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  • Calgary Stampede's Community Support Strong Despite Rainy Days & Down Economy
    Less than optimum weather and a Canadian economy still stuck in the doldrums negatively impacted the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada. Attendance was more than 1.8 million, but still down by more than 80,400 compared to last year. But community support for this Rodeo and Western Culture event still made for a successful fair, auguring well for its future sustainability.

    "We had a terrible weather week, it was very rainy," said Jennifer Booth, Manager, Public Relations Calgary Stampede.. "The first couple of days, we had nice weather, and for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we had daily attendance figures that were higher than the previous year But for most of the fair, we had rainy periods, some thunder and lightening, we didn't close down but it was gloomy." 

    Community Support
    She added, "the weather became comical half-way through the fair. There's nothing you can do about the rain, but we have a number of indoor and outdoor attractions. There's really a good balance of indoor and outdoor activities, and when the rain stopped people came out." 

    The regional economy is about the same as last year, and while not getting worse, Booth pointed out that there is a "compounded effect, because people have been unemployed for longer periods of time. More people are taking the stay-cation, and that helps because we are a very good value, but there's a lot of apprehension, so people aren't spending as freely."

    But on the other hand, the Calgary Stampede has tremendous community support. "We can really feel the love. Calgarians love their stampede, and we're pretty resilient. There is a lot of community spirit when it comes to Stampede time, and it's a great way to showcase Western culture."

    Indian Village
    The most popular new attraction - and one sure to be come annual event - was an  Indian Village exhibit, which showcased the culture of Canada's First Nations. "We were able to showcase their culture, we had 26 tepees set up, different demonstrations, artisan products,  performances."

    Another popular attraction was the return of the Peking Acrobats,  which performed three times per day. "They were back by popular demand, and they were very well received." 

    While the Stampede's main focus is the Rodeo, headline entertainment include the Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum and Jeff Dunham.  "We do have some clout, so booking entertainment hasn't been an issue here like it has been in some places," said Booth. 

    Stampede Things
    The Calgary Stampede developed a clever and compelling marketing campaign that combined the personal ownership appeal of an event that continues to be a popular promotion strategy with the uniqueness of this particular fair. The tagline was 'It's a Stampede Thing, ' which Booth said "was very effective, and made the general public bring their own personality to the Stampede."

    Booth described the tagline being used as a punchline, such as Parallel Parking Between Two Chuck Wagons or Eating All Your Meals on a Stick, with a rejoinder, "It's a Stampede Thing."

    Booth said the campaign, "was a lot of fun, and we encouraged Hasthtags with It's a Stampede Thing, which caught on. It was really about fairgoers creating their own Stampede Experience. People come to the Stampede every year, purely for rodeo, rides and food. But it's also their own fair and family activities, so our marketing campaigning was to be inclusive."

    While Booth declined to disclose the marketing budget for the event, she said that it was about the same last year and included standard expenditures in all variety of media, old and new. "But we increase our social media every year, we adapt to trends and it gets bigger. The tagline was definitely incorporated in our social media, and it was a great slogan for Facebook. 

    She added that it was the third year for the Stampede to have a Stampede photography contest. "It's a typical Instagram contest, and works great. We also dabbled in Facebook Live this year." 

    The fair also attempted a pop-up promotion. With Mother Nature being uncooperative and negatively impacting attendance, Booth implemented a $5 admission price for entry between 5:00 - 7:00, prime time for the fair. "It was a thank you to our guests, because when it's raining, you want to thank them for coming to the fair. It was kind of spontaneous, we decided mid-fair that we had to do something."

    Booth pointed out that while the concept of a pop-up promotion wasn't new to the Stampede, implementing a mid-fair price reduction was. "We did see an increase in attendance when we reduced the price, so it was a success. It was mainly conducted through Social Media. I expect we will be doing more of them in the future, because they do work and social media is a great vehicle for a pop-up promotion. We were heavy on social media for the pop up promotion, but we also did a little on live radio, and interviews." 

    Rodeo Strong
    The main draw of the Calgary Stampede is the Rodeo, accompanied of course of by Western motifs. While rodeo may seem out of the mainstream elsewhere in North America, dedicated fans and the long established Rodeo traditions of the Calgary Stampede remain a dependable foundation for this Canadian fair. 

    "The rodeo is an iconic event, and it is an invitational rodeo," said Booth, with a $2 million dollar purse and $100,000 up for grabs on each competition day."

    She added, "I'm not sure how much it is growing, but the rodeo has a very large and loyal fan base. People come from all over the world to see this rodeo. The rain didn't really affect the competition, it was just a little messier. People came out to the see the rodeo in the rain, they stick it out."

    NAME Midway  
    The Calgary Stampede midway, provided by NAME (North American Midway Entertainment),  featured 59 rides, including new a Himalaya and Charlie Chopper, and a ground up, $250,000 restoration of the Polar Express, which has become a prized jewel of the Canadian NAME route, according to Scooter Korek, Vice President of Client Services, NAME. 

    "It is getting rave reviews from our customers," he said. "It is a specular Music ride, but we've done a beautiful job with it, it is an entirely new ride. 

    The biggest grossing rides at the Calgary Stampede were the Crazy Mouse Roller Coaster and Giant Wheel.

    "We had an abnormal amount of rain," said Korek. "Eight out of the 10 days had periods of rain, that hurt our overall performance, and hurt their attendance. But apart from the rain, it was a good Stampede."

    The regional economy also affected the fair. "There's a large amount of unemployment in the area, which relies heavily on the oil industry. People are staying home because of the high U.S. dollar. People are apprehensive about the future. But that helps the fair, because of the value, so people still come out of the fair. And the Stampede does a lot of promotions and that appeals to people and draws them out." 

    Korek pointed out that the rodeo is as "popular as ever," but added that the extraordinary aspect of the Calgary Stampede is that "the whole town gets into the spirit. The western culture, the rodeo, the Chuck Wagon lifestyles, that is big out here, and everybody loves the Stampede. But even people who have no relationship with the fair, businesses who aren't sponsors, get involved with wearing western gear and putting up decorations. It's really a testament to how a big a part of the community the Stampede is, the entire city gets involved, even in the rain or a down economy. I think the whole fair business, both here and in the states, can learn something from how the do things in Calgary." 

    The Calgary Stampede has been an ongoing event for 104 years, and the Summer and Western traditions have been passed down through generations and embraced by newcomers. 

    Bad weather and a down economy seem easily defeated by the decades of support for this Canadian event. "The community support is really heart felt," said Booth. We've seen some great economic times and some pretty bad economic times, but we're fairly resilient. We are able to plan each year and put out the best Stampede moving forward."

    Rainy days and economic doldrums might mean a down year - circumstances faced by all outdoor events - but the Calgary Stampede is able to roll with the bad times and capitalize on the good times. "We have been fiscally prudent, and we are able to align our work loads with the fair and the grounds, which are 12 months  a year," she said. "We are in a fairly strong position, and prepared for a down year. But we always plan on putting on the best Stampede the next year." 

  • Carnival owner, Dan Driskill, finds therapy through his musical talents
    Dan Driskill engages in heavy metal at both of his jobs. The full-time carnival owner has a side gig as the drummer in an Iron Maiden tribute band.

    Maiden Chicago, the name of the group that calls Chicago home, has performed for the past six years in clubs across Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. Driskill, co-owner of D&J Amusements, pounds the skins on 11-piece customized Ludwig drum kit. It adds up to $15,000 worth of equipment.

    The investment is worth it for Driskill. Everybody in the carnival industry knows the demands of operating an outdoor business largely dependent on the weather. Indoors, in the glare of stage lights, it's a different story. Driskill finds the relief he needs behind the massive drum set at a Maiden Chicago show.

    "It's a huge outlet for me apart from the stress of running the carnival," Driskill said. "It's therapeutic."

    Driskill, whose family ran the old Spectacular Midways for many years, has played drums since he was 9 years old. 

    "Ever since I could reach the pedals," he said. "I played on and off for fun all through school. For a stretch of about eight years, I didn't play because we were always on the road with the carnival. I realized how much much I missed it."

    It's a labor of love for Driskill and his four bandmates, lead singer Bill Swanson, bass player Gary Igram and guitarists Al Contreras and Mike Zatezalo. They're all heavy metal fanatics. On his own, Driskill grew up listening to Judas Priest, KISS, and of course, Iron Maiden, a band formed in London in 1975. 

    Maiden Chicago was launched after Eric Babcock, the band's co-founder, posted a message on Facebook stating his interest in starting an Iron Maiden tribute act. One thing led to another and "five guys who didn't know each other" started the band, Driskill said.

    Babcock left the band in 2012 to join Damaged Justice, a Metallica tribute group. Ralph Circelli, another Maiden Chicago original, now performs in a band called Color Me Dead that plays original music.

    The five current members of Maiden Chicago practice once a week at Driskill's house in Bourbonnais, Ill. Driskill has a soundproof studio set up in his basement. The others come from as far as Lombard and Carpentersville in Chicago's western suburbs to get to Driskill's house in the far south suburbs.

    The pay isn't great, according to Driskill. The band receives between $800 and $1,200 per show depending on the venue. "After it's split between five guys and we pay for hauling the equipment, we're in the hole," he said. "We do it because we enjoy it, and that's why we have other careers. We want to have fun."
    There have been a few moments of glory for Maiden Chicago. In June 2015, the group opened for national act Jackyl during Throttle Fest, a biker event in Grayslake, Ill. 

    Jackyl is known for a hit song called "The Lumberjack," and those who have seen the band live know that lead singer Jesse James Dupree wields a chainsaw during the performance of that particular tune.

    Otherwise, the carnival season effectively restricts Maiden Chicago's performance schedule. The band plays about one show a month over the summer before expanding to a steady stream of weekend dates in the offseason. 

    Maiden Chicago has a website and a YouTube channel. One upcoming date is Aug. 27 at JJ Kelley's in Lansing, Ill.  Bang your head.

  • Ohio State Fair: Excessive Heat Causes Attendance Decline
    The July heatwave that plagued much of the U.S. did not leave the Ohio State Fair unscathed. But as impacts go, the celebration of everything Buck Eye State was considered successful.

    An improving economy, strong marketing, an exciting entertainment line-up and a supportive community all contributed to what was a very upbeat event, in spite of an attendance decline of 6 percent. But even with this significant dip, the fair recorded its second best fair since going to a 12-day format in 2004.

    "We had a great one again," said Virgil Strickler, General Manager, Ohio Expo Center & State Fair. "Every year we like to beat the fair we had before, and for the past three to five years, we had great fairs, and last year was our best year. We've really proven ourselves in terms of security, beautification, the cleanliness of the grounds, and the entertainment we have. We planted more than 40,000 flowers this year, and we work really hard to keep the grounds clean and beautiful, I've never heard so many compliments. We give our families who come to the Ohio State Fair a diversified value for their dollar." 

    90 Degrees
    Weather was culprit behind the attendance drop, "most days were incredibly hot with significant humidity and temperatures above 90 degrees, and we had untimely rain on three or four occasions," said Alicia Shoults, Marketing & Public Relations Director, Ohio Expo Center & State Fair.  

    Attendance did reach 921,214, a hardy turnout considering the severity of the heat wave. "We have a lot of shaded areas, all our buildings are air conditioned and we have a lot of buildings on the grounds that are all used as part of the fair," said Strickler. "We have a lot of options for people who visit the fair."

    Per capita spending rose about 5 percent, indicating that the fairgoers are in a spending mood. "The economy has been better this year," said Strickler.  "They still want value and that's what we offer them."

    Shoults pointed out that the fair has built upon community support, which was actually strengthened by the value the fair offered them during pre-recovery economic times. "The economic downturn caused people to look more closely at their spending and rather than full-fledged vacations, many choose to take staycations," said. "This worked out well for fairs, and during this time, I feel that we have built a relationship with those individuals who now choose to continue to add the Ohio State Fair into their summer plans as a family tradition."
    She also emphasized that the fair also introduced new amenities, including a brand-new 100,000 square-foot building, increased grounds entertainment and attractions, added a new mobile app and increased infant care stations. "We continue to enhance the fairgoer experience," she said. "I'm sure all fairs would love to break records every year, but by and far, our goal is to put on a great fair - and we did!"

    Social Media Marketing
    The Ohio State Fair had an advertising budget of about $350,000, which Shoults said included print, television, radio, web, social media, outdoor and movie theatre and showed no allocation shift compared to last year.

    The real action in fair marketing in 2016 was an expanded media presence. According to Shoults, Snapchat has been a growing social media platform, the fair was unable to "have Snapchat community geofilters approved for the Ohio State Fair due to the significant cost for branded geofilters," she said. "Unfortunately, we were rejected about four times. However, geofilters were used with by fair sponsors in conjunction with the event for positive results."

    For example, the American Dairy Association Mideast, purchased a geofilter for the "legen-dairy" butter cow display.
    The most effective social media promotions were giveaways, which Shoults said were "incredibly popular". The giveaway promotions were on all Ohio State Fair social media platforms, beginning in May and have a diverse range of prizes. "We kick off giveaways on all of our social media pages for fair admission or concert tickets and conduct a giveaway nearly every single day," said Shoults, who added that giveaways for "Jeff Dunham were the most popular and engaging."

    In addition, the fair took advantage of what Shoults describes as emerging trends on social media. "Using Facebook Live videos during large events and using features like Boomerang to create memorable video snippets for outlets such as Instagram. For the second year, we have had one individual dedicated to posting on social media for the full duration of the Fair, and that has worked very well. We communicate closely with various departments at the Fair to ensure that we are aware of any happenings and can post it on social media - one example being a livestock exhibitor who proposed to his girlfriend with a banner asking "Will you be my Grand Champion Wife?" - a post that was among our most popular for the Fair. Our posts featuring tradition and iconic features of the Fair were by far the most popular, as they encourage patrons to engage and share their memories on our pages."

    But iconic traditional fair imagery was not the only internet marketing by the fair. The Ohio State Fair also took advantage of the latest mobile internet trend of July - Pokemon Go. The Ohio State Fair had 17 Pokestops and two gems. "This definitely helped attendance, and we had to tell our security staff to be aware of clusters of people looking at their phones. You could also see people getting excitement when they won a new gem, it was a lot of fun." 

    Amusements of America 
    The Ohio State Fair midway - provided by Amusements of America - featured about 76 rides, and generated approximately $2.3 million in revenue, which was down about 6 percent from 2015. But, as Rob Vivona, General Manger of Amusements of America commented, "we were up 20 percent last year, which was a record year for us at the fair." 

    He added, "the really hot weather is not the best for rides during the day. But the nights were good. People are spending when they do come out. "
    The best midway promotions were ride-all-day wristbands, now available every day of the fair, with a noticeable increase for online sales. New rides for the fair included an Orbiter, Elephant Ride, Alien Abduction, and Starship, stated Vivona.

    Amusements of America subcontracted with several other ride companies, including Belle City and Jeremy Floyd. According to the fair, the top 10 rides by gross at the fair were the Skyglider - which is owned by the Ohio State Fair, followed by Giant Slide, Giant Wheel, Crazy Mouse, Fireball, Rock-N-Roll, Space Roller, Wave Swinger, Moonraker, and Pharaoh's Fury.  

    "When the weather is good, it is a great fair," said Vivona. "It was a great fair this year, we were just down a little bit. They use every resource at this fair, it's a large fairgrounds, and a beautiful fairgrounds. They always are bringing in new exhibits and attractions and that brings out the community."

    For Amusement of America, their 2016 fair route has been plagued by uncooperative weather. "Late spring we hit a rough patch with rain, and the heat heart us, but things are picking up again in the end of summer," he added. 

    Dolly & Dunham
    The fair remains committed to separate admission for concerts, and hosted two sell-outs this year - Dolly Parton and Jeff Dunham, and also was a stage for the final world tour of country music legend Kenny Rogers. According to Shoults, the Keith Sweat / After 7 concert, was also well received.

    Shoults admits that entertainment booking continues to "to trend toward being a seller's market," with no relief in sight.

    Entertainment costs are undeniably rising, but tracking an exact metric is problematic. "It is hard to put an exact dollar amount on this, because individual concert acts demand different prices and in order to book acts that are appropriate for our market and our line-up, we may end up paying more one year over the next," she said. " Fortunately, grounds entertainment act prices have remained relatively stable."

    Like many fairs, the Ohio State Fair relies heavily on classic Rock and Country acts as a foundation for the headline entertainment at the fair, rounded out by Contemporary Christian, R&B and Comedy, such as Dunham. But the reality is that heritage acts are not growing, as exemplified by Kenny Rogers knowing when to fold them. "There are a finite number of the heritage acts like Kenny Rogers, and replacing those is hard," she said. "The artists guarantees are higher, and there are more music festivals, so it poses a challenge for us and it is harder and harder to do a diverse line up."

    Booking is earlier, but singing deals for all 12 nights of the fair can often come later than usual. "We have offers out there, and not everyone is committing early. By March, we are still rushing to fill in dates. We are in a good fiscal position, so we have been able to accommodate the increase in prices and guarantees. But I anticipate another challenging year. Fairgoers expect headline entertainment and big names at the Ohio State Fair." 

    Fried Buckeyes & Bacon
    About 190 food vendors were at the Ohio Sate Fair, with concession gross reaching approximately $4.75 million, according to Shoults,  a healthy showing for fair cuisine, although about 8 percent lower than last year. 

    "This year, we had two new vendors of note," said Shoults. " Big G's Food Service, serving alligator - a new delicacy for our Fair, and McLellan's Shrimp Shack, serving a number of seafood items including jumbo crab-stuffed tots and shrimp and bacon kebabs. Both seemed to be popular among fairgoers."

    But the Buckeye State Fair-goers showed their annual preference for the unusual and the deep fried. "This year's newest creation, bacon-wrapped deep-fried Oreos and the latter addition of bacon-wrapped deep-fried Buckeyes, which is a chocolate and peanut butter candy, and that proved to be quite popular."

    She added that if there was a trend among the fair food offerings It was among "some healthier options, like gluten free and dairy-free items. Healthier smoothies were very popular. Because it was so hot, the cold treats were doing very well this year."

  • Despite Heat Wave Induced Attendance Dip, Delaware Sponsorships Strengthen Fair
    Weather may be a determinant factor when it comes to fair attendance, but attendance does not have to be the determining factor in the success and sustainability of a fair.

    An excruciating heat wave hindered the Delaware State Fair, causing a 15 percent drop in attendance. The clever marketing tagline – A Slice of Summer – invoked the fair season and traditions, but unfortunately summer arrived with more than a slice – high humidity, hot days and some thunderstorms.

    Hot Summer Fun
    Bill DiMondi, General Manager could not remember a heat wave this long and intense lasting for the majority of the fair. "Perhaps our slogan should have been revised to say find your 'slice of hot summer fun' in order to be more accurate," he said, jokingly, adding that "With a fair or major outdoor event being held on the Del-Mar peninsula during the last 10 days of July, you expect extremes in weather, however, this year was clearly one for the records."

    The 2016 Delaware State Fair attracted 262,587 fairgoers to the fair, down 15 percent from last year. Optimum summer weather led to a record 2015 for the fair, but the 2016 edition saw a steady stream of National Weather Service-issued heat advisories and experienced heat indices in excess of 100 degrees for seven out of the 10 days. 

    According to the fair, RealFeel temps peaked at 114 degrees on Monday, July 25th and violent thunderstorms raked through the fairgrounds on Thursday, July 28th, the same day that in nearby Maryland a tornado was reported in in Talbot County and a water spout was seen off the beaches in Fenwick Island and Ocean City. The rain cooled things down, and the closing Friday and Saturday drew close to record setting crowds. 

    "We were prepared for the heat", DiMondi said. "With the cooperation of Wade Shows, the carnival provider, a whole bunch of food vendors on the grounds and all our competitive exhibit departments, we created many shaded spots for families to rest. Cool zones with patron seating opportunities in many of the air-conditioned exhibit buildings were prepared and identified for use by overheated patrons looking to cool down and rehydrate."

    While every fair hopes for a cooperative mother nature – the Delaware State Fair had optimum weather for a record breaking year in 2015 – more importantly, fairs must create a solid operation that can withstand the lows as well as maximize the highs. 

    In spite of the dip in attendance, an improving economy, an entertainment line-up that defied current booking trends, new marketing and a successful push for increased sponsorships both softened the attendance hit and strengthened the future of the fair.

    "We continue to stay the course," said Danny Aguilar, Assistant General Manager. "We put on a great fair and it was a fun fair. We get 72 percent of our attendees from Delaware, but we are getting folks from Maryland and Pennsylvania and our State Department of Tourism tells us we are one of the largest, if not the largest entertainment destination in the region."

    Sponsorship Strength
    Sponsorships were up 17 percent over last, a metric indicating that Delaware State Fair is a recognizable brand that business both want to be associated it and that they see the event as a marketing opportunity. 

    Of course, it helps when the fair takes a proactive and innovative approach. 

    Driving this increase in sponsorships was a new platform that encouraged fair support from a wider array of regional businesses. 

    The fair implemented a centrally located, highly visible 16' x 10' Jumbotron that showed promotional clips of attractions and things to do at the fair, interspersed with 15 and 30 second commercials (priced $995 and $595 respectively). The costs was competitive with local radio and advertising rates, and the clips rotated at least 12 times per day. 

    "We had a great response and increased the number of sponsors," said Danny Aguilar, Assistant General Manager. "We were able to get more local businesses and community members who otherwise could not afford to sponsor the fair. We placed the Jumbotron in a well-traveled area, near our food court, where people will sit and eat. "

    Another sponsorship opportunity as well as additional revenue stream was the VIP Loft, a new two story observation structure for concerts and other events, offering great views, a private cash bar and restrooms – essentially all the amenities of private box seats (even private parking!) – the VIPers also have their own premium seats. While some tickets were sold individually, the new VIP observation deck was mainly used for corporate parties and group ticket sales, allowing for corporate parties of about 150. 

    "It allowed companies to host a party at the fair," he said. "It was a great opportunity."

    The fair "also created other sponsorship assets, jugglers and other ground acts would mention sponsors. It doesn't pay for the act, but it helps off-set the cost of the acts. We also added about five more grounds acts, like X Pogo, which is the traditional pogo stick on steroids and appeals to the millennials. We paired sponsors with the acts, and incorporated the sponsors into the acts."

    More 1,000 hours of sponsored ground acts were programmed throughout the fair, and include The Procrastinators and Scott's Future of Magic Show; Circus Hollywood; racing pigs, two petting zoos, and Catherine Hickland, the world renowned hypnotist.

    Country Revival
    The Delaware State Fair remains committed to popular entertainment, featuring Jake Owen to kick off the fair a day early in a preview show. Besides the Monster Truck Meltdown and Manlove Auto Parts' Demolition Derby, perennial favorites of fairgoers, the M&T Bank Grandstands featured such acts as Jeff Dunham, Little Big Town with Kristian Bush, Alabama, a Contemporary Christian Night, with For King & Country and Sidewalk Prophets. Most shows had individual sponsors.

    "The M&T Bank Grandstand continues to play a crucial role in bringing nationally recognized entertainment to the Delmarva Peninsula," said Aguilar, in an official statement. "The Fair is extremely proud and genuinely appreciative in announcing the successful conclusion of discussions with M&T Bank that will result in M&T Bank signing on for another 5 years as title sponsor of the M&T Bank Grandstand." 
    "We have sponsored the State Fair for nearly 25 years, and this new agreement will extend our support through 2021. M&T looks forward to continuing our role in bringing top-level entertainment to the M&T Bank Grandstand and enriching the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of fans who come from all over the Delmarva Peninsula," said Nick Lambrow, President of M&T Bank's Delaware Region. "As the leading bank in the state, we are proud to support The Delaware State Fair, the single largest attraction in Delaware."

    Two other notable shows were Jam Band stalwarts Blues Traveler, who closed the fair but also headlined its second annual Craft Beer Festival, which featured 60 separate craft brews from 20 different breweries, and the first ever Delaware State Fair appearance by Delaware's most famous Rocker, George Thorogood and the Destroyers (the original incarnation of this band was George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers).

    According to reports: "Never having played below the canal, Thorogood indicated his delight in playing the fair noting that it took him nearly 40 years to get downstate. During his encore, Thorogood said that he would love to continue an annual tradition of playing at the fair."

    According to Aguilar, while entertainment booking is still a challenge, it improved for the fair this year. Two major festivals in the region, the Live Nation-produced DelawareJunction and Red Frog-produced Big Barrel country music festival, were cancelled this year. "This opened up some more country music for us," said Aguilar. 

    "We had backed off from country, but this year country music returned. There is still competition, but with the two country music festivals folding this year, it did increase some availability of acts for the fair."

    The booking picture may have improved, but it is still far from rosy. "It's a sellers market," he said. "It's very frustrating, you have to book earlier and the acts are saying yes later. It's more expensive. We're already booking for 2017 and we've noticed an increase in prices of about 10 percent." 

    Nonetheless, "fairgoers have always viewed entertainment as part of the Delaware State Fair experience, and we are the premier entertainment destination for Delaware. We work harder, and we look for more partnerships."
    One example was the Contemporary Christian concert, where the fair partnered with a local Christian radio station. "It was the fourth year in the row, and they have built the audience for this night."

    And in a heat-plagued outdoor event, the night time shows attracted fairgoers. "When the heat is excessive, people stay away during the day, but will still come out at night to see a show." 

    Carnival Eats
    The fair featured 300 food vendors, and revenue for Food & Beverage suffered along with the heat.  But the energy in this segment was high, with some attention grabbing trends and national media exposure. Aguilar said that the fairgoers tended to prefer traditional – deep fried and/or on a stick – fair cuisines, although he did notice some new items. "The Funnel Cake Burger, which was a spin off the donut burger, I hadn't seen before and that was very popular. Scrapple Quesadillas were new too. There were doing some new things with Quesadillas this year, very unique. People wanted food that they can carry and are easy to transport."

    He also noticed that "shark bites and gator bites, which are unique to fairs, were popular."

    The fair and its abundance of fair cuisine vendors also received some extra attention. According to Aguilar, the Food Network program, Carnival Eats filmed segments at the fair. "They were here for a few days, and they showcased eight different dishes. 

    Surviving Attendance Declines
    The midway at the Delaware State Fair was provided by Wade Shows and featured 58 rides. 

    The fair reported that the gross was down 16 percent compared to 2015. Frank Zaitshik, Wade Shows founder and president took the long-view when assessing the 2015 Delaware event. 

    "We've been at the Delaware State Fair since 1998 and over the course of that time the revenue has grown grow dramatically, he said. "But you arealso aware that  in Delaware you always have a chance of extremely oppressive heat. Last year had extremely good weather, but when you have days a lot of excessive heat, it definitely affects rides."

    In addition to taking a down fair in stride, Zaitshik pointed out that the fair has "a very enlightened fair management, and in recent years they made a lot of great changes in marketing and capital improvements and that has contributed to a lot of the successes of the fair."

    Wade Shows saw what Zaitshik described as a "slight uptick" in advanced wristband sales. Also, due to some fairground improvements, the midway had a more "creative layout, and "we brought in a few new pieces, including the Delusion and the Super Cyclone, which hasn't been there in a while, and that was very well received. The perennial favorite was the Giant Wheel."

    The economy in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states remains sluggish, although Zaitshik said that there are some positive signs. 

    "In an economic downturn, certain components feel it the most. The carnival is the carnival, people are going to come to the fair for the value, and they want to ride the rides. But they do not come for multiple visits. The food and the games suffer during an economic downturn. I don't see that this year. In Delaware because of the weather, we got the good, the bad and the ugly, but the games and food were down proportionally. This indicates to me that maybe the economy is not as bad as it has been." 

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Greenwich, NY
8/22/2016 - 8/28/2016
Arnold Amusements
Hudsonville Community Fair
Hudsonville, MI
8/23/2016 - 8/27/2016

IAAPA Attractions Expo - Orlando, FL
[more info..]

I.I.S.F. Gibtown Extravaganza - Gibsonton, FL
[more info..]

2015 TOP 50 FAIRS
1. Texas State Fair - Dallas, TX
2. Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo - Houston, TX
3. Minnesota State Fair - St. Paul, MN
4. San Antonio Livestock Show & Ex. - San Antonio, TX
5. Canadian National Exhibition

View Top 50 Fairs
The Industry Buzz
S&S Amusements patriarch, Steve Swika Jr., passes
It is with great regrets to announce the passing of Steve Swika, Jr., owner of Pennsylvania based S&S Amusements.  Steve passed quietly in his sleep on August 19, 2016.  Steve is preceded in death by his wife, Jackie.  Arrangements have been made at Hedley W. Mason Funeral Home, 436 Main Street in Peckville, PA.  Friends may attend Tuesday, August 30, 2 to 5pm or 6 to 9 pm. Funeral services will also be held at Mason Funeral Home on Wednesday, August 31 at 11 am followed by entombment at St. Mary's Mausoleum, Montdale.
  Posted by Matt Cook / Obiturary on 8/22/2016
Industry Veteran Gene McQuater Passes
Industry veteran Gene McQuarter passed away at the age of 83.  Aside from his life-long accomplishments on the midway, Gene also served as the second Treasurer of the St. Louis Showmen's League and holds a lifetime membership card.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.  His funeral arrangements are as follows:

McDaniel Funeral Home
847 N. St. Louis Ave.
Tilden, IL. 62292

Visitation: Sunday August 21 from 4:00-8:00pm and Monday August 22 from 10:00-12:00pm.  Funeral to follow at nearby church.

  Posted by Matt Cook / Obiturary on 8/17/2016
Minnesota State Fair releases Mighty Midway and Kidway equipment lists
The Minnesota State Fair announced its lineup of rides and games for the 2016 Minnesota State Fair, taking place August 25 - September 5 in St. Paul.  Highlighting this years Mighty Midway is the return of S&J Entertainment's Huss Flipper, which took a three year absence from the fair after originally debuting in 2012.  Other returning attractions include the Super Nova and Crazy Mouse Roller Coasters, Magnum, Techno Power, New York New York fun house, Big Bamboo, Hurricane (KMG Fun Factory), Equinox (KMG Tango), Rock It (KMG Inversion), and the Stinger.  

New to the kidway is the Majestic Charlie Chopper, booked by Richard Tinsley and Kenny Bender. 

Both midways will feature a combined total of 61 rides and attractions.

Click here to view a complete list of rides and games booked at the 2016 MN State Fair.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 8/3/2016
Lloyd "Mokey" Choate, Sr. passes
Lloyd "Mokey" Choate, Sr., age 73 of Judsonia, died Monday, July 25, 2016 in Searcy.  Mokey was the owner of Star Amusements of Arkansas and owned several CP Huntington trains. He was born January 26, 1943 in Judsonia, Arkansas to Robert Choate, Sr. and Camella Roseanne Winch Choate. He is survived by one son, Lloyd "Mokey" Choate, Jr. and wife Tonya of Judsonia; two daughters, Luanne Quattlebaum and husband Alan of Judsonia, Phyllisha Swindle and husband Jeremy of Searcy; six grandchildren, Krystal Quattlebaum of Judsonia, Kristin Choate of Judsonia, Trea Choate of Judsonia, Brianna Choate of Judsonia, Hunter Choate of Beebe, Landon Swindle of Searcy; and numerous loving great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins.
  Posted by Obiturary on 8/2/2016
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.

Carolina ATM - Providing ATM service, installation, and sales to the Carnival and Amusement Industry

American Changer’s NEW Ticket Center Kiosk is designed to sell tickets to your customers.  It features a touch screen display and accepts cash, coins, and credit cards.  It dispenses tickets and provides change back to your customer in “bills & coins”.  You can offer a “POP” package with a receipt taken to guest services to be redeemed for a wristband.  The kiosk features cellular communications and offers real-time data monitoring connected to our network server.  Visit or call 800-741-9840.

Custom printed digital canvas from Waterloo Tent & Tarp!

CLASSIC AMUSEMENTS in Northern California is now hiring!  We pay by the hour!  Call George 650-346-5959 or email

Galaxy Amusement Sales - LED Tube lights, LED lights, and much more!  Visit or call 800-404-5873

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