OABA Honors Leaders Who Shaped Today's Amusement Industry Dennis Bartosik, Wayne Pierce & Al DeRusha inducted into 2017 Hall of Fame
By Timothy Herrick
A pioneer in LED lighting techniques that brought the carnival midway into the 21st century, one of the first attorneys to specialize in mobile industry litigation, and a former TV producer who brought the Outdoor Amusement Business Association (OABA) to new heights - these three were recognized during the OABA's 52nd Annual Meeting.
They were selected by the OABA's Board as being worthy of becoming "industry legends", acknowledging their contributions to the legacy of the mobile amusement industry by either induction into the OABA Hall of Fame or receiving the Industry Pioneer award.
The OABA Hall Of Fame started in 2001 - the Pioneer Award in 2009. These official recognitions have elevated the association's unique role in the vast legacy of the fair industry."It is a way for us to recognize our industry's rich history," said John Hanschen, President of Thomas Carnival Inc. and an OABA Trustee and past-chairman of the OABA. Hanschen has been on the Historical and Hall of Fame Committee - these are the committees that select candidates to be submitted for approval by the OABA board - since their inception."But it is also a way for to show individuals who exemplify the dedication and commitment to their industry and the association and the ideals the OABA stands for."
This year's acknowledgements were Dennis Bartosik of Denny's Electronics who received the OABA's Pioneer Award, and the 2017 Hall of Fame inductees were Wayne Pierce, of the Pierce Law Firm and Al DeRusha, an OABA Senior Vice President who has served the OABA for more than 25 years. The ceremonious were augmented with short videos of each individual, which heighted "the inspirational stories of people in our business," said Hanschen, who has a hand in writing the stories and organizing the event, after receiving the selection by the board.
"We are a long way from using power point presentations," said Hanschen. "We are able to use full production videos with voice over, it's very professional. These are people who have stories, how they handle their responsibilities , surviving good times and hard, bad economies, rainy seasons, transportation problems. They all survive with a sense of humor, and a real joy in the industry, which really comes out with our selections this year."
According to Hanschen, the Industry Pioneer recipient, Bartosik, revolutionized midways. The LED lighting has taken over the carnival," said Hanschen. "The change has been really earth shaking, the lights are programmable so you can have all the colors, your own flash system and really create your own look for a carnival. People can really see the midway now from far away on the highway. They love the brightness."
The OABA noted Bartosik also developed " new, innovative game trailers" but it's his LED lighting that "revolutionized the amusement industry... programmable light displays that have added to both the appeal and the promotion of carnival midways and amusement rides."
While the Pioneer Award may recognize past accomplishments, Bartosik has a present day achievement. At the 2017 Florida State Fair, his LED design illuminated what is considered the tallest, portable wheel in North America- owned by Michael Wood and Frank Zaitshik.
LED lights have decreased in cost, making the systems more affordable and widely available. "It is a lot easier now to switch over a ride with new LED systems because the prices have come down," he said. "They've given old rides a new life because they can be switched over so easily and now all the new rides have them."
In addition to the 21st century look, LED lighting conserves energy, using anywhere from 30-to-80 percent less power per ride, further enhancing the bottom line of midway providers. "The lights are all part of the experience of going to the fair," added Hanschen. "The sounds, the noise, the smell, the thrill of the rides, that all adds up to the experience. The lights are an important part of that experience, the midway is something special, something the people do not see every day, that's why it brings their happiness."
The two Hall of Fame inductees for 2017 -- Pierce and DeRusha - can be considered pioneers in their own right.
Dennis Bartosik Hall of Fame Video:
Pierce's first midway law experience was on the wrong side of regulation. Pierce grew up in Havre De Grace, Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay, and in 1975, he and his brother and a couple of friends were fooling around on a Watkins Swinger ride and soon ordered to leave the midway. Ironically, Tom Gaylin an OABA Director and Chairman, and owner/operator of Rosedale Attractions & Shows, inducted Pierce into the OABA Hall of Fame, was also the midway manager who banished him from the midway more than 40 years prior.
One year after graduating from the Law School at the University of Maryland, Pierce had his first amusement industry case, given to him by Duke Smith, founder of Allied Insurance and another Hall of Famer. By 2005 he had his own practice and established himself as a leading authority and practitioner of "adventure law," based on being an advocate, not just for the Mobile Amusement Industry, but everyone involved in any adventure based industry.
Pierce, outside counsel to the OABA, specializes in H-2B litigation, and has consulted on safety standards in more than 40 States, authored the Uniform Rider Safety Act, a model rider responsibility bill adopted in whole or in part in more than 20 States, is the principal architect for the legal positions of ASTM F24's trampoline court task group and currently serves as it's Co-Chair and is the first elected President and a founding Board member of the International Amusement & Leisure Defense Association, a network of lawyers representing, promoting and protecting the legal interests of the amusement and leisure industries.
In addition, Peirce is the only lawyer to serve as President of an industry trade group, the Maryland State Showmen's Association.
"Wayne is a great guy," said Hanschen. "He has a tremendous passion for the industry and more importantly, the people in the industry. "
According to Hanschen, one of his most impressive qualities was not just the vast scope of his amusement industry expertise, but the ability to translate law and regulations into understandable language.. "He is always understandable," said Hanschen. "He has a Dan Rather-esque authority about him, and he is able to explain things to fair people in ways other lawyers cannot. He teaches a lot of seminars at industry events and they are always great, informative seminars. He covers a lot of legal situations, H-2B, safety regulations, OSHA, Department of labor, Department of Transportation. "
Other career highlights include receiving the Amusement Industry Award from the Maryland Showmen's Association - 1996; Public Service Award & Safety Award from IAAPA - 1997; Governor's Citation, Maryland Ride Safety Seminar - 1999; Harold Chance Award from the Amusement Industry Manufacturers & Suppliers - 2003 and Hall of Fame induction from the World Waterpark Association - 2007.
"Our society has become more litigious and so has the fair industry," said Hanschen. "There are more insurance companies, and regulations and we need someone like Wayne to help us navigate through these times."
Video of Wayne Pierce:
Alvin Joseph DeRusha- born the youngest of 11 children in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1935, not only helped usher the fair industry into the media age, but was also recognized for being a committed fundraiser and good will ambassador for the fair industry at large and the OABA in particular.
"He's true believer, and there is nothing selfish about his commitment to our industry," said Hanschen. "He's become iconic because of his travelling, meeting face-to-face, and forming relationships."
DeRusha entered the industry at eight years old, working in Leo Magel's carnival game concessions on the Basinet Shows He eventually traveled with Magels every summer form 1945 to 1953, working carnival games at shows that included Royal American Shows at the Minnesota State Fair.
As a senior, the Humboldt High School work program assigned him to the Fischer Nut company, but as legend has it, because DeRusha had a driver's license, the then brand new television station WTCN hired DeRusha, where he spent years as part of Minnesota's contribution to the golden age of television, producing children's shows, doing live remotes, election night broadcasts, and local sporting events.
The television career led to a gig with the American Wrestling Association, where DeRusha served as promoter, ring announcer, play by play man, and even referee in matches featuring national celebrities including Vern Gagne and the Crusher.
In 1989, the OABA hired DeRusha to produce a video of the 25th anniversary of OABA- Bright Lights and Fair nights, beginning his long career with the association.
DeRusha attends fair conventions and tradeshows as an OABA representative, and also hosts about 25 Jammin' Jamborees per year, which is a party and fundraiser, held by the carnival company and its workers but whose proceeds go the OABA.
Hanschen recalls one of his company's Jammin' Jamborees which had a lively disco theme, which took place on the fairgrounds after the gates closed. "Everything was donated, and we had a really good party, " he said. "We were singing YMCA and In The Navy by the Village People. "
Hanschen emphasized that DeRusha made a point to speak personally with everyone one at the party - basically the entire Thomas Carnival team. "He thanked every worker and employee personally, made them feel they were part of the amusement industry. That really means something for our workers to get that personal thanks from somebody so important in the industry, it means more than just me as their employer or somebody with the fair thanking them. When a figure of such respect recognizes you, it makes for a memorable night."
"When I go to visit a show, the ride operators and concession workers stop me and tell me how much they enjoy working in this industry and how proud they are to be a member of the OABA," said DeRusha in an OABA statement. " These people are why I get up and go to work every day. From the start in 1945 I loved the carnival industry-I still do."
Al DeRusha Hall of Fame Video:
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