Dick Knoebel, who reported another banner season at Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pa., was nice enough to send a more personal note after he attended the amusement park show in Orlando.
“Tom, I made it to IAAPA and the OABA reception, but it just wasn't the same without you and Christine. I SURELY hope you can make it to Gibtown. We are now the LAST OF AN ERA with the passing of Johnny Hobbs.
“While here, Jeannie and I, along with Gary Slade and John Robinson attended the Tampa Bay Buccaneers/New Orleans Saints football game. We were seated in the Mary Chris Smith (of Allied Specialty Insurance) family box. The Bucs played somewhat well though the quarterback, Jamis Winston, had too many hits.
“Slade met one of Dick Yuengling's daughters in the tailgate area. While at the game, one of Mary Chris's sisters, was continuing to celebrate her Double Nickel (55th) birthday for a week. You have probably received lots of other reports from IAAPA. Carry On!”
I first attended the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions convention in 1972, and I believe it was in Atlanta. I never missed another until few years ago. The best were in New Orleans, which is a town made for that show, although Orlando has been very good. I recall when it was in Dallas and we visited the Southfork Ranch, from the television show, Dallas.
There was a J. R. Ewing imitator there who looked more like the actor, Larry Hagman, who played him, than the real deal. He remained in character and when I invited him to our Amusement Business suite when his shift was over; I even told him to bring his wife.” Wife, hell, I'll bring my girlfriend,” he replied. My son, Tommy, who lives in beautiful, but frigid Minneapolis, noted the other day that Hagman died 10 years ago.
The International Association of Fairs & Expositions, Showmen's League of America and Outdoor Amusement Business Association are now convening in San Antonio for the second or third straight year after about 45 years in a row in Las Vegas. I have been to conventions in Las Vegas. I have also been to conventions in Rapid City, South Dakota, Mobile, Alabama, Little Rock, Arkansas, Boston, Washington, D. C., and numerous big and little towns, but I can say, unequivocally, none compares to Las Vegas.
Maybe that's just me, but I think about the World War I song about “How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paree.” Vegas, with all the great shows and restaurants and reasonable prices has so much more to offer.
After growing up in Scranton, Pa., and living in Nashville, which was dry at the time, Vegas was and continued to be an eye opener for me. Christine and I have been guests at lavish parties and suites hosted by Ray Cammack Shows, Strates Shows, Powers Great American Midways, Reithoffer Shows, Rod Link, Conklin Shows, Cumberland Valley Shows, Royal American Shows, James H. Drew Exposition, Gooding's Million Dolllar Midway, Amusements of America, Jerry Murphy's Murphy Brothers Exposition, Jim Murphy, when he owned Mighty Bluegrass Shows, and others.
I talked to Charles Panacek of Belle City Amusements earlier today and asked how he liked San Antonio. Being somewhat politically correct, he laughed and said, “We're meeting with our committees and getting all of our business done.” Beyond that, Panacek was non-committal about the Tale of the Two Cities.
He did say the Nov. 7-17 Greater Jacksonville, Fla. Fair was plagued by rain on three days and cold weather. “It resulted in attendance and revenues being down.” Panacek said Martha Leverock retired after serving 40 years as president and CEO. She was replaced by Bill Olson, who had been with the fair for many years.
Gayle Hart, vice president of marketing, continues to book the talent. She and Olson are also representing the fair in sunny San Antonio. Belle City is in the middle of a 12-year contract to provide the midway in Jacksonville. “This year we created a totally separate Kiddieland that proved to be a big hit,” said Panacek, who promised to name the addition of a new date on its route soon.
Belle City works with Alachua County in presenting a fair in Gainesville, Fla., a week before Jacksonville. He said it was very good this year. The carnival has everything under its auspices, including booking talent, providing security, selling tickets, booking independent contractors, parking, providing the midway, etc.
Booked at Jacksonville were Butch Van Hull, with a Roller Coaster, Bryce Burton, with a Zipper, and food; Gary Hughes, with rides and food, and Josh Macaroni's Primetime Amusements, with rides and food. Dave Potopas and his wife, Monica, spent most of the summer with games on Tony Diaz's Unit of North American Midway Entertainment, which plays major Canadian dates. He returns as concession manager for Belle City on its winter route.
Amber Swedjan and Dave Kitt handle marketing for Belle City, along with employee training, guest relations, and social media. The show has the honor of playing the first date of 2020, the Jan. 16-26 Manatee County Fair, Palmetto, Fla., which opens one day before the South Florida Fair, West Palm Beach, where Frank Zaitshik's Wade Shows again provides the carnival midway.
Booking with Belle City in Palmetto will be Gary Hughes, Bryce Burton, and T. J. Schmidt Amusements, owned by Sandi Schmidt, who is the sister of Jon and Tom Arnold of Arnold Amusements.
Talent at Jacksonville included Chris Janson, Uncle Kracker, Blanco Brown, the Eli Young Band, Blue Oyster Cult, Kazual, Lane Pittman, and from Nov. 13-17, the Dennis Lee Band and Kari and Billy. Also, a three ring super circus, with The Wheel of Adventure, Jump Rope of Fire, Globe of Steele with amazing motorcycle stunt men, and The Amazing Franco Clown Juggler Extraordinaire.
Also, Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show, Robinson's Racing Pigs (I remember when Paul and Carlotta Robinson first introduced them as a new act), Agri-Puppets, Stingray Encounter, Amazing Bubble Factory, and Marvin Gardner, Rust and Flame Blacksmith.
The first time I visited that fair A. J. (Sonny) Dickerson was concession manager for Jim Murphy and Christine and I flew there on the private plane of our late, dear friend, Danny Davis of The Nashville Brass. We had first flown with him to Shreveport for the C. Ed Nelson-managed State Fair of Louisiana. Davis, whose real name was George Nowlin, performed at both dates.
Hart said Janson, Blue Oyster Cult and Blanco Brown drew the biggest crowds. “Brown was amazing. He had performed the night before on the Country Music Association Awards Show.” I asked how she heard about him, and it was from a local DJ. Hart recalls a year when she booked Luke Bryan for $700, another, when she booked him for $2,800, and wonders how much it would take now.
As many of you know, my beautiful wife, Christine, suffered a seizure on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. My daughter, Alice Stanley, called 911, and she was rushed to a hospital. Thank God, Christine came home on Thanksgiving morning. She's upset that she won't be able to drive for a while, but we're counting our blessings. She's supposed to avoid stress, but where can I go?
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