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  • Powers Midways adds new rides; show gears up for NC State Fair

    CONCORD, N.C. ---- Nobody has to tell Les "Corky" Powers about the difficulties facing carnival owners these days.

    Powers, whose family owns Powers Great American Midways, has observed several carnivals go out of business over the past year, which he believes is due in large part to federal regulation of businesses conducting interstate commerce.

    "Every city, county and state has different rules and every time you turn around, there's something else to contend with," Powers said while his carnival was set up at the Cabarrus County Fair.  "I can see more shows going out business."

    "As a result, there are several fairs thinking about shutting down because they don't have a carnival," he said. "I've had some fairs call me up and say 'Name your price.' They're desperate for a carnival. But it's hard for a large carnival like us to play smaller dates. We have such a large staff and to set up only 10 rides at an event doesn't work."

    "People still in [the carnival business] have such a love and passion for it. They don't want to give it up until they absolutely have to. Who else would want to do this kind of work? We love the business but to be honest we're ready to close for the season."

    The Powers family has been through its own hardships over the past 12 months. A horrible ride accident during last year's N.C. State Fair left Anthony Gorham, a husband and father, with permanent injuries including brain damage, according to local reports.

    The accident occurred on the Vortex, a ride operated by Joshua Macaroni  and booked through Powers Great American Midways, the holder of the midway contract in Raleigh.

    Lawsuits were filed against the two shows in addition to ride operator Tim Tutterrow and Joshua Macaroni, the owner of the Vortex whose family owns Family Attractions.

    Corky Powers declined to comment on the accidents and the legal action because it remains tied up in litigation.

    Most of the 90 to 95 pieces at this year's N.C. State Fair will be supplied by Powers Great American Midways and Wade Shows. One exception is the Delusion, owned by Dreamland Amusements, Powers said.

    The state fair lineup will include three brand new Powers pieces: the Majestic Fly-O-Plane, the first portable model that's a reproduction of a park ride; a KMG Khaos, a pendulum-type ride similar to the Freak Out but one that does a complete 360; and the Spin Zone, made by Amusements Products.

    The Fly-O-Plane made its debut at the New York State Fair before it was sent back to the Majestic Mfg. to be installed with "bells and whistles," including scenery and extra lighting, Powers said.

    A fourth ride, the Wisdom Stampede, was delivered to Raleigh last year and returns in 2014. The Stampede was new to Cabarrus County though and the lines to ride the attraction were some of the longest at the fair.

    Some other Powers rides showcased here and at the state fair might as well be classified as new pieces. The Speed has been completely refurbished after about eight years of operation. As it stands now, LED light packages cover 99 percent of the show's ride arsenal.

    "Our shop works year-round," Powers said. "We trade equipment out as we see fit. We buy five to eight new trucks every year and are in the process of buying four new generators."

    Wade Shows, owned by Frank Zaitshik, will bring its new Comet Coaster to the state fair, as well as the Rainbow, which Powers described as a "giant, Ali Baba-type ride."

    The two shows work closely together. Powers Great American Midways sent a bunch of equipment to Syracuse for the state fair this year as Wade completed the first year of its contract there. It was a new beginning after Strates Shows played the state fair for 74 consecutive years.

    Ride ticket prices have remained stable this year. Powers' goal is to continue to make outdoor entertainment affordable for families through wristband promotions. At Cabarrus County, the cost was $25 and $22 for advance sale. The advance discount used to be $5, Powers said.

    "We cater to the local people who can't afford Disney," he said. "The fairs work with us as well to provide extra entertainment."

    Powers has no complaints over labor. He's got a good crew and employs 49 international workers. The rest are Americans and many are longtime Powers employees.

    Key managers and supervisors include concessions manager Steve Ianni, second unit manager Jeremy Thomas and George Campbell, second unit office manager. Powers' son, Eddie and daughter Tracy and their families own rides and games.

    "The biggest supporter is my wife Debbie," he said.

    Overall, the season has been a bit flat but if the show can finish off its North Carolina run of six fairs with good weather, it will be up over last year, Powers said. Expenses are greater but the price of diesel was down to $3.15 a gallon at the time the show filled its generators here.

    "It's been up as high as $3.65 a gallon depending on the time of year," he said.

    From Cabarrus County, which ran Sept. 5-13, the show traveled to Greenville, N.C. to play the Pitt County Fair, Sept. 16-21. Pitt County is an old Playworld Amusements date. It's one of the shows Powers mentioned that's no longer traveling over the road as a single unit.

    Rowan County, the North Carolina fair Powers gave up to play Pitt County, was taken over by Dreamland Amusements. Powers Great American Midways had finished its contract at Rowan County, Powers said.

  • Good Weather and New Changes: Wisconsin State Fair Has Record Attendance
    With great weather and a new management team that seems to have finally found its footing, the Wisconsin State Fair had a tremendous 2014 event. For the second year in a row, fair attendees exceeded one million, with 1,030,881 fairgoers this year; in 2013 attendance reached 1,012,552. Both weekends also drew large crowds, including two of the highest paid attendance days in the history of the Fair - Saturday, August 2 attendance reached more than 128,000, and Saturday, August, the crowd swelled to nearly 137,000.

    "Wisconsin State Fair has long been considered one of the top Fairs in the United States by many measures, and achieving attendance of over one million two years in a row solidifies this even more," stated Rick Frenette, chief executive officer of Wisconsin State Fair Park. "It is an honor to reach this landmark number again, showing how much people truly enjoy this historic 11 days that celebrates 

    Fair Upgrades
    While there was a stormy Friday that impeded the fun - although nothing was closed and the midway remained opened - most days were sunny and warm with humidity remaining low. "We had mostly great weather," said Adam Heffron, Director of Event Services, Wisconsin State Fair Park.

    Weather may be vital to how successful a fair can be, but record attendance and increase in per-capita spending - which Heffron estimates to be about 4 percent - "although we are still waiting on those numbers" - cannot just be attributed to a favorable mother nature. Four years ago, both Frenette and Heffron came to Wisconsin, both had worked previously at the Minnesota State Fair where Heffron's father was the long-time manager.  Frenette has managed state fairs in Ohio and Utah as well. Since their arrival, there has been a steady improvement in multiple aspects of the fair. "We have been attracting a larger audience, we've had more favorable stories in the press coming out," said Heffron. "We have done really good things with marketing and public relations."

    According to Heffron, for much of the first decade of the 21st century, the fair had some difficult times, but in recent years, the fair "had been turned around, financially and programmatically," he added. The Wisconsin State Fair has undergone a steady make-over, enhancing the fairgoer's experience. "We have increased the amount of flowers and added more seated areas and picnic tables," said Heffron. "We improved our front gate presentation and the overall look."

    He added, "little things like having garbage cans with a branded logo on the cover, these are little things that people don't always notice, but they make an overall and lasting impression. We have upgraded a lot of details in guest services." 

    Much can be attributed to experience Heffron and Frenette brought from Minnesota, but also fair management finally settled on a solid, practical plan as well as personnel. "The fair experienced a transition of leadership," said Heffron. "With Rick (Frenette), we had permanency in the corner office, and he elevated the event over time."

    Independent Midway
    While the overall fair may have underwent upgrades in aesthetics and safety, the change in the fair's midway was even more drastic. Two years ago, the Wisconsin State Fair created Spin City, an independent midway, which featured 55 rides and 29 games in 2014. The attendance boost experienced at the front gates however, did not seem to fully translate at the midway, where revenue seemed more or less equal to last year. 

    According to Heffron, after 2011 when a 30-year contract with a single carnival provider concluded, the Wisconsin State Fair board decided to go independent. Part of the push was the experience both Heffron and Frenette had with the Minnesota State Fair, one of the most high profile independent midways in the country. They convinced the fair board and management staff an independent midway would be better for the fair in the long run, even if the short run pay off would not be as apparent. 

    "We had a very hands-on management style when it comes to the midway," explained Heffron.  "When we transitioned, that style allowed us to have more control over safety, aesthetics, layout and our mix of rides. We can also better promote the midway, which we named Spin City. The decision wasn't made to make big bucks right away, but in the long run the midway will be more profitable for us as an independent operation. We will be netting a lot more from the midway down the road. Its revenue will eventually mushroom."

    Of course, instead of a sole provider, Heffron must contract with 21 ride owners, which does put "more on your plate," but also spices up the selection for fairgoers. "The experience for the fairgoer is improved, they get a more selection and a better midway," he said.

    In addition to variety of rides, there's a variety of ride operators. "It's a mixed bag of large operators and small and local companies. We get Reithoffer Shows with their Sky Flyer and Wade Shows, who brings their Comet II roller coaster," said Heffron. "Most companies bring two to three rides, but some of the more spectacular rides, like the Rock IT, which is owned by Mike Demas, which is one of a kind and a pretty awesome piece of equipment. We get a better ride selection and to me, with  an independent midway, it is just as important to have the smaller operators as the larger ones."

    With August being a popular month for Midwest fairs - especially the Minnesota State Fair, which is relatively close and also has an independent midway - ride routing can be more accessible. "We have a lot of large operators who only send us one or two rides, and they wouldn't do it if it wasn't profitable for them," said Heffron. 

    To download a list of the top rides & games at the 2014 state fair, click here.

    More Winners
    In introducing an independent midway format, Heffron also changed the games, reducing them from 35 to 29 and implemented a "stock through 25" policy, which means that 25 percent or "25 cents of every dollar a game generates has to be given back to customers, in the form of a prize. We get daily reports from all the game vendors, we keep track of what percentage of stock is thrown to customers from their game."

    In recent years, midway games have declined in popularity and fair industry observers have speculated on the possible reasons for this erosion, such as the need for better prizes or the possibility that the low-tech nature of the contests simply lack appeal in a contemporary milieu where electronic games are available on every phone. But in Spin City, games seem to be holding their own as a revenue generator. Heffron believes the issue is one of fairness - the chance of wining has to be real - and the independent midway format made the implementation of this policy possible.

    "Every fair in every part of the country has to be aware of the make up of their audience, and in Wisconsin, people still like games," said Heffron. "People do not feel like they are being cheated, and if they go to the games and never win, that burns out the audience for game. People want to have some sort of confidence that they have a reasonable chance to win,  and they are being treated fairly by the operators."

    Even though the new policy is more strict and more strictly enforced, operators have not balked at the increased scrutiny. "Games always start off slow when the fair stars, but if people feel are treated fairly, more people play the games and by the end of the fair, they were very busy," he said. 

    Not only is the 25 percent prize giveback policy effective, it also seems the lower-tech contests have increased popularity in our high-tech world. "Our best grossing game is the Bottle Up, which is very low tech. People here do love games, so I guess every market is a little different," said Heffron.

    Music & Food
    The concert series had a successful run, with tickets ranging from $20 - $59 (ticket prices included sales admission) - all on the Main Stage Presented by Potawatomi (a local casino). Acts ranged from Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles and Happy Together 2014 to major headliners, including Aretha Franklin. Peter Frampton, Summerland Tour, Lady Antebellum, and Alabama. According to Kristi Chuckel, Marketing Manager, the concert series was very profitable this year. The most popular shows were Lady Antebellum, Alabama and Aretha Franklin," she said.

    Wisconsin State Fair had more than 200 vendors, and saw revenue up about 1.8 percent, consistent with the uptick in attendance. The concession area also had an upgrade, "We added four new permanent stands this year," said Heffron. "These were new constructions, and gave the area a fresh new look. The appearance of new stands made the food concessions much more appealing.

    There were 72 new food introductions this year. Fair cuisine received added attention on July 29th, opening day-eve of the Wisconsin State Fair, the 2nd annual Sporkies Competition (the titular utensil is the one where fork and spoon are conjoined) was held, increasing marketing potential of fair cuisine while also encouraging fair food vendors to add "some flair and pizzazz to their entries," according to a pre-fair press release. The Golden Spork Award was given in three categories: "Best Tasting," "Most Creative" and "Grand Champion." The panel of judges was made up of local celebrities, including Gilbert Brown, Super Bowl Champion and Green Bay Packer Hall of Famer, although this year the public participated for the first time. Fairgoers were able to sample all of The Sporkies entries, then could vote for their favorites via social media or at the Guest Services Pavilion - the people's choice winners were awarded a Golden Spork Trophy. 

    According to Chuckel, while no single new food item started a craze, "all of the Sporkies did extremely well." Two stand outs in sales were 10,000 Chicken-n-Waffle Cones and 7,000 loaded Twister Dogs -both Sporkies Food Competition Finalists - from Water Street Brewery, a local vendor. Wisconsin State Fair attendees tended towards the provincial in their food preferences, with their taste buds revealing their state pride. Wisconsin is known for being the heart of America's dairy industry and the largest single selling (55,000+!)  food item was grilled cheese sandwiches from Real Wisconsin Cheese Grill. 
    Promotion & Marketing
    The Wisconsin State Fair implemented several promotion with the most effective based on price - Kohl's Family Value Day - held Monday, August 4 - where 27,049 adults received admission for just $5 and 13,492 children ages 11 and under received free admission. 

    In terms of this year's marketing, the media mix tends toward a breakdown of print, radio, TV, OOH (Out of Home, i.e., Billboards) and online banner ads - news sites, blogs, etc. - and social media advertising. "We also distribute more than 300,000 "Fair Deals" and "Fair Preview" brochures throughout the state," said Chuckel. 

    The biggest change in 2014 was that the fair invested more money on Social Media Marketing. "We spent more time on creating a social media strategy and implementing it," said Chuckel. "We have a very successful Facebook page, more than 133,000 likes. We also focused more on Twitter and Instagram this year, including running several successful promotions that focused on increasing followers and encouraging engagement."

    One social media promotion that seemed to also increase the social media presence of the Wisconsin State Fair was called #PuffLove. "We ordered temporary tattoos that included the hashtag and encouraged people to put their tattoos on, take photos and post them to Instagram and Twitter," said  Chuckel. We had several hundred entries, and our Instagram followers increased by 800 percent." 

    Economy Improves
    Splendidly cooperative weather patterns, a new management team's policy finally gaining traction and  showing a positive impact, and clever and cutting edge marketing, all combined to make the 2014 Wisconsin State Fair a hit. Another factor though is the economy of the Badger State may have noticeably improved. "Considering that our ag exhibitor numbers haven't decreased drastically, our attendance was up, and our per cap spending was up slightly, these signs seem to indicate that a recovery is on the way," said Chuckel.

    "There is a strong upward trend in spending at the fair in the last two years, and with the increases in gate admission, I think that is an indication that things have improved economically," agreed Heffron. "Unemployment in the area has dipped back down, and people are feeling better about their finances."

    If Wisconsin consumers have more to spend and the Summer skies are rain-free, they come out to the fair. Heffron added, "Milwaukee is a town of events. People love the fair and their state and this is  one of the biggest events of the year."

    CLICK HERE to download the ride and game ranking from the 2014 WSF

  • Showmen Supplies:  European parts made readily available Exclusive North American distributor for both KMG and Fabbri

    Showmen Supplies has long been known for getting folks what they need when they need it.  Adding European parts to the mix is just a logical extension of what they've been doing right along.

    KMG Europe, BV
    Back in February 2008, Showmen Supplies Vice President Scott Siefker issued a press release regarding an agreement between his company and KMG Europe, BV.  The companies agreed that "Showmen Supplies will act as the exclusive distributor of KMG amusement ride parts for all equipment operating in North America."

    Showmen Supplies would not only "stock a substantial amount of KMG parts at their LaPorte headquarters," but would also "supply the operators of KMG rides as well as all KMG employees and contractors performing service work in North America."

    KMG Europe, BV is headquartered in Neede, Netherlands.  The company's website states that  KMG specializes in "the manufacture of fun fair attractions that are easy to build up and to take down, that are as light as possible and that have been built according to the latest security demands."

    KMG's rides include the following:  Freak Out, Speed, XXL, Fun Factory, Tango, Afterburner, X-Factory, Speed Buzz, High Swing, XLR8, Experience, Move It 32, Move It 24, Para Jump, Discovery, Tropical Trip, Swing It, Inversion, Mission Space and Sicko.

    This partnership between Showmen Supplies and KMG has been working out exceedingly well for the past six years.  Brad Garza, Director of Marketing & Creative Services for Showmen Supplies, recently wrote, "Expanding our services to include ride parts is only a natural course of our focus on fulfilling customer needs." 

    Garza further explained, "We particularly chose to be a distributor for European ride manufacturers because their location will often lead to delays in acquiring a part that is needed quickly.  Now, North American customers can greatly benefit from our location and have many parts readily available.  The specific logistics of our business will also allow us to combine a larger inventory with just-in-time resupplying to make sure ride owners experience minimal breaks in service."

    He then concluded, "Our level of service to KMG ride owners has received a great deal of praise.  Working with KMG has been such a positive experience for our customers, KMG, and ourselves that it gave us the confidence to reach out to Fabbri."

    Fabbri Group
    Nestled in the northeast Italian village of Bergantino, the Fabbri Group has been dedicated "to the production of expertly handcrafted amusement rides since just after World War II."  In fact, so many of Bergantino's inhabitants have been involved with Fabbri that this corner of the world is now known as "The Village of the Ride."

    And what a ride it's been!  The very first creation that Fabbri launched back in 1950 was called the AVIO ("Aeroplane Ride") because of its "vehicles rising up in the air."  Before long, the AVIO had evolved into the TELECOMBAT, complete with passengers in the air "shooting" at one another.   

    Things just got more and more creative from then on.  Fabbri's creativity has only been matched by its "advanced technology, quality, [and] concern for safety."  The Fabbri Group's rides are now "exported not just to Europe but all over the world, from the Far East to Australia, from the USA to Central and South America."

    Fabbri's rides include the following:  Telecombat, Tagada, Pirate Ship, Giant Wheels, Flying Carpet, Kamikaze, Evolution, Mega Drop, Booster, Free Fall Tower, Power Mouse, Smashing Jump, Project One Coaster, Classic Carousel, Top Swing, Magic Dance, River Rapids, Propeller, Pandemonium and Looney Looper.

    Exclusive Agreement
    An August 7, 2014 press release explains that "Showmen Supplies, a lighting and electrical products distributor for the amusement industry, has reached an agreement with the Fabbri Group, an Italian manufacturer of amusement rides, to be the exclusive distributor of Fabbri amusement ride parts for the United States and Canada."

    Scott Siefker, Vice President of Showmen Supplies, had this to say:  "Because our core business already revolves around the logistics of component part supply, we felt we were ideally suited to managing a ride parts distributorship to service Fabbri ride owners."

    Siefker further explained, "We have 48 years of customer service experience in the amusement industry.  This will be a great advantage to owners of Fabbri equipment whose business depends on having their rides in operation and not out of commission while they wait for shipments to arrive from Europe."

    Thus far, response has been "very positive."  Mark Siefker, Vice President of Showmen Supplies, stated that some customers have already "shown a great deal of excitement about having a more local source for critical components."

    The operational end of this new agreement is already well underway.  Scott Siefker explained, "We hit the ground running in July, and we're learning more and more about the Fabbri parts every day.  By the beginning of 2015, we'll have a substantial amount of these parts stocked right here, readily available for the U.S. and Canada."

    "Our staff is becoming familiar with the Fabbri mechanical systems and learning the inner\ workings of these rides so that we can diagnose problems and help customers to accurately identify what parts they need."

    "There are often parts in need of programming. Some of the more sophisticated electronic components require adjustments to be made for a specific application before the part ships out from here.  We do that for KMG items, and we will do that with Fabbri items too.

    Scott Siefker estimates that "about 25 to 30 percent of traveling carnivals have some Fabbri equipment in their stables.  Because this is just a rough estimate, another of Siefker's goals is to  develop a "current and comprehensive list of Fabbri ride operators here in the U.S. and Canada."

    In looking ahead, Siefker realistically assesses that there will be "lots of work to do."  He also asserts, "We're up for the challenge and will do a great job for our customers."  Those familiar with his company know this is so. 

  • Harvest the Fun!: Missouri Wins with Farm Focus

    This year's marketing tagline for the Missouri State Fair - "Harvest the Fun!" - exemplifies the mix of fun and farming this agriculture-centric Show Me State celebration offers. The 11-day event ran from August 7-17, and while the midway and concert series were highly successful, the core of this fair is the agricultural events, youth programs and livestock championships.

    In fact, a new exhibit for 2014 was "Thank a Farmer for the Harvest," highlighting the work of agriculture professionals and showing how we get the food we eat. "Our focus is on agriculture," said Mark Wolfe, Missouri State Fair Director. "We have strong 4-H programs and youth programs and those are growing."

    Healthy Attendance
    Wolfe's first year as fair manager was in 2009. "The economy was not good and our attendance had been pretty bad," said Wolfe. "But we've had steady increases in attendance. Our live auctions are doing well. We are excited about this trend."
    The fair is also a working vacation for a many farm-based families. "Even when people tighten their belt straps because of the economy, they can still afford the fair," he said

    Although final figures were not available, attendance hovered around 336,000,  about on par with last year and the initial feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. "We had a great fair," said Mark Wolfe, Missouri State Fair Director. "We had tremendous, cooperative weather throughout, although rain made us cancel one tractor pull. There were nice crowds and the reports from vendors and other revenue streams are very positive."

    Two Buck Opener
    The Missouri State Fair boosted attendance from the get-go. Opening Day is Two Buck Bonanza Day. Price promotions are common in today's fair industry, especially in an era of a soft economy and value-oriented consumers. At the Missouri State Fair, opening day has been the customary price promotion extravaganza. "It has been a long-standing tradition to offer a deep discount on opening day," said Wolfe.  "It always draws a huge crowd and is a fun way to kick-off the 11 day event."

    Until a few years ago, it was "a $1 promotion, it has carried through and is hard to reverse," said Wolfe. "We had to double it. It is voluntary for the vendors to participate, but most of them jump on board and they make the promotion felt throughout the fair. We may lose revenue on it that day, but it brings people into the fair."

    The concessionaires were "seeing the attendance day to day, and they were all very happy," said Wolfe. "Opening Day attendance is high. We hope the cost of admission of opening day, they can't get around to everything,  encourages  them to come back a second day. We get a lot of repeat visitors."

    A working vacation attitude is prevalent among some ag professionals, leading to multiple visits at the fair. The Missouri State Fair has too much to see and do in only one visit, which is another reason why a price promotion can be effective on opening day. "They see what we have and want to come back," said Wolfe.

    Campers Increase
    An indication of the fair's escalating popularity has been the large public campground. Camping makes the fair more affordable for fairgoers traveling long distances, but it is also a way for attendees to go more than one day. Throughout the length of the fair, the campground has been "maxed out," said Wolfe. "Campers are put on waiting lists."

    For many of the campers, the public campground - which can fit up to 1,200 - has also become an annual tradition. "There is great comradery, and all the groups are close together."

    In fact, People can "dry camp," he added, which means no RV hook ups, basically tents and sleeping bags. This area holds about 300 campers - "But even that is getting filled up," said Wolfe.

    Missouri does not have a large population, especially  Sedalia (population: 20,000) where the fairgrounds are located; many fairgoers have to travel several hours, making multiple days at the fair likely. "Each year, more people are coming multiple days," said Wolfe.

    Marketing Missouri
    The fair has a marketing budget of $315,000, which includes a mix of radio, television, online advertising, print and outdoor advertising. "We are getting more local news coverage in Kansas City and Columbia," said Wolfe. "We have spent more money in these markets. It is hard to draw people without the lodging, but there has been more awareness of the fair throughout the state. We are reaching those markets."

    Radio and television remain the strongest media. "It does depend on the age group, but we can reach more farmers through television and radio," said Wolfe.

    Social Media has become more of a marketing tool. The Missouri State Fair has 33,000 Facebook Friends, "it has been a very active and successful site. We have a lot of youth programs and young professional farmers and they are using social media and connect with the fair. These are small communities, but even in these towns Facebook and Twitter are the way to connect."

    He added, "you have to monitor social media. You do not want questions to go unanswered. You have to know what is being posted on your page."

    Promoting Agriculture
    The Missouri State Fair is not just supported by state government - it is a State Agency - and it is not just an election year photo-op for state and local office-seekers, the second day of the fair is Governors/Judges/Legislators Appreciation Day. The day begins with the Governor's Ham Breakfast, a traditional gathering of Missouri elected officials, leaders in agriculture and supporters of the Missouri State Fair, proceeds of which go to the Missouri State Fair Foundation, funding fair activities and scholarships for agricultural students. "It is a great promotion," said Wolfe. "It also highlights farm families and all Missouri Ag products."

    Another popular promotion this year was Celebrating Women in Agriculture; the 2014 edition was its second year at the Missouri State Fair. Held on a Thursday, the promotion is also  the fair's version of Lady's Night -  free admissions for women of all ages - the promotion has a Monsanto-sponsored essay contest, two winning essays are selected - a Missouri Woman in Agriculture Award and a Missouri Woman in Agriculture Rising Star award - and a $1,000 donation is made to a school or nonprofit chosen by the author of the winning essay.

    The contest highlights the fact that women have been and are an increasing segment of the agriculture professions while encouraging more women involvement with the fair. "Farm families are still important to the agriculture and the women work as hard and are as professional as the men," said Wolfe. "This promotion recognizes that and has been well received."

    Buyer's Market
    The Pepsi Grandstand -11,000 capacity - hosted the ticketed concert series, and according to Wolfe, this year's line-up surpassed last year's in terms of audiences and profitability. "It was a buyer's market this year," he said. "Our concert revenue and ticket sales were up."

    The Pepsi Grandstand concerts included: Scotty McCreery and Kelsey K;  Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Black Stone Cherry; Sara Evans and Joe Nichols; Beatlemania Live; Florida Georgia Line and Colt Ford; MercyMe; Jake Owen's Days of Gold Tour; Halestorm and Sevendust - Florida Georgia Line and Jake Owen's Days sold out.

    Wolfe works with  Triangle Talent Agency, "they created mini-tours this year for the fairs, and we were able to work with the routing," he said. Concert admission ranged from $10 - $45 and Wolfe said, "we had a very profitable series. It brought a lot of people to the fair."

    The sweet spot for fair's concerts, said Wolfe, is "to catch the stars on the way up, that way they are not too expensive and then when the summer comes along they can sell out."

    Record Midway
      Even more successful than the paid-shows was the midway at the Missouri State Fair. "We have had two record breaking years in a row," said Frank Zaitshik, President/CEO, Wade Shows Inc. "I believe it is a combination of reasons, great fair management, a terrific carnival and of course, milder than normal temperatures."

    Wade Shows has been the midway provider for the Missouri State Fair for six years - under contract with the Murphy Brothers - and ride revenue "has doubled  within six years,"  said Zaitshik.

    The 2014 Missouri State Fair midway featured 42 rides. "This year was the first one for our Crazy Cat Coaster, which we airmailed from Michigan," said Zaitshik. We have a fantastic crew and they were ready for the fair, especially my foreman of 30 years Bill Degrace."

    Zaitshik  added that the Giant Wheel and a Reverchon Super Himalaya were leading rides in the Show Me State this summer.

    While this fair is not the largest or the highest revenue stop for Wade Shows' very busy summer, the Missouri State Fair has long impressed this veteran carnival owner. "It is a great fair facility, surrounded by a lot of rolling hills and greenery," Zaitshik said. "It is very nostalgic, with older but well kept buildings as well as some new buildings.  They bring in folks as far as away as St. Louis,. They have strong national acts on their stage and that is combined with a very, very strong agricultural component."

    It's the continued health of that agriculture component that Wolfe sees as central to the success of the 2014 Missouri State Fair. "What stands out most to me is that the economy has gotten better and the agriculture industry is healthy," said Wolfe. "Agriculture is the main industry in this state, and the fair showcases what is new in the industry."

    He added, "what drives different fairs in different cities is more entertainment, but here in the heartland fairs, we mainly promote agriculture. We give fairgoers a good package, with a lot of great entertainment and it is very family oriented. But most of our attendees are interested in the agriculture."

    In other words, the better the family farms do, the better the fair does. Wolfe added, "our attendance has gotten better, and the agricultural industry has gotten better too."

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HEADLINES from the web
Wade Shows
Tulsa State Fair
Tulsa, OK
9/25/2014 - 10/5/2014
Amusements of America
Georgia State Fair
Hampton, GA
9/26/2014 - 10/5/2014
State Fair of Virginia
Doswell, VA
9/26/2014 - 10/5/2014
Texas State Fair
Dallas, TX
9/26/2014 - 10/19/2014
Miller Spectacular
Eastern New Mexico State Fair
Roswell, NM
9/29/2014 - 10/4/2014
Amusements of America
Onslow County Fair
Jacksonville, NC
9/29/2014 - 10/4/2014

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

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

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

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

View Top 50 Fairs

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The Industry Buzz
Deggeller Attractions signs long term contract extension at York Fair
Deggeller Attractions announced today that the show signed a new long term contract extension at the historic York Fair (York, PA).  Deggeller has provided the midway at the fair since 2010.  Previously, the fair was played by Reithoffer Shows for a number of years.  Deggeller fields a main midway and a second kiddieland on the opposite side of the fairgrounds, complete with a Chance Giant Wheel and Century Wheel, Huss Super Nova and Top Spin, a full size roller coaster, among others.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 9/15/2014
Minnesota State Fair breaks all time attendance record
The 2014 Minnesota State Fair set an all time attendance record with over 1,824,830 guests passing through the gate.  This broke the previous record of 1,790,497 that was set in 2009. 
  Posted by Matt Cook on 9/2/2014
McDonagh's add new features to Big Bamboo Fun House
During a recent visit with Tom and Jeanne McDonagh at the Minnesota State Fair, the couple reported that they were awaiting delivery of a new trick from Italy for their spectacular fun house, the Big Bamboo.  The initial part of the fun house is on ground level and features a unique walkway over a water tank and a rock cave with overhead waterfall.  The new trick will be located just after guests pass through the cave and will be a platform "similar to a Whac a Mole Game where guests have to walk over objects popping up from the ground" described McDonagh.  At the Minnesota State Fair, they added a fog element to the fun houses smoke stack located on top of the tug boat.  For 2014, the fun house has played the Florida State Fair, Houston Livestock Show, San Diego County Fair, Wisconsin State Fair, the Minnesota State Fair and will conclude its season at the State Fair of Texas.  So far, McDonagh reported a successful season.

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

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

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

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

  Posted by Matt Cook on 8/15/2014
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!


LIFETIME Products is building bunk houses for carnivals, concessionaires, entertainers and more with units starting at just $39,900.  Call 813-781-9182 for info.

Deggeller Attractions is now hiring ride, game, food, cdl drivers, and more.  Visit to apply.

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

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