The Wilson County Fair has announced they will be changing carnival providers from Amusements of America to Reithoffer Shows starting with the 2018 fair. Executive Director of the Wilson County Fair, Helen McPeak, emphasized that everything regarding the change in carnival companies is still in the planning and strategizing stage.
The Wilson County Fair is an 9-day event held in Lebanon, Tennessee each year. 2018 dates for the fair are August 17th-25th. Normal gate admission prices for the fair are $12 for adults and $6 for children. The fair offers advance sale discounts through their website. Additionally, season tickets for the fair are offered online, at local banks, the Chamber of Commerce, and the fair office.
Amusements of America had been with the Wilson County Fai
r for ten years.
"We're excited for the 2018 fair. We love Amusements of America; they're like fair family for us. After 10 years, it was time for our midway to look a little different," says McPeak.
She continued to emphasize that the change was a very hard decision but the fair team ultimately decided they wanted fairgoers to see a change and provide them with some new rides; "This had nothing to do with the ride accident at the Ohio State Fair," says McPeak.
When Amusements of America's contract was up about two years ago, the fair began to consider looking for a new company. Ultimately, they decided to send out a Request For Proposals (RFP) to a few companies and decided to go with Reithoffer Shows. McPeak says that they are just starting to plan, strategize, and work on the layout for 2018. The Wilson County Fair and Reithoffer Shows will meet in January to work out some details. "Sometimes change is a good thing and it's just that time," says McPeak.
The 2017 Wilson County Fair, a perennial Top 50 Fair, was packed with entertainment for all ages. The 2017 Bates Ford Concert Series featured the Oak Ridge Boys and Jason Crabb. Other entertainment took place on the Back Porch Stage, Community Stage, Entertainment Stage, Expo Center Stage, and the Goodall Homes Stage. The Fiddlers Grove Opry, Jazz Alliance Swing Dance, and Sacred Harp Singers were also available for fairgoers to enjoy.
Other grounds acts included David Turner and Friends, a ventriloquist act, Doodles the Clown, and Circle C Racing Pigs.
The Wilson County Fair is committed to engaging with the community; there were dozens of competitions including, but not limited to: fruits and vegetables, flower shows, baking contest, demolition derby, square dancing, quilting, photography, youth farm crops and garden, a new recycled art competition, Christmas ornament competition, stained glass, honey show, amateur wine show, mule pulling, and horseshoe pitching.
This year, the Wilson County Fair suffered an unfortunate loss. Hale Moss served as President of Wilson County Promotions for 38 years. According to the fair, Moss was instrumental in moving the Wilson County Fair to the James E. Ward Agricultural Center, also known as the Wilson County Fairgrounds. The impetus for the move was the plan to have space for children to show their livestock at the fair. Moss was adamant that the success of the fair was due to the dedicated volunteers.
488,299 people came to the 2017 Wilson County Fair, which was a 21,063 increase over 2016's attendance. McPeak and the rest of the fair staff are looking forward to working on all aspects of the 2018 fair especially sitting down with Reithoffer Shows to go over the layout, ride list, and specials they will offer at next year's fair.
Reithoffer Alters Route to Support Move into Albuquerque; Show adds new European Spectacular Slide
(By Don Muret)
Rick Reithoffer, Reithoffer Shows' co-owner, said he's made some adjustments the Blue Unit's route since taking on the Albuquerque fair three years ago, and the booking of the Wilson County Fair made a lot of sense. The Florida-based company has historically been an East Coast operation before they signed the New Mexico State Fair, which it first played in 2015. As a result, it created a logistical hurdle as the carnival essentially travels across the country to play just one event.
The mid-August fair fits well in the routing as the carnival starts its trek from New Jersey to New Mexico for the state fair that runs in early to mid September, he said. Over the past few months, the carnival signed a four-year extension in Albuquerque that runs through 2022.
Coming back from Albuquerque, the carnival stops in west Texas to play the Panhandle South Plains Fair, which it played for the first time in 2017. It's another adjustment to break up the jump heading back east.
To make things easier, Reithoffer recently gave up the Bloomsburg (Pa.) Fair, which runs concurrent with the South Plains Fair in Lubbock. (Amusements of America, which previously held the Wilson County contract, added Bloomsburg for 2018).
"We were lucky to get Albuquerque three years ago and now Lebanon," Reithoffer said. "The change in routing has completed the circle. We now have something going out [to New Mexico] and coming back. My route now is pretty full. Over the past few years, we've added four major fairs."
Reithoffer said he plans to set up 55 rides in Lebanon, all owned by the show itself.
In addition to the Wilson County Fair, Reithoffer Shows also picked up an event for the Orange Unit, headed by Pat Reithoffer, Rick's brother, the Canfield (Ohio) Fair for 2018, which is among the Buckeye State's biggest county fairs. Next year's Canfield dates are Aug. 29-Sept. 3.
"It fits perfect with Pat's route," Rick said. "He leaves West Virginia with a 250-mile jump to Canfield and then on to Frederick, Md."
The Blue Unit kicks off the 2018 season with a string of fairs and festivals in Florida, starting with the Highlands County Fair (Feb. 9-17) in Sebring. The 2018 event marks the fair's 80th event.
A new European giant slide will be among the unit's new attractions for the coming year. The piece, made by Visa, an Italian ride manufacturer, stands 65 feet tall and 235 feet long, delivery is expected in January, Reithoffer said.
"We'll be booking it at major fairs," he said. "It offers a wide range of ridership."
In addition, the Blue Unit's Chance Giant Wheel is going through an LED upgrade, about a dozen years after Reithoffer first installed German lighting technology on the ride. It's part of a major renovation of the wheel. The new lighting package alone is a $130,000 investment, he said.
"I've done it a couple times over the years with that Wheel," Reithoffer said. "We'll bring it down to bare metal, sand blast, prime it and paint it. It will be like a new one after the job is completed."