New Jersey show owner Keith Campy is ready for a step up in the carnival business.|
For more than 40 years, Campy's Blue Star Amusements has held steady, booking church fairs and firemen's festivals, some of which the show has played for 20 years.
But Campy believes the time is right to kick it up a notch and go after some county fairs for next year in the Garden State and possibly upper New York state.
The month of August is typically the weakest link in the carnival's route that runs from April through October in New Jersey, and there are some holes during that time that could be filled with fairs without the show losing its existing dates, Campy said.
"There is always room for improvement," he said.
New Jersey does not have a state fair convention for carnivals to meet with fair boards, according to Campy, so it is up to the individual show owners to develop proposals on their own to distribute to those grups.
Whoever proposes the best deal in the minds of the fair boards typically gets the job. Over the past several years, the state has beefed up its ride inspections with many quality operators competing for those events, he said.
With 18 rides and a commitment to purchase a Fireball and a YoYo, Campy likes to think his chances are good for landing some fairs.
"We need a couple of bigger pieces to keep up with the competition," Campy said.
Campy's ride lineup presently includes a Gravitron, Scat, Skydiver, Scooter, Tilt, Scambler Octopus, Eli Bridge Ferris wheel, a slide and a carousel. The Scat and the Carousel were recently equipped with LED lights and other attractions will follow with new lighting packages.
The show is also in the process of purchasing automatic ticket boxes from Uni-Glide that accept credit cards as well as cash, Campy said. The wireless technology is good for impulse buys and the machines run on their own, saving money on labor costs.
The carnival owns 20 games and rents them to the events it plays, as per New Jersey state law. Campy charges a small fee for the smaller games and a slightly higher fee for a water attraction. The show stocks the merchandise for the fairs to give away as prizes.
The show's snow cones, candy apples, popcorn and ice cream concessions supplement most organizations' burger stands, he said.
Fuel costs in New Jersey are "ridiculous" and the carnival does its best to reduce energy consumption by turning off ride lights during the day.
Key employees are Kevin Campy, Keith's brother, and Karyn and Paul Pampanin, their sister and brother-in-law. They keep a close on the show and "make sure everything is done right," Keith said.
To this point in the season, the weather has been decent and the dates are holding their own, he said. In early August, the carnival was set up for the Highlands Clam Fest. Dates in Asbury Park and Woodland Park followed.
The economy has been iffy and depends on the town, Campy said. Those patrons without jobs and on welfare don't spend as much, he said.
The show will close the season in October with a month-long run at a Halloween festival in Mount Vernon, N.J.
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