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Browns Amusements expands route; refurbishes equipment versus buying new for 2017


By Don Muret

Photo courtesy of Matt Cook

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As the soap commercial says, Danny Brown feels comfortable in his own skin. Brown, owner/operator of Brown's Amusements, features about 40 rides, which he feels is the right number for his business. As a result, the Mesa, Ariz. carnival didn't make any new purchases for 2017.

"We have two units and plenty of equipment," Brown said. "Over the years, we've typically bought something new every season. But we've kept the shop awfully busy. We didn't stop improving things. We spent a lot of money refurbishing rides and buying some generators. Our main goal is to go through and upgrade all the equipment we own so it looks real good."

Pete Peterson, Brown's brother-in-law, runs winter quarters and works with a six-man crew to refurbish rides. For the current season, the biggest jobs were thePhoto By Matt Cook YoYo and the Titl-a-Whirl. Both attractions went through a complete rehab with new paint jobs and the YoYo now has an LED light package. The Tilt's new color scheme is green and purple. 

Multiple kiddie rides were also renovated in the offseason, according to Brown.

The show picked up a new date in Utah this year, Art City Days in Springville, scheduled for June 3-10 this year. A smaller carnival had played the event for about 50 years dating to the 1960s, Brown said. It's the newest adjustment to the Brown's route to reduce the overall miles it travels in Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. 

Last year, Brown's Amusements eliminated some dates in western Colorado and Montana that became 500-mile jumps over the years. 
The exception is one spot in Nevada that remains on the route. Brown's Amusements plays the Clark County Fair in Logandale, about 50 miles north of Las Vegas. Sin City is part of Clark County and the spring fair in April draws a large crowd from the gambling mecca over the weekend, in addition to residents of southern Utah, he said.

As summer kicks into gear, both units play separate locations in the Salt Lake City area. Danny and his wife Sherry run one unit and Peterson manages the second unit. They merge together for Westfest, a four-day festival in West Valley City, a Salt Lake City suburb. This year's dates are June 15-18 and the show will put up 32 rides, Brown said.

Both units come together again to play four spots in the fall as the show works its way back back home. The season begins in Arizona starting with a few county fairs in February before the show heads to Colorado.
Labor is the carnival industry's biggest issue and it's no different for Brown's Amusements. The show hires 70 international workers through the H2B visa program and some have been working for Brown's Amusements since its started using the program 14 years ago.

They're all Mexican nationals from Veracruz. Some started out as ride operators and have since worked their way up to running food and game concessions, Brown said. 

"We're so used to having them around that it would be tough to run the show without them," he said.

It helps that the carnival runs its entire operation on tokens with no cash exchanged between customers and carnival employees, Brown said. Patrons purchase tokens from machines set up on the midway. The show adapted the business model from Texas-based Crabtree Amusements.

To date, the weather has been a bit of an issue. "We got rain in Arizona," Brown said. "In Colorado, we got lucky on the days we needed good weather."

There's a wide variance in fuel prices that keeps the show's bookkeepers busy. Colorado prices have run as low as $1.99 a gallon for generator diesel, but the same fuel costs $2.29 in Utah due to state taxes, he said.

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