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On The Earie by Tom Powell, OABA News Ambassador

Wed, September 18, 2019 6:44 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

I was watching the National Football League's Tennessee Titans lose once again to the Indianapolis Colts when the phone rang Sunday, and it was Danny Huston, the head honcho of North American Midway Entertainment on the other line.

Now, he's from a town named Farmland in the Hoosier State, but I knew he wasn't calling to gloat about the fact that even without Andrew Luck, the Colts had Marcus Mariota's number. I think his last good game was when Ron and Bev Burback were rooting for him during his great college days with Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks. Let's put it this way, Mariota is not and never will be a Tom Brady.

For all you non-sports fans, ask Google what I'm talking about.

Huston was actually returning my call, even though it was about a week late. He had a very good excuse, however, stating he had just received the message. Danny is one of the good guys who always returns calls, so I was happy to hear his extensive remarks about the industry. In a nutshell, here they are: “We're having a good season. Revenue is up.” Naturally, I urged him to expand on his remarks.

The economy is good, and people are spending money,” he added. I had called Huston after I spoke to NAME's Tony Diaz after the show's successful run through Canada, that capped at Western Days in London, Ontario, on the Sunday when I was watching the game.

At one time, when Evan McGugan was the manager, London had an independent midway. I'll never forget him saying to me when I asked about it, that (the legendary) Patty Conklin is not the only person who knows how to put together a midway in Canada.

I didn't mention the subject again, even though I could have said I knew several others who could, and did, including Bingo and Bobby Hauser, Jimmy Conklin, Barry Jamieson, John Robertson, John Homeniuk, Don Campbell, and a few others.

Diaz had mentioned to me that NAME had a new Giant Wheel that was going to debut at the Oct. 9-20 South Carolina State Fair, Columbia, where Nancy Smith will be in her first year as manager, having replaced the great Gary Goodman, who retired. Diaz said Danny was bringing it from the Netherlands but provided few more details. As I guessed, it was manufactured by Lamberink, is called an R50, and is 50 meters high. That's where I called on Google to find that equates to over 157 feet high. Huston was coming from West Springfield, Mass., where The Big E (Eastern States Exposition), Sept. 13-29, was just beginning. He figured a good part of the season was still ahead, as the Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson, was wrapping up, and Pat Repp and Tom Thebault were departing from there to the John Sykes-managed East Texas State Fair in Tyler, Sept. 20-29.

Dates remaining include the Tulsa, Oklahoma State Fair, Arkansas State Fair, Little Rock; Mississippi State Fair, Jackson, and Greater Gulf State Fair, Mobile, Alabama. Huston said NAME had good runs at the Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky State Fairs. I asked how former ride inspector Bobby Gill was doing and Huston said he was with the show in Indianapolis and will be in Mississippi. “I guess you can say he's semi-retired, but we're always glad when he's with us.”

Asked about anything else new, Huston, almost nonchalantly, stated, “We purchased three Chance double decker Merry-Go-Rounds that had been installed in malls in Michigan, Louisiana, and California. “The one from California is being racked and will come out next year. The others will appear at South Carolina and Mississippi.”

It's always great when somebody sends reports on their fairs to me. That's something Jim Sinclair of the Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul;

Carey Harveycuttter of the Salem, Va. Fair; J. H. Martin and Cliff Barton, with the Greater Baton Rouge, Louisiana, State Fair, Dillard Johnson and Chester Freeman of Cullman, Alabama, Jerry Robinson of the Alabama State Fair, Birmingham, Martin Ritter, Ed Charles and Bonnie Brosious of the Great Allentown, Pa. Fair, and several others, have done for years. Another guy who keeps me informed and up to date on what's going on in the industry is Darrell Desgranges, the Mizuno Golf Pro who has been giving lessons to food concessionaire Butch Netterfield, among others. I know Butch is a champion fisherman, (is that a word?), but lots of luck with golf.

Anyway, Darrell wrote: “Just finished the Coastal Carolina Fair, Sept. 7-15, at the Matt Brown/Scott Johnson-managed Greensboro Coliseum, where Chris Kelly is in his 18th year as manager. The 32-ride midway was provided for the eighth straight year by Sheri and Michael Reisinger's Michael's Amusements of Fayetteville, N. C.”

Desgranges, who also books talent, said concerts were booked through Meridian Entertainment of Holt Michigan, of which he is involved with, along with Brad Coombs, and Live Nation.

He said free shows in the White Oak Amphitheater's 105.7 Man-Up-Fest were given by Saliva/Trapt/Tantric, and 104.1 Q Country Fest, with Rodney Atkins and Dillon Carmichael. Hard ticket shows were by the B52s and Berlin, and in the new Piedmont Hall, Aaron Lewis, UB40, and Shaggy.

Desgranges said last year's second week was canceled due to Hurricane Florence. “This year the fair was threatened by Hurricane Dorian that passed within 10 miles of the Coliseum on opening day.

Michael's set three single day ride gross records. One was Dollar Day when all rides and select food and drink options were $1 each. By 8:30 p.m., the fair had reached capacity and the gates were closed. You should have seen the crowds. It was great.”

Darrell went on to point out that the original fair was founded and operated by the Hamid Family, Hamid Circus. In the 1950s, the Hamid Family sold the fairgrounds to the city of Greensboro, where the Greensboro Coliseum was built and opened on the site of the old fairgrounds in 1959. The Hamids continued to operate the fair until 2000 when the Coliseum took it over. It has 23,000 seats, the largest in America, and is home to the Atlantic Coast Conference's Hall of Fame. Michael's has a multi-year contract. Dates next year are Sept. 11-20. I'll be expecting the same kind of comprehensive report then.

Attendance at the 167th annual Great Allentown, Pa. Fair, held Aug. 27-Sept. 2, was 321,786, up by 18 per cent from last year's 272,700. Jessica Ciecwisz, Marketing and Event Manager, said mostly good weather helped Powers Great American Midways, led by Les (Corky) Powers, and his wife, Debbie, post a hefty 19 per cent increase in its carnival gross. “We had scattered rain and threats of thunderstorms on Wednesday, Aug. 28, and Labor Day. But the rest of the week was sunny with temperatures in the low 70s and 80s.”

Raymond Hoffman, who has been executive chairman and CEO since 2012, said, “We had a very good fair with nice weather on five of the seven days. Powers has been here since 2008 and I hope they're always here. They do a tremendous job and are great people.” Hoffman said he believed shows booked in by Powers were Irv, Jeff, and Judd Good's Goodtime Amusements from Hellerown, Pa., and David Pfeffer's Tons of Fun from Douglassville, Pa.

Grandstand acts and their attendance numbers were Live/Bush and Our Lady of Peace, 3,501; TruTV's Impractical Jokers, 2,958; Brooks & Dunn, with Ashley McBryde, 7,738; Miranda Lambert, with Randy Houser, 4,508; Why Don't We/Max/Eben/Tyler Grey, 5,148; Daryl Hall & John Oates, with G. Love & Special Sauce, 6,135, and the J&J Demolition Derby, 3,004.

Other attractions included Brunon Blaszak's Royal Bengal Tiger Show; World of Wonders, Zuzu Acrobats, Robinson's Pig Paddling Porkers; Glenn Miller Band, Moodonna, Dialed Action Sports Team, The Uptown Band, and Tom Yurasits's Magic and Illusion Show.

I'll be watching and betting on the Titans this Thursday when they play Jacksonville if anybody wants to call. I'll be home, as usual. 

Please send news to tomp@oaba.org, or call 615 280-7257.
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