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  • OABA looks to the future
    OABA At The North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs Convention

    At the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs Convention January 4th-6th, 2018, Bob Johnson, President of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association (OABA), addressed the convention attendees in order to update them about OABA business. Johnson talked about the hot-button issue on everyone's mind: H-2B legislation. He also had the opportunity to discuss new ventures the OABA will take on in 2018 and other exciting news regarding the organization. 

    Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina was the other keynote speaker at the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs Convention. He spoke on Friday, January 5th and was able to give convention attendees some hope regarding H-2B legislation. "Senator Tillis is a crusader for our industry regarding H2B labor as is Roy Blunt of Missouri," says Johnson. 

    The OABA is currently planning an event to take place in Florida this February which will feature Senator Tillis speaking to stakeholders in the industry about H-2B legislation. Details are still being hashed out according to Johnson but they are thinking the talk will take place February 9th sometime in the morning.

    General H2B/OABA Update 
    Johnson stressed that the OABA's focus regarding H-2B labor and legislation is to get away from band-aid fixes to the problem and look ahead at legislation to make real change in the industry. "A lot of people have this idea in their heads that H-2B takes away American jobs when in fact H-2B labor saves American jobs; every H-2B worker saves 4.5 American jobs most of which include benefits and competitive pay," says Johnson. H-2B labor fills a seasonal niche in the U.S. he added.

    The 53rd annual meeting for the OABA is coming up in February. This is the first year that the Hall Of Fame inductee slate is completely female. "Patty Sullivan and Jane Baxter are being inducted. They have served 10 years on the board and are long time association and industry contributors," says Johnson. Additionally, Linda Brewer is receiving the Industry Pioneer Award. She has served as a teacher for several carnivals including NAME and Deggeller Attractions. 

    The board of the OABA is made up of nine members: Jay Strates of Strates Shows is the incoming Chairman and currently serves as 1st Vice Chairman, EJ Dean of Dean & Flynn Fiesta Shows is the outgoing Chairman, Larry Yaffe, formerly of Firestone Financial Corp. serves as the 2nd Vice Chairman. At the annual meeting, the 3rd Vice Chairman of the organization will be chosen. Mitchell Kaliff of Kaliff Insurance is the Treasurer, Tom Gaylin  of Rosedale Attractions & Shows is the Trustee 2016, Bob Johnson is President of OABA, Michael Wood of Wood Entertainment Co. is Trustee 2015, and Chris Lopez of Ray Cammack Shows is Trustee 2014.

    In addition to board members there is a group of Directors and Directors at Large who help make up the leadership of the organization. The OABA has a small but dedicated staff; Bob Johnson has been President for 23 years, Al Derusha is the Senior Vice President, Dee Dee Alford is the Vice President, Tom Powell is the OABA News Ambassador, and Kristin Shenk is the Manager of Programs and Services. 

    The committees included in the OABA structure are: Executive Board, Admin Review, By-Laws, Policies, and Procedures, Committee, Convention/Industry Planning, Education & Safety, Excellence, Finance, Fundraising: Ways &Means/Jamborees & Contribution Fund, Grievance, HOF & Historical, Membership, Nominating, OABA PAC, Past Chairs, Performance Review, and Strategic Planning.

    What's Next For The OABA 
    The OABA is also working on rolling out new virtual, online training programs for carnival employee training. OABA teamed up with a company called Learning Zen to create the online program. The training platform is called "VOLT" and covers topics such as Ride Safety with sub-training in maintenance, inspection, and operations. Other education categories include worker safety, guest services, and food and games concessions. Once the training modules are completed, employees receive a certification. Johnson believes that the online training program will make it easier for carnival owners to ensure their workers have gone through necessary training and the certification that comes from the program will be an easy and efficient way to show state regulators that all employees have completed the modules necessary for their position. 

    OABA Chairman EJ Dean has spearheaded the VOLT project along with the Education Committee. It is available for use now but they are still doing some testing and hoping to have all the modules both in English and Spanish. According to Johnson, the VOLT program is used for training zoo workers and employees at indoor amusement areas. Anyone interested in utilizing the VOLT program should contact Marc Janas. 

    The OABA will also focus on expanding and maintaining their Circle of Excellence Program. The goal of the Circle of Excellence Program is to improve the business climate for OABA members and raise public perceptions of the mobile amusement industry. Carnivals, independent ride owners, or concessionaires can earn the Circle of Excellence distinction. Any company interested in attaining the Circle of Excellence designation must go through the quality assessment audit created and copywritten by the OABA. In order to maintain the Circle of Excellence designation, companies must go through future audits as well. 

    Membership into the OABA is always open. There are multiple membership levels depending on your role in the industry. From associate member to carnival of 40+ rides to circus producer to manufacturer, there is a membership level for everyone and dues prices vary. OABA memberships can be purchased through their website, 

  • H-2B Labor Discussions Take Center Stage at North Carolina Fair Convention
    Lloyd Moody, President of the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs, had some time to reflect on this year's convention after it ended on January 7th, 2018. Recently, the President's term was extended to two years so Moody is now heading into his second year in the position. When asked about his focus for the 2018 convention programming, Moody said "We try to keep our workshops and meetings topical. A big topic this year is H-2B labor and legislation." This year's convention theme was "Times Are Changing."

    Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina was one of the keynote speakers at the convention. According to Moody, "Tillis is all aboard in supporting H-2B labor in our industry." Summarizing Tillis' speech, Moody says that Tillis believes changing H-2B legislation will be a two step process. The first step involves an interim solution which Tillis believes could happen as early as January 18th (when the Senate reconvenes). The second step is a permanent solution which will likely take place sometime down the road once Senators like Tillis, who support new H-2B legislation, have the chance to state their case and get other Senators on board. 

    Moody says that everyone at Tillis' speech felt somewhat optimistic but still felt a little cautious about what is to come. "We couldn't have had a more appropriate speaker than someone directly involved in this problem as Tillis is," says Moody. The other keynote speaker at this year's convention was Bob Johnson, President of the OABA. Johnson was able to give a general OABA update and also speak about what the organization is doing to help change H-2B legislation in the industry's favor. "We had two, pertinent, high-caliber speakers for our convention and we are very proud of that," says Moody. 

    Trade show numbers at this year's convention were pretty consistent with last year's; about 30 people/companies exhibited at the trade show. Although numbers have stayed the same from last year, Moody has noticed that they've definitely dwindled over time. "We used to have 50 or so exhibitors in year's past. I think the numbers have gone down some because there are always conflicts between different state associations' conventions," says Moody. In addition to trade show space, different performers could sign up for a showcase slot; performances would occur at the conclusion of meetings or during meals in the ballroom. There were about 13 showcase performances during this year's convention. 

    Throughout the convention, several awards were given out to commend fairs on their hard work during the year. At the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs Convention, each award is given to a fair in each of their three categories which are based on size. Category one includes fairs with up to 15,000 people, category two is fairs with 15,0001-35,000 people, and category three includes fairs with over 35,000 people. This year, a certificate of appreciation for the "Got to be NC" Agricultural Awards was handed out. Additionally, certain fairs received a Media Award, Youth & Agriculture Awards, Agriculture Awards, Innovative Ideas Awards, and Image Awards. 

    Attendance at this year's convention was about a one third increase from the previous year's according to Moody. Last year there was a big snow storm in North Carolina leading up to the convention; they almost had to cancel it. Moody says it was difficult for people to make it there so they saw a bit of an attendance dip. Moody estimates there were about 300 people in attendance last year and 400 in attendance this year. 

    While H-2B was the first topic of priority for the convention, Moody says they also wanted to focus on ride inspection regulations. Last August, they learned that North Carolina inspectors issued a new rule that all North Carolina rides have to pass a "non-destructive" ride inspection test. The new regulation was announced two weeks before the start of North Carolina's peak fair season. According to Moody, some people were worried that their fairs wouldn't be able to open. 

    When the new regulation was announced, the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs worked with Bob Johnson and the OABA to set up a meeting with the North Carolina Department of Labor inspections Department in Hickory, NC. Moody says about 40 people from all over the country came to the meeting to better understand the new ride regulations. Moody dubbed the meeting "High Noon at Hickory." After the meeting, it worked out that not one fair did not open due to not passing the non-destructive testing. 

    At this year's convention, there was a Carnival Operations/NC Department of Labor Meeting for  people to attend, moderated by Tommy Petty from the North Carolina Department of Labor. Moody felt that his meeting gave convention attendees the opportunity to ask questions about regulations and get more clarification. However, at the meeting it was announced that the Department of Labor expects to roll out new regulations within the next 30 days (from the end of the convention). "People may have left that meeting feeling a little jittery," says Moody. 

    Other workshops at this year's convention included: "What is E-verify and how to E-verify workers and volunteers at your fair," "Group and online sales," "Awards program update and question and answer session," "Know your insurance coverage. Don't be surprised, are you really covered?" "Support your future," "Staying relevant," "Adapting to change. What is social media? Is social media good for my fair?" And  "Exhibits & displays." 

    During the convention, the board holds fundraisers in the form of a Chinese auction, a golf cart raffle, and a 5/50 raffle. Moody says that it was their first time doing a Chinese auction but it seemed to go well. All three fundraisers were successful; the money they raise primarily goes toward scholarships. 

    On Sunday morning, the board met to critique the convention. "Overall we felt it went very well, a few little glitches like at any convention," says Moody. There was positive feedback from convention attendees about the placement of the trade show booths and the topical speeches about H-2B and inspection regulations. 

    Moody felt that everybody went to the more relevant talks and that a goal for 2019 is to make sure topics are pertinent. "We are always concerned that we meet the needs of our constituent members. I think we nearly hit the main issues at the convention. We were able to give some relief on certain issues but people might have left with some anxiety. Either way, at least we have the information," says Moody. 

    The North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs is made up of ten board members. President: Lloyd Moody, Vice President: Matt Buchanan, Past President: Johnny Love, Debbie Carter, Don Deal, Allen Faircloth, Gary Price, Milton Ingram, Ronnie Turner (represents ride companies), and Bobby Jenks (represents concessionaires). Additionally Bonnie Holloman serves as the Executive Secretary and Cathy Horton is Bonnie's assistant. 

    The board is working on securing dates for the 2019 convention but nothing is set in stone yet. Moody says that they want to find dates that do not conflict with other state association meetings if at all possible. 

  • Powers & Thomas Midway Entertainment aggressively expands route
    Powers and Thomas Midway Entertainment closed out a strong 2017 season and is poised to have a great year in 2018. According to Ed Powers, the company has acquired five new fairs for the 2018 season: the Cattaragus County Fair in New York, Chautauqua County Fair in New York, Warren County Fair in Pennsylvania, Crawford County Fair in Pennsylvania, and Lenoir County Fair in North Carolina. 

    Powers and Thomas originally purchased Swank's Steel City Shows and played their existing route. Now, heading into their fourth season, Powers and Thomas only play a couple of spots from the original Swank's Steel City Show route as they have grown and expanded over the years. The show picked up events in the fall in North Carolina and is even stretching into eastern New York in the Spring.

    At their winterquarters in Holly Ridge, North Carolina, the Powers and Thomas crew worked on refurbishing their Hurricane ride and their carousel. Light packages on both of the rides are being updated to a full LED package. 

    In addition to refurbishing some equipment, Powers and Thomas has purchased a new Gull Wing generator, a new ice cream trailer, and a Chance 3-abreast carousel which will all be seen on the midway this year. The carousel, while used, will get a full makeover in winter quarters and look brand new coming our, according to Powers.

    For Powers and Thomas, the 2018 season will begin the third week in March in Wilmington, North Carolina and they will head North after that.  As their route stands now, the show plays fairs and festivals in New York, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina exclusively. 

    Powers and Thomas is owned and operated by Ron and Tracy Thomas and Ed and Amy Powers. Other key staff members included Ron's father, also Ron, as well as Charlie Belknap. "Charlie has been a great addition to the team. He does our Public Relations and Marketing and works closely with fair and festival staffs," says Powers. Jeremy and Tamara Thomas are concessionaires on the show's route. 

    Currently, Powers and Thomas is made up of 25 rides, about 5 food stands which are owned by the show, and 20-25 games. The show travels as one unit and will always stay that way according to Powers. While Powers and Thomas are certainly happy with the progress that they've made, they do have a "wish list" of ride additions that they hope to achieve within the next 5 years. "Our goal is to have about 30-32 rides within the next five years," says Powers. 

    Over the four years Powers and Thomas have been in existence, they have acquired an impressive array of rides from Super Spectacular all the way down to kiddie rides. Currently, they have nine thrill rides: High Flyer, Hurricane, Pharaoh's Fury, Sizzler, Giant Wheel, Swing Buggy, Tilt-A-Whirl, Zero Gravity, and the Zumur. They have eight family rides: Dizzy Dragons, Fire Chief Funhouse, Fun Slide, Giant Expo Wheel, Grad Carousel, Magic Maze Funhouse, Quadzilla, and a Scooter. Their 6 kiddie rides include: Farm Tractors, Granny Bugs, Monster Trucks, Motorcycles, Sooper Jet, and Wiggle Worm.

    Powers and Thomas started their show from scratch and Powers says that the most difficult challenge as they built their company was acquiring reliable labor; it's certainly a problem that most carnival operators experience. About 25-30 of Powers and Thomas' labor is foreign labor and, with the news that the H2B cap has been met, Powers is anxious that they may not get the foreign labor they need. "It's hard to pick up labor that lasts. I can't sleep at night thinking we may not get our H2B workers," says Powers. Powers said he has had many of his workers return over the years and they have become like family.  

    Throughout the season, Powers, a former school soccer player,  enjoys a weekly game with his workers. Once finished for the season, workers from Mexico play in a league back home.  The teams are divided into the carnivals that they work for during the season.  Powers, Helms, NAME and Talley Amusements are just some fo the shows that are represented in the league. 

    The soccer season culminates in a tournament held in Vera Cruz, Mexico. Power, feeling such a close attachment to his workers, traveled with his family to play in the tournament in Mexico this year. His son, a soccer player in his own right, serves as goalkeeper.  

    Unfortunately, despite the help of the two Americans, the Powers & Thomas team lost in the semi-finals to Helm and Son's team. Powers cherishes the opportunity to visit his employees in Mexico and spend part of the offseason with them. "I went down to Mexico to see my guys and play in the soccer tournament. They're really like family to me and I don't know what we would do without them," says Powers. 

    Asked how thy set themselves apart from a crowded field of carnivals,  Powers said all of his employees are uniformed and they go through background and drug testing before they are hired to work on the show.  They also have extensive amenities such as seating areas for their guests.  

    For the 2018 season, one of Powers and Thomas' biggest goals is to re-focus on midway amenities and comfort. "We want people to come out to the fair, have the opportunity to sit down and relax or avoid the sun. We want people to want to stay on our midway," says Powers.

  • North Carolina Fair Convention Round-Up
    Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair
    The Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair in Lumberton, North Carolina got back on track in 2017 with a close-to record run according to Vice President of Fair Operations, Dixon Britt. In 2015, the fair was rained out almost completely; they were able to open only a few days. Hurricane Matthew cost the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair two out of their 10 days in 2016. This year, it only rained half the day on the last Saturday of the fair. 
    Admission into the fair is $7 and there is no fee for parking. All entertainment at the fair is included with admission. While the fair board puts a healthy focus on local entertainment, they also book some great ground acts for fairgoers to enjoy. Vincent Von Duke's lion and tiger show and a hypnotist were some of the favorites at the 2017 fair. 
    The fair board partners with a local company which brings popular costumed cartoon characters out to the fairgrounds for children to meet and take pictures with. On one of their stages, the fair hosts different themed music nights such as a gospel night, country night, hip-hop night, and hispanic night in partnership with Univision. 
    For the first time in a while, the fair opened on Thursday night for a kind of "preview night," there was no admission charge. "It was pretty successful and gave people the chance to come out and check out the fair affordably," said Britt. The midway portion of the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair is a joint venture between Wade Shows and Big Rock Amusements. 
    The Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair is run by a volunteer board of 20+. The fair does not receive state funding but does get a grant which promotes agriculture education in the region. All proceeds from the fair go back into running the next fair and maintain the grounds.
    Britt says the fair board's focus in 2017 was to increase attendance and get back to the numbers they had prior to the two hurricane years. Preparations are underway for the 2018 fair; at the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs Convention the fair board hired the Butterfly Encounter and the Mountain Music Stories and Dance show to be part of the entertainment at the 2018 fair. 
    Rowan County Fair
    Johnny Love, the manager of the Rowan County Fair in Salisbury, North Carolina had positive reports about the 2017 fair. A stark contrast to last year's nearly complete washout, there was beautiful weather throughout the fair. This was the Rowan County Fair's second year using Powers and Thomas as their carnival provider. 
    Entertainment at the 2017 fair included Garcia's Circus, a demolition derby, 4-wheeler motocross, a dinosaur exhibit, and a fireworks display for fairgoers to enjoy. Love also mentioned the fair's enthusiastic "Got to be NC" display as a highlight of the 2017 fair. 
    This was the second year that the Rowan County Fair was able to utilize their newly built 10,000 square foot building on the grounds. The new building is also rented out year-round; the extra revenue helps with the upkeep of the fairgrounds and the budget for the fair. 
    Love has been the manager of the Rowan County Fair for eight years. Having been in the industry for a considerable period of time, Love feels that the theme for this year's North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs Convention, "Times Are Changing," has never been more true. "True, county, agricultural fairs seem to be going by the wayside. I find it tougher each year to keep the agricultural aspect alive," says Love. 
    The 2018 Rowan County Fair will feature three new acts for entertainment as well as a huge livestock show, demolition derby, and motocross. The Rowan County Fair is run by the Rowan County Fair Association and has been in existence for 65 years. 
    Cleveland County Fair
    The Cleveland County Fair in Shelby, North Carolina also had a great 2017 run according to fair manager, Bobby Jenks. The fair has been around for 93 years and Jenks has been the manager for 5. Although newer to the fair manager position, the Jenks family has been in the concessionaire business for decades; Jenks owns a popper, a grab joint, and a funnel cake stand, among other trailers. 
    Entertainment for the Cleveland County Fair is booked through Bobby McLamb's Artists and Attractions. The Zerbini Family Circus is one of the fair's most popular acts. Jenks is currently finalizing some new entertainment for the 2018 fair including a motorcycle act and some grandstand entertainment including 2 demolition derbies. Most entertainment is free with admission, however, demolition derby shows are an additional ticketed show. 
    Reithoffer Shows has been the carnival operator at the Cleveland County Fair for 41 years. The orange unit plays the spot and brings about 44 rides. Attendance at the 2017 fair was about 115,000 people which is slightly down from numbers in years past but has been pretty average for the last 4-5 years of the fair. 
    Lenoir County Fair
    2018 is shaping up to be a big year for the Lenoir County Fair. Lloyd Moody, fair manager, says that he is looking forward to working on "re-inventing" their fair. Powers and Thomas will be the new midway provider for the fair; the contract was previously held by Amusements of America who had to give up the spot in order to play the newly acquired Bloomsburg Fair in Pennsylvania. Moody is excited to work with Powers and Thomas and mentioned that their company is highly commended in the industry. 
    The Lenoir County Fair dates are also shifting. Previously, the fair took place during the 3rd week in September and now will be October 18th-26th, 2018. "We've never had the fair that late in the year and are a little anxious about how it will turn out but excited about some new opportunities," says Moody. 
    About 10,000 people came to the Lenoir County Fair in 2017 which is down a little from years past. Moody said that a lot of local industry has closed down maybe causing some people to move away or have less money to spend. The fair featured lots of local entertainment in 2017 as well as a demolition derby and dirt bike races.

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2017 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

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The Industry Buzz
Keenan Family Sells Ye Old Mill Ride to Minnesota State Fair

The oldest attraction at the Minnesota State Fair, the Ye Old Mill, has been sold to the Minnesota State Fair.  John Keenan Sr. and his family have owned and operated the attraction for over 102 years, spanning over five generations.  The Minnesota State Fair will now operate the attraction.  

"Ye Old Mill is a living connection to the State Fair's storied past," said General Manager Jerry Hammer. "We're grateful to the Keenan family for creating and maintaining this gem, and we will carry on their century-long tradition of making memories for millions of Minnesotans."

"It has been an incredible experience sharing this tradition at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. We are so pleased the State Fair will continue this tradition for future generations," said John Keenan Sr.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 1/15/2018
Richard George, Sr. Passes
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Richard George, Sr., of George's Fun Foods of Gibsonton, Florida.

A viewing will be held on Monday, January 15 from  6-midnight and the funeral will be held on Tuesday, January 16 at noon.  Services will be held at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens located at 2323 W Brandon Blvd Brandon, FL.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 1/14/2018
H2B Visa - Fraud Alert
It has come to our attention that Neil Munro of Breitbart is calling around asking to speak to H-2B employers. His is apparently identifying himself as merely a "Washington DC reporter" instead of referring to the organization he works for, Breitbart. 

Munro is well-known for articles hostile to H-2B. I and several other H-2B program participants (two or three agents and two very credible employers) met him for lunch several months ago. After the meeting he understood that many of his prior H-2B statements were 100% inaccurate. We hoped his future reporting on H-2B would reflect the things he learned from our meeting but instead he has doubled down on his previous lies.

Neil Munro cannot be trusted. It is our advice that you do not speak with him. He is looking to reaffirm his preconceived narrative and will twist your words to fit that narrative. If you choose to speak with him, be on guard. You have nothing to hide but reporters are excellent at getting out of their interviewee what they want to hear.
  Posted by Seasonal Employment Alliance on 12/19/2017
2018 Carnival Calendars - NOW SHIPPING
2017 Carnival Photo Calendars are now shipping!  Quantities are limited!  Get yours today!

Since 2003, the carnival photo calendar has become a tradition in everyones home or office for over 15 years.'s 2018 Carnival Calendars are available exclusively through!  Unlike anything of it's type, the calendar is professionally printed on gloss stock and features over 72 photos of carnivals and concessions from around the country.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 11/27/2017
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.

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