tourism publications, magazines and websites. This has become a state-wide festival, it draws from all over Arizona."

    The end result for the organizers of the Ostrich Festival is that new contract holder met expectations. "There is always room for improvement, but we are very pleased with year's fair," said Kimble. "We had beautiful weather and that is always the main component."

  • Smokey's Greater Shows Hires Industry Veteran As New General Manager
    Jeannette Gilmore feels a renewed sense of enthusiasm this season as Smokey's Greater Shows hits the road in its home state of Maine.
    Gilmore, the carnival's owner who lives in Strong, Maine, has hired industry veteran Robby Driskill as the show's new general manager. Three years after George "Bud" Gilmore died, Jeannette's husband and the show's co-owner, Driskill has helped bring new blood to the 60-year-old company.
    "Robby has been a godsend," she said. "He's brought a breath of fresh air to the show. I haven't been this excited in years. Bud would be real happy to see how things are going. He would have loved Robby."
    Driskill is no stranger to the carnival business. He's the son of Bob Driskill, former owner of the old Spectacular Midways of Chicago, and for many years, Robby helped run his family business. 
    Over the past six months, Robby has helped reshape Smokey's Greater Shows. He supervised a work crew in winter quarters that refurbished about a half-dozen rides leading up to the first spot in early June. Driskill documented the process on his Facebook page, taking before-and-after photos illustrating the repairing and painting of equipment.
    In addition, Driskill has led the effort to upgrade the Giant Wheel, Scrambler, a fun house and the interior of the Gravitron with LED lighting. The show purchased an ATM/credit card machine, which it did not previously have, he said. The carnival also implemented a speed pass program and it now sells ride tickets online.
    Driskill hired Walter Roberts, formerly with S&S Amusements and Deggeller Attractions, as Smokey's new concessions manager after George Mitford retired after last season. Roberts owns 12 game and food concessions and set up six games and a food trailer at the Auburn Carnival, June 3-11, the show's first date of the 2016 season.
    Maine is long way from Chicago, but Driskill found new life in the carnival business after working the past few years for an amusement park in Panama City, Fla. He had moved back to Chicago last fall to be closer to family and planned to help his brother Danny Driskill operate his carnival, D&J Amusements. 
    But then Robby Driskill got a call from Rick D'Aprile, a former insurance salesman and a mutual friend of Driskill and Gilmore. It was Gilmore who contacted D'Aprile to see if he knew anyone interested in the job after she went through a few general managers that didn't work out to her satisfaction. In turn, D'Aprile called Driskill about the possibility of relocating to Maine and working for Smokey's Greater Shows.
    "Robby called me the next day," Gilmore said. "It was in early November and we just got off the road. I don't know what it was, but we just clicked. We talked about the business, and the next thing I know, we attended the Maine fair meetings together and the Florida trade show. 
    "We've both been in this business all our lives and we both have a lot of energy," she said. "He had some new ideas, being from the Midwest, and so far he's done a fabulous job. It's going well and I see the show only getting better. We're a great team. The rides needed a lot of improvements, and since Bud died, it's been hard for me to move forward."
    As the son of a carnival owner, Driskill has been all over the country and welcomed the opportunity to take over the reins of a carnival in one of the U.S.'s most beautiful settings. He brought Amanda, his 19-year-old daughter, to work with him at Smokey's. Together, they'll be crisscrossing the state of Maine playing some of its biggest events, including the Fryeburg Fair, the Yarmouth Clam Festival, the Northern Maine Fair, the Blue Hill Fair and the Ossipee Valley Fair.
    "I'm getting to know everybody with the committees," Driskill said. "It's largely a good old boys club. The show has been in existence for 60 years with a lot of handshake deals and we're switching those over to paper contracts. We've had meetings with some fairs and it's just a matter of getting comfortable with each other."
    Gilmore and Driskill can't do everything on their own for the carnvial. The show relies heavily on H2B workers to help run the operation. Smokey's hires 50 Mexican nationals over the course of the season. The carnival starts with nine international workers and adds another 35 by mid-May. The balance of H2B workers join the show by July, Gilmore said.
    "I couldn't move the show without them," she said. "I know when they come and go. They have background checks and ID cards, and I can get visa extensions if we need them to work longer. Everything is by the book. [Carnival labor agent] Jim Judkins has never let me down. We appreciate all the hard work he's done for us."
    Smokey's long-time workers include welder and fabricator Danny Crane and office manager Mary Robinson. She grew up on the show and left for 25 years before returning to Smokey's eight years ago. All told, the carnival employs 60 people. 
    The company owns about 40 rides and typically sets up a maximum of 30 pieces depending on the spot. In addition to the 18 fairs and festivals on this year's route, Smokey's Greater Shows will book 18 rides at the Skowhegan State Fair, an event where Fiesta Shows holds the contract.
    A church date in Brunswick, Maine is new this year after the carnival that held that spot went out of business, Gilmore said. Smokey's also added the La Kermesse ("The Frogs") Franco-Americaine Festival in Biddeford, Maine, which it has played in the past before giving it up for several years.
    Separately, the town of Bethel, Maine has created an event (July 21-24) tied to the local ski resort and booked Smokey's to help keep people in town during one of its slower periods, Gilmore said. Bath Heritage Days, held over the Fourth of July, books the carnival on a lot across the street from a naval ship factory. 
    The Blue Hill Fair, Sept. 1-15, has horse racing and Harrison Old Home Days, July 7-9, is situated in a community that looks like a "Norman Rockwell painting," Gilmore said. The Fryeburg Fair, Oct. 2-9, is the "granddaddy of them all" and is one of Gilmore's favorite events. Besides a full contingent of rides, Smokey's sets up 15 food trailers in Fryeburg.
    For the past seven years, the carnival has stuck to playing Maine exclusively. When Bud Gilmore was alive, Smokey's traveled to Vermont, New Hampshire and New York but after fuel costs rose to $4 a gallon, the carnival cut back its route, reducing costly trucking fees and the reams of paperwork tied to DOT regulations.
    Smokey's Greater Shows has increased ticket prices to $1.25 per coupon, up  25 cents over 2015. It's another change driven by Driskill. A sheet of 20 tickets is $20 and a sheet of 40 tickets is $35. Wristbands cost $20 for unlimited ride promotion.

    Raiders being refurbished at winter quarters

    Raiders after refurbishment

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1. Texas State Fair - Dallas, TX
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The Industry Buzz
OABA Press Release: H-2B Update
The Outdoor Amusement Business Association (OABA), representing the mobile amusement industry, is pleased that the Senate Labor Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, retained in its mark-up of its Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill, important H-2B temporary non-immigrate, foreign worker provisions that will help keep American small businesses open and protect American jobs. The Senate Appropriations Committee considered and approved the legislation last week and it is likely to reach the floor sometime this summer. 

The provisions will instruct regulatory agencies to make every effort to make the H-2B Visa program more workable for the small and seasonal business community. This year, severe back-ups at these regulatory agencies, including the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security, put American jobs at risk by making it much more difficult for small businesses to be fully operational by delaying the arrival of workers who need the visas to legally work in the United States. 

"Chairman Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Patty Murray, and the other members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services, should be congratulated for their efforts to pare back onerous provisions of DOL regulations that could impair the ability of small, seasonal employers to effectively use the H-2B non-immigrating temporary foreign worker program," stated Robert Johnson, President of the OABA "Our carnivals, concessionaires, and independent ride operators who serve America's fairs and not for profit fundraising have found H-2B workers to be a great source of employees to supplement US workers in the mobile amusement industry," Johnson continued. "If our employers don't have an adequate workforce they can't fulfill their contracts. When we lose contracts, US workers' jobs are threatened."

"Our Senator Roy Blunt, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Labor HHS subcommittee, recognizes that bad federal rules hurt employees and employers. We appreciate his leadership to provide guidance on process regarding determining prevailing wages and defining term of seasonal need. Unelected bureaucrats often make rules that make no sense," said Lorelei Schoendienst of Luehrs' Ideal Rides, a second generation, family carnival company operating in Missouri.

During the fair and exhibition season the mobile amusement industry uses more than 15,000 seasonal workers. The itinerant nature of the work discourages many in the traditional US labor pool from taking these jobs. About one with every three jobs are now filled by legally hired, H-2B visa holders, with over 80% returning year-after-year to work with the same employer. They then return home to their own country. Over 10,000 US jobs are preserved by employers being able to have an adequate workforce to meet contractual requirements at the various venues. All workers are paid in accordance with DOL's prevailing wage rates.
  Posted by Robert Johnson / OABA on 6/17/2016
OABA seeking donations for H2B Support
"Gregg Hartley has arranged for an dinner event with the Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, Steve Chabot to take place on Monday, May 23, 2016 with the rescheduled Senator Blunt dinner event taking place on the Tuesday, the 24th. 
Gregg indicates that while we have raised $11,000 including OABA's PAC donation, he still looking for $4,000 to reach our goal of $15,000.  Please consider donating to this event.  (Four $1000 pledges or eight at $500 each get us to goal.)
Chairman Chabot wrote an article for the OABA Midway Marquee, titled "A Legislative Fix to Boost Seasonal Labor" on page 21, and as you know, his legislation, Strengthen Employment and Seasonal Opportunity Now" (or Season Act) makes the returning workers exemption permanent and removes the Department of Labor from the regulatory process, and puts it with DHS, only answering to one government agency. 
Chairman Chabot is fighting for us, please help with a small contribution." 

  Posted by Robert Johnson / OABA on 4/29/2016
Wade Shows adds first portable Street Fighter Revolution in US
Wade Shows CEO, Frank Zaitshik announced the purchase of yet another new ride for the 2016 season, a Street Fighter Revolution from Technical Park.  The Street Fighter Revolution is in similar design to the traditional Street Fighter, but it makes a complete 360 degree loop upside down.  The show purchased a used Street Fighter from a showman overseas and Technical Park will be converting it to the looping model at their Italy based facility.  While several Street Fighter Revolution models have been sold to piers and small amusement parks in the US, Wade's Street Fighter Revolution is the first portable version to be owned by a US based Carnival.

The Street Fighter Revolution joins a long list of purchases made by Wade Shows for the 2016 season - totaling over $5 million.  Earlier, Wade Shows announced the purchase of a 45 meter Giant Wheel in partnership with Wood Entertainment.  The Show also added a Zero Gravity from Battech, a Puppy Roll from Featherston, a Dumbo ride from Kolmax-Plus, and a used Jungle Twist coaster.  The show also is having its Zipper re-manufactured by Chance Rides, which will be like new and feature the manufacturers new open air tub design.
  Posted by Matt Cook on 4/25/2016
Chance Rides President, Mike Chance, passes
Statement from Dick Chance, CEO Chance Rides and father:

"Yesterday our family and company suffered a tremendous loss. Our son and company president Mike Chance lost his long‐term and well‐fought battle with depression. Mike had suffered from this tough disease for years and had faithfully sought treatment and relief from its effects. Like any other disease that is not yet well understood, depression is often difficult to successfully treat.  

We are proud of Mike for bravely fighting this disease for years while living a full and rich life as a wonderful husband and father, son, grandson, brother, friend and a great company leader. He was a triathlete who competed alongside friends in Iron Man triathlons across the country.  

Mike valiantly fought this disease while focusing on doing great work together with our employees so the fact that he had this disease will come as a surprise to many who knew him.  Just as with other diseases that take our loved ones too early, our family's hope is that research into the treatment for depression will advance. And that those seeking relief from this disease will find a path to successful treatment."

Mike Chance died Tuesday, April 19 at age 42. Service arrangements and memorials are pending. Chance Rides announced the news to employees this morning and is offering ongoing grief counseling for its 100 employees. 

A celebration of Mike's life will be held Wednesday, April 27, 2016, at 10:00 a.m. at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church 1550 N. Chapel Hill Drive, Wichita, KS 67206. 

Memorial contributions may be made to the following organizations:  
KidzCope, 9415 E. Harry, Suite 501, Wichita, KS 67207
Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas, 555 N. Woodlawn, Suite 3105, Wichita, KS 67208.    

  Posted by Dick Chance Press Release on 4/20/2016
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.

AMUSEMENTS OF AMERICA IS NOW HIRING & BOOKING for the 2016 season!  Employment Inquiries call 
Dominic:  (732) 446-7144 and for 

Concession Boing call 
Rob:  (732) 337-7748


All Around Amusements is now hiring ride, game, food, help for the 2016 season.  Call 815-725-2323 for more info or visit

World of Attractions (WOATT) Specializes in the sale of New and Used European rides to the American market.  Check out what we have to offer!

Crabtree Amusements is now hiring ride help, ride foremen, maintenance personnel, and CDL drivers.  Good pay! Call Sarah@ 352.949.6016

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