Tons Of Fun Shows exhibited at the 2018 Pennsylvania Association of County Fairs Convention. The company is currently owned by David and Sue Pfeffer but will soon be turned over to their son, Benjamin Pfeffer.
David and Sue Pfeffer grew up in the amusement industry: David's father owned Otto's Amusements and Sue's father owned Oscar's Amusements which started in 1979. The two grew up playing events around Philadelphia, likely not very far from one another. Sue left Oscar's Amusements to work games on the Otto's Amusements midway and that is how Dave and Sue met. Eventually, they left Otto's Amusements in the late 80s to start Tons Of Fun Shows in 1991.
Prior to the start of their own show, David and Sue worked for Amusements of Rochester. Their first spot was in Caladonia
with Dick Janas. Janas ended up giving David and Sue his independent spots in Dunkirk. Sue also travelled with Brooke Evan's Reithoffer Green Unit working games to help generate money to build a route for their new business.
After their first season as Tons of Fun Shows, Steve Swika asked David and Sue to bring out a few of his rides with them on their unit: the Round-Up, the Helicopter, and the swing. These were some of Swika's first rides which helped open his show; they also helped Tons of Fun open and establish a solid route. Steve let David use a tractor to pull his rides and once David had moved his equipment he would help Steve pull loads as well.
Sue told a story about how Swika invited them to his house and showed them a Mercedes he had bought with the extra revenue David and Sue had helped him bring in. The Pfeffers worked with Swika for one more year and then he sold them the rides. "At that time we had seven rides and were playing 2 and 3 day events. We really learned a lot from Steve and were more confident building a route and purchasing rides after working with him," says David and Sue Pfeffer. Eventually, David got a Nittany Wheel from Steve and refurbished it in his winter quarters.
David and Sue have built the show to 21 rides; they play the towns and counties surrounding Philadelphia: Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester mainly. The Pfeffers are not too keen on playing spots in Philly mostly because of the Byzantine regulations. David and Sue are planning to step back from the show and let Benjamin take over very soon. According to Sue, Benjamin found an early love of the industry. "My brother Pat would take Benjamin out to help set up. He absolutely loved the business. One day he took Benjamin to Rides-4-U and Firestone Financial was there. Benjamin bought his first ride, a caterpillar train, that day for $43,000," says Sue Pfeffer.
At one point, Tom Johnson, who owned the original Penn Valley Shows, was selling out to spend more time with his family after a medical diagnosis. Kerry Benner bought the name of the show but David and Sue bought the winter quarters and their slide. In similar ways, the Pfeffers would add to the show slowly but surely over the years and when ride expenses were high, they could always go back to their roots and rely on their game money. In addition to the 21 rides they own now, Tons of Fun Shows travels with 14 games and 4 food stands which are all family owned.
Tons of Fun Shows mainly plays church bazaars and festivals around the Philadelphia area. "We love our church fairs and Greek festivals," says David Pfeffer. The Kutztown Fair is the only county fait that the show plays. "It was a small hometown county fair that needed some help. So, we went in their and helped build it up," says David and Sue Pfeffer. All their spots stay within a 50 mile radius of each other which allows the Pfeffers and their employees to go home every night rather than stay on the lot. Tons of Fun Shows employs mostly high school and college aged kids each Spring and Summer. A lot of their employees attend Catholic schools around the counties they play. "I've put a lot of kids through college. It's a great weekend and summer job for them to have," says David Pfeffer.
Benjamin Pfeffer says he has some plans to grow the show a bit but he never wants to get over 30 rides. David and Benjamin Pfeffer love to purchase old rides and equipment and refurbish them in their shop. "We do a lot more work for ourselves as the show grows," says David Pfeffer. Tons of Fun Shows does not have a ferris wheel right now but they are in the market for one. Benjamin Pfeffer says he would ideally like to own a Mulligan Wheel. While Sue and David support Benjamin's long-term goals for the shows, they have nothing but pride for the size of their show and the route they've built. "I'm not giving up on my small church festivals. They were with me when I started and we've grown together," says David Pfeffer.
Recently, Sue Pfeffer acquired a job at the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Tons of Fun Shows now has a carousel at the zoo: a Chance Americana 2-abreast which they purchased from Len Soled at Rides 4U and was originally at the Jersey Shore on Gillian's Wonderland Pier. Benjamin's first ride, the caterpillar train, is also at the Elmwood Park Zoo. Sue Pfeffer will also be running all the food operations at the zoo.
Tons of Fun Shows' season runs from May 1st-September 30th. Benjamin Pfeffer has plans to extend the show's route through October. Last year at the S&S estate sale, Tons of Fun Shows purchased three new rides: Benjamin bought a Cliffhanger and David bought a Loop-O-Plane and Red Baron. Benjamin has also recently purchased a new duck pond and is upgrading the cotton candy trailer. The Pfeffer family also focuses on guest amenities on the midway. Tons of Fun Shows owns 16 benches, shade umbrellas, and light towers to keep customers comfortable. "We want it to look like a park," says David Pfeffer.
Keeping the show a reasonable sized and staying local means that the Pfeffer family can keep the money local, too. David says he uses a local fuel guy and local manufacturers whenever possible. Tons of Fun Shows may see some expansion when Benjamin takes the wheel, but the Pfeffer family and Tons of Fun Shows is certainly guided by David's motto, "stay small and control it all."