Guy and Charlene Leavitt, owners of Ray Cammack Shows were ecstatic after what Guy called a very good, record-breaking Arizona State Fair, Phoenix, where the carnival was up an overall 25 per cent.
The 135th annual event, held Oct. 4-27, with Mondays and Tuesdays off, posted attendance of 1,262,868, according to Executive Director Wanell Costello. Cammack has held the midway pact since 1980.
Asked what made the fair so good, Guy first complimented Costello and staff for an excellent marketing plan that included a strong talent lineup with 13 concerts in Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Monster Trucks, and Indian Rodeo, the first Esports Gaming World competition, the first MMA event in over a decade, and the second annual Arizona State Dance Championships.
The talent lineup included Lil Pump, Becky G, The Cult, Pat Benatar and Neil Geraldo, Billy Currington, Trace Adkins, Chase Rice, Stryper, MC Hammer, Fiesta Friday, with NB Ridaz, Lil Rick, DJ Kane, and Kid Frost, Len Brice, Matthew West, Zach Williams, and Awolimation.
Continuing, Leavitt said, “We had perfect weather, the excellent economy helped a lot, and we brought in four new rides out of the 70 that were set up. The No. 1 ride was R50XL Wheel that is 55 meters, or 150 feet high. The Titan, tallest portable ride in the U. S., made its first appearance in Phoenix.” Made by Fabbri, Leavitt said it is like a giant Speed ride that is 17 stories tall. Also new were a Tea Cup, Gosette-manufactured Ice Jet and two bottle up games.
“Our new app phone for a cashless midway helped expand our gross. They don't ever have to go to a ticket box. We created this inhouse through Mr. Burback (Ron Burback of Funtastic Shows, Portland, Oregon, a dear friend to both of us,” said Leavitt.
He said on the second to last Sunday, the fair had all the local service groups, firefighters, police, ambulance and other organizations come in and demonstrate their equipment. “It’s a good thing.”
Asked about his H-2B Visa foreign labor, Cammack said, “It would make it a lot more difficult for the entire industry to operate if we didn't have them. We were lucky enough to get our full allotment.”
Leavitt praised his 65-games operation, which is operated by Annie Kastl, whose husband, Joe, works with rides, and Steve Charleston, whose wife, Deb, is in charge of inventory, RVs, and parking. “They call her Mrs. Hud since she takes care of housing. On the Friday after the fair closed we had a big 50th wedding anniversary for the Charlestons.” Asked if there were any other news for RCS which ended its season and doesn't open again until the March 3-22 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, Leavitt smiled and said, “We had a banner season, with record runs at most of our locations. Oh, and as far as I know, nobody's pregnant.”
Reached after the Oct. 25-Nov. 3 Cape Fear Fair & Expo, Wilmington, N. C., Les (Corky) Powers, who owns Powers Great American Midways with his wife, Debbie, who is first vice chair of OABA, said, “I'm ready to go home.”
Powers had played the Oct. 17-27 North Carolina State Fair, Raleigh, where attendance was 938,029, according to Kent Yelverton, GM. Last year's attendance was 977,256 and in 2017, it was 1,014,475. Powers said his gross numbers reflected the attendance as he was down by six per cent.
“But we feel good about that, knowing we wound up doing the best that was possible.” He said the season was very challenging since he didn't get his allotment of H-2B foreign workers early. “We got them six weeks late, but the important thing is we did get them. It would have been virtually impossible to work without them.” Powers said that in the spring he set up only 18 rides at some spots, and it required two days to tear them down because of the lack of qualified help. He added, “We ended up with a good season and feel lucky that we got what we got.” Ninety-four rides were set up in Raleigh, with Frank Zaitshik's Wade Shows, and Bob DeStefano's Dreamland Amusements also providing equipment. “We had a good layout and had to combat some really bad weather. We got lucky on the Saturday, however, when the South Carolina State Fair got rained out. We had threats but avoided the storms and had a good crowd.”
Some highlights of the year were the Dutchess County Fair, Rhinebeck, N. Y., the Montgomery County Fair, Gaithersburg, Md., and Great Allentown, Pa. Fair. “Once we got into our fair seasons all our dates were up. Last year we lost part, or all of our fairs in Concord, Greenville, and Goldsboro, North Carolina, due to the hurricane. All of them were good, with nice weather this year.”
Winter quarters are in Whiteville, N. C. “We'll be busy there and we'll go out again with Frank's Wade Shows at the South Florida State Fair, West Palm Beach, in January, and the Florida State Fair, Tampa, in February. And then it's on to the trade show in Gibsonton.”
Talent at North Carolina included Natural Wonder, a Tribute to Stevie Wonder, The Embers, featuring Craig Wooland, a Folk Festival, Branford Marsalis Quartet, Charlie Daniels Band, Pure Prairie League, featuring Craig Fuller, American Aquarium, and David Childers and Race Driver Kyle Petty.
Also, Bandaloni, The Flippin' Aerial and Acrobatic Spectacular, Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show, a Parrot-Riding Pirate, Stilt Circus, Steel Drum Corps, and the No.1 attraction, the State Fair SkyGazer, a 155 ft. tall Ferris Wheel with 15-mile sight lines.
It's always interesting to hear from Jeremy Parsons, CEO/Manager of the Clay County Fair, Spencer, Iowa, where Mike Featherston's Goldstar Amusements provides the midway.
I've worked in the past with Myles Johnson, Jim Frost, Phil Hurst, and the last eight years, with Parsons, who like his predecessors, became active in the Mighty Midwest Fair Managers Association.
“I left you a voice mail, but I thought I would send an e-mail as well,” he said. “Well, the fair was interesting. We had five days of rain, one cancelled grandstand performance by Foreigner, and a cancelled Veterans Day Parade. With the bad weather, attendance dipped below 300,000, about four per cent from last year. BUT, despite the weather it was a smooth fair.
“People were happy and spending money. Our food and carnival gross were only down by two per cent. That was very interesting, considering the weather and the bad agricultural economy. So, although I would like to complain, I really can't.”
Parsons said that Goldstar did another excellent job as the midway operator. They set three single day gross records, which was important since the first weekend was essentially a washout.
“Thanks for all you do. I enjoy reading your column every week to get the real scoop.”
Well, here it is. Attendance for the Sept. 7-15 event was 296,998, down from 308,603. Grandstand events drew 17,368 and included Chuckwagon Races, Jon Pardi, with Jake Rose, Michael W. Smith, with Turen Wells, Maddie Pope, with Maggie Lindemann, and the ageless Leroy Van Dyke's Country Gold Show, with Moe Bandy, Jimmy Fortune. T. Graham Brown, and Steve and Rudy Gatlin.
Tom Gaylin of Rosedale Attractions called to say I finally got one right, and he was talking about my prediction that the Washington Nationals would win the World Series, which they did. I take umbrage since I also chose the Philadelphia Whiz Kids in 1950.
I don't usually do something like this, but I heard a song I liked so much while watching the HBO show called The Affair, starring Dominic West and Maura Tierney, that I want to recommend it. It's called “The Whole of the Moon,” by a group I never heard of called The Waterboys. Google it, as I did, and let me know what you think.
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Have all great days, and God Bless!