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  • Thu, April 04, 2019 5:34 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    Even Guy and Charlene Leavitt of Ray Cammack Shows marveled at the fact that the Feb. 25-March 17 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo drew a whopping attendance of 2,506,263, despite plenty of bad weather that included 10 days of rain and two with below freezing temperatures.

    “We were rained out on the second Wednesday, which was the biggest day we had last year. It would have been ridiculous if we had two weeks of Spring Break, instead of one. That will change for the good next year when we don't open until March 3,” said Guy.

    Dates for 2020 are March 3-22, and for 2021, March 2-21. The show debuted its new Titan ride from Fabbri of Italy. “It's the only one of its kind in the U. S. It is 17 stories tall, and travels at 60 miles an hour. The crowds loved it,” said Leavitt, adding that the Titan weighs 200,000 pounds, is portable, and moves on three heavy duty trucks. “Joel Cowley (president and CEO of the event) rode it six times on opening day. I got on it once with him,” said Guy, noting, “He does something like that every year.”

    Another new ride, the Ice Jet, proved to be the third most popular, behind the La Grande R50XL, which is the tallest portable Wheel in North America, and the Dopplemeyer Sky Ride.

    Booked in with RCS were Scott MacNeill of Deggeller Attractions with a Looping Roller Coaster, Andy Schoendienst of Luehrs Ideal Rides, with a couple rides and an ice cream stand, and show regulars Ernie and Jim Bishop, who have been an integral part of the carnival since 1980.

    The top grossing food stands were the Big Barbecue of Shawn and Don McKinney and their cousin, Billy, and Dominic Palmieri's Midway Gourmet. Palmieri also garnered a lot of television exposure, as he appeared regularly on various networks. I asked about longtime executive Cliff Kunkle and found out he is retired and living in Prescott, Arizona. Annie Kastl is on the executive staff and is very important in the implementation of the H-2B Visa program, and her husband, Joe Kastl, had a cookie stand, and he is in charge of moving the Giant Wheel.

    Managing the show's fantastic games operation are the same Annie Kastl and Steve Charleston. Leavitt stated, “As everybody knows, we have a very strong Sunday School operation, and we set up 62 games. We move 70 truckloads loaded with prizes. Some shows don't do that much in a lifetime. My parents had a 12-ride carnival. We had 82 rides set up in Houston.”

    Asked if he took time off to see the George Strait concert, which drew a record 80,108 spectators, Leavitt said he did not, but Charlene purchased 16 tickets and raffled them off to employees and staff. Appearing with Strait were Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen. The attendance broke the record Strait had set in his last appearance at the event seven years ago. Strait is still managed by Erv Woolsey, who is also one of his best friends. I remember when Buddy Lee brought Strait to Nashville and urged me to go and watch him in a performance at the Radisson Hotel. He was good, but we had no inkling he would become the star he turned out to be. Woolsey had a keen eye for talent and was working for Buddy Lee Attractions at the time. If you Google George Strait's manager, you will hear, “E. R. V.” (not Erv) Woolsey, his longtime friend and manager. Back then we always knew when Woolsey was at Johnny Hobbs' Nashville Palace. He would have the only Rolls Royce in the parking lot.

    I've told the story before, but it's worth repeating. Of Strait's 22 performances at the Houston Rodeo, the first almost didn't happen. I was attending the Midwest Fair Managers convention in Houston when Dan Gattis, then president and CEO of the Livestock Show, interrupted and asked for help.

    Gattis, now deceased, had received word that due to illness, Eddie Rabbit had to cancel his show that was scheduled that evening. Tony Conway, who later became president of Buddy Lee Attractions, and is now managing Alabama, left the room and made a phone call to Strait. He got on his own plane, flew to Houston and performed what turned out to be his first of 30 sellouts in 22 years there. Ironically, it also transpired that the fathers of Strait and Gattis had been college roommates. Eddie Who?

    Both Woolsey and Strait are great guys. One night while we were partying in Los Angeles prior to an awards show, Hobbs and I were with Bob Smith, also now deceased, who was vice president of the Los Angeles Dodgers for about 35 years. I figured Smith might want to book Strait into the stadium some time, and Strait might want to play there, so took I a picture of both and used it in AB.

    On what was the busiest Saturday at Houston this year, RCS conducted a Jamboree fundraiser for OABA’s H-2B initiatives that raised more than $50,000. Conducting it were OABA’s Second Vice Chair, Andy Deggeller of Deggeller Attractions, and another OABA Director and food concessionaire, Nate Janousek of Fun Biz Concessions. A great effort by all to help the seasonal labor crisis. 

    Of the 39 food stands set up, Vivian Leavitt, Guy's sister-in-law, had the cookhouse which not only catered to show workers, but 4-H exhibitors and others. Mark Leavitt, Vivian's husband, is the show's director of operations. “We're blessed to have a lot of family involved in our operations,” said Guy. He and Charlene have six children, 26 grandchildren, three great grandchildren, “and one on call.”

    Upcoming is the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, featuring top name talent, where the R50XL La Grande Wheel will be set up April 12-14, and April 19-21. The show plays the 46th annual Spring Fling, largest student run event involving a carnival in the nation, April 12-14 at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and the Pima County Fair, Tucson, April 18-28, where Jon Baker is executive director. The talent lineup there includes Shaggy, Seether, Carly Pearce, Frankie Ballard, Rich The Kid, Mark Farner's American Band, MJ Live, Newsboys, TLC, P.O.D., Buckcherry, Adelitas Way, Chris Janson, and Dia de la Banda.

    I received word the other day that Tommy LaMotta, a tremendous games concessionaire, artist, and good guy, passed away. I first met Tommy when he and his brother, Joe, who was president of the Gibtown Club in 1982, and their brother-in-law, Gaspare Mistretta, were booked with Rod Link Shows. During the trade show, he would take my camera, snap pictures of beautiful women and tell them we were going to put their pictures in an international publication (Amusement Business) and make them stars. Thaxter Trafton, manager of the Arizona State Fair, Phoenix, at the time, always joined in the fun.

    At some point later, LaMotta asked if I could help get him booked into Phoenix. Through the efforts of Buddy Lee and myself, we convinced Trafton we would be doing a favor for both, since LaMotta had a first-class operation. Lo and behold, Tommy didn't show up, for whatever reason. We went through the process again the next year and Trafton reluctantly booked him. It worked out well for both.

    A New Yorker from birth, Tommy was born with an affliction that caused him to always be moving his head. It never slowed him down, nor took away from his incredible talent. He booked with Ray Cammack Shows and others, and independently, with his son-in-law, Michael Winchester, running his Diversified Amusements. The last time I saw Tommy was at the Minnesota State Fair. He was on a golf cart. When he saw me, he smiled and invited me to dinner. I wish I had gone, but I didn't.

    Sid Karmia, owner of The Toy Factory, San Antonio, was the one who sent me an e-mail on March 28, stating, “The amusement industry lost one of the greatest concessionaires of all time yesterday morning. Tommy LaMotta passed away.” Anybody who knew Tommy will agree with what Sid said.

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

    Have all great days, and God Bless!

  • Thu, April 04, 2019 5:11 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    Mary Lou Kelly Consulting 
    Click here for this week's legislative update

    California Alert
    CA SB 313, the bill to prohibit wild and exotic animals in circuses, was amended on 3/28.  The bill now prohibits "any animal other than a domestic dog, domestic cat, or horse" from being used in a circus. Rodeos are exempted. The updated text is here, and a link is also included in my Pending Legislation chart.  Please alert your supporters to contact the California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water to oppose this legislation: 

    Email: senate.natural.resources@senate.ca.gov 
    Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water
    State Capitol, Room 5046
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    Phone: (916) 651-4116
    Fax: (916) 323-2232  
    On your email to the committee, please state in the subject line "Submitted for the record in opposition to SB 313." The Committee website is: https://sntr.senate.ca.gov/. There are nine (9) members of the committee, but individual emails are only allowed to constituents of their respective districts via online forms.  

    Florida Fish & Wildlife Public Meetings Bulletin
    The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission released a bulletin on 3/28, stating that the agency will be hosting public meetings to encourage for input on captive wildlife regulations in Florida. Topics will include elephant rides, administrative/applications issues, and public contact/unconfined captive wildlife.  Here is the link to the bulletin, with the scheduled meeting dates and locations: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/FLFFWCC/bulletins/23a21f7 

  • Thu, April 04, 2019 5:04 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)
    U.S. On-Highway Diesel Fuel Prices*  
    (dollars per gallon) full history
              Change from
      03/18/19 03/25/19 04/01/19   week ago year ago
    U.S. 3.070 3.080 3.078   values are down -0.002 values are up 0.036
    East Coast (PADD1) 3.124 3.132 3.127   values are down -0.005 values are up 0.061
    New England (PADD1A) 3.200 3.214 3.196   values are down -0.018 values are up 0.079
    Central Atlantic (PADD1B) 3.313 3.310 3.309   values are down -0.001 values are up 0.076
    Lower Atlantic (PADD1C) 2.981 2.995 2.991   values are down -0.004 values are up 0.053
    Midwest (PADD2) 2.992 2.993 2.984   values are down -0.009 values are up 0.022
    Gulf Coast (PADD3) 2.869 2.876 2.872   values are down -0.004 values are up 0.021
    Rocky Mountain (PADD4) 2.944 2.974 3.007   values are up 0.033 values are down -0.037
    West Coast (PADD5) 3.497 3.526 3.541   values are up 0.015 values are up 0.054
    West Coast less California 3.139 3.156 3.153   values are down -0.003 values are down -0.049
    California 3.781 3.819 3.849   values are up 0.030 values are up 0.135
    *prices include all taxes
  • Thu, March 28, 2019 2:26 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    On the Earie
    By Tom Powell, OABA News Ambassado

    Reithoffer Shows
    posted back-to-back record runs at the Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair, Fort Myers, and Collier County Fair, Naples, proving it can be done, but it's not easy without a foreign labor force that has not arrived as of yet due to entanglements involving the H-2B Visa program.

    Rick Reithoffer was a little more tired than usual when he spoke about the subject while he and his wife, Marianne, headed back to their home in Gibsonton on Monday. “We had a local Job Fair, I ran ads, we tried to get workers through the Internet, but most of those who came to work left as fast as they arrived. We have depended on our foreign workers for more than 15 years and I hope we get them back soon. It will depend on if the government releases those 69,000 more visas they've been talking about.”

    The 94th annual Fort Myers fair, managed by Fran Crone, ran Feb. 28-March 10. Reithoffer said the weather was perfect, with sunny skies. “In fact, the fair president, Randy Crone, said it was too good because a lot of people decided to go to the beach instead of coming to the fair.”

    The 43rd annual Collier County Fair, managed by Rhonda Ward, operated March 14-24. “We lost Tuesday to rain there, and part of Wednesday, but we had our strongest last weekend ever,” said Reithoffer. While Rick and Marianne were headed home, the show was on the way to Atlanta, with another unit going west for stops promoted by Brian Ellsworth in Houston and El Paso, Texas, “We set up in Riverdale, Ga., by the airport for the Civic Center and then play the Dogwood Festival in downtown Atlanta. The first is for 10 days, and the second one a week.” Reithoffer said he had 56 rides set up in Fort Myers, and 61 in Naples, all of which were show owned.

    Entertainment at Naples included Dennis Lee, Tom Crawl, comedian and ventriloquist, Marc Dobson, the One-Man Band, High Diving Pirates of the Caribbean, Aquatic Aerobatic Show, Ives Brothers Big Air BMX/FMX Rhinestone Ropers, Grandpa Cratchet, Prehistoric Adventures, Show Me Safari Petting Zoo, Pony Rides, and Pig Races, Demolition Derby and Team Racing.

    I spoke to Larry Habeck, 1987 president of the International Independent Showmen's Association in Gibtown, who with his wife, Gala, had their popper set up at the front gate in Naples and he said it was a very good run. “Everybody I talked to there did well. The big news out of Naples came from Fair President Don Jolly, that they're going to three weeks next year.”

    Hiram (Scooter) Ryals, who has been booking concessionaires on the independent midway there for the last 43 years, confirmed that next year's dates will be March 12-29. “They've been talking about extending the dates for at least the last six years. The fair's attendance has been growing in leaps and bounds. Traditionally, 40 per cent of the income is derived on weekends, but this year, Reithoffer offered $1 rides on Monday and the fair had a $5 gate and we packed them in.

    “Another special promotion was scheduled for Tuesday, but we wound up getting rained out. People in Naples come to the fair late and stay late. A couple nights the grounds were still crowded when we closed.” Ryals said 95 per cent of the vendors have already signed up for next year's fair. Ryals and his wife, Beverly, had two of their own poppers set up at Naples, and he confirmed business was great.

    Habeck pointed out that he and Ryals have lived across the street from each other in Riverview for 48 years. “We're right down from the club, which makes it nice,” said Larry, who mentioned some of the other concessionaires who had successful runs in Naples.

    They included Richie and Judy George, with four or five joints, Lee and Judy Stevens, Art Carroll and his sister, Carmen; Fred and Carol Weaver of Racine, Wisconsin, with their Old Tyme Photo booth, Zack and Jennifer Swift, “and Jeremy Thomas, who used to be with Powers Great American Midways, and is now with Rick Reithoffer. Don't forget Joe Potillo, who took care of the donickers.”

    Habeck, who has provided me with lots of good pictures, makes his next stop at the 69th annual Hernando County Fair & Youth Livestock Show, Brooksville, Fla., April 12-20. Arnold Amusements has the carnival midway contract after years of North American Midway Entertainment playing the spot. Tony Diaz's Unit of NAME is at the 68th annual Miami-Dade County Fair, March 14-April 7, with the fair closed on March 18 and 19, and April 1 and 2. Eddie Cora is in his first year as president and CEO in Miami, and Patty Dee remains as director of concessions.

    Speaking of Arnold's, I received a nice note from one of Ivan and Agnes's sons, Tom, the other day. It put a big smile on my face to read what he said that “Dad and I were out putting up posters for the second annual Showmen's Riverfest Carnival, out in front of Showtown USA. We went in and saw they were selling gift cards. Naturally, we thought of you and figured you would like one. We got you a drink on hold. Tell Christine Hi!” Andy and Ethel Osak, original owners of the bar when we called it Andy's, would laugh at first, and then conclude this was a brilliant idea. I will treasure my card. The poster for the March 21-24 Gibtown Showmen's Museum fundraiser, was very nicely done.

    Ron Porter of Fare Foods called the other day to tell me how much he missed our mutual friend, the late Bill Lordy. I first met Porter at the Miami event back when E. Darwin Fuchs was in charge. Porter allowed us the use of one of his golf clubs the entire time I was there.” Bill and I used to bet on the basketball games in the NCAA Tournament, and at the end of the fair, one would owe the other something like $100 or $200.” Ron said the Fare Foods/NICA trade show was a huge success. I always enjoyed attending that and taking advantage of Porter's incredible hospitality. Christine and I were lucky enough to attend several of his Super Bowl parties. Unfortunately, as he wished me well with my current melanoma bout, he said he was not in Miami, as we spoke, but back in his home base of Duquesne, Ill., due to his beautiful wife Laura's third recurrence of cancer. I'll be praying for her.

    Lordy, who was always one of the top grossing food concessionaires with his elephant ears, would be pleased to know his significant other, Tracey Brewer, has a sparkling new stand, and has been operating at various locations in the Branchville, S. C., area while also expanding the menu.

    Entertainment at Fort Myers included Billy Elvis Lindsey, Conjurer, Tadpole the Clown, Those Funny Little People, Marc Dobson, One Man Band, Hypnotist and Magician Ron Diamond, Sea Lion Splash, Eudora Farms Petting Zoo, Todd Charles, The Moogician; Prehistoric Adventures, Matt's Family Jam, Fritzy Brothers Entertainment, and Kristen Johnson as Lady Houdini.

    I appreciate all the e-mails, notes and calls I've been getting, offering prayers and well wishes. Who wouldn't? But one reader, Alan Mcilvaine of Largo, Fla., skipped through everything, called and said, “I never knew you were at ringside for the Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier fight.” I finally impressed him, and that took place March 8, 1971, the same date 48 years to the day after I had my surgery.

    Carmel Dyer-Pittroff, who has Australian Battered Potatoes, got to me when she wrote, “Fantastic news, the power of prayer and a miracle. Not even one column missed. We wish you a speedy recovery. Blessings!” It was signed Carmel and Fred and if you don't know Fred Pittroff, who has Giant Slides, including the one at the Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, you are really missing something.

    Thanks to all!

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

    Have all great days, and God Bless! 

  • Thu, March 28, 2019 2:20 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)
    U.S. On-Highway Diesel Fuel Prices*  
              Change from
      03/11/19 03/18/19 03/25/19   week ago year ago
    U.S. 3.079 3.070 3.080   values are up 0.010 values are up 0.070
    East Coast (PADD1) 3.123 3.124 3.132   values are up 0.008 values are up 0.094
    New England (PADD1A) 3.183 3.200 3.214   values are up 0.014 values are up 0.099
    Central Atlantic (PADD1B) 3.315 3.313 3.310   values are down -0.003 values are up 0.093
    Lower Atlantic (PADD1C) 2.981 2.981 2.995   values are up 0.014 values are up 0.097
    Midwest (PADD2) 3.011 2.992 2.993   values are up 0.001 values are up 0.059
    Gulf Coast (PADD3) 2.881 2.869 2.876   values are up 0.007 values are up 0.053
    Rocky Mountain (PADD4) 2.939 2.944 2.974   values are up 0.030 values are down -0.017
    West Coast (PADD5) 3.505 3.497 3.526   values are up 0.029 values are up 0.088
    West Coast less California 3.162 3.139 3.156   values are up 0.017 values are up 0.009
    California 3.778 3.781 3.819   values are up 0.038 values are up 0.150
    *prices include all taxes
  • Mon, March 25, 2019 2:00 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    The International Independent Showmen's Assn. has announced that the dates for the 2020 trade show in Gibtown will be  February 5 - 8, 2020. This will be the first year the trade show opens on a Wednesday and closes on a Saturday. The last two years, the show ran a four-day format opening on Tuesday and closing on Friday. The show will be open from 10am to 5pm, and will feature four days of exhibits, educational seminars, classes, and nightly entertainment.  

     More information on the IISF trade show can be found on their website at www.gibtownshowmensclub.com 

  • Thu, March 21, 2019 3:59 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    On The Earie   
    By Tom Powell, OABA News Ambassador
    March 21, 2019

    A note from Lorelei Schoendienst of Luehrs Ideal Rides on Feb. 28 had me a bit concerned about the outcome of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, but it turned out there was nothing to fear, as total attendance for the Feb. 25-March17 extravaganza wound up at a whopping 2,506,263.

    That beat last year's total of 2,408,550, and was off the record of 2,611,176 that was set in 2017. Ray Cammack Shows, led by Guy and Charlene Leavitt, had another banner year on the midway. Brad Paisley drew a crowd of 74,929 on the event's closing Saturday, and George Strait set an NRG Stadium record by drawing 80,108 fans in a standalone show on St. Patrick's Day, March 17. Also on the bill were Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen. Other than the Strait show, concert attendance was 1,337,725, off from 2018's 1,346,388 and the record of 1,377,477 established in 2015.

    Schoendienst, an OABA director, had written, “Andy and I just visited the RCS Carnival in Houston. WOW! Even though they were experiencing horrible weather, the show looked fabulous. I was able to visit the RCS Christian Academy with an enrollment of 16. The school is first class. The children have a schedule beneficial to parents and students. I was proud to present them with a check for $2,000 from the OABA’s Duke Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund.” Hub Luehrs, Lorelei's father, an OABA Trustee in 1980. Her husband, Andy, held that role in 2008, and Lorelei's sister, Jean Clair, was the OABA's first female chair in 1996.

    Lorelei noted that there are two other carnival schools that receive these benefits from OABA’s scholarship foundation. They are the Deggeller Attractions Academy, and Powers Great American Midways School.

    While waiting to hear from Guy, I talked to food concessionaire Jim Swain, whose Pizza on a Stick had a record year at Houston. He confirmed that the show started off with cold and rainy weather and he became a little concerned. “But once the weather got better, business boomed, and we all took off.” Swain and his wife, Janice, have been playing Houston since 2003. “It's our first spot of the year.” His son, Jimmy, is set up in Austin for the March 16-30 Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo. Aaron Watson performed on the opening Saturday, and Swain said his son had a big night, also with Pizza on a Stick.

    Swain said RCS had a fundraiser at around 11pm on the busiest Saturday of the Houston event, and funds were raised to help OABA with the H-2B lobbying efforts for seasonal, foreign labor initiatives.   “We had all our eight H-2B workers here, and they are terrific.” Interestingly, Swain flew them back to Mexico the day after the rodeo and livestock show finished. “I'll have them come back for when we play the Porter County Fair, Valparaiso, Indiana (July 18-27), even though we won't need them until the Indiana State Fair, Indianapolis (Aug. 2-18), and Illinois State Fair, Springfield (Aug. 8-19).”

    Swain said he is then blessed with a good route that includes the State Fair of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City; Tulsa, Oklahoma State Fair; Arkansas State Fair, Little Rock, and State Fair of Louisiana, Shreveport. His next date is the Blueberry Festival, formerly held in Brooksville, Fla., that is set for March 28-31 at the Formosa Garden Events Center, Kissimmee. After that, his next spot is the Marion County Fair, Indianapolis, June 21-30, “and a couple other small fairs.” He said Porter County keeps growing and this year has Brooks & Dunn, Sawyer Brown and Diamond Rio as entertainment.

    HLRS President Joel Cawley said the most popular rides were La Grande XL; Skyide Ice Jets, and Crazy Coaster. The most popular game prizes were basketballs, llamas, and alpacas. He added that approximately 376,000 Oreos were battered, fried, and dusted with powdered sugar. An orchard of apples was used for the consumption of candy and caramel apples. “We had another huge success.”

    Clark Converse, who has been general manager of the Pasco County Fair, Dade City, Fla., from 1998-2008, and again since 2012, said this year's 72nd annual event, held Feb.18-24, was up slightly in attendance to 43,000, with Wade Shows providing the midway. “They had most of their rides at the Florida State Fair, Tampa, so we had a lot from Matt McDonagh's Big Rock Amusements. Matt became a hero when the transformers blew up and electricity went out on the second day of the fair on the independent food midway. McDonagh's generators saved the day for the rest of the fair.”

    Garnering a lot of attention was Stevie Starr, known as The Regurgitator. Converse said he had appeared on TV's America's Got Talent and flew to Dade City from his home in Scotland for his first ever fair appearance. “He packed the houses, coming up with light bulbs, snooker balls, Rubik's cubes, balloons, jewelry, and even a live gold fish, He had been on Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Other entertainment included Trenton Tye's Purgatory Ironworks, Extreme Illusions & Escapes, Fearless Flores Thrill Show, Matt's Family Jam, Cowboy Circus with Danny Grant, Banjo Man Greg Thompson, Robinson's Racing Pigs, Fritzy Brothers One Man Circus, The Plant Guy, Rock-It The Robot, and Tom Umiker’s All About Ag. Wade has two years remaining on its current five-year contract. “Frank (Zaitshik) always does a good job for us,” said Converse.

    March 17 was a very busy day, with St. Patrick's Day celebrations including the Hit the Road Barbecue of the International Independent Showmen's Association in Gibsonton, Fla. “It was a beautiful day and the food was great. Attendance was a little off since everybody seems to be working,” said David Starkey, who was IISA club president in 1996.

    After playing the Lee County Fair in Fort Myers, Reithoffer Shows was set up at the Collier County Fair, Naples. Charles Panacek's Belle City Amusements ended up at the Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City, and headed to the Sarasota County Fair. Opening are the Miami-Dade County Fair, with North American Midway Entertainment, and the Central Florida Fair, Orlando, with Wade, not to mention Texas, Arizona, and California fairs. It's a busy time.

    Veteran food concessionaires Rene and Judy Piche said opening day for them was very good at Miami. Judy said there was a charge for parking last year and with a new president in place, there is none this year, and that's a good thing.  Their son, Mark, had beignets and French Fries at Houston and did great. “He's got new vinyl and marquees from Uni-Glide, and his stands looked super good,” said Swain.

    I barely received the good news from my oncologist (she's not just mine) that the surgeon had told her my melanoma cancer had not reached my lymph nodes, that she suggested I take a brain scan and MRI as cautionary measures to ward off future problems. She knows more than I do, so here goes. Hurray!

    Needless to say, I can't wait for Opening Day of baseball season, which is March 28. Oddly enough, when I was talking to the nurse at my oncologist's, she asked what my occupation had been. It then hit me that I was operated on March 8, and that was the exact date in 1971 that I sat at ringside before an overflow crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York to cover the heavyweight boxing championship match between Muhammad Ali and Smokin' Joe Frazier. Tempis Fugits! She was overwhelmed that I knew Ali, even more so when I said I knew him first as Cassius Clay.

    Have all great days, and God Bless! 

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

  • Wed, March 20, 2019 9:49 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)
    U.S. On-Highway Diesel Fuel Prices*  full history

              Change from
      03/04/19 03/11/19 03/18/19   week ago year ago
    U.S. 3.076 3.079 3.070   values are down -0.009 values are up 0.098
    East Coast (PADD1) 3.119 3.123 3.124   values are up 0.001 values are up 0.115
    New England (PADD1A) 3.177 3.183 3.200   values are up 0.017 values are up 0.099
    Central Atlantic (PADD1B) 3.301 3.315 3.313   values are down -0.002 values are up 0.113
    Lower Atlantic (PADD1C) 2.985 2.981 2.981   no change 0.000 values are up 0.123
    Midwest (PADD2) 3.014 3.011 2.992   values are down -0.019 values are up 0.094
    Gulf Coast (PADD3) 2.870 2.881 2.869   values are down -0.012 values are up 0.083
    Rocky Mountain (PADD4) 2.939 2.939 2.944   values are up 0.005 values are up 0.019
    West Coast (PADD5) 3.503 3.505 3.497   values are down -0.008 values are up 0.113
    West Coast less California 3.155 3.162 3.139   values are down -0.023 values are up 0.079
    California 3.779 3.778 3.781   values are up 0.003 values are up 0.140
    *prices include all taxes
  • Wed, March 20, 2019 3:46 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    Courtesy Carnival Warehouse
    Monday, March 18, 2019

    Labor is one of the biggest challenges of the mobile amusement industry.  The struggle of many carnival companies, concessionaires,  and amusement parks is finding enough American workers who are willing to work in a seasonal business that requires hard, manual labor working during the summertime on nights, weekends and holidays.  Using temporary foreign labor through the H-2B Visa program has worked wonders for the amusement industry.  With the ability to find workers, companies are able to invest in their company and promote the American workers on their staff to positions with more responsibility.  

    President Trump, Please Help Save Small American Businesses

    Over 60% of seasonal businesses in 2019 were denied access to the program due to the arbitrary cap of 66,000 visas. The booming Trump economy has resulted in an unemployment rate of 4% and a record number of job openings. DOL's website highlights the fact that the number of jobs available has exceeded the number of job seekers for ten consecutive months. Seasonal employers are the first to suffer in a tight labor market. Job seekers naturally prefer full-time, year-round work. The need for additional H-2B visas is a sign of a healthy, strong economy.

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2019, signed into law on February 15th, grants DHS the authority to release up to 69,320 additional H-2B visas.

    If DHS does not release the 69,320 H-2B visas it is authorized to release, there will be severe consequences for seasonal businesses and to the overall economy. Several seasonal businesses denied access to the program due to the insufficient availability of visas have already been forced to scale back their operations, cancel or default on contracts, lay off full-time U.S. workers, and, in some cases, shutter their operations entirely. Failing to release additional H-2B visas will only result in more closures, reduced equipment purchases, and the termination of many of their full-time, year-round U.S. workers.

    As a general rule, H-2B employers are strongly conservative and most are Trump supporters. They are small business owners who believe in individual responsibility. 

    In the amusement industry for example, many carnivals are generational businesses that all began with a Ferris wheel or carousel and now own multi-million dollar businesses. These are exactly the type of blue-collar voters you must carry if you are going to win reelection in 2020.

    Mr. Trump, don't leave your supporters hanging.

    Help us help you. Let's keep your economy going strong. 

    Release the visas. 

    Make Like Nike, Just Do it!

    Sign the petition now by clicking here

  • Fri, March 15, 2019 1:11 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

    Paul Davis, who finished his 11th year as general manager of the 90th annual Florida Strawberry Festival, held Feb. 28-March 10 in Plant City, almost ran out of superlatives in describing what a really good event this was for the fair, the entire talent lineup, and Charles Panacek's Belle City Amusements.

    Panacek went into Plant City beaming after opening the season with a near record run at the Jan. 17-27 Daniel West-managed Manatee County Fair, Palmetto. “If not for getting rained out the last Sunday we would have had a record in Palmetto,” said Panacek. The next run, the Charlotte County Fair, Port Charlotte, Feb. 1-10, was a record for the carnival, with perfect weather. That was followed by a good outing at the Hendry County Fair, Clewiston, Feb. 12-17, where Panacek has played for many years.

    Among those booking at early Florida dates have been T. J. Schmidt Amusements, Arnold Amusements, Michael Wood, Jeremy Floyd, Josh Macaroni, Gary Hughes of Carnival Tyre Shows, and David Starkey. Dave Potopas is back as concession manager. The Gibtown trade show dates conflicted with Panacek having to attend the meeting of the Florida Safety Advisory Board, of which he is a member.

    Panacek is pleased that because of opening his season so early, he has received his full allotment of 40 Mexican workers through the H-2B visa program. “Help remains a problem, but the economy is good, and people are spending. As long as we get the weather, this should be a big year,” he said.

    Getting back to Plant City, Davis said Willie Nelson sold out and did a great show. Attendance was up five per cent to 568,000, and the fair and carnival took in more money in history on the second Saturday, when the sun shined brightly, and 92,000 people came out. David Snowden of Triangle Talent, Louisville, Ky., booked the entertainment. Steven Tyler, formerly with Aerosmith, had to cancel his Sunday, March 3 show, but there were many highlights. Davis, who worked in law enforcement at the fair for 32 years before becoming GM, said, “Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra and The Kingston Trio packed them in on our two Senior Days. I still know the words to four or five of Kingston Trio's songs. Our lighting man, Dave King, switched everything to LED lights and ticket sales were up 12 per cent. I believe this bodes well for the industry and our economy.”

    Davis emphasized, “I have never been around so many good people. Usually when I saw them in law enforcement, they were not at their best. But with the carnival and fair, I've watched people like Ronnie and Kim Netterfield grow up. There are so many people, like the Panaceks, Arnolds and Starkeys. One concessionaire lost his electricity, and within minutes, Ronnie was helping him with extension cords. There was a little lost kid and Ronnie and Kim found him, fed him, and brought him to the office.

    “Old Dominion provided a big closing act for us. For King & Country and Keith Sweat are the real deals. They were sensational. What an honor it was to have Pat Boone do his last show here. It was very emotional. We didn't know it was going to be his last, but we couldn't be more pleased. At 84, he said he'd stay around as long as it took to sign autographs for everybody who wanted one. And after Gene Watson's show, Styx made a compliment about how professional he was, one genre to another. It was really a nice occasion.”

    In conclusion, Davis said, “We can't compete with a $40 million ride at Disney, or a $30 million ride at Busch Gardens, but we can offer a time to take a break and enjoy a little slice of Americana. We can provide the best a carnival and fair can offer.” Asked if he consumed many strawberries, Davis laughed and said “It comes with the job. I start off with Fiske Fries, Amish doughnuts, and strawberries.”

    Acts not mentioned in earlier columns include The Drifters, Platters and Cornell Gunter's Coasters, NeedToBreathe, Watson, Styx The Kingston Trio, The Lettermen, For King & Country, Tanya Tucker, Chris Janson, Keith Sweat, Bill Anderson and Bobby Bare, and Old Dominion. Also, Redhead Express, Dennis Lee, Danny Moody Band, Kazual, Runa Pacha Indian World, Pompeyo Dog Show, Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show, Paul Jr. of American Chopper, Robinson's Racing Pigs, Rock-It the Robot, Kandu Magic Show, and The Walker Boys.

    The Feb. 25-March 17 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, with Ray Cammack Shows on the Midway, has produced two record crowds for concerts so far. They are 75,580 on the opening Friday for Cardi B, and 75,586 on the second Sunday for Los Tigres Del Norte. The World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, held the Thursday through Saturday before the big show, drew 215,685, compared to 215,476 last year. A standalone show by George Strait, Lyle Lovett, and Robert Earl Keen is expected to draw more than 80,000 people on St. Patrick's Day, March 17. The next biggest crowds have been 71,366, Brooks & Dunn; 74,738, Panici at the Disco; 72,384; Luke Combs, and 75,122, Kane Brown.

    “It was the best fair we've ever had, phenomenal.” Those were the words of Jeanne Keaton, who has been general manager of the St. Lucie County Fair, Fort Pierce, Fla., since 1993. “We were up 10 per cent on the midway and seven per cent at the gate.” Strates Shows provides the midway, in an arrangement with Jerry Murphy of Murphy Bros. Exposition. Attendance was estimated at 134,000.

    “St. Lucie and Martin County are poorer counties, so it takes everybody working together. We didn't do anything different, didn't go up on prices. A local radio station made it possible to book Carly Pierce and Seth Anthony. We work hard to spread the word and people like to come to our fair. We book most of our acts direct during the Florida Association of Fairs convention each year,” said Keaton.

    Entertainment for the 54th annual event included PRCA Rodeo, Hypnotist Chris Mabrey, the Greenville Groundhogs, Ninja Express, Danny Grant's Cowboy Circus, Robo Cars, Funny Little People, demolition derby, and Show Me Safari Petting Zoo and Racing Pigs. Mega Pass, good for admission and unlimited rides, sold for $65 in advance, or $85 after Feb. 28. Gate admission was $15 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $6 for children. St. Lucie is spring training base of the New York Mets.

    Thanks to all who have offered prayers, thoughts and phone calls after my surgery for melanoma of the forehead last Friday. To be honest, I've told family and friends I never would have had it done if I had known how tough it would be. The answer to that is Christine and my four kids would have insisted I go through with it, along with my own good sense.

    I have two yellow cones sticking out of my head, forcing me to sleep each night on a chair, and using up all my pain pills due to headaches. The results aren't in yet about how much of the cancer they were able to get rid of. I suspect some radiation and chemotherapy will be involved. Hopefully, this Thursday, the plastic surgeon will remove the big yellow objects and some of the bandages. I've seen some great 15-round boxing matches, and for a while I felt as if I were in one—and lost.

    Have all great days, and God Bless!

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

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