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  • Wed, October 23, 2019 9:31 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    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.

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

  • Wed, October 23, 2019 9:09 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    Carnival Warehouse
    by Timothy Herrick

    Many northern fairs in the U. S., such as the Iowa State Fair and the Minnesota State Fair broke records, bolstered mainly by a late summer streak of good weather. Mother Nature's favor also shone on the U. S.'s neighbor to the north, where North American Midway Entertainment's (NAME) Canadian route spreads across four provinces from June through September.

    NAME plays some of the largest outdoor events in the country, including such renowned fairs as the Red River Exhibition, K-Days, Calgary Stampede and the Canadian National Exhibition, according to Scooter Korek, Vice President of Client Services, NAME and immediate-past president of Canadian Association of Fairs & Exhibitions. “There were fairs setting records this year, just like the states,” he said. “What really helped was good weather.”

    Another factor was an improving Canadian economy. The Canadian economy recovered more slowly than the U. S. from the Great Recession that afflicted both nations; however 2019 finally saw a much anticipated upswing. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 2019 saw a 4-decade low in unemployment. Compared to 2018, people were more upbeat and ready to spend.

    Record Year
    “We haven't finalized all the attendance and revenue figures, but we are up from last year,” he said. “Canada is doing pretty good, things are better than a year ago. All the big fairs set records or near records this year. People were spending, people were riding.”

    He added, “Some areas are doing as well as others, but our numbers were still up.

    The fairs still offer value, and in places like the Calgary Stampede, the community always supports the fair.”

    Korek credited the fairs for upgrading their marketing and expanding their programming in 2019, creating what is tantamount to a boom year. “The fairs are doing a better job at connecting with their customers. They are providing a compelling product that people want to visit.”

    The Canadian fairs are keeping to tried-and-true practices. “A lot of fairs found that formula,” he said. That formula – in order of importance – is Free Entertainment; Food; Midway Rides, Social Experience; and Agriculture. “They've been working on this formula and in the past 20 years, these fairs have really come into their own.”

    Foodie Nation
    As a carnival company, the midway rides may be the most important to Korek, even if they are only number three. However, he did emphasize that the social experience of the fair – and the fair organizers understanding how to continually enrich that experience – was key to this year's successful run. “Fairs are the last bastion of a real life experience,” he said. “They're participatory. People go with their friends. Fairs are reaping the benefits of maintaining that experience, this year and into the future.”

    The second quotient in the formula – Food – Korek noted as being a growing attendee draw. Not only is Foodie culture as rampant in Canada as in the U. S., but many fairs expanded their fair cuisine offerings in 2019.

    “The food thing really jumped out to me this year,” he said. “The food vendors in Canada have really come into their own. There is a real quality to what they are serving, and also to their presentations. People ignore their diets and come down to the fair to eat.”

    While the fairs' food vendors may have been expanded beyond Poutine, the NAME midway edibles focused on traditional fair fare, such as corn dogs, candy apples and mini-donuts. The company recently upgraded food & beverage presentations, especially the lemonade and mini-donut stand. “We have the best mini-donuts. We are constantly upgrading our product and our presentation. We have worked hard to transform the midway into a kaleidoscope of colors.”

    The new star of the NAME midway in 2019 was the super-spectacular ride Star Dancer. The company premiered the ride at some of its early 2019 events, then brought it north for the annual summer route. “They never saw anything like this in Canada,” he said. “It was a big hit. The Star Dancer and our Giant Wheel were busy from the opening to the closing of every fair we played.”

    At the South Carolina State Fair, NAME unveiled its brand new 46m Giant Wheel (read more about it on CarnivalWarehouse).

    The 2019 season also saw upticks in advanced sales for the company. “We also worked constantly with the fairs this year to offer great discounts, like Kid Day promotions. We did more promotions this year and they worked.”

    Foreign Workers Welcomed
    One crucial aspect of being a midway provider in Canada that their American counterparts are sure to envy is the labor force situation. Unlike the unstable – and often unpredictable—U. S. foreign worker system that wreaked havoc on many companies in 2019, Canada has a more logical and dependable system. “The Canadian government sees the value of the temporary workers on their economy,” he said. “The national government really works with you.”

    Korek had a crew of 137 South African employees, without a hint of the problems that plague the visa program in the states.

    In addition, stable fuel prices and other costs meant a lack of other headaches that can hamper a season.

    “We had a good run in Canada this year. The fairs are really doing a good job of staying relevant by putting on a one of kind experience that people still enjoy.”

  • Wed, October 23, 2019 8:04 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)
    U.S. On-Highway Diesel Fuel Prices*  
    (dollars per gallon) full history
              Change from
      10/07/19 10/14/19 10/21/19   week ago year ago
    U.S. 3.047 3.051 3.050   values are down -0.001 values are down -0.330
    East Coast (PADD1) 3.041 3.044 3.045   values are up 0.001 values are down -0.324
    New England (PADD1A) 3.047 3.042 3.045   values are up 0.003 values are down -0.323
    Central Atlantic (PADD1B) 3.224 3.227 3.235   values are up 0.008 values are down -0.298
    Lower Atlantic (PADD1C) 2.915 2.920 2.916   values are down -0.004 values are down -0.338
    Midwest (PADD2) 2.967 2.967 2.957   values are down -0.010 values are down -0.376
    Gulf Coast (PADD3) 2.804 2.805 2.802   values are down -0.003 values are down -0.350
    Rocky Mountain (PADD4) 3.022 3.041 3.044   values are up 0.003 values are down -0.364
    West Coast (PADD5) 3.642 3.653 3.675   values are up 0.022 values are down -0.196
    West Coast less California 3.215 3.240 3.290   values are up 0.050 values are down -0.297
    California 3.981 3.982 3.980   values are down -0.002 values are down -0.116
    *prices include all taxes
  • Thu, October 17, 2019 4:36 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    The 308.8 miles between Perry, Ga., and Pensacola, Fla., probably seemed like a hop, skip and jump for Reithoffer Shows which had traveled 1,250.2 miles not long ago from the Wilson County Fair in Lebanon, Tenn., to the New Mexico State Fair, Albuquerque.

    Nevertheless, Rick Reithoffer, head of the carnival's Blue Unit, had a bounce in his voice as he told of record runs at all three spots. The 30th annual Georgia National Fair, Perry, held Oct. 1-13, set a record attendance mark of 565,533, which was a five per cent increase over the previous mark of 536,840 that was established in 2016.

    Individual records were set on Thursday, Oct. 10, with 66,314 visitors; Friday, with attendance of 74,199; and the closing Saturday, when attendance was 96,910. I've been to that fair many times, and I can't imagine the traffic backup on Interstate 75.

    I was there for the inaugural event when the late Pat Reithoffer and T. Wilson Sparks, the fair's first Executive Director, celebrated what they had been involved in the planning of for two and a half years. Pat always said it would become the premier fair in the Southeast.

    With all the good things happening, Reithoffer was still upset about the turnout from independent concessionaires for a Thursday night fundraiser to benefit the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, especially its efforts toward the foreign worker H-2B Visa program.

    We were capped out early and didn't get our supply of workers until July. It actually caused us to cancel some events and not have as much equipment up at some others as we would have preferred. I invited 60 concessionaires and only four showed up.

    I tried to emphasize that if a carnival is set up on one side of a lake and just food vendors are on the other, they are not going to sell as many hot dogs or sausage sandwiches. A man named Taylor, with popcorn, came through, as did Charley Cox, who has concessions there year-round, and the Wisconsin Cheese Man (Randy Reichert). We raised $16,000, but I ain't done yet. Some of those people are going to want to book at Pensacola, and I'm going to go after them. We're nothing if we don't work together. The H-2B thing is a problem for the entire industry, not just us. We were supposed to get 130 workers this year, and we got 90. My brother, Pat's Orange Unit, wanted 100, and got 60.” Reithoffer said Bobby Pugh, his concession manager, and his wife, Debbie, did a terrific job in setting up the fundraiser.

    At Perry, it started raining about two hours before we closed on Sunday and we wound up with a very tough teardown. A lot of workers didn't show up because of the rain and mud and we were hours behind schedule, but I'm on my way now to see Don Frenkel, GM at the Pensacola Interstate Fair.” Dates there are Oct. 17-27.

    Perry didn't start off so hot, or to be more specific, the temperatures were too hot with the first two days being 97 degrees, and 105. “Then the weather turned beautiful and we did great. Steve Shipp, who’s in charge, changed some things around and it went very well.” Shipp said there were more discounted days, promotional food offers, and 11 free concerts which all helped.

    Reithoffer said the show had its best year ever at the 81st annual Albuquerque fair, held Sept. 5-15, and praised the work of GM Dan Mourning. “Then we played the South Plains Fair, Lubbock, Texas, where Jennifer Wallace finished her third year as manager. Despite losing the first Saturday and another day to rain, we still finished within $5,000 of what we did there last year.”

    The concert lineup in New Mexico included Aaron Watson, with PRCA Xtreme Bulls, Jaripeo Sin Fronteras, presented by Pepe Aguilar; Mitchell Tenpenny, the Eli Young Band, Clay Walker, Smash Mouth and Spin Doctors, all with PRCA Rodeo.

    Pat Reithoffer's Orange Unit of Reithoffer Shows is now at the Western Carolina State Fair, Aiken, after playing the Piedmont Interstate Fair, Spartanburg, S. C., and Cleveland County Fair, Shelby, N, C., that was managed for years by Joe Goforth.

    Christine and I got to meet the Goforths on one of Monsignor Robert J. McCarthy's jaunts to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, along with the late Pat Reithoffer, and his wife, Bette, who is still clicking at 97.

    Pat is assisted on that show by his son, Ryan, and Tom Popovich, along with Office Manager Jack Stoorza, whose wife, Jan, is a sister of Pat and Rick. The show had successful runs earlier at the Canfield, Ohio Fair, and State Fair of West Virginia, Lewisburg. Talent at that 95th annual West Virginia event, Aug. 8-17, where Kelly Collins is CEO, included Justin Moore, Ashley McBryde, Cody Jinks, The Steel Woods, Darci Lynne, Cole Swindell, Alabama, and Jeff Foxworthy. It's where Luke Combs, then a virtual unknown, sold out last year and went on to become a big star.

    Free shows were performed by Jimmy Fortune, formerly with The Statlers, Lorrie Morgan, Riley Green, Grandpa Cratchet, Scott's World of Magic, Hypnotist Catherine Hickland, High Dive Show, Marc Dobson, One Man Band, and the Swifty Swine Racing Pigs.

    As always, Jimmy Jay's Jayson Promotions of Hendersonville, Tenn., booked the talent at Reaves Arena in Perry. When I was hanging around with Jimmy when I was editor of Amusement Business, his main acts were Conway Twitty, George Jones, and Merle Haggard. I kept urging him then to get some younger artists.

    Perry artists included The Oak Ridge Boys, Gin Blossoms, George Clinton, Parliament Funkadelic, Diamond Rio, Confederate Railroad, Grapevine, Rumba Latina, Little Anthony & the Imperials, Great White Lion Snake, Marshall Charloff, and Purple Experience.

    Also, the Nervelock Nock's Water Ski and Stunt Show, Leon Jacobs. Tadpole the Clown, The Fritters, Stilt Circus, Nerger's Tigers, Butterfly Experience, Sea Lion Splash, Magician Mike Fuller, Vocal Trash, Karadenni, Ninja Experience, and Tree of Life.

    I'm passing along a note from one of the nicest people I've ever worked with, and it's all been by phone. I have never met Sue Gallup, OABA's administration/member services manager, but I liked her immediately when she said she was a Boston Red Sox fan.

    She e-mailed me the following: “I felt like I need to explain my reasoning to you as to why your article is so far down in the weekly Xtra. It's because that's what everyone is looking for!!! I have to make them look through everything else to get to you.

    They will read it no matter what, so you don't have to worry about the scrolling to get there. I even asked someone last night if they read it when it comes in their e-mail and he actually told me, 'To be honest, I only read it to see Tom's article.' So there you have it...It's official. Maybe you could put in a plug next week urging everyone to read the whole thing, and encourage other members to do the same. I just can't get over the amount of readership it has. I'm just kidding about the plug. I'm gonna get Greg on that one. Thanks, Tom, for all your articles. They definitely are fascinating to all in the industry.” That's one of the best compliments I've ever received.

    And by the way, Rick Reithoffer complained that somebody has left him off the mailing list and he's missing reading my columns. Honest! I told him I'd call Sue Gallup, knowing that will get immediate action. His address is rreithoffer@aol.com. Thanks!

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

    Have all great days, and God Bless!

  • Thu, October 17, 2019 4:31 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    Governor Newsome of California
    has signed into law a ban on fur sales and a circus animal ban that only allows for dogs, cats, and horses to perform. 

     Click here for more news and links

  • Thu, October 17, 2019 4:24 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    The Philadelphia Inquirer

    by Claudia Vargas, Staff Writer and Ellie Silverman, Staff WriterUpdated: October 16, 2019

    On Saturday, a 10-year-old South Jersey girl became at least the fifth rider to be thrown to death since 2000 from the Sizzler, a spinning carnival ride. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt, which some other states require.

    State investigators continue to probe how Hailey McMullen was ejected from the Sizzler, a ride that has been a staple at many traveling carnivals for decades.

    Manufactured by Wisdom Rides of America in Merino, Colo., and operated by Skelly’s Amusements of Williamstown, Gloucester County, the Sizzler turns in one direction as people sitting in its carriages spin the opposite way. Experts in the safety of amusement rides described it as safe, despite the fatalities.

    “You have to keep your fanny in the seat, your back against [the] seat-back, your feet on the floor, and your hands on the lap bar,” said Ken Martin, a Virginia-based safety consultant. “When the ride is operated per the manufacturer’s instructions and the patrons follow the manufacturer’s instructions, it is one of the safest rides on any midway.”

    Martin said in his opinion all amusement rides should have seat belts.

    “The key thing,” he said, “is it has to be operated properly and the people operating it and the people using it have to follow the rules.”

    After a 2004 accident in which a man was fatally ejected from the ride at a Massachusetts church fair, that state shut down the Sizzler until operators installed seat belts. A spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety said there has not been a serious incident since it required belts.

    Members of the Deerfield community have expressed grief and shock over the death of McMullen. A man who answered the door of the fifth grader’s home Monday evening declined to talk. “Please let my family grieve,” he said.

    One family friend posted on Facebook how she loved watching the “sweet little girl” grow up:

    “No more watching her climb trees, play hide n seek, drawing in the driveway, climbing my red maple tree, the giggles and the bond she had with her sister. I cannot put into words the heartbreak I feel for the family most of all but also for our Community, Committee members and Skellys Amusement Rides. I know first hand the devastation of this tragedy they feel and will struggle with. Prayers and heartfelt condolences will help with healing not anger!" The friend didn’t respond to a reporter.

    A Dollar General store near the festival tied balloons around a parking poll — a unicorn, Disney princesses, L.O.L surprise dolls. A note to customers said:

    “Remember to kiss + hug your kids + tell them you love them.”

    Skelly’s Amusement said that this was the first time that someone had been ejected from the ride it calls the “Xtreme” in the 27 years it has operated it in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

    “Nothing even close to this,” said Rick Marchione, the company’s concession manager. “Common incidents ... are bruised knee or bruised elbow — minor incidents.”

    Marchione said riders are secured with a lap bar that locks in place.

    Experts also said New Jersey is one of the strictest states when it comes to overseeing amusement rides.

    The state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) inspects all rides at the beginning of the season. For rides that move from festival to festival such as Skelly’s Super Sizzler, the agency’s Carnival and Amusement Safety Unit also inspects the ride after they are assembled at each location. In addition, according to a state spokesperson, inspectors often inspect rides while in operation.

    The DCA did not respond Tuesday to questions about seat-belt requirements. Nor did the department provide public data on amusement-ride accidents in the state.

    Three members of the New Jersey Carnival Amusement Ride Safety Advisory Board said that in their years on the board, no issues had come up regarding the Sizzler.

    Al Belmont, who sits on the advisory board but spoke as an industry expert from his years operating children’s rides, said that before a ride is allowed to operate in New Jersey it goes through rigorous testing by engineers and inspectors.

    “I know rides that weren’t allowed to operate in the state that were coming from Europe that [state officials] didn’t feel" were safe enough. “I know for a fact they have refused licenses and permits. ... They don’t cut corners.”

    Investigators have released the ride to Skelly’s and the company has since dismantled it, Marchione said. Pending investigation, the company has not been cleared to operate the Sizzler. The Deerfield festival was its last event of the season.

    State police and the DCA said their investigations are ongoing. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has regulatory oversight of mobile amusement rides, is also investigating Saturday’s fatality.

    Before this weekend, the most recent death on the ride appears to have occurred in 2016 when 16-year-old Samantha Aguilar was killed at an El Paso, Texas, church festival. A lawyer for the Aguilar family said that because a lawsuit against the operators of the ride and festival organizers settled, there wasn’t a determination why the teen died — despite the ride having both a lap bar and a seat belt.

    “We had our theories. Defense counsel had their theories,” Steven Ortega said, declining to specify. “We felt there was some negligence.”

    In 2007, Wisdom put out a bulletin recommending that operators install seat belts on the Sizzler to prevent further incidents. Wisdom did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

    Marchione, who has worked for Skelly’s for 20 years, said that "to best of our knowledge we’ve never been notified that there was an option” for a seat belt on the Sizzler.

    Staff writer William Bender contributed to this article.

  • Thu, October 17, 2019 1:58 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    The Board of Directors of the Central Washington Fair Association announced today that Kathy Kramer has been named President and CEO of the Central Washington State Fair, succeeding longtime President Greg Stewart, who is retiring from the organization after 48 years.

    Kramer will take over the position on February 1, 2020.

    “We are excited to have Kathy bring her experience, talents and enthusiasm to our Fair and to State Fair Park,” said Fair Association Board chairman Dave Hargreaves. “We are looking forward to having her help us grow into the future.”

    Kramer has a diverse background in for-profit, government and non-profit organizations, holding key roles in the areas of management, strategic planning, sales & marketing, venue operations, production of major events and corporate sponsorship. For the past five years she was CEO of the Orange County Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa, California.Prior to that she was with Northlands in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where she was the Vice President of Business Operations. Previously, she was Deputy Director of the Phoenix Convention Center and Venues, Vice President of Convention Sales & Marketing for Century Link Center in Omaha, Midwest Regional Director of Sales & Marketing for Six Continents Hotels and Resorts and Director of Sales & Marketing for Harrah’s Casino and Hotel. She holds a CFE (Certified Facility Executive) from the International Association of Venue Managers and is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP).

    “I am very excited and humbled to be joining the Central Washington Fair Association team as the new President and CEO,” Kramer said. “I am truly looking forward to working with the board, staff and community to move this organization to the next level.We have such a great opportunity to continue to build on the rich history of this organization and Yakima Valley to ensure that State Fair Park continues to be a vital part of the community for years to come.”

    Greg Stewart joined the Fair in 1972 and took over as general manager the following year.In his time at the Fair it has grown from a 5-day to a 10-day Fair and has become the biggest family event in Eastern Washington.He will officially retire on December 31 of this year.

  • Thu, October 17, 2019 1:41 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)
    U.S. Regular Gasoline Prices*  
    (dollars per gallon) full history
              Change from
      09/30/19 10/07/19 10/14/19   week ago year ago
    U.S. 2.642 2.645 2.629   values are down -0.016 values are down -0.250
    East Coast (PADD1) 2.506 2.486 2.462   values are down -0.024 values are down -0.347
    New England (PADD1A) 2.553 2.523 2.517   values are down -0.006 values are down -0.337
    Central Atlantic (PADD1B) 2.638 2.612 2.599   values are down -0.013 values are down -0.315
    Lower Atlantic (PADD1C) 2.411 2.397 2.360   values are down -0.037 values are down -0.370
    Midwest (PADD2) 2.488 2.499 2.478   values are down -0.021 values are down -0.280
    Gulf Coast (PADD3) 2.326 2.282 2.257   values are down -0.025 values are down -0.370
    Rocky Mountain (PADD4) 2.709 2.712 2.706   values are down -0.006 values are down -0.276
    West Coast (PADD5) 3.547 3.642 3.665   values are up 0.023 values are up 0.171
    West Coast less California 3.057 3.101 3.153   values are up 0.052

    values are down -0.082

    *prices include all taxes

  • Thu, October 10, 2019 5:37 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    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.

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

    Have all great days, and God Bless!
  • Thu, October 10, 2019 5:15 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    by Madeline Hoak, Professor, Performer

    In a circular ballroom on the twelfth floor of Springfield’s La Quinta hotel with a stunning view of Western Massachusetts, over one hundred dedicated members of Circus Fans of America (CFA) gathered for a three day celebration at their annual convention. Founded in 1926, the Circus Fans Association of America was created to give support to traveling circuses and circus performers. Now with around 2,000 members and less than a decade shy of one hundred years later, their brochure touts unwavering dedication to this mission, stating “The Circus Fan will do their utmost to create a true understanding and appreciation of the educational, historical, cultural and recreational values of the circus, with or without animals.”

    Local chapters of the CFA are called “Tents,” which are named after living or deceased circus owners, producers or performers. Tents schedule local events that usually coincide with circus performances. Sometimes CFA members will be on hand with coffee and donuts when a circus arrives in a new town. Members will attend a performance as a group and then might invite the circus employees to a luncheon. Many members also work with circus schools through CFA’s Circus 4 Youth.

    Membership includes a subscription to the CFA’s publication, White Tops, which includes articles, reviews and beautiful photos of circus events around America and abroad. Due to its longevity, White Tops is an important and living archive of traditional circus information. The organization welcomes all circus professionals and fans to join. And indeed, it will likely take an expansion in membership across generations and genres to ensure that this organization continues to provide support for traditional circuses and camaraderie for circus fans of all kinds.

    The convention opened with a buffet dinner. Long hugs between old friends and broad smiles peppered the room. Outfits were adorned with spectacular accessories: a feather in the hair, striped jackets, gold studded boots or a vest of clown faces. As we passed serving tongs at appetizer tables, the regional accents gave away that folks hailed from all over the country. Mixed in among the fans were circus legends, owners, producers, authors and historians. The breadth and wealth of experience and know-how in the room was astounding. In the background, four screens played slide shows of circuses past and present. Down the hall, a second room was packed with circus swag for sale: buttons, books, model trains — you name it, it was there. It was a traditional circus enthusiast’s playground! And the food was good.

    Bright and early at 8am on a Thursday morning, the legendary animal trainer, eighth generation circus performer and now circus agent, Jeanette Williams, kicked off a day of panel discussions and presentations. Speaking off the cuff, she gave a candid recount of what it was like for her family to arrive in America. She fondly remembered her brave mother who sewed money in the children’s coats when they traveled, and she detailed the shocking accommodations for her animals she was presented with upon arriving in America. A lifelong performer who can expertly read a crowd, she inserted jokes and lighthearted stories at just the right intervals to keep the audience engaged.

    Ms. Williams’ presentation was bookended with an observation and a plea that would be repeated throughout the convention. Calling attention to the average age of the population in the room, she quipped at the start, “The only justice in life is that we get old.” She closed her talk by impressing upon the crowd that their personal collections of circus memorabilia ought to go to a worthy home. This was the first of many self-referential, albeit jovial, digs that were made at the seniority of the Circus Fans membership. Under the good natured humor, the comments were tinged with a somber tone and earnest concern for the future of the organization. Joe Barney, owner and producer of Center Ring Productions and the convention’s master of ceremonies, was never shy to tell it how it is, “The circus is not dead. But look around the room: if we don’t get new people to join us, we’re going to be performing for the Geritol circus!”

    Do the Circus Fans think circus is dead? Not necessarily, but their internal struggle between the desire to hang on to and uphold the iconic traditional American circus they love pitted against the realities that circus has changed–is changing– was palpable. The topic was hot amongst the panelists of the Owners and Directors Forum. Wayne McCary, former CEO of Eastern States Exposition, tore the bandaid off, “You’re going to see change, but don’t think mistakenly that circus is going to fade away… As much as our generation and people in this room lament the fact that circus is changing, the circus isn’t dying.” Bello Nock reminded the crowd, “Circus is tradition and change. Circus brought icons, rarities; it changed the environment… You have to change to stay relevant… If you take away the color that we all get fascinated with and look just at the business, it’s like any other industry: supply and demand.”


    The presence of animals is a huge ingredient for circus traditionalists. The panelists gently invited the idea of a broader definition. As an agent for international circus performers, Jeanette Williams brought to light a related shift in the industry, “Because of not having animals, the productions have to hire more performers to fill the time.” She adamantly denounced the expectation that performers have multiple skills sets. “I’m very opposed to people asking, ‘How many acts can they do?’ I’d rather they ask, ‘What’s their main act?'” For her, training multiple acts waters down a performer’s ability to present a “first class” act.

    The afternoon brought the Circus Memorabilia Collections Seminar offering advice for best preservation practices. Circus Fans have treasure troves of memorabilia, and the reality is that museums cannot always take these collections. To preserve the artifacts, individual owners are tasked with preserving the tangible artifacts of the art form. From Timothy Tegge, the audience learned about the hazards of scotch tape and the unbelievable transformations that proper restoration can bring to old circus posters. Dave Johnson appointed anyone that collected, a Historical Preservation Officer and insisted they practice, “Documentation, documentation, documentation.” He also prodded thoughtfulness. “Planning is everything. Give it to the kids? Is it in the will?” Kathleen Mahen spoke to her position as Executive Director of the Barnum museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and the role that museums play in archiving circus. She assigned the audience a self-reflection task by asking, “What does your collection do? Community engagement? Make people curious?” All advice and prompts were given in good spirit to assist collectors in safeguarding their relics.

    I’ll admit I missed the Circus Costume & Choreography Seminar, but for good reason. I fell into a wonderful discussion with Dick Flint. He happened to overhear me say one word in an adjacent conversation, “research,” and politely saddled up for a chat. Flint just happened to be a former president of the Circus Historical Society (a generous portion of their members overlap with CFA) and a veritable well of circus knowledge. He immediately offered a plethora of resources related to my research on spectatorship. Not long after, Flint made sure I spoke with Fred Pfening III, another monumental circus historian. Flint and Pfening were generous with their conversation and suggestions for resources and other historians and academics that might be helpful to me. They were buzzing with appreciation that I was a young academic interested in circus history — a new person with whom to share their wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm. And I thought, ‘I’m not alone! There are so many performers, students, academics, coaches, producers and contemporary circus fans that would benefit from conversation with the members of this organization.’ And I thought, ‘There is bridge building that must be done. Priceless information is falling into a generation gap.’ Organizations like the Circus Fans Association of America hold a torch for traditional American circus, but as Wayne McCary astutely pointed out, “The new generation is growing up without the same history.” Bello Nock insisted, “The future of circus is partnering.” I couldn’t agree more. Circus in America has and will continue to change, and it’s going to take a diverse, multi-generational group of historians, fans, academics and contemporary practitioners, creators and producers to keep the traditional circus flame alive.

    Bello Nock insisted, “The future of circus is partnering.” I couldn’t agree more.

    The day wrapped up with the Circus Legends Program honoring important members of the community. Each recipient was introduced with incomparable stories of personal achievements that have shaped the circus industry. As they received the honor, they responded with heartwarming tales of successes, mishaps and always with deep recognition and gratitude for those who aided their work: family, trainers and of course, fans. Circus folks never forget whose shoulders they stood on to become who they are, do what they do and bring circus joy to the world. And nowhere else will you hear things like, “I had to bring the bears up the fire escape.”

    Friday was spent at The Big E Fair where CFA fans were warmly welcomed under the big top for a delightful circus performance. That evening, back at the hotel, CFA members performed clowning, magic and ventriloquism for each other and a new film about P.T. Barnum was screened. The convention quietly wrapped up as week tipped into weekend.

    Traditional traveling circuses swept through towns for a single day, Circus Day. Spectators had 364 days to bask in the memories and build up excitement for next year’s show. Similarly, CFA conventions are annual. The group won’t gather again until fall 2020 — this time in Las Vegas, Nevada! And I have no doubt that, also like Circus Day, the memories, the camaraderie and the pure love for the art of circus will stay steadfast through the year.

    Madeline is a NYC based performer, producer, professor, and choreographer specializing in aerial, acrobatics, dance and movement direction. She is an adjunct professor of Aerial Arts at Pace University, on staff at Aerial Arts NYC and The Muse Brooklyn and initiated the Aerial program at Muhlenberg College where she taught from 2011 - 2017. Her movement direction contributed to Circle Theater NYC’s production of The Mountain winning Outstanding Original Choreography/Movement, 2015. She co-choreographed The Battles, a musical voted by Broadway producer Ken Davenport one of the top 10 new scripts of 2016. Madeline's choreography has been presented at Dixon Place, Circus Warehouse, BAX, The House of Yes, Abron Arts Center, Times Square, The Flea, STREB, Galapagos, and The Muse. She received BAs in Dance and Theater from Muhlenberg College and is currently studying at NYU’s Gallatin school of Individualized Study where she is designing a master’s degree in circus studies with a focus on dramaturgy and creative processes. madelinehoak.com.

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