Mitchell Glieber, in his sixth year as president of the 133rd State Fair of Texas, Dallas, called this year's Sept. 27-Oct. 20 extravaganza extremely successful, with attendance of 2.5 million.
That topped last year's 2,049,118. “We presented a very good product and the weather cooperated,” said Glieber. Asked about a tornado that hit the area on the closing night of the fair, Glieber said, “We were lucky. We had wind, lightning and rain, but it struck after 9 p.m., so all we lost were the people already on the grounds. We thank everyone who helped make this year's Fair a success, enabling us to give back to Fair Park, the surrounding communities, and award scholarships to students throughout the Lone Star State.”
Artists performing on the Chevrolet Main Stage, booked again through Glen Smith Presents, included Rick Springfield, 98 Degrees, Daughtry, Jacquess, Cameo, La Maquinaria Nortena, Hotel California, A Tribute to The Eagles, Tye Tribbett, Bob Schneider, Big and Rich, with Cowboy Troy, Billy Ray Cyrus, Shane & Shane, Shining Star, a Tribute to Earth, Wind and Fire, and Gary R. Nunn.
I usually call Ron Burback, owner of Funtastic Shows, Portland, Oregon, when he's headed home from the Washington State Fair, Puyallup, but this year it's a few weeks after the Aug. 30-Sept. 22 event. “I knew you'd get around to me,” he said, when I called.
I had already been told by Stacy Van Home, Public Relations Manager for the fair that it was a great one, with attendance of over one million. She also said that the carnival ride gross was up by a whopping 12 per cent. Kent Hojem has been the Chief Executive Officer there for more than 20 years. It was before that, when I was editor of Amusement Business, and Bob Carlson held that position, when I visited for the first time. I admit that I had never heard of Puyallup and had no idea of how big and what a great fair it is.
One of the memories I do have is of being hosted royally by Carlson and the Burbacks, and even playing some touch football on an afternoon with the venerable Oak Ridge Boys, who were performing that night. Joe Bonsall and Richard Sterban, like me, are ardent fans of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team. But make no mistake about it that Duane Allen is the leader of the group that has played the Kentucky State Fair, Louisville, for almost 40 years in a row. William Lee Golden still sports his beard, and I've been around long enough to recall when a friend of ours, Noel Fox, was an original member. Jim Halsey promoted them, along with the late Roy Orbison and a number of other stars. In fact, Halsey held a big party for 20 or more of his acts in Independence, Kansas, over Halloween.
The name of it was Neewollah, which is Halloween spelled backwards, and Halsey invited a large contingent of the press, including yours truly, and a member of the prestigious New York Times as well. I became the star of the group when everybody realized I knew Bob Ottaway, whose Ottaway Amusements, had the carnival at the event. I remember him being shocked when I presented myself and he said he had always wanted AB to visit his show, adding, “But I never thought they'd send the big man.”
Bob and I made a lot of people happy as he gladly gave free rides and game prizes, especially Teddy Bears. The pompous Times guy told a female reporter he'd win her a prize. About $100 or more later, he virtually begged me to obtain one for him to give to her.
I haven't forgotten Burback. He is one the wisest and kindest show owners I've ever had the pleasure of being around. When he and I were on the OABA Hall of Fame Committee, when things came up for a vote, we were often the only two who had been around long enough to remember anything about the candidates. Ron has strong ideas about the worthiness of getting into the Hall.
He said the last Saturday was the biggest one day he has ever had in the business, with 113,000 people on the grounds, and his carnival goes back to 1970, and even before that when Bob Bollinger, his partner, specialized in the rides, and Burback became a master of the games department. His employees walk around neatly in uniforms, looking like business executives.
“My whole season has been outstanding. It's the best year we've had in years. People have money and are spending. We had a break with the weather, and spot after spot after spot was up. The other aspect of that is our state's wages are among the highest in the country. It's $12 an hour, and soon to go up to $13.50. We'll pay whatever it is, somehow. But we even had to drop some spots due to the wage increases.”
Burback said the Puyallup Spring Fair has grown to become one of the biggest in the state. He said some highlights of the year included the show's second appearance at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden, the Lane County Fair, Eugene, Oregon, and one of Funtastic's oldest spots, the Capital Lakefair Festival in Olympia, Washington. When asked about the impressive talent lineup at Puyallup, Burback said it has little effect on his business.
At Eugene, which was held July 24-28, one of the acts was Martina McBride, whose brother owns Janarty's in Smyrna, Tenn., which is up the road from where Christine and I live. He makes the best homemade ice cream in the world, and even did Pistachio, especially for me. They had a strong lineup in Eugene, which also included Chris Janson, Little River Band, Lifehouse, and Jayna Kramer.
Puyallup had one sellout, by Keith Urban. Other acts included The Beach Boys, Billy Idol, Weezer, Eli Young Band, Boyz II Men, 98 Degrees, Brad Paisley, Old Dominion, Jeff Dunbar, Chris Tomlin, Charlie Wilson, John Crist, Cadillac Three, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Aaron Watson, Ciarra, with Mix-A-Lot, and Foreigner.
Holly Swartz, who owns Hitch-Hiker Manufacturing of New Middletown, Ohio, with her husband, Jeff, sent me a nice note. It read, in part: “I was just reading your “On the Earie” in the OABA Showtime with the record breaking numbers about the Minnesota State Fair. Until this year Jeff and I had never attended the fair.
“We have had a pretty good production year and had two customers who needed trailers for the Minnesota State Fair. Jeff and I decided to fly there, and it was a WOW! The new Smokey’s Grill, owned by Denny and Barb Smith, was next to their CinnySmith's trailer in a great location by Nate and Stephanie Janousek's new Hanger venue.
“The other new unit, the Blue Ox Burger Bar, owned by Paula Kennedy Smith and Andy Smith had a fun illustrated Paul Bunyan-ish theme and was located by the Warner Coliseum. Jeff and I got to visit with our new customers and roamed around, saying hello to past customers, and meeting some great new people. To end the night, Jeff and I headed to the OABA's H-2B fundraiser that the Janouseks put on. It was a great one. Greg Chiecko and others came together for a great cause. If somebody has never been to one, they are missing out. Nate and Stephanie laid out a great spread of top notch food and got donations for some fantastic prizes to silent auction off. To my surprise, he even had a YETI cooler that was so big he said you could bury your spouse in it, figuratively speaking. Take care of yourself, and best regards.” Those jamborees, often conducted by OABA's Al De Rusha, are always fun.
I'm not going to bet on it, but I am predicting the Washington Nationals will beat the Houston Astros in seven games to win the World Series. I actually lived for a year in D. C., in 1955. I rode a trolley to 25 of the then Washington Senators baseball games.
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