100th annual Mississippi Valley Fair, Davenport, Iowa, drew a record attendance of 325,000, up from last year's 300,000, according to Shawn Loter, who has been with the fair for 30 years, the last three as General Manager. He succeeded Bob Fox in that post, who he said is now residing in Arizona.
Loter and I hesitated to say that Davenport is unique in that it offers free gate admission, and access to six concerts, all featuring big names, for one price, but we couldn't come up with another that does it. For $85, fans got to see Dan + Shay, Jake Owen, Brooks and Dunn, Brad Paisley, Nickelback, and Tesla. Loter, who attended the Country Music Association Festival in Nashville, booked the acts.
In the last three years, the price has gone from $65 to $75, to its current $85, a bargain by any standards, especially with such well known and very popular acts. “That's just the way we've done it, and it works for us,” said Loter. I suggested that nobody would have any justifiable complaints if the price were $100, or even more. He grunted and said, “You should have seen the flack we received when we went up to $85. If these people went to the Iowa State Fair, or any other fair, I believe they might have a better undertstanding of how great this situation is.” I guessed that Dan + Shay drew the most people. I was wrong, not being a millennial. It was Nickelback, followed by Brad Paisley. Obviously, at that price, all acts drew big crowds, which was a help to Evans United Shows.
Other entertainment included an appearance by the Budweiser Clydesdales, the Superchuckler Comedy Pirate Show, Tim “E” world famous Elvis impersonator, and Majestic Spectacular FMX Free Style, Globe of Death, and Moto on the Wire. “We had sky divers carrying the American flag before every concert, fireworks, and added a lot of amenities around the grounds. It was special,” said Loter.
Loter said Tom and Jimmy Evans were on hand from the carnival that has been providing the midway for as long as anybody can remember. “They were very happy, and said they had a record year,” said Loter. Evans United is based in Plattsburg, Missouri. It moved to Davenport from the July 17-23 Great Jones County Fair in Monticello, Iowa, and went to Maquoketa, Iowa, next for the July 23-29 Jackson County Fair. Before Jones County, Evans played the Mighty Howard Fair, Cresco, Iowa, June 25-30, and Winneshiek County, Decorah, Iowa, July 9-13. Upcoming is The Pineywoods Fair in Nacogdoches, Texas, October, Oct. 3-8, located in what is called the oldest town in Texas.
The 74th annual California Mid State Fair, Paso Robles, held July 17-28, remained flat at 426,000, according to a press release sent out by the fair where Michael Bradley is Chief Executive Officer.
Dave Helm and Sons Amusements of Colton, California, generated $1,270,000 in total revenue, a 3.3 per cent increase from 2018. All carnival rides were free on opening day with paid gate admission.
For the fourth straight year, the Bud Light Concert Series featured two sold out concerts, Cardi B on Saturday, July 20, and Blake Shelton, on Sunday, July 21. All in all, more than 76,000 tickets were sold. Other top selling acts included Old Dominion, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Idol, and Smokey Robinson. Other acts were Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo and Melissa Etheridge, and Why Don't We, along with Monster Trucks with Bikes and Bulls.
For the third consecutive year, revenue from corporate sponsorships exceeded the $1 million threshold, increasing by 10.4 per cent from 2018, to just over $1.4 million.
Ron Porter of Fare Foods, DuQuoin, Illinois, tells a story about meeting a group of Clemson football fans while he and his wife, Laura, were trying to find a seat in a packed sports bar across from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. “We didn't have any of their orange colors on, and we kept brushing against each other. Then this one guy proclaims he's from a small town in South Carolina, and he bets that I would not know anybody from his hometown, which happened to be Branchville. I smiled and said Bill Lordy, my best friend. The guy exclaimed, “You mean Elephant Ear Bill?”
The late Lordy, who owned and operated The Elephant Ear Bakery with Traycie Brewer, was actually born in Detroit. Bill and I had a lot of fun together. I took him to the Super Bowl with me one year in Tampa, and we sat in a suite in front of the Rock group Phish. His biggest thrill, however, came during a pre-game Miller Beer party when I introduced him to Joe Paterno, the legendary Penn State football coach. Charlie Cox of Cox Concessions let us park in his space on the grounds that memorable day.
Dick Knoebel of Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pa., an OABA member who always attends the February trade show of the International Independent Showmen's Association in Gibsonton, Fla., sent me a note. In it, he wrote, “Tom, you da man, how you can recall all the names and connections is amazing. Thanks for the lead paragraph in your column about my 80th birthday celebration.
“My sons, Brian and Rick, totally surprised me with a gathering of about 200 people for a big party. Gary Slade of Amusement Today came in from Texas, and Mary Chris Smith and members of her staff with Allied Specialty Insurance were here from Florida. Also from Florida were Bob and Kelly Dean and John Arie with Funspot.” Knoebel said other guests included Roxanne Pope of the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions, who came up from D.C.; Will Morey from Morey's Pier, Wildwood, N.J.; Gary Chubb and Laura Washburn from Hershey Park, and Jack Silar, a ride inspector who is a former general manager of Hershey Park, along with staffers, family members, and personal friends. “Brian and Rick pulled off the surprise of the decade. I missed you and Christine.”
Reached by phone on Monday, Aug. 12, Knoebel said the park is experiencing one of its best years, despite a slow start due to rainy weather in June. “We're coming off packed parking lots Friday, Saturday, and today,” he said, adding that for some reason, Mondays are always good. “I can remember when parks were closed on Mondays, but people seem to be stretching their weekends.”
Catering has always been a big part of Knoebel's business, and he said two upcoming picnics for competitors Weis Markets and Giant Markets, will each draw more than 10,000 people.
Carey Harveycutter, general manager of the Salem, Va. Fair, who is also Director of Tourism, was nice enough to send along a list of concessionaires who worked his successful July 3-14 fair. They include Mike Broad, Erick Schenck, Brian and Sue Gillette, Robin Smith, James Harvell, Ken Harvell, Henry Towner, Billy Level, Jim Labrato, Jody Conklin, Ronald Doege, with Nancy Concessions; Greg Miller, Jessie Patterson, with Robbeloth Concessions; Dennis Lilly, Susan Shorb, Zachary Swift, John Bell, Berkley Roberts, and Rose Lopez. Deggeller Attractions was on the grounds for the 32nd straight year.
Please send news to tomp@OABA.org, or call 615.280.7257.
Have all great days, and God Bless!