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  • Wed, July 17, 2019 11:06 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    One of the first major fairs of the season, The San Diego County Fair, Del Mar, which operated in three different months from May 31st through July 4th, and where Tim Fennell is CEO and General Manager, drew attendance of 1,531,199, which was down from the 2016 record total of 1,609,481.

     Guy Leavitt, who owns Ray Cammack Shows with his wife, Charlene, had the majority of rides, along with Dave Helm and Sons. The top ten rides included the number one Sky Ride from RCS and the number two Big Wheel. The G-Force from Southern Cross Rides, which is owned by one of the Leavitt's sons-in-law, Ben Pickett was fourth. Fifth was Cammack's Rave Wave, and eighth was their Alien Abduction.

    Others in the top ten were the Crazy Mouse Roller Coaster of Steve Vander Vorste's S&G Entertainment, third. In sixth place was the Fast Trax Slide of Tom and Mary Talley's State Fair Spectaculars. Wood Entertainment, owned by Michael Wood, had his Magnum in seventh place.  Ninth was the Olympic Bobsled of Helm & Sons, and tenth was the German Funhouse of Guy and Susan McDaniel's Fun Attractions. Guy Leavitt was OABA Chairman in 2006 and Wood held that role in 2015. Ray Cammack Shows moved from Del Mar to Costa Mesa for the Orange County Fair, which opened July 12tand will run through August 11.

    When reached for comment, Leavitt said he was pleased with the results at Del Mar, but added he would have been happier if the fair had closed on the Sunday after July 4th. The way it worked out, “We opened and closed a weekend early. Some with the state said the reason was to avoid a tight move to Costa Mesa, but we've had tight moves before.” Leavitt said that Pickett was more or less in charge of the show during the Del Mar run. He is the son of the late, great Tas Pickett, who owned TPA Shows in Australia with his mother, Emily. Ben said his brother, Jamie, is now running that carnival, which is going under the name of FJF Amusements.

     Asked about their season, he said, “It's basically a year-round operation, with four major dates. One was the Royal Easter Show in Sydney and the others are in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne. They travel with between 20-30 rides and games and 15 food stands.” Asked if the labor situation is as big a problem as it is here, Pickett answered, “It is, but there is no H-2B Visa program, which our show in the U.S. benefits from greatly. They are forced to navigate for whatever help they can find. It is a major issue and concern.”

    Pickett pointed out it has been 20 years since he married one of the Leavitt's daughters, Joy, who is Chief Financial Officer of the company. They have six children. Concerning Del Mar, Pickett stated, “I'm extremely happy, even though our crowds were slightly off. For the first time, we took over the majority of the games, and the fair took over our Fun Pass cashless system.”

    He said he had no complaint with the dates this year and said, “Since 2020 is a leap year, we will remain open until July 5th.” Commenting on the Fun Pass use, he added, “We usually go after full contracts, so this was out of our usual line of doing business.”  He said that Annie Kastl, who is a regular with RCS still has her own games operation and booked independently, as did some who had been there before, including John Taggart, Paul Nemeth and Adam West. 

    When Ben and I talked about his Dad, it brought back great memories. He was probably the first Australian to ever be a member of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association. He definitely was the first person from his country to join the International Independent Showmen's Association in Gibsonton, Florida, and he never missed any of that group's February Trade Shows. 

    We had a tradition for probably more than ten years where I took a picture of him for Amusement Business with Laura Sedlmayr, whose parents, Carl and Egle, had owned Royal American Shows, and Terri Swyear, of Swyear Amusements. When Tas died, Ben called and wondered whether I had any ideas on how we could pay tribute to his fun-loving, always smiling Dad at the next Trade Show. I suggested he buy a round of drinks for patrons at the bar and we would drink a toast to Tas.


    Before that, I contacted David Starkey, a former President of the Gibtown Club, and more plans were made. One involved a picture of Tas in the corner of the bar with the words “Rest in Peace” under it. I emphasized to Pickett to have it done on a day that Christine and I would surely be there. Never did I dream his Mom and her entire family, including brother Jamie, would show up. It was one of the happiest, classiest and most festive occasions I've ever witnessed at the bar, where the crowd was overflowing. At some point, after four or five rounds, one of the bartenders said she had been told to cut the drinks off. Ben looked aghast and exclaimed, “Me Dad wouldn't like that. Keep it open.” 

    Some other fun facts from the Fair that were provided by Media Contact, Annie Pierce, included the fact Carmel Dyer Pittroff used 11,200 pounds of potatoes and 6,720 pints of oil to deep fry her Australian Battered Potatoes. They were covered in 192 gallons of Ranch dressing, 40 cases of cheese sauce, 160 pounds of bacon and 120 pounds of sour cream. Carmel's husband, Fred Pittroff, operates the Giant Slide at the Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, where Jerry Hammer is General Manager.  Biggy's Meat Market, operated by Dominick Palmieri, another Leavitt son-in-law, sold nearly 3,000 pounds of Big Ribs. Brett Enright's Juicy's sold an estimated 22,000 orders of turkey leg tacos, and Pignotti's Gourmet Italian Stand brought back their highly acclaimed spaghetti donuts and sold more than 1,400.

    A belated Happy Birthday to Gary Magyoran, Concession Manager for Rich Wyatt's Unit of North American Midway Entertainment, who celebrated the event July 10 at Frontier Days in Arlington Heights, Illinois, with Lauri, whom he has been with for 21 years. “I call her my Buffalo Girl because I took her out of Buffalo.” They met when Magyoran was with David Robb's Fun City Shows. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, now 65, he has been in the business 45 years, starting with Hal Eifort's Unit of Floyd Gooding's Million Dollar Midway. Before joining NAME, Magyoran was with Gene Chaffee's Amusements of Buffalo.

    If you've never met Gary, you should. He's a Class Act. When I tried to give him a compliment, he said, “I try to treat people the way I like to be treated.” He said his mentors have included his former father-in-law, Neil Carlin and NAME's Jeff Blomsness. I broke out in laughter after asking him if he preferred working with rides or games. He answered swiftly, “I never moved no iron. I'm blessed to be in this business. It's a great chance to travel and meet different people.” Magyoran and Carl Snoddy have most of the games on Wyatt's Unit. 

    Speaking of birthdays, I'll be celebrating (not like I did when I was 20 or 30) my 86th on Thursday, July 18. My 85th was a big one, staged on a huge scale at the local Knights of Columbus Club by my beautiful wife, Christine, and four wonderful children, Julia Mulherin, who came in from Yorktown, Virginia, Alice Powell Stanley, who is again taking dictation for this column because of my gout, Tommy, who is a nurse practitioner in Minneapolis, and Kevin Powell, a mechanical engineer who lives in Nashville. Guests included Gary McNeil, one of the great Balloon Peddlers, Dennis Carollo, who owns an Iron Mine Attraction in Iron Mountain, Michigan, Bob Skoney, Manager of Municipal Auditorium and about 100 other friends and family. I'm hoping it's a lot more low key this year, and if Christine and the kids want to repeat the efforts they extended for my 85th, I urge them to wait till I'm 100!! I'll drink to that.

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

    Have all great days and God Bless.

  • Thu, July 11, 2019 6:25 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)


    Fur flies as California moves closer to a statewide ban

    CA AB 44 prohibits the sale and manufacturing of fur products.

    Animal protection groups applaud Senate bill to ban horse slaughter

    US HR 875 is a bill that aims to prevent human health threats posed by the consumption of equines raised in the United States. However upon further inspection it is a result of when horse slaughter houses were removed from the United States and horses began to be shipped to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.  This falls out of USDA jurisdiction. Some owners have dumped their horses in the West among the wild horses because they no longer had access to slaughterhouses; thus creating an overpopulation problem with wild horses with the added complication that they are now overgrazing their habitat. I implore you to read up more about this topic, as it is a hot button issue for Americans who do not wish to consume horse meat.


    The Cavalry Group: Defending the basic right to own animals

    Anonymous For the Voiceless: Post about Service Animals

    Wild animals in circuses to be banned in Wales under new law

    Commentary: Tips for Handling Animal Activists

    ‘Free Willy’ law spotlights contradictions in how Canadians see animal rights

    More Information and links here>>>

  • Thu, July 11, 2019 12:01 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    In last week's column, I used that old cliché of the fact that no matter who is right or wrong, you simply can't beat City Hall, but a friend of mine whom I've known since we were both in diapers in Scranton, Pa., Bob Regan, who now resides in Mechanicsburg, Pa., with his wife, Pat, called me out on that.

    No sooner than the ink had literally dried, which it did during many years as a member of The Fourth Estate, a vernacular term for members of the Press, Regan sent an email that stated, “Tom, you can't fight City Hall??? Sometimes you can. The mayor of our beloved hometown of Scranton resigned a few days ago. The Feds caught him in a pay-to-play scheme that apparently started as soon as he took office. Ah, the politicians 'keep on keepin on.'”

    Mike Heffron, retired manager of the Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, would often refer to me, lovingly, I'm presuming, as an ink-stained wretch during Midwest Fair Manager Association meetings. What Regan didn't say was that Bill Courtright is the third current or former Mayor from Eastern Pennsylvania to plead guilty to be convicted of federal charges in the last 17 months. He joins the Mayor of Allentown and the former Mayor of Reading. Growing up, we didn't have that problem, as Jim Hanlon, known as the Friendly Mayor, lived a block away from me and on the same street with Regan, whose father, Frank, was a funeral director. 

    When we wanted bats or balls, we simply knocked on his door and asked him for them. The Spoils System was working well in those days, and if you were raised in the section of Bellevue where Regan and I were, you could easily get a job as a fireman, policeman or garbage collector. One of my best recollections of Mayor Hanlon is on one election day when he asked if I needed a ride to the University of Scranton where I was attending as a freshman. I said I did and he told me to hop in.

    On the way with only him, his chauffeur and me in the limousine, he stated “They've been trying to get something on me for 20 years (he was elected for five full terms), but they're never going to get anything. Do you know why?” Without me having time to answer, he said “Because there's nothing to get.” His influence was so great that when his right hand man, Puddy Keegan, slipped the answers to the fireman's test to a friend named Louie Sasso and he failed, Hanlon still got him the job. 

    Times have changed, but it was a big Fourth of July weekend for old friends Billy and Sue Clark, former owners of Smokey Mountain Amusements. Billy, who is the President of the Shriner's Club in Robbinsville, North Carolina, said he helped raise $11,000 for the Shriners’ crippled children's hospitals from the raffle of a four-wheeler. “We got $14,000 last year when we gave away a lawnmower,” said Clark who is enjoying retirement. 

    Speaking of former employees, Brian (Beaver) Bitner, who was general manager, and Katie Wilson, office manager, who bought the show five years ago, he said “They've been doing great. They have never missed a payment and eight more payments and it's theirs.” Clark said he and Sue, who worked hard for most of their lives, are really taking advantage of the time off. He said they have been to the Holy Land three times and are going back for a fourth, October 30 through November 10. “We've been to Austria, Hungary, Germany, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, Puerto Rico and some other small islands. We want to come back and visit with you and Christine again in Nashville. We hate that we didn't get to see John Hobbs again before he passed away.” The Clarks will celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary October 1. 

    Before buying Smokey Mountain Amusements with major help from the late David Smith of Allied Specialty Insurance, to whom Clark always gave credit, he spent time with Sheila and Jon Stine on Stine Amusements, Reithoffer Shows, Bob Childress Amusements, Charles Panacek's Belle City Amusements, and he was chief electrician for five years for James E. Strates Shows. Clark actually started off as a very young man with W.H. (Doc) Hardin and Honest Homer Scott on Georgia Amusement Company, which later became Homer Scott Shows. Clark was known for his employment wanted ads in Amusement Business which lured workers with the promise of hot biscuits and warm beds. I later spoke to Bitner, who said, “We've been doing real good.” I told him that Clark told me that he and Katie had been together for 22 years but never married. I was quickly corrected when he said, “It's really been 24 or 25.” When I asked if he planned to get married, he replied quickly “Hell no. We'll spend that money where it's needed.”


    Asked what his major challenge has been since taking over ownership, Bitner didn't hesitate, “The damn help. Everything else is Cadillac, pretty nice.” Bitner is from Northeast Ohio, the town of Middlefield in Geauga County, and Katie is from Ashtabula County. “She moved around a lot before we met.” The show is now based in Gresham, South Carolina. Since taking over Smokey Mountain, Bitner has kept basically the same route, but cut the units from two to one since Billy and Sue had run one and he and Katie the other. “I picked and chose the rides I wanted to keep and Billy sold the rest. I kept the cream of the crop on the spots we play and eliminated some we had played in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Our route is much tighter now with dates in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. It really helps with fuel costs.”

    After the purchase, Bitner changed the name to B & K Carnival Company, added a Childress Expo Wheel and Orbiter, some trucks and generators. The show now travels with between 20 to 28 rides, four food stands and 15 to 18 games. Key people are Alicia Daugherty and Tim Bennett, who have games and food. Asked if he used H-2B foreign Visa labor, Bitner said, “This is our second year to do it. We should have done it 10 years ago. We asked for 18 workers this year, not really expecting to get them, but we took 11, leaving the rest for somebody else who might need them more. They're really good workers. All of ours are from Vera Cruz, Mexico.”

    The show opened its season the third week of March around Charlotte, North Carolina. “We do a lot of festivals in North Carolina and South Carolina. The fair route has stayed pretty much the same as it was. We're at a spot in Franklin, North Carolina, for the Shriners next week. We play the Georgia Mountain Fair in Hiawassee July 18 through the 27, where Hilda Thomason is still the General Manager.” Christine and I visited that spot several times and enjoyed major cookouts where Billy and Sue treated us to steaks, lobster tails and our favorite beverages. Old friend Jimmy Jay of Jayson Promotions, Hendersonville, Tennessee, always books a solid lineup of Country music acts there.

    Attendance has continued to slide in recent years at Hiawassee, which used to be a very good spot, and I asked Bitner his theory on why that has happened. He said, “During the economic bust several years ago, the demographics totally changed. People used to go to that fair from Atlanta, Chattanooga and even Knoxville. You'd have people coming to the mountains to enjoy the cooler weather, but now it's mostly retired people living around that area from Florida and Canada.”

    Asked if he ever booked with other shows, Bitner said, “We do four, five or six weeks with Bobby Brinkley of Brinkley Entertainment, who is based in Walnut Cove, North Carolina. We help each other wherever needed, depending on the size of the spots. I sent a couple of rides with Big A (Amusements of America) to Charleston (the Coastal Carolina Fair in Ladson, South Carolina) last year.” 

    Asked if Billy and Sue still come to visit, Bitner said, “They did, especially at Hiawassee every year but haven't since he sold their bus.” Bitner admitted he's excited about the fact that pretty soon he and Katie will completely own the show. “We've been lucky this year with weather. When it hits us, it happens on the right days, Mondays or Tuesdays. We haven't lost any of the good days, weekends. I can't complain about anything. Having this show has not been a struggle since Day One.”

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

    Have a great week and God Bless!!

  • Mon, July 08, 2019 6:50 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    Some are better than none, even if you don't know when. For Carnival companies coping with a labor shortage due to a combination of political and processing issues, by early and mid-June – long anticipated H-2B workers began arriving to at fairs, festivals and other events across the country. 

    Companies are getting most of the H-2B workers they've requested and these workers are trickling in.  Even though they're often uncertain as to exactly when workers will arrive, when the entire amount of their request will be filled – and no one knows if they will be able to depend on a stable foreign guest worker force next year – carnival companies are overjoyed with relief that H-2B workers are coming in time to save their season.

    At 2 AM on June 13, 41 H-2b workers arrived in Maine via a chartered bus from Mexico.  Smokey's Greater Shows had filed for 55 visas, but given the very likely possibility that for much of this year the number of seasonal foreign workers for this carnival company could be zero, carnival owner Robbie Driskill could not complain. “We are getting them for the opening [of the Auburn Fair in Auburn, Maine) and we're very thankful.”

    Read entire Carnival Warehouse Article here >>>

  • Tue, July 02, 2019 11:00 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    When I was a kid I first heard the expression that “you can't fight City Hall,” and the older I get, I find that to be the truth. Examples are found everywhere in life; two that are hitting home particularly to the mobile amusement industry involve the H-2B foreign Visa work problem and the battle over the content of an AT&T telephone advertisement.

    The OABA and other organizations have fought relentlessly but to no avail, so far, to obtain their objectives. The H-2B deal is strictly political, and the eventual outcome is nebulous. In the meantime, let's hope carnival employers are able to find the necessary workers to help them do their jobs.   

    I received a note from Charma Wilderson, General Manager – Amusements, Safe-Strap Company, LLC, Ft. Myers, Florida, regarding the second subject. Here's what she had to say: “I'm fairly sure you are aware (but just in case you are not) - - AT&T has been running a stream of commercials regarding 'Just OK' services are not OK for several months now. But they have been running one frequently most recently regarding a carnival ride and operator that really puts the mobile industry in a bad light. It feeds into the misguided belief of the general population about carnivals being “shifty.”

    “I'm not sure if anything can be done about it – but I wanted to let you know that I found it disturbing at best and wanted to share my thoughts with someone that may have connections or information as to how those of us who do find it offensive can voice our thoughts. Thank you for taking the time to read my correspondence. Wishing all of our traveling shows a brilliant, safe and successful season!!”

    I reached back to Charma, thanked her for her comments and asked for a little more information about her firm. She said “Safe Strap Company has been manufacturing web-based safety restraints for the amusement industry since 1983. We specialize in customizing ride belts and all class restraints, and supplying belts to end users as well as manufacturers.” Phil Tomber, head of Rio Syrup Company, St. Louis, and a major stockholder in AT&T, vowed to take up the fight when this battle first arose. While watching television last night, June 29th, that goofy looking kid masquerading as a ride boy, was still telling two shocked customers that when accidents occur, the carnival just moves on to the next town.  AT&T has used a similar tactic with the medical profession, showing a doctor who maintains he has just been reinstated and is not worried about an upcoming operation he is expected to perform. My point goes back to my childhood that what I heard then was correct. You can't fight City Hall. 

    We are getting into the height of the fair season with the San Diego County Fair, Del Mar, about to end and draw approximately 2 million people. Other events are ready to get going. Ronnie, Kim, Butch and Ann Netterfield had a fun time at the Florida Fair Convention in St. Augustine before getting ready to start work for another season at the 12th Annual RockStock Music Festival in Muskegon, Michigan, July 3-7. Darrell Desgranges, the Mizuno Golf Pro and Brad Coombs of Meridian Entertainment, Traverse City, Michigan, booked the talent for this event, which is adding a carnival midway for the first time. Desgranges said it will be a combination of Arnold Amusements and TJ Schmidt Amusements with Tommy Arnold and David Starkey more or less in charge. I had spoken to Starkey, who played a spot in Lake Odessa, Michigan, with Bob Hallifax Amusements on his way to Muskegon. Starkey mentioned that his pal, Harold Case, was a bit under the weather, but would be there as well. When I called to check on Case and his wife Debbie, he said gathering his strength to move seven trucks the 1,400 mile distance to Michigan was the toughest he ever made. When I asked Desgranges about the talent headliners lined up, he mentioned Puddle of Mudd, and I'm sure he could almost hear me stammer when I asked who else. He answered Tantric, Saliva and Trapt. Almost apologetically he then pointed out that his son Glenn, working for Live Nation, had booked Willie Nelson and Allison Krauss for a June 25th sellout at Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights, Michigan. He also added that Glenn booked a Hoedown in Detroit on June 15th with Brantley Gilbert, where Garth Brooks made a surprise performance and performed for an hour. When I cracked jokingly that they had spared no expense for Muskegan, Desgranges said Puddle of Mudd has sold more than 7 million albums and had 5 number one hits on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Song Chart, including “Psycho” in 2008. When I mentioned the acts to my 57 year old daughter, Alice Stanley, who is helping me with this dictation while I'm trying to get over a bout with gout, she confirmed these acts were bigger than I thought they were. What do I know? Butch and Ann Netterfield, by the way, celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary on June 25, and his 74th birthday at Eddie V's in Tampa – they were wed in Olivet, Michigan. Other venues where Desgranges and Brad Coombs book the talent include the Central Carolina Fair in Greensboro, NC, at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex beginning Friday, September 7th and running through the 16th; the Buffalo Chips Festival in Sturgis, South Dakota, running from August 2–11, and the Arkansas State Fair, Little Rock, running October 11–20. 

    There was plenty of reaction to the column I wrote about the death of my special friend of 61 years, Johnny Hobbs. Desgranges said it had been on his bucket list for years to come and visit Johnny at his Nashville Palace, which he owned for 35 years. Dan Kroeger, CEO/Chairman of Gold Medal Products, Cincinnati, and former longtime Treasurer of OABA wrote, “You could feel the love you had for your friend John from that article. What a tremendous tribute! We are fortunate to be part of such a great industry.  Bob Anderson, formerly with National Ticket Company of Shamokin, Pennsylvania, wrote, “Thanks again for your always awesome columns. I'm sorry to read about Johnny Hobbs. I know how close you were to him and one by one, it seems as though our friends and relatives are leaving us. I suppose it's the price we pay for aging.” Charlie Cox of Cox Food Concessions, Perry, Georgia, Columbus, Ohio, and Tampa, Florida, wrote, “I knew him through you. I can't imagine any two people who were better friends than you and John. I spent hours listening to Ed Gregory (true or not) tell stories about you, Hobbs, Jim Ed Brown, the Opry and all the stars. I enjoyed many times going to Backstage at the Opry and then to the Nashville Palace. Those were great times and I thank all the old-timers for blazing the trails for us to enjoy.” 

    Many years ago on one of my first trips with Monsignor Robert J. McCarthy, the Carny priest from Watertown, New York, I met one of the most fascinating showmen I have ever known, Roland Koch, a well-known entrepreneur at Octoberfest in Munich, Germany, the Cannsfest in Stuttgart and other Christmas festivals, amusement parks, fairs, and anything having to do with entertainment in Germany. Through Bill Alter of National Ticket.  I even got to know him and his wife, Renate, better, along with his son, Thomas, and best friend, Rudolph Barth, at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Conventions. Barth owned the only five looping rollercoaster in the world. He spoke little English and every time I interviewed him, Koch interpreted. Roland was known for his famous parties at Kafer's in Munich, which drew industry heavy-weights from all over the globe. I heard from him in an email last month in which he said, “It is good to know you are in good shape and still involved with the carnival and park people. When I look back, I remember when I came as a member to the Showmen's League of America Convention. Patty Conklin brought me to Chicago in 1969, and at this time I was very busy in the fairs in Germany, when you remember, I was the host in Stuttgart for your 50th birthday party. Maybe I will see you and Christine in Orlando. All the best and here are my addresses and phone numbers, regards, Roland.” It truly is a big and small world. 

    I apologize for no column last week, but as I mentioned earlier, the gout made it unable for me to type. 

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

    Have a great Fourth of July celebration, and God Bless!

  • Thu, June 27, 2019 3:46 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)


    The top 3 federal bills pushed by the animal rights agenda to oppose and write your representative about are:

    TEAPSPA - HR 2863 - Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act
    - This bill is designed to end all traveling animal acts, including educational ones. The list of prohibited animals of course includes lions, tigers, bears, and elephants but also turtles, monitor lizards, and camels. This would be absolutely devastating to thousands of animals and the people caring for them across the United States.

    PAST - HR 693 - Prevent all soring tactics act - While no one is supporting the act of horse soring, the way this bill is written would not prevent or help eradicate the practice of horse soring. Instead it would disable the Tennessee Walking Horse industry in the United States by creating more government overreach without any applicability thus rendering USDA inspectors ineffective at regulating the problem. And it doesn’t stop there - it would also affect the Racking Horse and the Spotted Saddle Horse breeds.

    PPA - HR 2442 - Puppy Protection Act - This bill, under the guise of instilling stricter animal welfare laws, actually has prohibitive rules written within the standards for housing, temperature guides, among other requirements. It is best left up to dog professionals such as the AKC and others to set these standards, not animal rights groups.

    More legislative news here >>>

  • Fri, June 21, 2019 12:47 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    Posted on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 in 
    Latest NewsLatest News RSSHomepage - Featured News

    Rodeo Renews Carnival Midway Contract with RCS The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo announced a multi-year contract renewal with RCS, the Rodeo’s carnival midway provider since 1994.

    “We are excited to continue our partnership with RCS, a leader in the carnival midway industry that continues to offer our visitors a variety of unique rides, games and food that appeals to all ages,” said Joel Cowley, president and CEO of the Rodeo. “RCS has a long-standing commitment to safety, innovation and customer service, providing our guests with a truly memorable carnival experience.”

    RCS has been providing carnival entertainment to fairs and guests since 1961, serving some of the most prominent fairs and festivals across the country, including Coachella, Stagecoach Festival, the Arizona State Fair, the LA County Fair and the Orange County Fair, among others.

    “We are thrilled to be returning to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. We love serving the community of Houston and are honored to be a part of this great event that is so important for the youth of Texas,” said Guy Leavitt, president and CEO of RCS.

    During the 2019 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, held Feb. 25 – March 17, the carnival midway featured more than 80 rides and 45 games, with more than 2.5 million rides taken throughout the annual event.

    RCS debuted five new rides at the 2019 Rodeo, while also bringing back many fan favorites. The most popular rides were Skyride, Ice Jets, Crazy Coaster and the La Grande XL. Approximately 70,000 riders enjoyed 360-degree views of the Rodeo grounds from the La Grande XL. The luxurious Ferris wheel made its debut at the 2017 Rodeo and marked the biggest single purchase in RCS history.

    In addition, approximately 600,000 prizes were won at the carnival and several unique food items were unveiled, including Hot Crunchy Cheetos Cotton Candy, Fruity Pebbles Shrimp Po’Boy Sandwich and Caramel Crack Fries. Deep Fried Oreos remained a popular staple among this year’s Rodeo-goers, with approximately 376,000 Oreos consumed.

    RCS will return to Houston for the 2020 World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, Feb. 27 – 29, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, March 3 – March 22.

  • Thu, June 20, 2019 4:31 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    I'm not sure if I'm so tired today because of watching the Boston Red Sox lose a 17-inning game to Minnesota last night that didn't end until around 1:30am, or because of two days of mental anguish during the viewing, Mass, burial and wake of John A. Hobbs, my beloved friend of 61 years. 

                Whatever the cause or reason, I'm more tired than usual. Maybe it has something to do with the fact all four of my children were in town to help Christine and me celebrate a beautiful Father's Day, or perhaps, it's simply the fact that in one month, July 18, I'll be 86.            

    Hobbs was 91 and thank goodness, he did not suffer. He was ready to go even though many of us, quite selfishly, I suppose, tried to hold on to him for a little bit longer. The night before he died, he was searching for a baseball game on TV, and his son, Ronnie, called me to find out what stations they might be on. I would often call him late at night and tell him his favorite team, the Dodgers, were on. 

                Over the years, we spent Christmas Eves shopping, sitting in the press box for Notre Dame football games, thanks to my connection with the late Joe Sassano, who ran the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center, attending at least 20 trade shows of the International Independent Showmen's Association in Gibsonton, Fla., and probably half that number of International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions trade shows in Orlando. Each year, he and our other buddies would purchase all kinds of fake jewelry in Gibtown which they would use to dazzle people back in Nashville. At one park convention, he was so enamored by an electric chair he almost bought one. He did wind up buying a punching bag, which he displayed for years in his front lobby.

                We enjoyed thousands of nights drinking, partying and hobnobbing at his Nashville Palace with every Country music star imaginable, plus the likes of Governor Ray Blanton, Minnesota Fats, Fast Eddie Felson, Jerry Springer, Tommy Lasorda, Billy Russell, Mike Scioscia and his entire Albuquerque baseball team (before he managed the Angels), and his bench coach Mickey Hatcher, who danced with Christine, John McNamara, who managed eight major league teams, and Chicago Bears QB Bill Wade.

    When Springer walked in, he immediately asked that the television set be tuned to ESPN. The former mayor of Cincinnati was a sports fan. I asked politely if he'd pose for a picture with some of the RDs (regular drunks), and he obliged. One of the women, whose name I won't mention, gushed and said that she watched his show every day. Springer, who later that night appeared with Hobbs, by remote on the Jimmy Kimmel show, looked at her and said, “Get a life.”

                Little Jimmy Dickens used to come in and have a couple glasses of wine before appearing on the Grand Ole Opry. Semi-regulars included Jim Ed Brown, Vern (The Voice) Gosdin, Porter Wagoner, Del Reeves, Danny (of The Nashville Brass) Davis, Mel McDaniel, Jimmy C. Newman, Johnny Russell, Ricky Van Shelton, Alan Jackson, Lorrie Morgan, and Randy Travis, whom I spoke to for several minutes before Hobbs' funeral Mass. Travis, known then as Randy Ray, and I have an autographed album to prove it, was a cook and dishwasher there for over three years. I saw Randy once at the Great Allentown, Pa. Fair and he asked about Maxie, Shorty, Mr. Mac, Pigskin Louie, Fast Eddie Paschall, and all the regulars. Then he and his lead guitar player, Rick Wayne, wondered if Hobbs still worried about me getting home safely. Whenever McDaniel would come in the front door, we'd all get up and sing “Stand Up and Testify,” his signature tune.

                Hobbs, who joined the Merchant Marines at the age of 15, was there for the Japanese surrender to General MacArthur. He was a real patriot who asked me to sing the Pearl Harbor song every December 7, which I did for more than 50 years. They played a rousing rendition of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish fight song as the crowd slowly filed out of the church. It was very appropriate. As was a “Mother's Love Is Endless,” by Billy Mangan, who owns Mangan's Irish Pub in Mt. Clemons, Michigan, a place we frequented quite a bit. Mangan, his wife, June, and Tommy and Joanie O'Halloran, who owned the Tipperary Pub in Detroit, made several trips to Ireland with us for Notre Dame-Navy football games. We first met when I was covering the Michigan State Fair.

                John loved being around people. I introduced him to many from the amusement industry. He loved it, particularly carnival people, and whenever many of them passed through Nashville they made it a point to come visit with him and listen to his incredible stories. I believe the last ones I snapped a photo of him with were Jeanette Gilmore and Greg Ruda, Rick Reithoffer, Charles Panacek, Gloria Myers and Lucky Klinger, and the foursome of Bonnie Culpepper, Jo Ann Koza, Mary Jean Leonard, and Barbara Wilson. Hobbs actually had a double wedding with carnival owner Hillman Snyder.

    Johnny became close to Paul (Duke) Smith of Allied Specialty Insurance, George Millay, founder of  Sea World and Wet N Wild, Bryan Wittman, a vice president with the Walt Disney Company, Don Sandefur, who ran the Harlem Globetrotters, Buddy Lee, who booked most of the major Country acts, park owners Dick Knoebel, Albert and Dennis Carollo and  George (Bud) Gilmore of Smokey's Greater Shows, whom we always sat next to during the trade shows. We enjoyed lunch with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and drinks and a baseball game with Gene Autry. We were on the field for a Yankees Old-Timers game, and he even visited my hometown of Scranton, Pa., and was hosted royally at Hershey Park by J. Bruce McKinney and Paul Serff.

                When he built the Music Valley Amusement Park, Hobbs brought in ride inspector Joe Culver to manage it. Helping get it off the ground were Michael Wood, Mike Demas, Patrick Sheridan, Joe Bixler, and Kevin Dalton. We spent time in St. Louis with Carl and Roberta Mathis, Theresa Noerper and Ann Sedlmayr of Archway Amusements. When Sam Giordano, who became manager of the State Fair of Louisiana, Shreveport, worked for Rod Link Shows, Sam told Rod he was going to Nashville to see me. When Link asked if he had called, Sam said he knew I'd be with Hobbs at the Nashville Palace.

                Every time Kenny Smith, Rick D'Aprile, Rene and Judy Piche, Jim and Janice Swain were near Nashville, it was a must to see Johnny Hobbs. I've taken pictures of him (always on the job) with the likes of Ed Gregory, who held all his employee parties at the Palace, Milt Kautman, Ray Cammack, Bernard Thomas, Jerry Murphy, Jim Strates, Frank Zaitshik, John (The Peddler) Curtis, Jerry Bohlander, Billy and Sue Clark, James Roy and Petrina Pope, J. D. Floyd, Butch, Kim and Ronnie Netterfield, Billy Baxter, Bobby and Sue Wynn, Claire Morton, Jean Clair, Ed Murphy, Jim Murphy, and so many others.

                When Harold Case and David Starkey entered the door, Hobbs would have a double Crown Royal ready for Harold and a waitress on call for Starkey's order. They once were waiting for a shipment of goldfish at the Greyhound Bus station, so they lingered at The Palace. By the time they had left, the goldfish had died. The regulars loved when Gene (T-Shirt Kelly) Spezia passed through town because he always had tee shirts and other novelty gifts that he passed around generously.

                Hobbs attended all our Polish Picnics at Andy and Ethel Osak's Showtown USA Bar in Gibtown, with Nashville buddies Eddie Paschall, Eddie Bryan, Wayne (Trucker) Beck, Bill (Gun Show) Goodman, Pat Mitchell, Paul Hatfield, and Jack Burns. Also there were Gene McQuater, who had owned McQuater's Greater Shows and kept the picnic going after Osak's death, Father John Vakulskas, Leah O'Neil, Terri Swyear, Marilyn Portemont, Ned and Lori Ludes, Bill Alter, and Umpire Joe West. Monsignor Robert J. McCarthy said several Masses at the Palace, often to the astonishment of those sitting at the bar. John always made sure there was a collection. 

    Dianne Sherrill sang one of John's favorites, “You Are My Sunshine,” which Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis wrote about and dedicated to his horse of the same name. While in heaven, I'm hoping Hobbs doesn't try to get on that horse and ride. He fell off a motorcycle while he was down here. 

    For anybody I failed to mention, it was not intentional, and if you have a memory of meeting John, let me know. I have many more columns to write. He went on his terms, and that's how I'm ending this.

    (read article in the Nashville Scene about John A. Hobbs here >>>

                Please send news to tomp@oaba.org, or call 615.280.7257.
                Have all great days, and God Bless!

  • Thu, June 20, 2019 4:23 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)


    Oppose ban on all reptile, amphibian, and mammal species which are non-native to the U.S.

    Many thanks to USARK for the call to action on their website.

  • Wed, June 12, 2019 10:31 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    I usually make a phone call to Tony Diaz of North American Midway Entertainment this time of year to check on the show's opening date in Canada, the June 5-9 Brandon, Manitoba, Summer Fair, but on this occasion the tone was more somber, as I had just learned about the death of Diaz's mother, Mary Jane. 

                They say things like this happen in threes, and if that's true, Kenny Detty passed away from a heart attack shortly after I interviewed him after Memorial Day. Then I learned about the passing of Reverend Ruth Turton, 87, whose late husband, Reverend Ron Turton, was The Heavenly Patch.

    Diaz was already at the show's next spot, the Red River Exhibition in Winnipeg, scheduled for June 14-23, where Garth Rogerson has been CEO for 11 years. Tony said his sister, Trudie Andrews had flown to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where Mary Jane, 83, had been living, to have her body moved to Tampa. The funeral is tentatively set for Saturday, June 15 at Showmen's Rest in Tampa. Mary Jane was a longtime member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Greater Tampa Showmen's Association.

                Mary Jane and her late husband, Tony, were married in 1955. They spent the time between 1955 and 1960 on Carl and Egle Sedlmayr's Royal American Shows, where Tony Sr. was a games operator. Tony Jr., 57, was born at the Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, which was one of the carnival's biggest spots.

                The Diazes then spent several years with Sonny Myers Amusements. Myers had been the sheriff of St. Joseph, Mo., and was the brother-in-law of Bill Dillard. After that they were on Bill Dillard Shows, before joining Gehrie and Norma Aten with their games on Bill Hames Shows. At the time of his death, Tony Sr. had joined his son with Mike Williams on Farrow Shows. It was always a pleasure for me to see both Tonys at spots such as the Indiana State Fair, Indianapolis, as Tony Jr. had the savvy to know who I'd want to take a picture of for Amusement Business, in other words, regulars who traveled with the show, not locals who just came in to work one spot. He kept me from wasting a lot of time.

                After he became a vice president with NAME, Diaz remained one of the most cooperative, and easiest guys to interview for a story. He doesn't embellish what he says, and always points out the key people who help move the show. That includes Wayne Kunz, John Anderson, Scooter Korek, and Michael Hupalo, the safety inspector, who invited me to his wedding in Gibtown before I even knew him.

                “Life is a lot easier and happier when you find yourself working on a daily basis with people like that.” What a great group of guys. Anybody who knows Wayne Kunz will tell you he looks as though he could still play football like Bo Jackson or The Big Hurt, Frank Thomas. I first met Wayne at a date in Louisiana, I believe it was Metairie, and he was working for his dad, Al, the guy who kicked 60 Minutes off his lot. Wayne spent many years with Jim Murphy on Mighty Blue Grass Shows, before joining NAME. In his 80s, and looking fit as a fiddle, he has earned the reputation of being one of the hardest working guys in the carnival business, one of the nicest, as well. I can vouch for both traits.

                While with his dad's Century 21 Shows, I visited Wayne at the Millington Naval Base near Memphis. He kept asking me what looked different about him. I guessed he had lost weight, gained weight, and everything but what the real answer was. He was wearing a wig. After my reaction, I don't believe he ever did again, although his was better than that of the Grand Ole Opry's Hank Snow, hideous.

                Mary Jane maintained a close friendship with many carnival people, most notably, Marilyn Portemont, after both got off the road. Of Brandon, Diaz said it was okay except for Saturday, which is normally the biggest day, when it was cold and wet. After a strong Miami-Dade County Fair, he's optimistic.

                I couldn't believe it when I received phone calls from Joel Golder who owns Palace Playland Amusement Park in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, and Tom Gaylin of Rosedale Attractions and Shows of Baltimore. Both were bearing the news of Detty's demise. Joel made me feel a little better when he said Kenny, 74, had read the column, loved it, and was grateful that I wrote it. Golder wanted to let me know that it had meant a lot to both of them and was a well-deserved tribute to a REAL carnival man. “His only regret was that he left out the name of the James H. Drew Exposition as being one being one of the carnivals he and his wife, Barbara, traveled with,” said Golder. Gaylin said Detty was always very helpful to him when he was chairman of OABA in 2016, especially in matters involving the Carnival Museum in Gibsonton, where Detty was a member of the Board. I believe Gaylin made more sincere efforts than anybody to form a better working relationship with members of the International Independent Showmen's Association than I can recall. He realizes the potential of growth there for the OABA, because I'll guarantee you, most are not OABA members, but should be.

                I remember when The Heavenly Patch hung around Andy and Ethel Osak's Showtown USA Bar in Gibtown, even though he wasn't a drinker. There was a Panama City, Florida, connection among the Turtons, Osaks, Bill and Helen McCoy, Terry and Jo Ellen Erickson, and Bobby Cooper. I remember others who were hanging around what we called Andy's in those days, including Gene (Tee Shirt Kelly)  Spezia, Sonny (World's Greatest Guesser) Lewis, Jolly Jim Conroy, Buster Anderson, Uncle Ben, a guy with a big beard who owned a restaurant in Cherokee, North Carolina, Foster Maples, who (he said) accidentally ran his car through the side of the Showtown bar once, and the incomparable Joe Lane.

    Linda Laughridge, whose dad was Walter Meredith, who owned Walt's Lounge, recalls the McCoys and Osaks booking at Petticoat Junction, an 1880s themed western park. Jo Ellen and Walter were brother and sister, with Helen McCoy their mother, and Bill McCoy, their stepfather. Got that? Linda Laughridge and Jody Gay are cousins. They both remember the Panama City times.

                A man named J. E. Churchwell owned the park. He is credited with giving the area the title of Redneck Riviera. The McCoys booked a Dark Ride, Shooting Gallery, Glass House, Scrambler, Swinging Gym, and kiddies. Bill also operated the Bumper Cars for the Churchwells. Terry (The Viking), who wound up with dozers on Lon McWhorter's Mac's Amusements, and Jo Ellen had the popper and grab joint.

                Jody Gay and her husband, Harley, are now retired. She was with The James Gang Amusements of Andalusia, Alabama. Jody, one of the only non-family members on the show, traveled mostly on the unit with Wayne and Virginia, but sometimes with Rodney and Jesse James, from the early 1990s until she left the road in 2004. She kept her quarters dozers games on the show until 2006. Harley was a singer and teacher of autistic children. After being involved in a motorcycle accident, he now limits his singing to a couple gigs a month, and the church choir. He has often worked the Gibtown trade show.

                When Laughridge and her late husband, Ralph moved to Destin, Florida, they bought the house next to the Turtons, who were active in Protestant ministry, and their daughters, Susan and Sandra. The Osaks and Turtons were so close that when Ethel died, Andy gave one of her treasured rings to Ruth.           

    When Arthur Lamkin bought Johnny's United Shows, Bill and Helen McCoy came out of retirement, and ran the popper. At one time, Grandpa, as Linda refers to Bill McCoy as, was partnered in an amusement park in The Ozarks with Bobby Cooper. Cooper went on to run the entire Bingo operation for the state of Tennessee, and I got to know him well. One of his sons, Steve, drives trucks for carnivals, including for Butch and Ronnie Netterfield, Deggeller Attractions, and Mike Thomas, his cousin on Frank Zaitshik's Wade Shows. Cooper even drove his Harley Davidson Motorcycle from Tampa to Sturgis, South Dakota, a distance of 1,998.9 miles, to scatter the ashes of one of his brothers. 

    I learned late last night of the death of John A. Hobbs, my friend of 61 years, who was a real showman. He was known to just about everybody in the amusement business, and folks were always coming to his bar and restaurant to see him, or calling to inquire about his health. He joined me and Christine at least 20 times at the trade show in Gibsonton, Fla. Hobbs was 91, and thank God, did not suffer. In fact, one of his sons, Ronnie, called me the night before he died to let them know what station a baseball game was on. He gave numerous stars their first breaks, including Randy Travis, Ricky Van Shelton, Lorrie Morgan, and a host of others. Umpire Joe West stopped to see him two days ago on his way to Kansas City. We went shopping every Christmas Eve for the last 50 years or so. I’m going to miss him.

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

    Have all great days, and God Bless!

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