Despite a few appearances of inclement weather during the 113th annual State Fair of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, held Sept. 2-22, attendance was approximately 900,000, up five per cent from 2018.
Scott Munz, vice president of Marketing and Public Relations, said ticket prices were $12 for adults, $6 for children, with all those under the age of five admitted for free. “It's quite a bargain,” said Munz, who has been working at the fair for 31 years.
Tim O'Toole, president and chief executive officer, has been on the job since January of 2004. I remember having attended a couple times before that when Don Hotz and Sandy Saunders held that position. On one of the occasions where I attended, my wife, Christine, had her grab joint booked with Rod Link Shows.
In my role as editor of Amusement Business, it was my duty to cover activities of the fair, and I also took time to serve up some Italian and Polish sausage sandwiches. She wouldn’t let me count the money, but there was lots of it. It was one heck of a spot then, and still is.
Rod and I were interviewed by local media after a headline in the Oklahoma City paper declared “Killer Ride (a Zipper) at State Fair.” We got past that, and before the fair was over, on the busiest Saturday, a task force of federal agents raided the show and hauled off a Pokerino machine booked by Bob Wolf, which effectively put him out of business. All week long, we had all wondered who these people were, and they lied about it when I asked directly.
With Link prodding me on, I kept taking pictures of some games being moved and when I asked one federal agent his name, he refused to give it to me. Rod and I went to their command post and complained, and the guy was instructed to give me his name, which I needed like a hole in the head, but harassment works both ways.
One of the thrills of my life came on that trip when I interviewed Roy Rogers, who was performing at the rodeo. I later got a letter from Art Rush, Roy's manager of 37 years, saying it was the best story ever written about Roy, his wife, Dale Evans, and horse, Trigger. After that, it was back to selling hot dogs for me as I followed Christine around for most of that summer.
I believe it was 1977. The beauty for AB was that I'd get guys from the show, Joe Lane, David Starkey, Harold Case, Kal Hamilton, Pee Wee Hoskins, and others, and we'd visit every carnival within a hundred miles of where Christine was booked, mostly with Milt Kaufman's Gooding's Million Dollar Midways. Shows were visited that never were before or have been since.
Back to this year's fair, Frank Zaitshik's Wade Shows enjoyed the primarily nice weather that resulted in the carnival gross being up four per cent over last year. Contributing to the success the carnival enjoyed were the family-friendly park-like atmosphere, an ever-increasing Gold Access Program, a strong ride lineup, and Pay-One-Price unlimited ride wristbands throughout the run, according to Munz. Wristbands were $35 on weekdays, and $45 on weekends.
Munz also pointed out that the food gross was up 10 per cent over last year, “mainly since we didn't lose any full days like we did in 2018. Our discount coupon book, sold on site, also continues to contribute to the strong food gross.”
The Sky Eye Wheel, owned by Zaitshik and Michael Wood, drew a tremendous amount of media coverage. At 155 feet tall, it is the largest portable Ferris Wheel in North America. Disney on Ice Presents Mickey's Search party was down a little in attendance due to the loss of one of the nine performances. Two exciting nights of bull riding action featured performances by Midland and Scotty McCreery.
Other entertainment included The Gatlin Brothers, Kevin Fowler, Resurrection, a Journey Tribute, La Energia Nortena, Unspoken, The Grass Roots, The Buckinghams and The Box Tops, Elvis Extravaganza Easton Corbin, Dru Hill, Night Ranger, and Tony Lewis from The Outfield.
Attendance was down, mainly due to weather, at both the 97th annual Los Angeles County Fair, Pomona, California, held Aug. 30-Sept. 22, and the Sept. 18-29 Kern County Fair, Bakersfield.
Despite some of the highest temperatures in the last six years, estimated crowds at Pomona numbered an estimated 1.1 million, down from 1.25 million in 2018. The average daily temperature in the first three weeks of September was 93 degrees, said Miguel Santana, chief executive officer. Some of the problems were offset by new shade structures, misters, and high quality experiences in the air-conditioned exposition halls.
With a number of successful promotions, Ray Cammack Shows held its own before heading to its closing date of its season, the Arizona State Fair, Phoenix, where Wanell Costello is executive director. From food and beverage to carnival and concert sales, the fair saw a four per cent increase in revenue over the five-year average.
The End of Summer Concert Series, with acts that included Pitbull, Kelsea Ballerini, and George Lopez, set an all-time record high for nightly revenue and attendance. Pitbull had to reschedule his Sept. 1 show due to a hurricane, but he still packed the house with a sold out show on Sept. 12. Other sellouts were recorded by Old Dominion, and Chicago, according to Renee Hernandez, in the PR Department.
Other acts included War, with Tierra and Malo, Hunter Hayes, Juanes, Ramon Ayala, Charlie Wilson, with Montell Jordan, 38 Special, Marshall Tucker Band, and The Outlaws, and Hammer's House Party. Dates for next year are Sept. 4-27.
Butler Amusementsplayed Bakersfield, where attendance was 394,350, but the concession gross was up by 6.13 per cent, according to Mike Olcott, CEO and GM. Pay-One-Price unlimited ride wristbands were available for $30 Monday through Thursday, and $35 Friday through Sunday.
The concert lineup at the Budweiser Pavilion included Nelly, KC & The Sunshine Band, Tracy Byrd, Pablo Cruise, Los Rieleros Del Norte, Francesca Battistelli, and Scotty McCreery.
There is a lot going on. Some people are already home, some are taking a short break, and others are still out there working hard, with some of the major fairs upcoming soon, or taking place now. I hope to get around to writing something about most of them, especially the ones that are already over and I just haven't got to yet, but I will.
I saw an article in the This Day in Sports column the other day where on Oct. 4, 1940, Fritzie Zivic defeated Henry Armstrong for the Welterweight Boxing Championship of the World. It reminded me of when I interviewed Zivic and asked if he had ever taken a dive. He told me he was ordered to by the mob in a championship match with Freddie Cochrane at Madison Square Garden.
“I refused and beat him all to hell, but the fight was called a draw. I fought him a couple months later and knocked him out.” I looked it up. Both fights were at the Garden, the first on July 29, 1941, the second in September of 1942. Zivic had an outstanding career record of 158 wins, 65 losses, and two draws. He held his own twice with Sugar Ray Robinson, losing both fights on points.
My old friend, Don Sandefur, who ran the PGA West, and then the Harlem Globetrotters, dropped me a note saying, “I remember the nickname you kept secret for over 40 years (Hacky told me), but will keep it a secret till my death. That is, unless someone offers me enough Scotch.” Sandefur is referring to the late Hacky Fanning who owned a bar in the neighborhood of Scranton, Pa., where I grew up. Sandefur asked Hacky if he had a business card and he handed him the mailing address off a copy of AB that I had sent him.
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