The weather did not cooperate for the opening of the annual IISA Trade Show in Gibsonton Florida. At opening time the rains continued, even falling heavy at times. Trade Show volunteers under the leadership of Club President Beau Pugh were busy making last minute preparations and trying to keep the grounds as usable for attendees as possible.
The weather did keep most of the guests in the buildings so many were able to connect inside while they waited for the rain to stop. It was a good opportunity to catch up on what happened during the past season and talk of plans for the coming year.
Jim Dillman, III was one example of those coming out early. He had his father in tow. Jim Jr. says that he is "semi-retired" after a long career with many large shows, but he is available to help his son when needed.
Jim III has been on Belle City Amusements for the past four seasons. He joined the show the first year they acquired the former Mighty Bluegrass Shows route, playing such events as the Florida Strawberry Festival, the Iowa State Fair and the Nebraska State Fair. The need for more rides at larger events gave Dillman an opportunity to book his rides with Belle City.
Dillman currently books his Mardi Gras Glasshouse and he will be adding a kiddie bumper boats in 2012. The boats last season were with his father on Strates Shows. He is also hoping to add a third piece, possibly a dark ride, to his business.
When not operating his rides Dillman said he lends a hand with the show, helping to set up ATM machines, spotting loads and assisting wherever needed. Dillman plays the whole route with the show with the exception of the Ohio State Fair where he plays with Amusements of America. Dillman noted Belle City also books rides in Columbus so even when he leaves the show, he stays with them.
Dillman,s season with Belle City runs from January to mid-April with a break for winterquarters in late April and May and then resumes in June and runs through the Jacksonville (FL) Fair in November when they return home.
The route was entirely new to Dillman when he joined Belle City and he was excited by the opportunity to play large events he had not experienced before.
In addition to the carnival participants, there are always quite a few fair managers and employees who stop by the show, coupling a visit to the trade show with a stop at the Florida State Fair.
Kevin Kamauf of the Allegany County Fair in Maryland is an annual visitor to the show, visiting with friends and concessionaires made over the years.
Kamauf said the 2011 fair was "very hot" with high temperatures keeping fair visitors away until late in the evening. The July 16 - 23 event had only a short window to realize any revenue as guests arrived at 9pm and left at 11, only leaving a couple of hours for their visit.
The Allegany County fair has had Reithoffer Shows (Rick,s unit) on the midway since 1992.
Bob Goldsack has been chronicling carnival history through his books. He has written 10 books on the industry and 14 books in total.
His first book was about World of Mirth Shows. His interest came about when World Of Mirth played his hometown fair year after year and Goldsack wondered what happened to the people and the show when they left town. After being introduced to show officials he began work on his first book.
Goldsack printed 500 copies, wondering if he would be able to sell them and headed to the show in Gibtown. He quickly sold out the first printing, added an additional 700 copies and later 500 more.
The success of his first book led to many inquiries from other shows and fans for him to write additional histories. Goldsack took on Cetlin and Wilson, Johnny J. Jones, Royal American Shows and most recently, Strates Shows as subjects. Each book sold it,s fair share of copies but he only retains a few copies of the Strates book for sale. The other books have gone out of print. He occasionally sees his books for sale on Ebay at double or even triple their original price.
Interestingly, Goldsack,s most successful book was about Benson,s Wild Animal Farm, a popular New Hampshire tourist attraction that went out of business. Again, Goldsack was hoping to sell a few hundred books. The title wound up selling over 4,000 copies when it was in print.
Several years ago, he was asked to update the book by a publisher who wanted to sell the book through bookstores. The printing led to another 1,500 sales!
If anyone is interested in a Strates book, they retail for $30. Please send an email to MCW if interested.
Vinny Guaganti, a New York concessionaire, and his family were visiting the trade show and working the Florida State Fair, as he does each year with friend Charlie Gaudino. Vinny owns R&A Zeppoles along with his wife Tracy.
The Guaganti family plays fairs and festivals in the New York area, largely staying within 100 miles of their Long Island home. Most events are 2-3 day jobs and he even has a few successful rentals and parties he services.
The family has expanded into the grab business, adding two trailers and even a lemonade stand. He sometimes plays two to three events at a time and daughters Rosalia, Ashley and Nicole all pitch in when needed. His season runs from April through November but he does play a few select Florida events in the winter
Guaganti is celebrating his 17th year in the business. He began his career in the family pizza business in Canarsie. After mastering pies and calzones, he ventured out on his own, away from his family, and never looked back. As a salute to his pizza heritage, he still sells fried calzones in his Zeppole stand which now includes fried Oreos, Twinkies and even cannoli!
Mike Sandlofer, along with wife Sharon and daughter Benna, checked in to report on their 2011 season and their first venture into Florida in the winter. Sandlofer and family came south to play the Broward County Fair and then played a few carnival dates before settling at a flea market in Auburndale. Business has been good on the weekends and they are earning enough to feed the animals and pay the help. Sandlofer has his pony rides, pictures and concessions at the market.
Sharon has been busy in the off-season training new acts in Florida. Her newest venture is training four buffalo that will perform as part of the Wolf Show or Wild West Show. When paired with the wolves they will be part of an "Endangered Species of North America" presentation. The Buffalo will jump over hurdles, and thunder through the course while interacting with Sharon.
The Sandlofer family is very proud that daughter Benna is training Gypsy Vanner ponies, recreating the act her grandfather pioneered 60 years before with the Vidbell Circus. Benna,s sister has had a similar act on Ringling Brothers and now the Big Apple Circus.
Sharon is teaching her daughter the same techniques taught to her by her father and the act will include a liberty act where the ponies act as a drill team, performing figure eights and other tricks.
The Sandlofers hopes to have both new acts ready for the 2012 season.
With sunny skies predicted for Wednesday, we hope to have more pictures and information from the outside exhibits tomorrow.
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