Butler Amusements posted a great run at the July 12-28 California Exposition and State Fair, where attendance of 601,761 was five per cent higher than the 2018 total 572,250, but lower than 2017's 636,628, according to Rick Pickering, general manager and chief executive officer.
An all new food Festival Pass helped the fair record strong food, beverage and amusement ride sales, according to Margaret Mohr, deputy general manager of business development and marketing. The pass allowed attendees one-of-a-kind entrees and special desserts from 30 vendors at a low price of $28. If purchased separately, officials estimated that each food item would cost in the range of $10 each.
Food sales from the Food Festival Pass generated approximately $300,000 in revenues alone.
Willie Madaus, owner of County Fair Cinnamon Rolls, Oakhurst, California, was quoted as saying the pass was popular every day of the fair. Madaus's Bacon & Pecan Cinnamon Roll won Best of Show in the Food Festival Competition. “We had our highest grossing Saturday ever and were up more than 20 per cent this year,” said Madaus. Barbecue sales hit an all-time high with $1.3 million in gross sales. Overall, the total for food and beverage sales was $8.5 million.
Butler, led by OABA Director Lance Moyer, who is the company's executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Sean Butler, son of the late Earl (Butch) Butler, grossed more than $500,000 on the closing Saturday, and $400,000 on the final Sunday. More than 100,000 people rode the Monorail and Skyride. Butler came to Sacramento from the Alameda County Fair, Pleasanton, and moved from Sacramento to the Sonoma County Fair, Santa Rosa, Aug. 1-11.
The107th annual Alameda Fair, held June 14-July 7, where Jerome Hogan is CEO, drew attendance of 454,276, which was up by 7.3 per cent over the 2018 total. Butler Amusements had a good run on the midway, and live horse racing returned with attendance of 49,483 for the 15-day meet. Marketing Manager Angel Moore noted that corn dog sales of 35,320 represented an increase of 11.8 per cent over last year. Other increases were 12.3 per cent for funnel cakes; 14.8 per cent for candy apples; and 19.1 per cent for deep fried Twinkies.
Entertainment included WAR, Ashanti, Trace Adkins, Gin Blossoms, Lifehouse, Sheila E, Loverboy, Roots & Boots Tour, with Sammy Kershaw, Collin Raye, and Aaron Tippin, Aly & AJ, BB King Blues Band, featuring The Voice's Michael Lee and Tommy Castro & The Painkillers-Killin It Live, Stellar Tribute Bands Earth to Mars for Bruno Mars, Kiss Revisited, James Garner's Tribute to Johnny Cash, Aja Vu for Steely Dan, and Vince Neil of Motley Crue.
The Butler Unit, led by Mick Brajevich, a former OABA director, who is the company's president and chief executive officer, had terrific runs at the July 3-7 Marin County Fair, San Rafael, California, and the 161st annual Washington County Fair, Hillsboro, California, July 23-28. It then traveled 673.3 miles to play the Aug. 1-11 Clark County Fair, Ridgefield, Washington. Ridgefield talent includes Carly Pierce, with Matt Stell, KC and The Sunshine Band, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Randy Houser.
After taking a hit in 2018, attendance at Marin County rebounded with the Fourth of July that drew 31,855, the second highest one day crowd in 31 years. A total of 116,639 attended this year's fair, the last for Charlie Barboni, longtime manager, who is retiring this year. Attendance last year was 104,942. Parking receipts were $231,700, compared to $231,415 last year.
Libby Garrison, a fair spokeswoman, said the free shuttle helped 3,224 save on parking costs, with a SMART train transporting 10,000 to and from the fair. Entertainment included Dwight Yoakam, The Distractions, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Abba The Concert, Steel Pulse, Cheap Trick, and Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea, plus fireworks, and The Great American Petting Zoo.
This year's Over the Moon theme, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, was the No. 1 factor that drove up attendance and revenue, said Garrison. Gate revenue was $1.51 million, a 4.3 per cent increase over that of 2018. Food and beverage receipts were $1.4 million, compared to $1.3 million last year. Auditors counted sales of 6,500 corn dogs, 5,200 orders of lobster fries, and 2,380 pineapple teriyaki bowls, among other items.
Contacted on a set up day at Ridgefield, Brajevich, who served 11 years on the OABA board, said, “We had a very good week at Hillsboro after moving there from the Stanislaus County Fair, Turlock. All units have had a great summer. I believe we broke records everywhere we've played since the beginning of June. The grosses have been great, and we've had very good weather. We had a little extreme heat at the end in Sacramento, but other than that, no complaints.”
Brajevich, who like Moyer, is a son-in-law of Butch Butler, said the show has added a new Himalaya ride from Wisdom for this season, which will be delivered soon. “We've also purchased a half dozen new trucks, a generator from Gull Wing, and a couple bunkhouses from Uni-Glide.”
Butler employs approximately 250 foreign workers through the H-2B Visa program. “We've been doing that for 20 years, and since we virtually operate year round, we always obtain them in a timely manner.” New to the show's solid route this year is the Tehama District Fair, Red Bluff, California.
The entertainment lineup for the Toyota Concert Series in Sacramento included Plain White T's, Queen Nation, TLC, Def Leppard Tribute, Clay Walker, The Marshall Tucker Band, Petty and the Heartshakers, Sean Kingston, Joe Nichols, Mariachi Vargas, The Boys of Summer, featuring the music of The Eagles; 38 Special, We Are Messengers, California Surf, Inc., Tony! Toni! Tone!, Journey Revisited, and Martina McBride.
Larry Sivori of Sivori Catering, Louisville, Kentucky, says his dad, Edgar, who died June 16 at the age of 88, taught him everything about their business that has been around since 1964.
“Before that, Dad was at Miles Park, the old Kentucky State Fair, before it moved to its current location in 1956. He purchased three cookhouses from Dale and Janelle Paisley. He had been grade school and high school buddies with the late Gene O'Brien, who had his own Irish O'Brien's cookhouse and food operation, with his wife, Sandi. Dad said to be successful you need to treat everybody with respect.”
Gene O'Brien was the first president of the National Independent Concessionaires Association. Larry Sivori was its fifth president, and is still involved in the organization, as is Sandi. Edgar was employed as a plumber before he got into the food business in a large way and earned the title of Midway Man.
The Sivoris have more than a dozen stands at the Kentucky State Fair each year, where they also set up a beer tent. They are the master vendor at the Kentucky Derby Festival and also work Thunder Over Louisville. Florida dates on Sivori's schedule are the Pensacola Interstate Fair, South Florida Fair, West Palm Beach, Martin County, Stuart, and Gator National drag races, Gainesville.
Other dates include the Heart of Illinois State Fair, Peoria, which went to six days from last year's five, this year; Logan County, Lincoln, Illinois; Alabama National Fair, Montgomery, Alabama, and Southeast Missouri District Fair, Cape Girardeau, plus numerous local picnics and festivals.
So far, the season has been okay, according to Sivori. Among his specialties at the Kentucky State Fair are tater tots with 15 different toppings, barbecue, corn dogs, pizza, and all the grab items including burgers, hot dogs, and sausages. He relies on Ron Porter of Fare Foods and local vendors for his products. “Ron's dad, Ray, and my dad were friends and my dad had another special friend over the years who was also a friend of yours, Joe Oblander, the Coca-Cola representative,” said Sivori. Oblander was a friend to everybody he knew in the business
Sivori and his wife, Emily, have been married for 40 years and have two children. Tony, 40, is an oral surgeon, and Aaron, 37 who has a landscaping business. “They both help on weekends at the Kentucky State Fair. For labor, we don't have any foreign employees and rely on many who return from year to year, but a lot of them are getting up in age. We find locals, but it's a struggle,” said Sivori.
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