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  • To Fill Sudden Vacancy, Kansas State Fair Board Creates Interim General Manager Spot
    About seven weeks before opening day, the Kansas State Fair received a jolt most fair organizers dread. Denny Stoecklein, who has been General Manager of the fair 12 years (he has been with the fair for two decades)  informed the board that he was leaving the position. 

    The split is described as amicable. Stoecklein, who did not respond to phone calls or emails for this article, took the position of Director of Marketing & Communications at Hutchinson Community College. But the suddenness of his decision coming amid the final stages of event production put the Kansas State Fair organizers on disaster prevention alert. 

    Anti-Crisis Mode
    Jaw dropping, " is how Harmon Bliss, President of the Kansas State Fair Board, described the news of  Stoecklein's resignation. He called an emergency meeting of the 13-person board. With opening day of the fair less than two months away - the 2015 Kansas State Fair runs September 11-20 - the board decided to postpone filling the position. Instead Lori Hart, Assistant Manager, was promoted to the newly created position of Interim General Manager and the board formed a 5-person committee that will explore the options of how to fill the top spot.
    "We have a fair to put on, that is our first priority," Bliss explained. 

    The main work of the committee will not even begin until after closing day of the Kansas State Fair, and the committee itself will not be searching for candidates, but set up a system for that search. "We want to look at approximate timelines, and how we will look for candidates, where we will advertise," said Bliss. "We have five or six different options in how we are going to collect the data we need, so we will be looking at that." 

    Bliss declined to speculate as to when an announcement about the how the position will be filled, although he hoped that "by December or early January," a new general manager would be named. 

    Another reason the fair board selected a cautious approach to filling the position, is that the new General Manager will have some serious fairground funding issues to contend with. "The state is not looking to put money into the fair," said Bliss. "We get money through a variety of ways, including the carnival, ticket sales, exhibitors fees, and we do a fairly good job and we are very solvent." 
    But like other fairs, fairgrounds upkeep and building maintenance have suffered, especially during the economic downturn. "We are in need of some capital improvement," said Bliss. We have a horse barn, an arena and other facilities with some structural issues. We want our next general manager to be good at working with different organizations and good at raising money. We are going to have to get extra funds and raise some big dollars." 

    High Expectations
    In the meantime, the board felt that to ensure the success of the 2015 Kansas State Fair, the emergency measure of an Interim Manger was necessary. "We decided to make Loris interim manager," said Bliss. "She's been the number two person in charge, so that made sense, she has the full confidence of the board, and all of the staff."

    "I respect the process," said Hart.  "I agree with the idea that let's focus on the fair, and make sure it runs smoothly. "The timing right now is that we are so closed to the fair, my energy is on the fair." 

    On the heels of the fair's conclusion she will also supervise creating a new budget for 2016. "We also have to have our budget to the state due by October 15th," she said.  

    Expectations couldn't be higher for the 2015 Kansas State Fair. Last year, attendance reached 353,229 - the highest in 16 years - with a  3.32 percent increase in gross revenue (gross revenue was $1,264,153.75).

    Hart has been with the fair for 17 years and as Assistant Manger for 14 of those years. "I have been involved in all aspects of the fair," she said. In her new position, she will be overseeing a staff of 20 and the approximately 500 events with the fair. 

    As second-in-command, Hart worked hand-in-hand with Stoecklein in nearly all aspects of the fair, including promotion, marketing, community outreach, and event organizations. In addition, she was directly involved with the Kansas State Fair Foundation, including organization a fund-raising auction for that organization, which is governed by its own board, that takes place on the day preceding opening day of the fair.  

    Assistant-Less Interim
    Hart will also be working at a disadvantage Stoecklein never faced. The position she leaves to take the helm will be left vacant, another decision the fair board postponed making until after the fair. "I don't have an assistant manager," she said. "I will be delegating more duties, and the staff is picking up the slack. Everyone will be working more hours."

    "We are going to be short staffed, but we have all the department heads in place, and we've discussed this," said Bliss. "We have a very good staff. It will be challenging with all the different segments of the fair."

    Hart did say what will be new for her is the role of public spokesperson for the fair.  "I will be doing all the radio and TV, but most will be broadcasted from the fairgrounds, but I have one morning show in Wichita," she said. "We're still figuring all that out."

    In fact, having worked on the executive team with Stoecklein for more than a decade makes Hart confident she will be able to handle the pressure of being in the captain's seat for this fair. But she admitted, "being interviewed by the press is new to me." 

    A little more familiar will be the meetings with groups who support and participate in the fair, such as Kiwanis Club and civic organizations. Previously, she and Stoecklein would "divide & conquer," sharing these responsibilities. Many of the meetings are about logistics and practical matters that were under her direct purview as Assistant Manager - "I have experience meeting and speaking with small groups, meeting one-on-one," she said. Although she isn't sure of the exact number of meetings that still need to take place prior to the fair, she estimated that about 120 different organizations are involved with the event. 

    Asked if the 2015 Kansas State Fair is an audition for the General Manager job, Hart said, "maybe in some people's mind, but I'm not thinking about that. I have an open mind and free heart, and if I am being auditioned, so be it. Every fair is different, and Mother Nature is always the main factor. I believe that if you stay methodical in what you have to do, your efforts will pay off." 

    2015 Excitement
    Building on the  success of the 2014 Kansas State Fair, Hart  anticipates residents of  the Sunflower State will find the this year's fair even more enriching and fun . Last year the Kansas State Fair opened up a new building, the State Fair Museum, which commemorates the fair and generates nostalgia. "I'm very excited about the theme for this year's exhibit, the "Year of the Ride," which will be about amusement rides," she said. The exhibit coincides with the 100th anniversary of a Ye Ole Mill, a water ride and permanent facility of the fair —"there's only three in the country and this is the only one in the state," she said.

    She's also looking forward to the music line line-up, which includes Three Days Grace, Joan Jet and the Black Hearts, Sam Hunt, and The Oak Ridge Boys, "We have something for everybody at this year's fair," she said.  

  • TJ Schmidt's Douglas Burtch:  Conductor par excellence
    Whether Douglas Burtch is conducting business or music, he does so with a flair.  Turns out that he is not only Business Manager of TJ Schmidt and Company, but also Founder and Conductor of the East Shore Wind Symphony.

    When asked which musical instruments he plays, Burtch replied, "Piano and clarinet are my primary ones, but you come to learn them all."  He is that type of midway manager, as well.

    Having worked his way through all facets of carnival life, he is knowledgeable about them all.  Back When Burtch reminisced, "When I was just a child, the fairgrounds were in the backyard of my hometown [Standish, Michigan].  I would peddle over on my bike and spend hours just watching them set up.  I was there every single day that the fair was operating.  I would roam the midway, taking in the sights and smells, imagining myself 'running away with the carnival.'"  

    "When I got to be about 12 or 13, before I could drive, I went and knocked on Mr. Ivan Arnold's office door.  That began a friendship and mentoring that has lasted through today.  When I turned 16, Ivan and Agnes Arnold's daughter Sandy gave me the opportunity to come and work at a concession on certain weekends.  So that's where I started, and I never looked back."

    "It's like living a true dream.  First you imagine yourself doing something, and then you get to go out and do it.  Throughout the years, I just took on more and more responsibilities.  And when it came time to invest and purchase equipment, it was Ivan Arnold who sold me my first ride."

    TJ Schmidt and Company
    Sandy Arnold went on to marry Terry Schmidt, whose parents were carnival owners Sherman and Joy Schmidt.  In 2008, Sandy and Terry launched TJ Schmidt and Company.  Their years of prior experience made for much success. 
    The TJ Schmidt and Company website explains:  "From 1982 until the close of the 2007 season, Terry and Sandy owned and operated a large amount of equipment with the Schmidt Amusement Carnival which was founded by Terry's parents." 

    Given Doug Burtch's own years of related history, it seems only natural that he too is now an integral part of TJ Schmidt and Company.  Burtch serves as Business Manager, and works closely with Executive Director Terry Schmidt, Food Service Specialist Sandy Schmidt, and General Managers Josh and Kyle Schmidt (sons of Terry and Sandy).

    Burtch added, "We've been blessed with a wonderful staff, many of whom return year after year.

    We try to be as accommodating as we can, understanding that life on the road is demanding.  We therefore have Employee Appreciation parties and an Associate of the Week program."

    "We travel to over 20 cities a year and have given some paid time off for employees to visit the sights of historic Michigan cities.  TJ Schmidt and Company also plays a very prominent role in its home community of Standish." 

    "Terry's father, Sherman Schmidt, was Fair Manager of the Standish Fair, and that's how he got started in the business.  W. G. Wade Shows played that fair, and that's how the Schmidt family began with it.  So the Standish Fair launched the careers of the Schmidt family and myself."

    Burtch continued, "Standish is the classic American small town.  Growing up there, I remember that we had a single traffic light and an old downtown district.  The County Fair was always the event of the year."

    "For many years, TJ Schmidt and Company has done a fundraiser for the elementary school each spring, basically donating all the proceeds back to the PTA.  Sandy Schmidt sits on the hospital board.  Company folks are very involved in the community."

    Burtch added, "During the past two years, we've made major equipment purchases and seen well over a million dollars of reinvestment in the company.  As a team, we come to the table with all our different perspectives and make such decisions together."  

    "We go for a variety of classics, thrill rides, foods and games so that each event will have something for everyone.  Teenagers wants the thrills, little kids want the trains, grandmas and grandpas want to share their own childhood favorites with their families."

    Making Beautiful Music Together
    Burtch has found that carnival management can be quite compatible with his other great area  of expertise:  conducting orchestras and bands.  The East Shore Wind Symphony website lists Burtch as both Artistic Director and Founding Conductor.  He has also been "a frequent guest conductor with the CMU [Central Michigan University] Wind Symphony, the critically acclaimed CMU Symphonic Wind Ensemble and the Chippewa Marching Band."

    Burtch is well prepared for all of these starring roles, having attained "a Master of Music Degree in Instrumental Conducting from Central Michigan University and a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education from Saginaw Valley State University."  He has "conducted and taught at all levels including elementary music, middle and high school, collegiate and adult bands."

    Highlights from Burtch's music career include the following:  The concert band that he directed at the Cass City Public School District not only "received superior ratings at Michigan School Band & Orchestra Association District and State Festivals," but was also "selected to perform at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida..."

    It is rare that a person realizes not just one, but two of his fondest dreams.  It is also rare that such dreams fit so well together.  As any fairgoer knows, midways and music complement one another.  Music needs its venues, and midways need their "soundtracks."  

    Burtch stated, "During the height of the carnival season, from early April until early October, all of us (parents, sons and myself) generally travel in one unit, along with the 25 rides, the games and the food.  At other times of the year, I travel to some music functions, and the Schmidt family travels some too."

    Douglas Burtch and TJ Schmidt:  "making beautiful music together" for past, present and future generations.    

  • Skinners Amusements Celebrates 105th season
    MUNDELEIN, Ill. ---- Skinners' Amusements showcased its shiny new Chance Zipper during Mundelein Community Days, an Independence Day festival in the north Chicago suburbs.

    The Zipper is a standard attraction for many carnivals but Chance Manufacturing, the Wichita firm that makes the ride, focused its efforts of late on the theme park market, according to Doug Skinner Sr. The carnival's model is the first portable model Chance has produced in 14 years, said Skinner, the show's co-owner with his wife Pat.

    The Skinner family considered other rides but the Zipper is one single attraction that all the event committees ask for when negotiating midway contracts, Pat said. At a cost of $700,000, it's the show's third new Zipper to debut over the past few decades. 

    They completed the purchase at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions show last November in Florida. It came with a factory-made LED light package, and for the most part, "everybody is real happy with it," Pat Skinner said. "It's a well-performing ride."  Doug Skinner said there have been some initial color scheme issues the family is working out with Chance officials to meet their satisfaction.

    In addition, the show's Eli Bridge Eagle 16 wheel went through a complete refurbishment with new seats installed at a cost $20,000, Pat Skinner said. A new top on the bumper cars cost $10,000. Last year's new purchases included a Frog Hopper kiddie ride.

    All told, the carnival has been doing business for 105 years. Mundelein Community Days, has been a mainstay on its route for about 30 years. Skinners' Amusements first booked equipment here with the old Dispensa & Sons carnival before eventually taking over the contract from their old partner. The town's American Legion post runs the celebration and has incorporated the Mundelein Munch, a food fest across the street, into its activities, Pat Skinner said. 

    Peter Kasin, one of the show's independent game concessionaires, said his family has played the spot for 45 years dating to 1970 when his father Clarence "Coach" Kasin was in charge of the business. In honor of his father, Peter rolled out his dad's old one-ball game where players attempt to knock over three milk bottles. His twin brother Paul was nearby working his basketball game.

    In addition to Kasin Concessions, Billy Thornberry booked a half-dozen games here, displaying some beautiful equipment, including a balloon pop, Skee-Ball, basketball and water gun attractions. All told, Skinners' Amusements had about 20 rides tucked into a lot in downtown Mundelein. The Beach Party fun house, Eli Wheel, Cliffhanger and Zero Gravity anchored a tight but impressive looking midway in this Lake County village.

    Pat Skinner gave an interesting response when asked what else is new with the show. "Attitude," she said. "We try to get everybody to have a positive attitude. We're doing our best to instill that [mentally] in our workforce. We have meetings constantly to let our employees know to put a smile on their face.  We give them T-shirts, meals and transportation from our winter quarters [in Marengo, Ill.] to where we're at with our bunkhouses."

    The show employs about 35 workers including part-timers. The number grows over county fair season in July and August. Here in Mundelein, there were 20 people working for the carnival specifically, including five swing workers who give the ride operators breaks, Pat Skinner said.

    The carnival drew a nice crowd on Thursday, July 2, the first night of the festival supported by a special of $2 per ride. The Skinners made assurances that, pending weather conditions, the midway would be packed on the Fourth of July. For all Chicagoland shows, the holiday weekend brought sunny skies, the first without cold and rain since summer kicked in a few weeks earlier.

    Other Chicago shows enjoying a busy Fourth were North American Midway Entertainment's All-Star unit in Arlington Heights; Fantasy Amusements in Mount Prospect; Windy City Amusements in Palatine; and Modern Midways, Hoffman Estates. 

    As Skinners' Amusements has grown stronger over the years, so have the festivals it's played, Pat said. But each event has its own idiosyncrasies, she said. For example, for Mundelein Community Days, the carnival does not run wristband specials because event officials feel it can cause reckless customer behavior. So, the show runs straight ticket sales for the duration of the festival.

    Elsewhere, wristbands are popular at the Lake Zurich Alpine Fest, and there are no issues with patrons taking advantage of the pay-one-price promotion. The same is true for Wauconda Fest, the event Skinners' played prior to Mundelein. At that event, officials allow customers to walk around with open containers of alcohol outside of the main beer tent. "That's the only one with the freedom to walk around [with beer]," Skinner said. "The others are self-contained."

    As county fair season approaches, the show will make its annual appearance at the Lake County (Ill.) Fair. Skinners' Amusements has played the event since it started in 1928, including the past five years at its new location in Grayslake. It's taken awhile to build the fair back up again at its new spot, she said, but the good news is Camping World and Harley-Davidson have stepped up as new sponsors, she said. The carnival itself also donates money to fair causes.

    The carnival's fair route extends to the McHenry County Fair in Woodstock, Ill., and the Boone County Fair in Belvidere, Ill.

    Pat Skinner sees some changes coming on the horizon for the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs, the trade group representing the state's fairs and festivals. For the past 15 to 20 years, the association has held its annual January convention at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Springfield. But the hotel has a new owner and brought some new and unanticipated expenses to the table for the carnival to run its hospitality suite at the facility.

    For this year's event, Skinners' Amusements had to buy its party supplies from the hotel directly, which charged $325 for a keg of beer and $80 for a bottle of whiskey, plus room expenses. Pat Skinner feels those charges were excessive, and with Bill Fugate retiring this past April as the group's secretary/treasurer, the association is seeking a new hotel to hold the convention.

    "The problem is there is not another hotel in the area to fit all the county fairs," she said. "We may end up [at the same hotel] and cut it down to one night. It had been multiple nights."

  • Extra Day & Innovative Promotions Makes San Diego's
    Only an ultra-confident event can market itself as "A Fair to Remember," but The San Diego County Fair has earned the size of its ego. Considered to be the largest fair in Southern California and the 4th largest fair in the country, it is also now one of  the longest. The fair added another day, making it a 25-day event, running June 5th to July 5th. 

    This extension was accompanied by an expanded marketing and promotional strategy, the addition of two new "festivals within the fair," as well as other content and the booking of audience-attracting entertainment. The formula worked. Numbers were up across the board.

    According to Tim Fennell, CEO, The San Diego County Fair, overall revenue increased by 6 percent, reaching in excess of $2 million. Food sales were up more than 9.23 percent and the midway was up 9.59 percent. "We had a tremendous fair," said Fennell. 

    For the past 15 years, he estimates, the fair has seen steady increase and this year attendance reached 1,503,508, with the Friday July 3rd, reaching 92,948, making it the sixth highest single-day attendance in fair history. That day was also a major one for the main parking lot, which handled 16,398 vehicles and had its highest revenue day, grossing $173,690. In addition, the 66th Annual Jr. Livestock Auction was successful : $449,000 was raised for members of 4-H and FFA.

    Fennell said the key to his fair's up-trending track record is a business-minded spirit that he feels is in contrast to county fairs statewide and nationally. "We operate the fair like a business, which means we think out of the box and are entrepreneurial," he said. ‘A lot of fairs, the people who run it come out the agricultural industry, but they don't really understand about putting on entertainment events."

    Fennell cites as example, the decision to add days but close on Mondays - the fair used to run 20 straight days - a move that added a 5th weekend. The idea was not just to make the fair longer, but make optimize every minute of every fair hour. "Monday was the slowest day for the fair, especially when school is still in session," he said. "The best you could hope for was a push."

    Weather & Drought
    According to Fennell, the weather was typical sunny San Diego for the most part, although there were three "rainy days," and a thunderstorm that "shut down the midway for 45 minutes," and he estimated that these inclements day during the 25-day fair, "hurt us about 15,000."

    Being that California is suffering one of its worst droughts in history, Fennell was not about to complain about rain. While the a handful of downpours may not have had any significant effect on the water shortage, the impact of the drought and more restrictive state regulations on water usage was more noticeable on overall operations than on actual fair operations. "We've cut water usage for the fairgrounds, and the race track isn't in operation during the fair," he said. "For the annual fair, there were other things we were doing that we hadn't been doing. We've been living with the drought for a few years now."

    In addition to the mainly good weather, there were indicators that the economic recovery continues in California. "The economy has come back, maybe not as good a comeback as some are saying in Washington, but things have gotten better," said Fennell. "You could tell patrons had more money to spend and were feeling better about the economy."

    Aside from what appears to be an uptick in spending at this year's fair, Fennell noticed another positive sign. The fair hires about 1,800 part time workers annually, "and when the economy is weak, we've had more than 9,500 applicants," said Fennell. This year, that application pool was down to about 7,500.

    Festival Fair 
     Many fairs face increased competition from festivals, and San Diego has taken an "if you can't beat them, join them" approach by incorporating festivals into the fair. The San Diego County Fair hosted several of these events within the event - the 3-day 2015 San Diego International Beer Festival, attracted 9,517 - Fennell claimed it was the second largest beer festival on the west coast; the 2-day 2015 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition & Festival, which attracted 1,105, and the one-day 2015 Distilled: San Diego Spirit & Cocktail Festival had 985 in my attendance. In addition, the fair also hosted one-day festivals, the 11th Annual Gospel Festival, the Bluegrass Festival (an annual event) and the first ever, Asian Festival, which celebrated Asian and Pacific Island culture, which according to the San Diego Fair website, presented, "music, dance and martial arts performances, as well as fashion and community-based organizations representing China, Philippines, India, Korea, Japan, Polynesia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. 

    Fennell said, "this will definitely return and I know it will grow."

    Hispanic Expansion
    Fennell pointed out that 20 years ago, the San Diego County Fair was basically "ignored" by the Hispanic community. When he stepped into the helm, he made sure the fair has committed itself to this growing community, adding more events each year. Now, every Sunday the fair features Día de la Familia (Day of the Family) at the San Diego County Fair, which showcases Mexican music and performances along with artisans, games artisans, games, contests, and other activities and attractions. This year they set up Fiesta Village in the Family Funville section, which features Hispanic entertainment, food and artisan crafts that span Central and South America and the Caribbean. 

    "We strongly embrace the Hispanic community and have been for years," said Fennell. "It is growing and they are great customers, You get grandparents from both sides coming, entire families enjoying the fair. We probably have the highest per-capita spending rates from our Hispanic fairgoers." 

    Bilingual and Spanish language advertising has long been part of the marketing strategy of the San Diego County Fair, but this year the fair placed ads in various media in Northern Mexico. "We crossed the border because we are getting a lot of families from that area," said Fennell.
    Merchandise Marketing
    While adding an international arm of their marketing shows innovative thinking, perhaps this promotional savvy fair's entrepreneurial spirit is best exemplified by how it merchandise the "A Fair to Remember" theme. The fair's in-house graphic design and marketing team every year takes the theme, incorporates it into a new logo, creating a range of incentive items, souvenirs and other merchandise. The "A Fair To Remember" marketing theme was steeped in fair nostalgia. This year was the centennial of one of the most famous world fairs in history, also held in San Diego - the 1915 Panama-California Exposition held in Balboa Park, an historic landmark.  

    "People want a keepsake of the fair," he said. "We always bring out new merchandise, themed to the fair, and those colors and themes are carried throughout the grounds, in banners and uniforms" 

    Another new marketing gimmick this year was a steep-discount, pre-fair promotion - a $25 Best Pass, available at local retailers Albertsons and Vons - which allowed fairgoers admission any day of the fair. "It was probably our most effective promotion," said Fennell. 

    Independent Midway
    According to Fennell, the San Diego Fair midway revenue reached $9 million. Due to the  length of the fair and the size of the midway - the fair features 82 rides - the fair has an independent midway contracting with 13 different ride companies. "Grosses are higher because of our split, which favors the carnival companies, and we can cherry pick the best rides for our midway," he said.

    The fair features nine different stages for entertainment - a mix of free and paid admissions. The price of concert admission is not included in the fair admission fee. In addition, the fair added a Concert & Concerts package which included a meet & greet cocktail reception with the artists. Some of the artists this year included: The Robert Cray Band; Iron Butterfly; Marshall Tucker Band, Three Dog Night, Average White Band, Tanya Tucker, Gregg Allman, Kansas, KC & The Sunshine Band, Charlie Wilson, Grupo Intocable, Gregg Allman, Los Tigres Del Norte and Spirit West Coast, a Christian concert. The paid-acts stages include the Toyota Summer Concert Series, which is held on Heineken Grandstand Stage and the Ford Dealers' Paddock Concert Series, which included nationally known artists and tribute bands performing in one of the Fair's most intimate settings, the Coors Light Rock On Series, which showcased a eclectic array of tribute bands and the Del Mar Arena Shows, which showcased animal and motor sports entertainment. Every Thursday of the Fair featured the Solid Gold Series, which this included Tony Orlando and folk music legend Judy Collins. 

    "We have something for everybody," he said, noting that for the non-music entertainment, "the Monster Trucks had one of our best nights." 
    Like other fairs that feature nationally known headliners, booking entertainment isn't getting any easier, or less expensive. San Diego is also a growing market with no lack of competing venues. Fennell said that his fair is perceived as more of amphitheater, creating its own profile in the live entertainment industry. He also feels that the fair has established itself as a quality West Coast summer gig. "There are a lot of fairs were the artist doesn't get the best reception," he said. "But I think the word has gotten around about the reception they get, our backstage areas, our security and accommodations, and they get treated as well as they can be. We promote our concerts very well, and bring in crowds." 
    Fennell added that his staff is finding entertainers at the right price who draw from the many population segments who come to this 25-day fair. The market may continue to get more challenging, but "we try buy talent wisely," he said, and like the independent midway, "we book entirely in-house, we don't use any other agencies. I think the level of trust we've established with artists and promoters has given us an edge."

    More than 100 food vendors worked the Fair, and Fennell claimed the food sales - $17.5 million - were the best in the history of the fair. Some of the official stats include Dixie's Donuts selling more than 40,000 mini donuts; Bacon-A-Fair used more than 18,500 pounds of bacon and selling 1,600 orders of Deep Fried Coffee; Chicken Charlie selling 3,000 Deep-Fried SlimFast Bars, and 5,000 Peanut Butter Pickles; Pink's sold "more than 4,160 pounds of hot dogs. That translates to 20,800 hot dogs, with 15 percent of those Martha Stewart Dogs, 10 percent Bam Dogs, and 5 percent the new Jalapeno Dog; Juicy's sold more than 50,000 Turkey Legs; Australian Battered Potatoes used more than 14,000 pounds of potatoes and Pignotti's went through more than 1,000 pounds of shark and 7,200 fish tacos.

    In spite of its size and length, the San Diego is one of the greenest fairs in the country. The event generated an estimated waste stream of 2,084 tons of material, but more than 1,449 tons were recycled, turned into biofuel or sent to be composted. The fair achieved a 70 percent diversion rate from the landfill and an estimated $33,757 in earned revenue. 

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Rainbow Valley Rides co-founder Ronald Kedrowicz passes
Ronald A. Kedrowicz, co-founder of Wisconsin based Rainbow Valley Rides, passed away on Saturday July 25, 2015 at Seasons of Life Hospice Center in Woodruff, WI at the age of 79.

He was born Dec. 29, 1935 in the Town of Sharon, WI. He is the son of the late Joseph & Florence (Kielpinski) Kedrowicz.

He entered the US Navy on March 22, 1956 at Great Lakes, IL. He served on the USS Valley Forge and was honorably discharged on Jan. 27, 1958 at Norfolk, VA.
His marriage to Lorraine Yenter took place on Nov. 8, 1958 at St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Rosholt, she survives.

Ronald was employed by Consolidated Papers in Paper Board Products for several years. In 1973 the couple started their carnival business, Rainbow Valley Rides Inc. Transferring the business to their sons at their retirement in 2010.

Survivors include his wife Lorraine, two daughters: Renee (Jeff) Budsberg of Shanty Town and Doreen (Randy) Krusick of Amherst. Two sons: Ronald "Chip" (Teri) Kedrowicz of Custer and Joseph (Christa) Kedrowicz of Stevens Point. 10 Grandchildren and 2 Great grandchildren. One brother: Rhody (Kathy) Kedrowicz of Wisconsin Rapids.  He is preceded in death by 1 infant granddaughter Bailey.

A memorial in his name will be established at a later date.

Funeral Mass will be 10:30 AM Wednesday Aug. 5, 2015 at St. Maximilian Kolby Catholic Church in Almond. Rev. James Trempe officiating. Burial will take place in St. Martin's cemetery in Buena Vista. Visitation will be from 4 to 8 PM on Tuesday Aug. 4, 2015 at the Pisarski/Dzikoski Funeral Home at 703 Second St. in Stevens Point and from 9:00 AM until the time of services Wednesday morning at the Church. A rosary will be prayed at 7:00 PM on Tuesday evening at the funeral home. Pisarski Funeral Homes is honored to be serving the family.

For on line condolences please visit
  Posted by Matt Cook / Obiturary on 7/29/2015
Billy Burr passes
BILLY BURR, passed away over the weekend, former owner of Burr’s "FUN-O-RAMA," a carnival that operated in the Northeast.  Billy was a long time board member of the OABA and Trustee in 1990.  He was inducted into the OABA Hall of Fame in 2000.  A reputable carnival owner, his lure was to the CIRCUS, as he was an active CFA and Showfolks Club member, living in the Sarasota area, after selling his show.    
As Wayne McCary said, "Sad to hear about the death of Billy Burr. He was a legendary New England showmen, circus fan and a perfect gentlemen.  Glad we put him in the Hall of Fame, when he could still enjoy the honor."

  Posted by OABA on 7/13/2015
J&J Amusements Shirley Richardson passes
J&J Amusements matriarch Shirley Richardson passed away on June 28, 2015 unexpectedly at her home. Shirley was the mother of four children including J&J owner John Richardson Sr. She had ten grandchildren and twenty-one great children. Shirley had traveled from Florida to Ohio a few weeks back ( while battling cancer) because she simply had spots that she had to keep working! She developed many long term relationships with the events she worked, including the Canfield Fair in Ohio which she worked for more than 62 years.  Posted by Matt Cook / Obiturary on 7/1/2015
Wood Entertainment's Magnum gets another facelift
Michael Wood announced another update to his Mondial Magnum this spring.  In addition to an upgraded LED light system from Denny's Electronics that was installed last year, the ride's backwall sceenery was repainted with a new mural.  Wood hired a artist from England who specializes in painting amusement rides and flew him in to give the Magnum a completely new look.  The ride is currently playing the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, CA.

CLICK HERE to view additional photos of the ride
  Posted by Matt Cook on 6/29/2015
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 2015, NOW BOOKING, Office Manager & Assistant wanted, Custom Fence & Signage available!!

Campy's Amusements is Now Hiring for 2015 - Ring of Fire Foreman, Electrician, Ride Supers

Triangle Poster & Printing is your source for carnival posters, signs, tickets, coupons, and more for special events, carnivals, fairs, festivals, and circuses.  Visit for more info or call 412-371-0774.

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

Need ride wheels?  Advance Caster & Wheel specializes in new & re-tread ride wheels for carnival and amusement rides including Zipper wheels, Ring of Fire/Super Loop wheels, Roller Coaster wheels, and much more.  Call 616-241-4519 for more info.

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