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  • Wed, September 04, 2019 8:39 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    With all that was going on at the Aug. 22-Sept. 2 Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, that drew a record attendance of 2,126,551, the Giant Slide of Fred Pittroff and his daughter, Stacy Barona and her husband, Rob, is still one of the top attractions, according to General Manager Jerry Hammer.

    This was the 50th anniversary of the Giant Slide. It is estimated that more than nine million fair guests have ridden the Slide since its debut. “It has been our great privilege to make memories for the last five decades,” said Pittroff.

    “The Giant Slide is simple fun that has stood the test of time. There aren't many things that can give you the same exhilarating feeling whether you're young or old, but the slide does.” The Giant Slide stands 50 feet high at the back and runs 175 feet in length with five peaks and valleys. Rides cost $2.50 each. Lines are always long.

    Pittroff, who for many years assisted former Minnesota State Fair GM Mike Heffron with preparations for Midwest Fair Association meetings, said the first Giant Slide debuted in 1966 at the Orange Show in San Bernardino, California. Over the next two decades, Pittroff and his late wife, Beverley, built a total of 42 Giant Slides for fairs, festivals and amusement park operators across the U. S., Canada and Australia. Slides still operate at the Minnesota and Wisconsin State Fairs. Pittroff is now married to the former Carmel Dyer who has Australian Battered Potatoes. For many years, Fred was the only American to book at Australia's Royal Easter Show.

    Minnesota broke last year's previous record attendance of 2,046,533. despite rain falling sporadically on three of the 12 days. There were six record days that included the opening Thursday, 133,326, both Fridays, 157,224, and 209,789; Tuesday, 136,987, the last Sunday, 245,243, and Labor Day, 184,740.

    The grandstand lineup included Hootie & The Blowfish, with Barenaked Ladies, Why Don't We, with MAX and EBEN and Taylor Grey; Dierks Bentley, with Caylee Hammack; Trace Adkins and Clint Black, with Terri Clark; Tommy James and The Shondells and Happy Together Tour; Weird Al Yankovic; Daryl Hall and John Oates, with G. Love and Special Sauce; Logic, with Prof; Lionel Richie, with Lauren Jauregui; Brandi Carlile, with Mavis Staples and Savannah Conley, and ZZ Top, with Cheap Trick.

    “Hats off to Renee Alexander, who books the talent,” said Hammer, who finished his 23rd year as GM. There were six sellouts of 13,000 or more. Hammer said, “They included Hootie, Dierks Bentley, Weird Al, Lionel Richie, Hall & Oates, and Brandi Carlile.”

    Hammer said he had just finished talking to three local reporters, trying to explain the phenomena. “They get it. You've been here, you know. I can say great marketing and promotions, a super independent midway, excellent weather, but it's all of that, and much more. It takes a cast of thousands. People just love the fair!

    “We had seven days of rain last year and set records. Heat might keep people away, but not cool temperatures or drizzles. Rain was only significant on one morning this year. People don't care.”

    I asked how Pittroff's Slide did this year. Hammer laughed and said,  “Everybody you can think of, (and I specifically mentioned Aunt Martha, with the cookies; Brad Ribar, with the roasted corn; Dave Cavallaro, cheese curds, the Netterfields, with popcorn) some I never even got to see, all did the usual business, and more.” Hammer said the food gross, not including beer sales, had already surpassed last year's $32 million figure before the last day's numbers were in.

    The New York State Fair, Syracuse, which ended Labor Day, set an attendance record for the fourth straight year, drawing 1.33 million during its 13-day run, topping last year's figure of 1.28 million.

    Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a single day record of 147,749 was set on Saturday, Aug. 31. A special promotion offered gate admission for $1. Entertainment included Rick Springfield and Theory of a Deadman. The fair was founded in 1841.

    Fair Director Troy Waffner praised Frank Zaitshik's Wade Shows for bringing in new rides, including the Frisbee, Charlie Chopper, Downdraft, Dalmatians and NASCAR. Wade offered a wristband good for 10 rides for $10 on Monday, Aug. 27, and all rides were $1 on Labor Day. Mega Passes, good for unlimited rides, were $90.

    Free shows in the Chevy Court included Mike Powell & The Black River, Bad Company, Devinne Meyers, Grace Potter, CNY Songbirds, Lindsey Stirling, The Brownskin Band, with Joe Driskoll, Smokepurpp, Jimmy Allen, Dropkick Murphys, Herman's Hermits, starring Peter Noone, Midland, The Mavericks, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Farruko, Ice Cube, Why Don't We, and Vince Neil.

    Also, Country Swagg, Atkins Riot, Sheila E, The Roots, Lovelytheband, and Gavin D!!br0ken!! The Experience Stage lineup included Grand Funk Railroad, Jackyl, Brand New Sin, Pop Evil, 38 Special, and Rick Springfield.

    Attendance at the July 19-27 North Dakota State Fair, Minot, the 53rd annual, was 293,145, according to Renae Korslein, who has been with the fair since 1974, the last nine as manager.

    She was thrilled about “our new carnival, Crabtree Amusements. It was so clean and well run. The crowds loved it, and the midway gross was up by more than $150,000.”

    Talent was booked through the Bob Romeo Agency, and included Rascal Flatts, Justin Moore, with Chase Rice, Midland, Ned Ledoux, Rick Springfield, with Starship, featuring Mickey Thomas, Tim McGraw, Weezer, and Greg Kuhn. Korslein said McGraw sold out with 15,000 in attendance, and Rascal Flatts had a near sellout.

    Crabtree, which took over from Murphy Brothers Exposition, which had held the contract for many years, offered Pay-One-Price unlimited ride wristbands for $35 and a Mega Ride Pass for $70.

    Other entertainment included Magician Jared Sherlock, Shark Encounter, Hypnotist Chris Mabrey, All Star Stunt Dogs, Daryl's Racing Pigs, and High Dive. “We had a great fair,” said Korslein.

    North American Midway Entertainment had good runs at the Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky State Fairs. The Aug. 2-18 Indiana State Fair had attendance of 878,857. up two per cent over last year's total of 860,131, according to Executive Director Cindy Hoye.

    Entertainment included Lance Bass, O-Town, Aaron Carter, David Nail, Ryan Cabrera, Tyler Hilton and One Tree Hill on the Pop 2000 Tour; The Happy Together Tour, featuring The Turtles, Chuck Negron, formerly with Three Dog Night, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, The Buckinghams, The Classics IV, and The Cowsills; Indian Wind Symphony, Air Supply; Ace Froelich, Boyz II Men, Everclear, the Guess Who, Switchfoot, Sixteen Candles, Francesa Battistelli; Chase Rice, Melissa Etheridge, and KC and the Sunshine Band, Gospel Music Fest, with Mary Mary, and The Big Top Circus, featuring Bello Nock and Dinny McGuire, ringmaster.

    Kentucky State Fair officials said attendance for the Aug. 15-25 event was 589,170, down from 614,470, but revenue was up.

    Temperatures were in the 90s. A change in policy for minors may have been a factor in the crowd decline. A disturbance involving fireworks led the fair to require minors at night to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

    The concert lineup, again booked by Dave Snowden's Triangle Talent, included Montgomery Gentry, with Exile and Layla Spring; the Oak Ridge Boys, for the 44th straight year, with Lee Greenwood; Sheila E, with Rose Royce; Black Stone Cherry, with Tim Bryant and The Shakedown and The Josephines; For King and Country, with Young Escape; Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone, with Gary Lewis and The Playboys, and Mitch Ryder; Granger Smith, aka Earl Dibbles Jr., and Brandon Lay; Lovelytheband, with the Mowglis; Dylan Scott & Mitchell Tenpenny, with Jake Rose; Vince Neil of Motley Crue, Kix, and Lauren Daigle, with Ahi.

    A lot of people are heading to faraway places such as Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, New Mexico, West Springfield, Mass., and summer is just about gone. I hope yours was a good one.

    Please send news to tomp@oaba.org, or call 615 319-1258.

    Have all great days, and God Bless!

  • Thu, August 29, 2019 12:41 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    I first met Nick Strates of Strates Fine Food about 20 years ago when I was introduced to him by Ronnie Netterfield, of Netterfield's Popcorn and Lemonade Concessions, at the Exchange Club Fair in Ladson, South Carolina.

    Ladson is to Charleston what Antioch, where Christine and I live, is to Nashville. Both are just areas of the same more well-known towns. I'm writing this on Monday, the fourth day of the Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul where record attendance has been reached on two of the first three days, including a record 133,326 people on opening day. My son, Tommy, Paul Hill, and Audie Howe, who live in Minneapolis, are at the fair and taking pictures that I can use in Showtime, since as the song says, I don't get around much anymore.

    As they did for me during all the years I covered this extravaganza that has food grosses in excess of $30 million every year, Ronnie and Kim Netterfield provided a motorized vehicle so Hill and Howe could navigate more freely. Tommy chooses to walk and is healthy enough that he can. As luck would have it, one of the pictures this dynamic trio took today was of none other than Nick Strates.

    This is the 21st year for Strates to work the Jerry Hammer-managed event. He said every year gets better and so far, business this year has been terrific despite two days of rain. The whole season has been good. “Weather has been better than usual. People are spending, and the economy is good,” said Strates.

    Asked if he used foreign labor through the H-2B Visa program, Strates said he was one of the first to be involved in the program and has been using it for 20 years. “We get half of our help in January, and the other half in July. We've had most of our workers return for the last 20 years, and the rest for at least 10. I don't know how we'd be able to operate without them. They're hard working and loyal.”

    With that being said, Strates said the biggest problem he faces each season is the uncertainty involving whether that help will be back,

    Strates now resides in Mt. Airy, Md., with Dee, his wife of eight years, and their daughter Anna Lee, who is four and a half. They have eight stands and Dee stays closer to home, taking care of the dates in Maryland and Virginia. He hits the ones further away.

    The route is extremely solid, beginning in January with Florida fairs in West Palm Beach, Tampa, Fort Myers, and Miami, followed by festivals around Atlanta and Maryland. “We then play The Meadlowlands Fair in East Rutherford, N. J., the Delaware State Fair, West Virginia and Maryland State Fair.”

    After the Minnesota State Fair, Strates goes to The Big E (Eastern States Exposition) in West Springfield, Massachusetts; the Georgia National Fair, Perry, North Carolina State Fair, Raleigh, and Ladson.

    The Aug. 9-18 Iowa State Fair, Des Moines, had a record attendance of 1,170,375, that topped the previous mark of 1,130,260 that was set in 2018, according to Gary Slater, who finished his 19th year as chief executive officer and manager. “It was wonderful, wonderful. We had a super grandstand lineup, and perfect weather didn't hurt.”

    Mike Nye put together the independent midway, with help from Rick Frenette, who took care of the Magic Money and games, and Steve Smith, who used to own Smith Amusements.

    Grandstand entertainment included The Chainsmokers, Slipknot, with Gojira, which registered a sellout; Zac Brown Band, with Caroline Jones; Toby Keith, with Jimmie Allen; Dan + Shay, with Carly Pierce; Gabriel (Fluffy) Iglesias, with Alfred Robles; Foreigner, with Night Ranger; Luke Bryan, with Jon Langston; Pentatonix, with 4th Ave, and Hootie & The Blowfish, with Barenecked Ladies.

    The highest grossing rides were Steve Vander Vorste's Crazy Mouse Roller Coaster; the Grande Wheel, from Guy and Charlene Leavitt's Ray Cammack Shows, and the Centrifuge from Luehrs Ideal Rides, owned by Andy and Lorelei Schoendienst, and Joe and Jean Clair.

    In the Thrill Town department, the top three were Kiddie Bumper Boats from Del Rio Cristiani; Flying Elephant from Jeremy and Kate Floyd's Top Scan, and Fire House from Mid-American Carnival. The top three games were Stand Up Bottle from Joey Fowler; Break A Dish, and Skeeball, both from Dave and Monica Potopas. I'll have more on Slater and the Hawkeye State Fair in future columns.

    When I contacted Jean Clair of Luehrs Ideal Rides on Wednesday, the show had just been able to set up at a City Park for the Aug. 29-Sept. 2 Bothalto, Illinois, Homecoming Days Celebration.
    “We've had equipment scattered all over town since Saturday while we waited for the park to dry out from flood waters. It's what we do. We don't milk cows. We don't drive race cars. We're professional and accept the fact some days are better than others. The sun is shining now and it's 75 degrees. We're very lucky, and ready to go.”

    Clair, who was OABA chairman in 1996, owns the carnival with her husband, Joe; sister Lorelei Schoendienst, who is an OABA director, and Andy Schoendienst, OABA president in 2008, who is also currently president of the Showmen's League of America.

    Luehrs has been playing Bothalto, which is 29.9 miles from St. Louis, for 60 straight years. “Before here, we came from some record dates in Northern Illinois,” said Clair. “Most of our spots are for five days and we've had trouble all year putting more than four good days in a row together. When we've had good weather, business is great. The public wants to be entertained. They're sick of work and politics. Our season went from a cold and rainy opening to hot.”

    Andy Schoendienst booked seven rides on the independent midway at the record-breaking Iowa State Fair, including the Centrifuge, which was the third highest grosser. The other rides were the Extreme, Hang Glider, Toon Town, Dizzy Dragon, Baja Buggy, and Jungle Twist. Joe Clair and their son-in-law, Chris Atkins, who is married to their daughter, Kristin, are booking rides with Pat Repp and Tom Thebault of North American Midway Entertainment at the Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson. Rides going there are Beach Party Funhouse, Helicopter, and Storm, plus four food stands.

    Joe Clair has also been booking late in each season since 1985 with John Hanschen of Mighty Thomas Shows at Fort Smith, Arkansas; Jennings, Alexandria, and Franklinton, Louisiana. Rides going there include the Magic Maze, Beach Party, Storm, and Raiders.

    We can't say enough about what a great guy John Hanschen is. Chris and Kristin play with him early in the season at Leonard Martin dates in Laaredo and Brownsville, Texas. Lorelei plays festivals in Southern Indiana, and we're all home by October 15.”

    Clair said the show uses Midway Match, a company which Cathy Murphy is involved in, to help obtain American workers at the early dates. “By June, we have our 60 foreign workers through the H-2B Visa program. We use Jim Judkins for Mexicans, and Kim Langford of New Horizons for South Africans. Without them we wouldn't be in very good shape. They're great workers.”

    Clair added, “I get to go home to Florida on Monday. I hope that Hurricane Dorian stays away.” So do a lot of other people.

    The Indiana State Fair drew attendance of 878,857, despite a closing weekend that included severe weather...The Illinois State Fair set records in grandstand tickets sold and ticket revenue, with acts such as Dan + Shay, Snoop Dogg, Shinedown and Reba McEntire drawing the largest crowds. The grandstand brought in $2.275 million from 63,513 who attended nine shows...I'll have more on those, plus a lot more fairs in upcoming Xtra issues. Read all about it!

    NAME, which was also at Indiana and Illinois, had a strong run at the 115th annual Kentucky State Fair, where The Oak Ridge Boys performed for the 44th straight year, and the beat goes on.

    When Jean Clair said the show has not posted four winning days in a row I was tempted to tell her that neither have the Philadelphia Phillies, who lost to Pittsburgh last night when their “slugging” first baseman, who for some inexplicable reason is batting leadoff, dropped a throw at first base to allow the winning run to score. He isn't hitting either, unless .230 is acceptable these days.

    Gary McNeal of L&G Concessions, who is in Memphis with Talley Amusements for Gary Lovell's Dixie Fair and Music Festival, Aug. 30-Sept.8, thinks his best bet is to sell merchandise at the World Series is Houston. He was right a couple years ago about the Chicago Cubs, but the Yankees, Dodgers, and Braves are tough. Washington could be a force, with its three big name pitchers. We'll just wait and see.

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

    Have all great days, and God Bless!

  • Thu, August 22, 2019 5:03 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    These were the busiest times of the year during my 34 years as editor of Amusement Business, as the number of state fairs taking place was heating up and with a limited staff we were attempting to attend as many as possible.

    Personally, I would attempt to hit Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky on the same trip, winding at one at the beginning, one in the middle, and one at the end. I remember asking Paul King if he were still manager at Columbus one day and he laughed and said the last time he checked he was. In those days, when the governor changed, so did the fair manager. I believe that may still be true at the Illinois State Fair. Buddy Lee Attractions used to book the talent there and Mike Dubois, who now works in Nashville with former Buddy Lee President Tony Conway, who is managing Alabama, was fair manager.

    I have great memories of all the fairs I attended. At Indianapolis, Estil Callahan introduced me to the governor of Indiana as being the editor of the Cadillac of trade papers. When I asked where to park, he pointed to a space with his name on it and said that while I was in town, that was mine.

    I remember when Norb Bartosik, now in charge of the Midwest Fair Managers Association, was starting his career as manager of the DuQuoin, Ill. State Fair. Enough of that.

    Attendance at the 168th annual Wisconsin State Fair, West Allis, held Aug. 1-11, was 1,130,572, according to Shari Black, Chief Programs Officer to CEO Kathleen O'Toole.

    We had record attendance on five days, both Fridays, Thursday, Aug. 8, and the final Saturday and Sunday. We also had three record days of ride and games gross,” said Black. The ride and game gross was up 10.6 per cent over 2018.

    Bobby Myers and his mother, Gloria, were presented with the inaugural Outstanding Service Award. O'Toole was quoted as saying, “It's important that we recognize their efforts.”

    She referred to the independent operators on the what is known as the SpinCity carnival midway.

    Bobby Myers was set to open at the Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, when he was contacted and said, “We're happy we impressed them for doing our job. It was a nice surprise and great honor.” Myers booked a Wave Swinger, Monster Trucks, New York New York Funhouse, and a new Gosetto-manufactured Haunted Castle in West Allis. The Funhouse and Monster Trucks were booked earlier with Arnold's Amusements at the Ionia, Michigan Free Fair.

    James E. Strates Shows reached an all-time single day gross record revenue at the Erie County Fair, Hamburg, N.Y., on Saturday, Aug. 10. The all-time record attendance for the 180th annual fair, held Aug. 8-18, was shattered as 1,238,456 attended. That was up by 3.3 per cent over 2014 and topped the old record of 1,220,101 that was established in 2014.

    Celebrating its 95th year of providing the midway, gross revenues were trending 25 per cent over those of 2018. John Strates, the show's operations manager, was quoted early on as saying, “This past weekend we recorded three all-time high ridership days. Since 1924, when my grandfather, James E. Strates brought his show to the Erie County Fair, it has never had a run like the one we just experienced. To say we had the biggest day in our history during the 95th year makes the milestone even more special.”

    Other ride operators at Wisconsin included Reithoffer Shows, B-Thrilled Attractions, Derek and Kitty Long's D&K Amusements, Wisdom's Laser Fair, Michael and Thomas Lauther Amusements; Michael Wood, Lorraine Kedrowicz's Rainbow Valley Rides, Arnold Amusements, Sunny Hill Attractions, Donnie Massey's Alpine Amusements, Mr. Ed's Magical Midways, and International Attractions. Among those with games were Candy Anderson, Michael Winchester, Joey Fowler, Oren Concessions, Dennis Voss, JBS Concessions, Kim O's, and Midwest Concessions.

    Attendance at the 129th annual Orange County Fair, Costa Mesa, California, held July 12-Aug. 11, was 1,393,482, slightly under last year's record number of 1,470,636.

    Terry Moore, Communication Director to CEO Kathy Kramer, said, “We are extremely happy with this year's numbers. We had fantastic weather, several new events, and a great entertainment lineup.”

    Guy and Charlene Leavitt's Ray Cammack Shows provided the carnival midway for the 25th straight year, causing Guy to reminisce. “Becky Bailey-Findlay was in charge in 1995.

    RCS had its biggest ride gross in the history of the fair this year, and the second highest food and games gross.

    We had 2.4 million riders this year. Attendance for the 17-day fair back then was 400,000. Our ride revenue, for 23 days now, was up by 446 per cent over that of 1995,” said Leavitt.

    In 1995, the top five rides, in order, were the Looping Coaster, Hydra Slide, Top Spin, La Grande Wheel, and 1001 Nachts. This year's top five were the Sky Ride, La Grande Wheel XL, Rave Wave, G Force, and the new Titan, which at 160 feet high is the tallest portable ride in North America.

    In the games department, Leavitt said Bank A Ball had 40,000  players; One Ball, 31,000; Tubs, 30,500, Top Glow, 30,218, and 375 Big Water Race, 30,057. “Our management team has tripled in size since 1995. From who we had then, all have remained except for three who died, and three who retired.”

    A $40 Super Pass was good for adult gate admission on all 23 days of the fair; $33 for 60 and up, or between six and 12. Adult admission was $12 on weekdays, $14 on weekends.

    A solid lineup of entertainment in the Pacific Amphitheatre included Rebelution, Justin Moore with Josh Phillips, Brandi Carlile with David Rosales, Why Don't We, Ziggy Marley with Toots and The Maytails, Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo with Melissa Etheridge, The Happy Together Tour with The Turtles, Chuck Negron, fomerly with Three Dog Night, The Buckinghams, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, The Cowsills and The Classics IV, Styx, Brothers Osborne with Chase Bryant, Chicago, Smokey Robinson, Dwight Yoakam with Midland, Kool &The Gang with Evelyn “Champagne” King, The B-52's with Dead Man Party, Michael McDonald with Chaka Khan, The Fab Four, Viva El Mariachi, Lindsey Stirling with ZZ Ward, and Weird Al Yankovic with the Pacific Symphony.

    Honesdale, Pa., home of the 157th annual Wayne County Fair, which took place Aug. 2-10, is 32 miles from Scranton, where I was born and raised and lived until I graduated from the Jesuit-run University of Scranton in 1955. It seems odd that with it being so close, I've never been to it.

    Roger Dirlam, who also owns Dirlam Lumber Company, has been president, and my source of information, since 1998. He became heavily involved when his dad passed away in 1978.

    Of this year's fair, Dirlam said,”We had a good little run, despite having five inches of rain on Tuesday. Attendance was 91,000, up from 74,000 last year, when weather was horrible.

    “We had the Black Cat Hell Drivers and the rain, of course, hurt them.” I asked where he found a thrill show since we both acknowledged they have just about become a thing of the past. He wasn't sure, but believed they were heading next to Malone, N.Y., for the Franklin County Agricultural Fair. When Charles Belknap had his thrill show, before joining the management team of Powers Great American Midways, he always booked it at Honesdale. It doesn't seem that long ago when Joie Chitwood, Danny Fleenor, and Jack Kochman had shows that were thrilling crowds at fairs and racetracks.

    Veteran stunt drivers Tonny Petersen, who was Belknap's stalwart, Johnny Wiser, Jim (Crash) Moreau, and Justin (Wrong Way) Bellinger comprise the Black Cat team.

    Wade Shows again provided the midway with Ketcham, Mike Thomas and Jimmy Danton on hand from the show. “It works well on their schedule, coming from the Delaware State Fair on the way to the New York State Fair in Syracuse,” said Dirlam. “They bring in 30 rides all we can fit.”

    A Pay-One-Price of $10 is good for gate admission, unlimited rides, and entertainment. Attractions include Best of the Eagles, Luongo Brothers, horse pull, demolition derby, harness racing, Terry Lee Goffer, The World's Great Johnny Cash Experience, Gino Mercuri, 15-year-old Elvis Impersonator, and JM Productions Monster Truck Freestyle.

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

  • Thu, August 22, 2019 5:00 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    Tim Kwiatkowski, of Enfield, Connecticut, has joined the OABA staff in West Springfield, MA, as Director of Member Services and Sales.  Tim’s primary responsibilities will be to ensure that our members are maximizing the benefits that OABA has to offer, as well as to sell new memberships and advertising in our publications. He will also attend our trade shows and assist at our Jamborees.  Tim recently was employed at Specialty Bolt & Screw of Agawam, MA, where he served as the Global Logistics Coordinator. Prior to this he worked in various sales capacities at Eastern States Exposition – Home of The Big E – for 9 years.  Tim looks forward to returning to our industry and meeting with our members.

  • Tue, August 20, 2019 9:55 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    HAMBURG, NEW YORK – The all-time attendance record for the Erie County Fair was shattered as the “Best 12 Days of Summer” in Western New York State concluded Sunday night. Final 2019 attendance is 1,238,456. This number represents a 3.3% increase from 2018 and makes 2019’s number the highest attended Fair in the history of the Erie County Agricultural Society. The previous all-time record was achieved in 2014 (1,220,101). 

    Read official release here >>>

  • Wed, August 14, 2019 11:05 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    100th annual Mississippi Valley Fair, Davenport, Iowa, drew a record attendance of 325,000, up from last year's 300,000, according to Shawn Loter, who has been with the fair for 30 years, the last three as General Manager. He succeeded Bob Fox in that post, who he said is now residing in Arizona.

    Loter and I hesitated to say that Davenport is unique in that it offers free gate admission, and access to six concerts, all featuring big names, for one price, but we couldn't come up with another that does it. For $85, fans got to see Dan + Shay, Jake Owen, Brooks and Dunn, Brad Paisley, Nickelback, and Tesla. Loter, who attended the Country Music Association Festival in Nashville, booked the acts.

    In the last three years, the price has gone from $65 to $75, to its current $85, a bargain by any standards, especially with such well known and very popular acts. “That's just the way we've done it, and it works for us,” said Loter. I suggested that nobody would have any justifiable complaints if the price were $100, or even more. He grunted and said, “You should have seen the flack we received when we went up to $85. If these people went to the Iowa State Fair, or any other fair, I believe they might have a better undertstanding of how great this situation is.” I guessed that Dan + Shay drew the most people. I was wrong, not being a millennial. It was Nickelback, followed by Brad Paisley. Obviously, at that price, all acts drew big crowds, which was a help to Evans United Shows.

    Other entertainment included an appearance by the Budweiser Clydesdales, the Superchuckler Comedy Pirate Show, Tim “E” world famous Elvis impersonator, and Majestic Spectacular FMX Free Style, Globe of Death, and Moto on the Wire. “We had sky divers carrying the American flag before every concert, fireworks, and added a lot of amenities around the grounds. It was special,” said Loter.

    Loter said Tom and Jimmy Evans were on hand from the carnival that has been providing the midway for as long as anybody can remember. “They were very happy, and said they had a record year,” said Loter. Evans United is based in Plattsburg, Missouri. It moved to Davenport from the July 17-23 Great Jones County Fair in Monticello, Iowa, and went to Maquoketa, Iowa, next for the July 23-29 Jackson County Fair. Before Jones County, Evans played the Mighty Howard Fair, Cresco, Iowa, June 25-30, and Winneshiek County, Decorah, Iowa, July 9-13. Upcoming is The Pineywoods Fair in Nacogdoches, Texas, October, Oct. 3-8, located in what is called the oldest town in Texas.

    The 74th annual California Mid State Fair, Paso Robles, held July 17-28, remained flat at 426,000, according to a press release sent out by the fair where Michael Bradley is Chief Executive Officer.

    Dave Helm and Sons Amusements of Colton, California, generated $1,270,000 in total revenue, a 3.3 per cent increase from 2018. All carnival rides were free on opening day with paid gate admission.

    For the fourth straight year, the Bud Light Concert Series featured two sold out concerts, Cardi B on Saturday, July 20, and Blake Shelton, on Sunday, July 21. All in all, more than 76,000 tickets were sold. Other top selling acts included Old Dominion, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Idol, and Smokey Robinson. Other acts were Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo and Melissa Etheridge, and Why Don't We, along with Monster Trucks with Bikes and Bulls.

    For the third consecutive year, revenue from corporate sponsorships exceeded the $1 million threshold, increasing by 10.4 per cent from 2018, to just over $1.4 million.

    Ron Porter of Fare Foods, DuQuoin, Illinois, tells a story about meeting a group of Clemson football fans while he and his wife, Laura, were trying to find a seat in a packed sports bar across from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. “We didn't have any of their orange colors on, and we kept brushing against each other. Then this one guy proclaims he's from a small town in South Carolina, and he bets that I would not know anybody from his hometown, which happened to be Branchville. I smiled and said Bill Lordy, my best friend. The guy exclaimed, “You mean Elephant Ear Bill?”

    The late Lordy, who owned and operated The Elephant Ear Bakery with Traycie Brewer, was actually born in Detroit. Bill and I had a lot of fun together. I took him to the Super Bowl with me one year in Tampa, and we sat in a suite in front of the Rock group Phish. His biggest thrill, however, came during a pre-game Miller Beer party when I introduced him to Joe Paterno, the legendary Penn State football coach. Charlie Cox of Cox Concessions let us park in his space on the grounds that memorable day.

    Dick Knoebel of Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pa., an OABA member who always attends the February trade show of the International Independent Showmen's Association in Gibsonton, Fla., sent me a note. In it, he wrote, “Tom, you da man, how you can recall all the names and connections is amazing. Thanks for the lead paragraph in your column about my 80th birthday celebration.

    “My sons, Brian and Rick, totally surprised me with a gathering of about 200 people for a big party. Gary Slade of Amusement Today came in from Texas, and Mary Chris Smith and members of her staff with Allied Specialty Insurance were here from Florida. Also from Florida were Bob and Kelly Dean and John Arie with Funspot.” Knoebel said other guests included Roxanne Pope of the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions, who came up from D.C.; Will Morey from Morey's Pier, Wildwood, N.J.; Gary Chubb and Laura Washburn from Hershey Park, and Jack Silar, a ride inspector who is a former general manager of Hershey Park, along with staffers, family members, and personal friends. “Brian and Rick pulled off the surprise of the decade. I missed you and Christine.”

    Reached by phone on Monday, Aug. 12, Knoebel said the park is experiencing one of its best years, despite a slow start due to rainy weather in June. “We're coming off packed parking lots Friday, Saturday, and today,” he said, adding that for some reason, Mondays are always good. “I can remember when parks were closed on Mondays, but people seem to be stretching their weekends.”

    Catering has always been a big part of Knoebel's business, and he said two upcoming picnics for competitors Weis Markets and Giant Markets, will each draw more than 10,000 people.

    Carey Harveycutter, general manager of the Salem, Va. Fair, who is also Director of Tourism, was nice enough to send along a list of concessionaires who worked his successful July 3-14 fair. They include Mike Broad, Erick Schenck, Brian and Sue Gillette, Robin Smith, James Harvell, Ken Harvell, Henry Towner, Billy Level, Jim Labrato, Jody Conklin, Ronald Doege, with Nancy Concessions; Greg Miller, Jessie Patterson, with Robbeloth Concessions; Dennis Lilly, Susan Shorb, Zachary Swift, John Bell, Berkley Roberts, and Rose Lopez. Deggeller Attractions was on the grounds for the 32nd straight year.

    Please send news to tomp@OABA.org, or call 615.280.7257.

    Have all great days, and God Bless!

  • Mon, August 12, 2019 5:52 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    Opening Weekend Milestone Made During
    Strates Shows 95th Year in Hamburg, New York

    Monday, August 12, 2019

    HAMBURG, NEW YORK – The James E. Strates Shows announced today that it has reached an all-time, single day gross revenue record at the Erie County Fair on Saturday, August 10th. This single day milestone was just one day of a record-breaking opening weekend in Hamburg, New York as the Strates Shows celebrates its 95th year providing the amusements at the Erie County Fair. Gross revenues for the Strates Shows midway are trending 25% over 2018 number. 

    “This past weekend we recorded three, all-time high ridership days. Since 1924, when my grandfather James E. Strates first brought his show to the Erie County Fair, the show has never had a three-day run like the one we just experienced.” said John Strates, Strates Shows Operations Manager. “To say we had the biggest day in our history during our 95th year makes the milestone even more special.” 

    During the 180th Erie County Fair, the Strates Shows “mile long” midway includes 67 rides and over 100 games & concessions. The show is highlighted by the return of the beloved “Sky Wheel” (double Ferris wheel) and the addition of several spectacular rides including the “Claw,” “Frisbee,” the “Avenger,” and the “Crazy Mouse” rollercoaster. These rides join traditional Strates amusements that include the “Big Wheel,” the two-story carousel and Huss manufactured “Pirate.”

    In addition to new rides, the Strates Shows debuted a new “guest relations” booth located on the midway with the goal of increase customer service satisfaction. 

    The exclusive, 95-year relationship between the Erie County Fair and the Strates Shows is considered a historical milestone in the modern amusement industry as it is considered the longest continuous run of any carnival midway in the United States.

    About the Strates Shows - The Strates Shows is a 96-year-old family owned business with headquarters in Orlando, Florida. Founded in 1923 by Greek immigrant James E. Strates as the Southern Tier Shows in Elmira, New York, the Strates Shows is considered one of America’s premiere providers of carnival midways. After the death of James E. Strates in 1959, his only son E. James Strates, took over as manager of the company and is still actively involved in its operation. Now in its 9th decade, the Strates Shows are led by the 3rd generation of Strates family members including Susan, Jimmy, Sibyl, Jay and John. Nick Strates, who officially joined the show full-time during the 2015 season, is the 4th generation of the Strates family to continue the tradition.   Over the decades, the Strates Shows has brought many innovations to the carnival industry, including cooperative promotions, a centralized ticket system, advance ticket sales, and, most recently, the FunCard electronic ticketing system that utilizes bar codes to control access to carnival rides on the midway. 

    About the Erie County Fair - The Erie County Agricultural Society is a private not-for-profit membership organization. Established in 1819, the Society is the oldest civic organization in Western New York. The mission of the Erie County Agricultural Society (ECAS), sponsors of the Erie County Fair, is to preserve and enhance, by educational endeavors, the agricultural and historical legacy of New York State. The Fair strives to fulfill appropriate aspects of the agricultural, educational, entertainment and recreational needs of Western New York. The 2019 Erie County Fair concludes on August 18th (www.ECFair.org).


    The 3rd generation of the Strates Family:  Jay, John and James E. (Jimmy) Strates

    New Strates Shows Guest Relations booth

    The Strates Shows midway,   Erie County Fair 2019 
  • Thu, August 08, 2019 6:41 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    Tom and Mary Talley's Talley's Amusements of Fort Worth, Texas, had a great run in their first year of supplying the carnival midway at the July 24-Aug. 4 Ohio State Fair, Columbus, where excellent weather helped attendance grow to 934,925, an increase of three per cent over that of 2018.

    “We were very well received by the public and fair officials and we had a great midway with 78 rides,” said Mary Talley, whose late father, Buster Brown, owned Bill Hames Shows, with her mom, Barbara. “I haven't had a chance to go over all the figures yet, but it was a lot of money, well over last year, something like 28 or 29 per cent, as far as midway revenue.”  Alicia Schoults, the fair's Marketing and Public Relations Director, confirmed that it was up by 28 percent. “We were told they can't wait for us to be back again next year. One person wrote a letter that he had been attending the fair for 52 years and by being there this year was like receiving an unwrapped Christmas gift. That's a pretty damn good compliment,” said a very happy Mary Talley.

    Talley took delivery of a 100 foot tall ARM Vertigo and Downdraft from Battech this year, and completely refurbished its Orbiter. Added to the ride arsenal last year was a 33 meter tall Lamberink Ferris Wheel, Iron Dragon Roller Coaster, and Beast.

    Among those booked in with games were Paul Nemeth, Michael Winchester, and Joey Fowler, three of the best in the business. Bringing in rides were Steve Vander Vorste, with his Crazy Mouse Roller Coaster; Patrick Sheridan's Alamo Amusements, with a Kite Flyer; Kissel Amusements, with 14 rides; Michael and Thomas Lauther with a Fun House, Dark Ride, and Glass House; Steve Ianni, who travels regularly with Strates Shows, Red Carpet Amusements, a Circus Train and King Circus; Skerbeck Shows, with a Toboggan and Central Park Train; Jeremy and Kate Floyd's Topscan, with a Space Roller, Wiggle Worm and Flying Elephant.

    Also, Jay and Vicki Clements of Triple T Amusements, booked a Mini Indy; Primetime, with a Sea Ray and Sizzler; Tony Porter's T&D Concessions, Haunted Mansion; Monkey Maze, two rides; Clinton and Meagan Sims of M&C Attractions, four pieces, and Joyce Hutchins, Joyride, a Storm and Mini Whully Gully. The Talley's State Fair Spectacular added six pieces, and the lineup was rounded out by the permanent Slide of Vivona Family Entertainment, whose Amusements of America had provided the midway at the fair for the previous 25 years.

    Upcoming for the Talleys are the North Texas Fair and Rodeo, Denton, Aug. 16-23; Delta Fair & Music Festival, Memphis, Tennessee, Aug. 30-Sept. 8, and State Fair of Texas, Dallas, Sept. 27-Oct. 20.

    Brett Chance, who has been booking entertainment at the fair for 29 years, said this year's lineup was one of the best. Gabriel Iglesias: Beyond the Fluffy World Tour, drew a sellout crowd of 9,500. Hank Williams Jr. was the second best draw. “It went into percentages,” said Chance. Brett's late dad, Dean Chance, was not only a respected carnival games concessionaire and boxing promoter, but outstanding Major League Baseball pitcher, who won the Cy Young Award in 1961, when he threw 11 shutouts.

    Brett recalled that Toby Keith was the first act he ever booked at the Celeste Center, through the late Steve Dahl of Monterey Attractions. He had Keith back this year, with special guest Jimmie Allen. “Keith did very well, as did most of our acts.” Others included KIDZ BOP World Tour 2019, Chris Young, Lyle Jennings, Charlie Moore, and Carl Thomas; The All Ohio State Fair Band and Youth Choir, a John Denver Tribute, featuring Ted Vigil; Matthew West, with Matt Maher; REO Speedwagon, with Night Ranger; The S.O.S. Band/Midnight Star; Bad Company, with Foghat, and The Happy Together Tour, with The Turtles Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap; The Buckinghams, The Classics IV, and The Cowsills. A special attraction was Jack Hanna's crew with the Columbus Zoo Animals show

    The July 18-27 Delaware State Fair, Harrington, overcame five days of what General Manager Bill DiMondi described as brutally hot weather, to set an all-time attendance record of 328,000, which was up 12 per cent over 2018. Records were broken when 54,000 turned out on the closing Saturday, and 48,000 on a Wednesday. The Budweiser Clydesdales were a big hit, as were eight nights of fireworks.

    After the hot opening, when heat indices averaged 108 degrees, DiMondi said, “We had milder daytime temperatures with lower humidity, and crisp nights.” Assistant GM Danny Aguilar noted that the official Centennial M&T Grandstand entertainment schedule featured two sold out shows by Reba McEntire and the hot selling country duo of Dan + Shay. Other acts included Sugarland, Gladys Knight, Darci Lynne, America's Got Talent Winner; Brantley Gilbert, Brothers Osborne, Christian artists Bethel Music, and demolition derby.

    Approximately 50,000 fans attended. Aguilar said pit tickets, those located directly in front of the stage, and the VIP concert packages were in high demand.

    Frank Zaitshik of Wade Shows, who again provided the midway said he was proud to work with DiMondi and Board of Directors President Ron Draper in helping to make the fair's centennial celebration such a winner. “I never would have dreamed that after being behind by six figures through Wednesday that we wound wind up by more than six figures by the time we finished. It was great.”

    Zaitshik said the season has been solid so far, after good runs at the Central Florida Fair, Orlando, where he gave most of the credit to General Manager Shawn Krauel, and the Aaron Owen-managed Ozark Empire Fair, Springfield, Mo., held July 25-Aug. 3. Zaitshik said that after the show closed Saturday in Springfield, he flew to Kansas City and then to Syracuse to lay out the lot for the New York State Fair.

    Vickie Hayward, spokesperson for the Ozark Empire Fair, said attendance was up over last year's figure of 165,000. “We had one night of rain, but other than that, weather was great.” Acts included Kansas and Shaun Munday, Michael Ray and Neil McCoy, For King and Country, and Stars Go Dim, along with Sea Lion Splash, Scott's World of Magic, Bandaloni, and Hedrick's Exotic Petting Zoo.

    Zaitshik and Owen, who has been GM at Springfield for seven years, are now at the Aug. 8-18 Missouri State Fair, Sedalia. Frank said he is getting ready to fly to Nebraska to help Mike Thomas lay out the lot for the Nebraska State Fair, which is held in Grand Island. Asked about independent operators at any of the spots, he said the only one was Mark Cox, brother of Show Manager Tom (Red) Cox, who is actually a regular on the carnival, with four or five kiddie rides.

    The Missouri talent lineup includes Dwight Yoakum, with King Leg, The Struts, with White Reaper, Brantley Gilbert, with Jobe Fortner, Tyler Childers, with Brent Cobb, Foreigner and Night Ranger, and Brothers Osborne, with Ashley McBryde.

    I hate to admit it, but after years of prodding, I allowed Christine to buy me one of those I, or is it Eye phones, to replace my trusty flip device. After a few days of half-heartedly, I admit, trying to figure it out, and deciding it was too heavy to carry around, I had her take it back. That removes a lot of stress. I still like to watch reruns of Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, Columbo, Matlock, and old black and white movies, too, that is unless there's a baseball game on, especially involving the Phillies or Red Sox.

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

    Have all great days, and God Bless!

  • Thu, August 08, 2019 6:33 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)


    Two articles have been published regarding the PAST act since it passed the House. 
    One from a proponent of the bill
    And one from an opponent of the bill
    Both lend valuable insight into the animal rights agenda backing the legislation

    Also in the news: This past June an ordinance was introduced to city council in Nashville, TN that would have banned the use of soring devices on Tennessee Walking Horses, Racking Horses, and Spotted Saddle Horses.  The city ordinance was introduced by a councilwoman that had been lauded by HSUS last year.  Fortunately, the ordinance was withdrawn once the other council members took issue with the fact that Federal Law already makes those devices illegal under the Horse Protection Act.
    Read the report here

    More "In the News" here >>>>

  • Tue, August 06, 2019 8:07 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    HAMBURG, NY – The 180th Erie County Fair will officially open to the general public at noon. There will be a short ceremony beginning at 11:40am at the Fair’s historic McKinley Parkway gate. The program will also include remarks by Fair Officials, introduction of the 2019 Ultimate Fairgoer and a flurry of fireworks at Noon. The national anthem will be performed by the Erie County Fair Marching Band. Here is what you need to know for Day 1 of the Erie County Fair:

    Read official press release >>>>

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