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On The Earie by Tom Powell, OABA News Ambassador

Thu, September 12, 2019 4:56 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

Unseasonably mild weather helped North American Midway at the Aug. 16-Sept. 2 Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, and during most of its almost three-month stay at Canadian dates.

Only K-Days in Edmonton, Alberta, experienced bad weather with rain on four days of the July 19-28 event. Formerly known as Klondike Days, K-Days had attendance of 702,327, down from last year's 808,009, and the lowest since 2006.

If not for the weather, we would have broken records,” said Peter Male, president and CEO. The concert lineup was led by Aqua, Offspring, and Kip Moore. Rain on the opening Saturday forced the midway to close early and a fireworks show to be cancelled.

The July 31-Aug. 4 Queen City Exhibition in Regina, Saskatchewan, drew over 234,000, with 17,000 turning out on a Thursday night to see the Saskatchewan Roughriders beat Hamilton in football.

That certainly helped our attendance,” said Tim Reid, president and CEO of Northlands. He said attendance for concerts was up by 103 per cent, and the overall crowds were the best in 35 years.

Diaz spoke on Monday during the Sept. 6-15 Western Fair in London, Ontario, which he said was doing very well. After its long stint that began at Brandon and Winnipeg in June in Manitoba, NAME's next date after London is Tulsa, Oklahoma, Sept. 26-Oct. 6.

During the CNE, which drew approximately 1.5 million in attendance, temperatures were in the 70s,” said Diaz. Virginia Ludy, who had been CEO, resigned two weeks before the fair opened. Diaz said NAME's main contact was with Mike Cruz, who had been assistant manager and in charge of operations.

This year's CNE unveiled a new value menu called “Under $6 at the Six.” Thirty menu choices were offered under shaded picnic areas during free concerts at the Bandshell stage. Offered all 18 days were menu choices that all cost $6, or under $6.

Bandshell acts included Burton Cummings, April Wine, Jann Arden, and Walk Off the Earth. The CNE's $9 discounted admission after 5 p.m. from Mondays through Thursdays helped boost attendance. John Peco, CNE's chief officer of business development and innovation, also pointed out that last year's attendance of 1.3 million was hurt by nine days of rain.

Campbell Amusementsof Canada, led by Danny Campbell and his mother, Joyce, who is known as Scoop, booked equipment at the CNE. “The rest was all of ours,” said Diaz. His staff includes Wayne Kunz, Scooter Korek, John Anderson, and Safety Inspector Michael Hupalo. Games concessionaires Dave and Monica Potopas left before Toronto in order to book at the Jerry Hammer-managed Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul. NAME works with Bobby and Wendy Hauser of West Coast Amusements at several locations including Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. “You couldn't ask for better folks,” said Diaz.

Rich Wyatt and Gary Magyoran are in charge of NAME at Eastern States Exposition (Big E), West Springfield, Mass., while Pat Repp and Tom Thebault are at the Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson, and Mark Cockerham is in Nashville at the Tennessee State Fair.

Danny Menge is off the road and taking care of the show's shop in Tampa. Danny Huston, NAME's CEO is coming off a good run at the Indiana State Fair, Indianapolis.

Huston will debut a new Dutch Ferris Wheel at the upcoming South Carolina State Fair, Columbia. “All I can tell you is the gondolas are not the fold up kind and are all air conditioned and heated. Danny is bringing it to the U.S., and it's really going to be special,” said Diaz.

After Tulsa, Diaz's Unit heads to Little Rock for the Arkansas State Fair, where he said weather was horrible last year. Ralph Shoptaw has resigned as manager and is now working for Mike Featherston's Goldstar Amusements. The new Arkansas manager is Doug White, who had been a member of the fair's board of directors.

The 109th annual Pacific National Exhibition, Vancouver, B. C., drew attendance of 731,708 for its Aug. 17-Sept. 2 run at Playland Park, up from 705,381 in 2018, and 722,466 in 2017. “This year's PNE was a tremendous success thanks to our partners, vendors, performers, staff and guests who make it so special,” said Shelley Frost, president and chief executive officer. The PNE was closed Mondays, except for Labor Day.

West Coast Amusements,as usual, had success supplementing the park lineup. Brought in by Bobby and Wendy Hauser were the Gondola Wheel, Impact Zone, Haunted Mansion, Tornado, Tilt-A-Whirl, Alien Abduction, Cuckoo Haus, Mardi Gras, 1001 Nights, Zero Gravity, Charlie Choppers, and Toon Town Funhouse.

The concert lineup included Blue Rodeo, a cancellation by ZZ Top, 98 Degrees, Burton Cummings and Band, Vince Neil, formerly of Motley Crue, Smokey Robinson, Now's The Time Tour with Collective Soul and Gin Blossoms, Styx, UB40, Colin James, I Love The 90s, featuring Vanilla Ice, Montell Jordan, Biz Markie, and Rob Base, MC Hammer, with Bobby Brown, Billy Idol, The Beach Boys,  and TLC on its 25th anniversary tour. All concerts were free with admission of $18 for adults, $5 for children, and $9 for seniors.

Beautiful weather and the fact schools didn't open until after Labor Day were cited as big factors in the 138th annual Maryland State Fair, Timonium, drawing attendance of 591,000, which represented a 4.3 per cent increase over last year. “The cool weather every day and the school openings not only helped increase our attendance, but reduced the stress on our 4-H and FFA Youth and Open Class exhibitors, staff and leadership, who previously had to juggle schedules to participate in the fair,” said Maryland State Fair General Manager D. Andrew (Andy) Cashman.

According to Publicity Director Edie M. Bernier, a Preview Night with Ridemania helped Deggeller Attractions record an excellent gross on the carnival midway. Deggeller featured an all new Spaceport ride and an expanded Kiddie land.

The On track concerts all drew well. Artists were Hanson, The Marshall Tucker Band, LoCash, with Chris Lucas and Preston Bust, and Night Ranger. Other attractions included the Extreme Dogs Show, Cowboy Circus, Max Power, rodeo, Negro League Baseball Exhibit that featured a tribute to Frank Robinson and a visit by the Baltimore Orioles Bird, plus a popular Celebrity Milkshake Contest.

The contestants included Qadry Ismael, former Baltimore Raven player, former Philadelphia Eagle player Jason Avant, Governor Larry Hogan, Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartefelder, and others.

I lost a very dear friend last week from my 34 years spent as editor of Amusement Business. Tommy Collins passed away at his home in Edina, Minnesota, at the age of 88, of natural causes. There was nothing that wasn't extra special about Collins who was described as a figure skating impresario, which he was, but also so much more.

A former champion figure skater himself, Collins was founder of the Champions on Ice Tour. Before that, he was an executive with Holiday on Ice, where earlier he had been the show's headliner. He skated on Broadway and on tours with Sonja Henie.

But I met him when he was handling all the merchandise for my favorite artist, Neil Diamond. During all the arena and stadium conventions where we socialized, we had so many great times. On one occasion, after getting great seats for Christine and me for a show in Tampa, he loaded us down with tee shirts and all sorts of novelties. “Here, Powell, I'll even give you some ear plugs so you won't have to hear,” I can recall him saying, with that bright Irish laugh. I let him know in no uncertain terms I wanted to hear Neil Diamond.

I've seen Diamond many times, mostly thanks to Collins, who once told me that Neil would not step on a plane without his copy of Amusement Business. That made me feel very good.

Jimmy Drew of the James H. Drew Exposition told me once that Neil Diamond was his wife, Evangeline's, favorite artist. Jimmy wanted to take her to a show for a birthday present. He said if I could get the tickets and get us backstage, he would pay for the plane fare and hotel. After we decided to attend a show at the Capital Center in Landover, Maryland, I mentioned it to Jim Halsey, who had all the merchandise at RFK Stadium at the time.

He said if he could get in on the deal, he would get us a limousine. It all worked out until I stood in front of Neil to snap a picture and nothing happened. He looked at me and said I better call Triple A, that I needed new batteries. I remember Evangeline was most impressed by the limo.

I later learned that while Diamond was his first client, Collins, working with legendary concert promoter Bill Graham (another friend of mine), helped promote the careers of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Alice Cooper, David Bowie and Earth, Wind and Fire. Collins also handled merchandise for John Denver, Bob Dylan, the Moody Blues, Wayne Newton, Rick James, and Joni Mitchell.

Olympic Champion Brian Boitano was quoted as saying, “Sad news in figure skating: the great Tom Collins, founder of Champions on Ice and a generous man who gave long careers to countless skaters, died today at 88. He made skating so much better. He was so loyal, so honest.”  That's Tommy. He was great to Christine and me—and our pals, Jimmy and Evangeline Drew, and Jim and Patti Halsey.

Please send news to tomp@oaba.org, or call 615 280-7157.

Have all great days, and God Bless!

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