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  • Belle City adjusts route to fill the void left by the Iowa State Fair
    PLANT CITY, Fla. --- Belle City Amusements has made some adjustments to its route this year after the Iowa State Fair made the decision to go with an independent midway.
    To plug the gap from losing Iowa, the carnival signed a three-year contract to play the Greene County Fair in Greeneville, Tenn., according to owner/operator Charles Panacek. This year's dates are Aug. 7-13 and Belle City will set up about 30 rides there, he said. In addition, Belle City will book some rides at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus with Amusements of America, which it has done for several years.
    Losing a state fair isn't a good thing, but at the same time, it wasn't easy for the Deltona, FL based operation to make the long jump to central Iowa over the past seven years. It didn't come as a surprise to the Panacek family. There were rumors Iowa would go independent as its neighbors have done at the Minnesota State Fair and Wisconsin State Fair. It became official in August shortly after the 2016 Iowa State Fair.
    For Belle City, which took over the Iowa State Fair in 2009 after purchasing the assets of the old Mighty Blue Grass Shows, it became an expensive date to play. Logistically, it was the furthest west and north the carnival traveled over the course of the season, Panacek said.
    Apart from Greene County and the Ohio State Fair, Belle City officials are talking to several other fairs about doing something together in the future, he said.
    Here in Plant City, the annual Florida Strawberry Festival now stands as Belle City's biggest event. It typically draws about 500,000 in attendance and ranks among the Top 50 fairs in the country and, along with the Dade County Youth Fair in Miami, the South Florida Fair in West Palm Beach and the Florida State Fair in Tampa, it is one of the four largest events in Florida as well.
    "They do a good job of providing a family atmosphere," Panacek said. "The town is small but [Hillsborough] county is big. To come behind the State Fair a few weeks later and draw this many people is impressive. They try to be reasonable with pricing so families can come here more than once."
    To meet the demand in Plant City, Belle City sets up 90 rides and attractions. This year, there were three Ferris Wheels. Rio Cristiani and Jeremy Floyd were among the independents booking rides here. Amusements of America loaned its Crazy Mouse coaster and Butch Van Hull did the same with his Cyclone coaster.
    In addition, Michael Wood booked three pieces in Plant City, including his flashy Magnum. Josh Macaroni of Prime Time Amusements booked multiple rides as well, including a Bunny Wheel, and Nick Pelino featured his Hurricane. Arnold Amusements booked several pieces including the Flying Bobs, Orbiter, and Freak Out, among others.  Independents Dave Potopas, Joey Fowler and Chuck Knox booked games here and Richie George had food trailers on site. 
    On the two Saturdays of this year's festival, which ran March 2-12, officials provided free admission for all kids under age 17. This year, regular gate admission was $10. Separately, Coca-Cola ran a promotion that gave patrons $5 off the cost of a ride wristband if they presented a Coke product at the gate. 
    Belle City had three county fairs and a church fest under its belt by the time it reached Plant City. All those spots were up due to beautiful weather, Panacek said. Early in 2017, people appear to be spending more money due in part to reasonable fuel prices, he said. The stock market reaching historic highs also hasn't hurt, he said.
    The Sarasota County Fair, March 17-26, and the Citrus County Fair, March 28-March 2, were to follow the Strawberry Fest. Belle City has been the only carnival to play Citrus County in Inverness, dating 60 years, Panacek said.
    Belle City will close its operation after the first week of April before going back on the road in early June as it heads north to spend most of the summer in Kentucky and Tennessee. During that time off in April and May, the show will refurbish and paint rides that it didn't get to in late 2016, he said.
    The Nitro is among those pieces that was renovated after being on the sidelines for a few years. The Italian ride's gear boxes and lighting have been upgraded and it received a new paint job. Separately, the Panacek family bought a new Alien Abduction from Wisdom Industries, two used Dalton kid rides and a used Mario Land, which has been completely refurbished. 
    On the labor front, Belle City employs 35 international workers, which represents about one-third of its total workforce. The show has had no issues getting those individuals from Mexico. Several are returners, Panacek said. 
    Charlotte Adkins, Charles Panacek's daughter, is in charge of the show's food operation and she runs two concessions, a popcorn wagon; and a corn dog and fried candy trailer. Her husband, Jesse Adkins, is a ride foreman. Zachary Panacek, Charles' son, is the carnival's general manager. 
    Other key personnel are Jerry Sears, the show's electrician, and his wife, Tabitha, the office manager. John Manno and Cassandra Eno help out in the office. Webb Eno, Cassandra's husband, works in the maintenance department.
    Looking ahead, Panacek sees a strong season as long as fuel prices remain stable. He feels the public still has a positive view about the economy, and as a result, per capita spending should keep trending upward.
    Last year, Belle City signed a seven-year extension in Plant City, and this year, the carnival signed another seven-year renewal at the Manatee County Fair in Palmetto, Fla., traditionally its first spot of the year.
    "We're blessed to have the fair partners we do," he said.

  • San Antonio Rodeo Busts Attendance Records
    Top quality rodeo, an entertainment lined up filled with big-stars and music legends and a thrill-packed midway boasting exciting new ride promotions extended the winning streak of San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo another year. The 2017 edition of one of the leading PRCA Large Indoor Rodeo events in the country continued 12 years of growing attendance, with this year's grounds attendance of more than two million edging out the 2016 attendance, marking a new all-time record.

    "The weather was amazingly beautiful, unseasonably warm," said Lauren N. Sides, spokesperson, San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. "We had perfect weather and San Antonio is a growing city and we tried to capture the attention of millennials, who are a growing audience for us. We offer college nights Thursdays for example, so outreach to college students and young people in many ways accounts for some of the attendance growth." 

    The San Antonio Rodeo & Stock Show assembled an entertainment lineup with high wattage star power, heavy on classic rock and country. Highlights included John Fogerty, Willie Nelson & Family, Huey Lewis and the News, Rascal Flatts, Josh Turner as well The Band Perry, Chris Janson, Chase Rice and a Hispanic night with Edwin Luna y La Trakalosa de Monterrey and a faith and family night with for KING & COUNTRY. 

    "We try to attract age groups and demographics with our entertainment and this year we had a great lineup," said Sides. "The entertainment booking was successful and we touched a lot of bases." 
    One of the Best
    Frank Zaitshik, owner of Wade Shows,, had high praise for this year's edition of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. "We had a very good year," said Zaitshik. "The weather was good. It ranked as one of our best. it was not our best (year on the midway) but it was one of our best."

    The Wade Shows midway featured about 50 rides, which he described as "one of the best line ups we have ever had," which included two giant wheels. - a Chance Wheel and the Mulligan Wheel. "We put the smaller of the two in close proximity to the children's area, " he said. "This helped with the visual presence and also it's a family ride. It's not unusual for us to have two giant wheels, and a wheel does well in the Kiddie area because it attracts families.

    The 2017 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo was the first time for the Chance Wheel. Other new rides were the KMG Rock-It, and the Drag Strip Mega Slide, which was a not new, but a return to the show after a year hiatus. 

    "We do have more high capacity rides, especially with the fun houses and walk-throughs," he said. "We are selling more wrist-bands, which we do every day and we are doing very well with our Gold Access Pass, which is our version of the Speed Pass."

    Zaitshik added, "the uniqueness of the stock show is that the rodeo is so powerful a draw. "They've done a great job, over the year and it is reflected in all the awards and accolades. We strive to provide a carnival that is comparable to the high bar and what they are doing with the rodeo."

    $1.7 Million
    With the continued attendance rise, the popularity of the sport is not in question in this Texas city. "We are ecstatic that our community has embraced the sport of Rodeo, and that they appreciate seeing the best talent in the world with the best animal athletes in North America, competing for over $1.7 million in prize money," said Keith Martin, Executive Director & CEO, San Antonio Stock Show. "We deeply appreciate these fabulous attendance numbers, but what truly sets our event apart is the amazing 6000+ volunteer force-they devote countless hours and many take vacation time to serve. They work on fundraisers throughout the year and prepare all year long for the 18-day Rodeo run-their work ethic and genuine Texas hospitality is epic."

    According to a 2015 Trinity University study, the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo produces an economic impact for San Antonio of over $250 million annually. In addition, the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo added a PRCA Freestyle Bullfight event after Xtreme Bulls. Another new addition was the Ag Mechanics Show, which held their first Sales Competition and Marketplace that tested the craftsmanship and salesmanship skills of students across the state - the top project sold for $10,000. Additional new events included College Rodeo and Collegiate Ranch Rodeo that showcased athletes from college rodeo teams. 

    As one of the world's largest junior livestock shows, the 2017 show surpassed the previous number of livestock entries in the Junior Breeding Swine, Junior Wether Dam and Junior Wether Doe shows. The Grand Champion Junior Market Steer sold for $106,000 with $72,000 auctioned for the Reserve Junior Market Steer. The total auction contributions in 2017 exceeded 2016 and the Youth Rodeo, the most successful horse event, also saw an influx with over 1,000 entries.

    "We are grateful to our corporate sponsors as well as the San Antonio and the surrounding communities who support our cause," said Martin. "This support allows us to give back in a meaningful way to help provide educational assistance for the youth of Texas. The total contribution amount will be announced at our Annual Meeting in May."

    The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo has received the PRCA Large Indoor Rodeo of the Year award for 12 consecutive years. Established in 1949, it has grown to be one of the largest and most prestigious single events in the city with over 2 million visitors entering the grounds in 2017. Stock show organizers have committed more than $171.4 million to the youth of Texas through scholarships, grants, endowments, auctions, a calf scramble and show premiums.

    For the 2017 event, organizers created new attractions that educate attendees about the Texas agricultural and live stock industries. According to Sides, one of the main mission is to "bring people here to learn about agriculture, and the emphasis also on education, so we have something for the entire family."

    One of the new exhibits was the Horse Discovery, a "learning experience about everything horses and it was very well received," said Sides.

    Another new attraction was the Innovation Station, which Sides describe as "as an interactive learning experience which allowed people to engage in the STEM (Science. Technology, Engineering, Mechanics) world. There were many different demonstrations, like a Fossil Dig exhibit, also a mineral identification exhibit, and a Lego exhibit, with a pedal tractor. "We are an all encompassing event, and provide something new every year, and what people won't see anywhere else," said Sides.

    Not My First Rodeo
    While the Texas economy is weaker than a year ago, said Sides, "San Antonio is not a boom or bust economy, and we also have top shelf medical facilities and industries other than oil and energy. We have very strong tourism and they come out for the stock show. Even in a softer economy, We have grown our community ticket sales and revenue." 

    Sides would not release any advertising budget figures, but she said that there had been some reductions from the previous year's marketing expenditure. "We've been investing more time and money into social media so in that sense we necessarily didn't cut back but invested more time with social media and our Rodeo App. We hired a company to assist us with the social media." 

    The expansion of social media - shifting funds and outsourcing the effort - was spear headed by a makeover of how the event presented itself on these platforms. "more focused on utilizing more videos," said Sides. "We've seen that sharp, well made videos work the best. We started using stories of the rodeo, and highlights of rodeo performances, those scored the largest feedback."

    Facebook remains the most important platform, but the fastest rising is the millennial favorite, "We saw an increase in the number of our followers of 48 percent on Instagram. "We used it more this year, and we are reaching more of a younger audience through Instagram, it's a different generation than Facebook." 

    The marketing theme was Not My First Rodeo, which was not only catchy but had a psychological catch. "It appealed to the tradition of rodeo, encouraged people to come back," she said. "If is your first rodeo, it says that it won't be your last. We were attracting new visitors with the theme. We get people from out of state, and out of the country, to the rodeo. We used an outside agency, and we all just came up the theme together even though it was their idea."

    She added, "We're in Texas, and there's a lot of Cowboy Culture. San Antonio is a big city, but even the newcomers and younger millennials buy into the cowboy culture, especially during the rode. It's a good pun that invites people in." 

  • Fort Worth Welcomes Facebook Founder to Prime Time
    What's better that a rodeo coming to Facebook? If Facebook also comes to the rodeo. A highlight of the 2017 Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo was  a high-profile visit paid by - Mark Zuckerberg, CEO & Founder of Facebook. 

    The social media tycoon was joined by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and other local leaders, for a tour of the entire event and even attended a  Bull's Night Out rodeo show. The press reported that Zuckerberg admitted this was his "first rodeo," and was photographed petting a baby calf.  Zuckerberg was in town to visit Facebook's massive data center, a 2.5-million-square-foot complex that is said to create nearly 1,000 jobs in the Forth Worth area.

    It was reported that Zuckerberg posted on Facebook about his rodeo experience,  in particular the rodeo contestants. "Professional cowboys live an intense life..." the billionaire wrote on Facebook.

    A videographer accompanied the multibillionaire during his visit, bringing positive attention and publicity to the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. Security reasons prevented any pre-visit promotion, "it kind of just fell in our lab, but it was blast to have him here," said Matt Brockman, Publicity Manager, Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. "We had very high security, but he was very gracious and conscientious guest, and very inquisitive." 

    Prime Time Promotions
    However incidentally, the Zuckerberg visit dovetailed with the fair's 2017 marketing theme, "Welcome to Prime Time," which Brockman said was developed  "in house," and succeeded mainly due to connections with the word Prime - "prime beef, prime cattle," for example.  Welcome to Prime Time was emphasized through television commercials and other media. 

    Social media was expanded this year with more "video postings and contests."  For the stock show's Mobile App, which Brockman described as "relatively, new." The fair developed  "a fun and engaging trivia contest, which was also light hearted," he said. The intent being to grow the event's main draw - the rodeo. 

    Asking if rodeo popularity is growing is actually the wrong question to pose. Brockman points out that the Fort Worth area has seen a population growth spurt. Like many cities, there's been an influx of millennials and young professionals and while attending rodeos, stock shows or even fairs may not necessarily be high priority, but once embedded in Texas, they "immerse themselves in the cowboy culture," he said. "There's a vibrant social aspect of coming to the stock show, and it is certainly affordable, and they enjoy the rodeo, see performances and enjoy some food." 

    Through the years, organizers  and stake holders have also made sure the rodeo itself is as well produced as any other sporting event. "Our rodeo has a very traditional feel, but it is also high tech, with banners and streamers, yet we utilize instant replay and have interesting camera angles. Fort Worth is known for having one of the best rodeos in the country, and people know that so we get a lot of tourists who come to town to see this sport, just like someone might go to Boston to see the Red Sox play, they don't have to be a baseball fan." 

    Marketing the Welcome to Prime Time theme - especially on social media, reaching millennials and younger families - leveraged with new collaborations with the Fort Worth CVB and Chamber of Commerce, which increased the stock show's audience reach while augmenting their social media presence. In addition, the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo also was featured in music streaming services, such as Pandora.

    The advertising budget and the media allocation remained relatively unchanged from the 2016 event, although there was a shift towards more digital without decreasing their news print presence. "We were able to increase our digital advertising through their sites," he said. 

    Print still pays an important role in a crucial segment of the stock show - in horses and livestock publications. "We place ads in the industry trade publications, mainly in the cattle and equine print publications." 

    Attendance Dip
    The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo saw slight attendance dip, mainly attributable to weather and some downturns in the Texas economy.  Attendance hovered around 1.2 million for the 23-day event,  a decline of about 3 percent from the year before, and while weather may have dampened the annual stock show, one of the first fairs of the year, the Fort Worth traditions of remained strong.

    "Weather played a factor this year, we had some rainy days,  but we had a pretty good fair," said Brockman. "You can get some thunderstorms and dreary days, but on the flip side, we saw some very mild days. You can get some rough weather in January and February, so you do not want to get your expectations too high. I would say our expectations were met. We did not set any record attendance days, but we tied some on a couple of days."

    Texas seemed resistant to the recession and the often sluggish recovery that followed, but with the drop in fuel prices negatively impacting many sectors of the energy industry, the Texas economy has lost some of its vim and vigor. Brockman pointed out that due to increased business diversity, Forth Worth has withstood some of the worst aspects of the recent downswing.  "There is uncertainty, but the Fort Worth economy is more diverse than other parts of the economy," said Brockman. "There are other industries, like  technology and transportation, so the economy here has remained resilient, and compared to last year, it has picked up." 

    A sign that that the regional economy may be faring better than the state as a whole is that the sponsorship program at the event was strong. "We've retained most of our major sponsorships," said Brockman. "People were still coming to us late into December looking for sponsorships." 

    Talley Amusements
    "It wasn't the best stock show but it wasn't the worst," said Mary Talley of Talley Amusements. "We got rained out the first weekend, but you can get colder weather in January in Texas and we didn't get close to that, so that is good."

    Talley Amusements celebrated its 15th year as the midway provider at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, and is the first fair of the year for them, signaling  the start of this carnival company's season. It's also as Talley describes, "our hometown, so it is a very important show for us. We are very proud of our midway at the Fort Worth show." 

    The midway featured 50 rides (the carnival company had a 48-ride midway in 2016), and gave Talley Amusements the opportunity to debut The Beast, which Talley said was a brand new KMG Fireball that the company re-themed. The biggest grossing rides for Talley Amusements were the Century Wheel and Fast Track Slide. "People come to the midway, it's a weather driven event," she said. "I'm looking forward to this season, we have a new President and I think the economy in Texas will start getting better and people will be spending more money again. All we need is good weather. The weather is always a factor." 

    Beer & Barbecue
    All food concessions at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo are operated by  Coburn's Catering Service, which according to Steve Coburn, is celebrating its 72nd year in business. The company operates 50 points of sales, which includes 12 subcontractors.   Without hesitation, the biggest sellers and mainstay food items at this event are "beer and barbecue, that's what sells the most every year," said Coburn. The Texas styled barbecue here is slow smoked (15-18 hours)  brisket. "We use Nolan Ryan brisket, it is always a good seller."

    He mentioned that the Nolan Ryan Hot Dog is also a major brand.  Ryan, a Hall-of-fame major league pitcher,  is a Texas native and currently owner of the Houston Astros.

    Coburn said that his company contracts with  Mc Kinney Food Services, and said that many of the concessions featured typical fair cuisine - corn dogs, funnel cakes, pizza, and "huge burritos." "The McKinney family does a great job and they sell a lot of the staples," he said.

    A local favorite was Stubby's Cinnamon Rolls by Stoney Humphries, a Fort Worth-based vendor that is an annual feature of the event's food concessions. "He always had a line," added Coburn.

    Coburn pointed out that out that he brings in some local vendors. For instance, this year he convinced a Fort Worth Italian restaurant to have a stand. "The owner was hesitant at first," he said. "A vendor might not make a lot of money at the Stock Show, but it always brings in new customers to their local location. The local restaurant was very pleased with the business that followed after the show. There was a baker who made specialized cakes, and his cake orders were up for his Fort Worth store on Valentines Day."

    The other benefit of the local vendors is the media appeal. "The media always wants to do stories about fair food," said Coburn. "And they like the local vendors to be in those stories."

  • OABA Honors Leaders Who Shaped Today's Amusement Industry
    A pioneer in LED lighting techniques that brought the carnival midway into the 21st century, one of the first attorneys to specialize in mobile industry litigation, and a former TV producer who brought the Outdoor Amusement Business Association (OABA) to new heights - these three were recognized during the OABA's 52nd Annual Meeting. 

    They were selected by the OABA's Board as being worthy of becoming "industry legends", acknowledging their contributions to the legacy of the mobile amusement industry by either induction into the OABA Hall of Fame or receiving the Industry Pioneer award.

    The OABA Hall Of Fame started in 2001 - the Pioneer Award in 2009. These official recognitions have elevated the association's unique role in the vast legacy of the fair industry."It is a way for us to recognize our industry's rich history," said John Hanschen, President of Thomas Carnival Inc. and an OABA Trustee and past-chairman of the OABA. Hanschen has been on the Historical and Hall of Fame Committee - these are the committees that select candidates to be submitted for approval by the OABA board - since their inception."But it is also a way for to show individuals who exemplify the dedication and commitment to their industry and the association and the ideals the OABA stands for."

    This year's acknowledgements were Dennis Bartosik of Denny's Electronics who received the OABA's Pioneer Award, and the 2017 Hall of Fame inductees were Wayne Pierce, of the Pierce Law Firm and Al DeRusha, an OABA Senior Vice President who has served the OABA for more than 25 years. The ceremonious were augmented with short videos of each individual, which heighted "the inspirational stories of people in our business," said Hanschen, who has a hand in writing the stories and organizing the event, after receiving the selection by the board. 

    "We are a long way from using power point presentations," said Hanschen. "We are able to use full production videos with voice over, it's very professional. These are people who have stories, how they handle their responsibilities , surviving good times and hard, bad economies, rainy seasons, transportation problems. They all survive with a sense of humor, and a real joy in the industry, which really comes out with our selections this year." 

    Brighter Midways
    According to Hanschen, the Industry Pioneer recipient, Bartosik, revolutionized midways. The LED lighting has taken over the carnival," said Hanschen. "The change has been really earth shaking, the lights are programmable so you can have all the colors, your own flash system and really create your own look for a carnival. People can really see the midway now from far away on the highway. They love the brightness."  

    The OABA noted Bartosik also developed " new, innovative game trailers" but it's his LED lighting that "revolutionized the amusement industry... programmable light displays that have added to both the appeal and the promotion of carnival midways and amusement rides." 

    While the Pioneer Award may recognize past accomplishments, Bartosik  has a present day achievement. At the 2017 Florida State Fair, his LED design illuminated what is considered the tallest, portable wheel in North America- owned by Michael Wood and Frank Zaitshik.

    LED lights have decreased in cost, making the systems more affordable and widely available. "It is a lot easier now to switch over a ride with new LED systems because the prices have come down," he said. "They've given old rides a new life because they can be switched over so easily and now all the new rides have them."

    In addition to the 21st century look, LED lighting conserves energy, using anywhere from 30-to-80 percent less power per ride, further enhancing the bottom line of midway providers. "The lights are all part of the experience of going to the fair," added Hanschen. "The sounds, the noise, the smell, the thrill of the rides, that all adds up to the experience. The lights are an important part of that experience, the midway is something special, something the people do not see every day, that's why it brings their happiness." 

    The two Hall of Fame inductees for 2017 -- Pierce and DeRusha - can be considered pioneers in their own right. 

    Dennis Bartosik Hall of Fame Video:

    Amusement Law
    Pierce's first midway law experience was on the wrong side of regulation. Pierce grew up in Havre De Grace, Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay, and in 1975, he and his brother and a couple of friends were fooling around on a Watkins Swinger ride and soon ordered to leave the midway. Ironically, Tom Gaylin an OABA Director and Chairman, and owner/operator of Rosedale Attractions & Shows, inducted Pierce into the OABA Hall of Fame, was also the midway manager who banished him from the midway more than 40 years prior. 

    One year after graduating from the Law School at the University of Maryland, Pierce had his first amusement industry case, given to him by Duke Smith, founder of Allied Insurance and another Hall of Famer. By 2005 he had his own practice and established himself as a leading authority and practitioner of "adventure law," based on being an advocate, not just for the Mobile Amusement Industry, but everyone involved in any adventure based industry.

     Pierce, outside counsel to the OABA, specializes in H-2B litigation, and has consulted on safety standards in more than 40 States, authored the Uniform Rider Safety Act, a model rider responsibility bill adopted in whole or in part in more than 20 States, is the principal architect for the legal positions of ASTM F24's trampoline court task group and currently serves as it's Co-Chair and is the first elected President and a founding Board member of the International Amusement & Leisure Defense Association, a network of lawyers representing, promoting and protecting the legal interests of the amusement and leisure industries. 

    In addition, Peirce is the only lawyer to serve as President of an industry trade group, the Maryland State Showmen's Association.
    "Wayne is a great guy," said Hanschen. "He has a tremendous passion for the industry and more importantly, the people in the industry. "

    According to Hanschen, one of his most impressive qualities was not just the vast scope of his amusement industry expertise, but the ability to translate law and regulations into understandable language.. "He is always understandable," said Hanschen. "He has a Dan Rather-esque authority about him, and he is able to explain things to fair people in ways other lawyers cannot. He teaches a lot of seminars at industry events and they are always great, informative seminars. He covers a lot of legal situations, H-2B, safety regulations, OSHA, Department of labor, Department of Transportation. " 

    Other career highlights include receiving the Amusement Industry Award from the Maryland Showmen's Association - 1996; Public Service Award & Safety Award from IAAPA - 1997; Governor's Citation, Maryland Ride Safety Seminar - 1999; Harold Chance Award from the Amusement Industry Manufacturers & Suppliers - 2003 and Hall of Fame induction from the World Waterpark Association - 2007. 

    "Our society has become more litigious and so has the fair industry," said Hanschen. "There are more insurance companies, and regulations and we need someone like Wayne to help us navigate through these times." 

    Video of Wayne Pierce:

    True Believer
    Alvin Joseph DeRusha- born the youngest of 11 children in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1935, not only helped usher the fair industry into the media age, but was also recognized for being a committed fundraiser and good will ambassador for the fair industry at large and the OABA in particular.

    "He's true believer, and there is nothing selfish about his commitment to our industry," said Hanschen. "He's become iconic because of his travelling, meeting face-to-face, and forming relationships."

    DeRusha entered the industry at eight years old, working in Leo Magel's carnival game concessions on the Basinet Shows He eventually traveled with Magels every summer form 1945 to 1953, working carnival games at shows that included  Royal American Shows at the Minnesota State Fair. 

    As a senior, the Humboldt High School work program assigned him to the Fischer Nut company, but as legend has it, because DeRusha had a driver's license, the then brand new television station WTCN hired DeRusha, where he spent years as part of Minnesota's contribution to the golden age of television, producing children's shows, doing live remotes, election night broadcasts, and local sporting events. 

    The television career led to a gig with the American Wrestling Association, where DeRusha served as promoter, ring announcer, play by play man, and even referee in matches featuring national celebrities including Vern Gagne and the Crusher. 

    In 1989, the OABA hired DeRusha to produce a video of the 25th anniversary of OABA- Bright Lights and Fair nights, beginning his long career with the association.

    DeRusha attends fair conventions and tradeshows as an OABA representative, and also hosts about 25 Jammin' Jamborees per year, which is a party and fundraiser, held by the carnival company and its workers but whose proceeds go the OABA. 

    Hanschen recalls one of his company's Jammin' Jamborees which had a lively disco theme, which took place on the fairgrounds after the gates closed. "Everything was donated, and we had a really good party, " he said. "We were singing YMCA and In The Navy by the Village People. "

    Hanschen emphasized that DeRusha made a point to speak personally with everyone one at the party - basically the entire Thomas Carnival team. "He thanked every worker and employee personally, made them feel they were part of the amusement industry. That really means something for our workers to get that personal thanks from somebody so important in the industry, it means more than just me as their employer or somebody with the fair thanking them. When a figure of such respect recognizes you, it makes for a memorable night."

    "When I go to visit a show, the ride operators and concession workers stop me and tell me how much they enjoy working in this industry and how proud they are to be a member of the OABA," said DeRusha in an OABA statement. " These people are why I get up and go to work every day.  From the start in 1945 I loved the carnival industry-I still do."  

    Al DeRusha Hall of Fame Video:

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3/17/2017 - 3/26/2017
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Sarasota County Fair
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3/17/2017 - 3/26/2017
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3/24/2017 - 4/2/2017
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IAAPA Attractions Expo - Orlando, FL
[more info..]

Annual IAFE Convention and Trade Show - Paris Hotel - Las Vegas, NV
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I.I.S.F. Gibtown Extravaganza - Gibsonton, FL
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2016 TOP 50 FAIRS
1. Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo - Houston, TX
2. Texas State Fair - Dallas, TX
3. San Antonio Livestock Show & Ex. - San Antonio, TX
4. Minnesota State Fair - St. Paul, MN
5. San Diego County Fair - Del Mar, CA

View Top 50 Fairs
The Industry Buzz
2018 Gibtown Trade Show Reduced to 4-Days
The International Independent Showmen's Association announced that the 2018 IISF Gibtown Trade Show and Extravaganza will be reduced to a four day show, opening Tuesday, February 6 and concluding on Friday, February 9, 2018.  In recent years, the show opened on Tuesday and closed Saturday, however, many vendors felt that reducing the total number of days would be more beneficial.  The 2018 trade show marks the shows 50th anniversary.  More information on the IISF Trade Show can be found on the IISA's web site at  Posted by Matt Cook on 3/21/2017
H-2B Cap Hit for Second Half of 2017
Thursday evening, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the 33,000 H-2B cap for the second half of fiscal 2017 was reached on March 13. According to DHS, March 13, 2017 is the "final receipt date" for H-2B worker petitions for fiscal year 2017. The "final receipt date" is the date on which USCIS determines that it has received enough cap-subject petitions to reach the annual limit of 66,000 H-2B workers. The following petitions are exempt from the cap:

  • Current H-2B workers in the U.S. petitioning to extend their stay and, if applicable, change the terms of their employment or change their employers;

  • Fish roe processors, fish roe technicians and/or supervisors of fish roe processing; and

  • Workers performing labor or services from November 28, 2009, until December 31, 2019, in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam.
  Posted by Matt Cook on 3/17/2017
Deggeller Attractions purchases KMG Speed; new Hydra expected next month
Andy Deggeller announced the purchase of a new KMG Speed for delivery at the 2019 IISF Trade Show in Gibtown.  The Speed will sport a custom theme complete with backwall scenery, which, the theme is to be determined.  Deggeller will be taking delivery of their new KMG Afterburner, themed, Hydra next month.


  Posted by Matt Cook on 3/13/2017
Showmen's League Canadian Chapter Elects Richard K Spear as New President
The Showmen's Leaque of America Canadian Chapter held its annual Past Presidents Dinner on February 16 at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.  The club elected Richard K Spear as its new president.  Congratulations Richard on your upcoming presidency!
  Posted by Matt Cook on 3/1/2017
In our efforts to chronicle the history of our industry, we could think of no better way to further this endeavor than to interview industry pioneers and preserve their videos for posterity.

Wade Shows -HIRING for 2017, NOW BOOKING, Office Manager & Assistant wanted, Custom Fence & Signage available!!

TYAUT Designs - Lap Bar Refurbishment & Grip Bars

Triangle Poster & Printing is your source for carnival posters, signs, tickets, coupons, and more for special events, carnivals, fairs, festivals, and circuses.  Visit for more info or call 412-371-0774.

Wisdom Rides manufacturers some of the most profitable amusement rides in the industry including the Viper, Beetle Bobs, Starship 3000 / Gravitron, Dragon Wagon, and the new Looney Lagoon.  Visit for more info! represents KMG rides such as the Freak Out and Inversion as well as Lamberink Dutch Giant Wheels in the USA.  Check us out at or call Peter Theunisz (cell) +31-655-795-792.

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