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  • Wilson County Fair:  Tops in Tennessee and beyond
    While anticipating next year's Wilson County Fair (mark those 2016 calendars: August 19th through the 27th), what better thing to do than to relive 2015's many great moments.  

    After all,you don't get to be a Top 50 Fair by sleeping at the Big Wheel.
    What makes this fair "Tops" is not just such legendary headliners as the Four Tops, but also an overall potent blend of old-timey traditional with state-of-the-art modern.  Plus, as they say in the biz:  location, location, location!
    North, South, East and West
    It has been said that Wilson County, part of Nashville's greater metropolitan area, is just a day's drive from 75 percent of the U. S. population.  Helen McPeak, Executive Director of the Wilson County Fair, stated, "We are in a perfect location, less than a mile off of Interstate 40."
    McPeak explained, "Our fair draws crowds from North, South, East and West.  Just one look at the license plates in our parking lot bears this out.  A lot of people plan their vacations around coming here."
    Nashville, of course, is known as "Music City."  The locale is also renowned for its history (e.g., Civil War sites and Andrew Jackson's Hermitage), architecture (Parthenon replica), food (meat-and-three meals), university life (Vanderbilt and Fisk), museums (Tennessee State) and galleries.
    Wilson County itself is quite distinctive.  Once the site of an important saltpeter mine, it supplied the main ingredient for gunpowder during pivotal battles of the 19th century. Wikipedia explains that the county is also "home to a large concentration of cedar glades, a unique ecosystem."  The county seat, home to the fairgrounds, is named Lebanon after the famed Cedars of Lebanon.
    One of the fair events is designed to give patrons a real feel for the surrounding locale.  McPeak explained, "We lead a bicycle ride around Wilson County.  It begins early on Saturday morning and goes around for a number of miles.  There's a short loop and a longer loop."
    Old and New
     The fair's epicenter for old-timey happenings is within Fiddler's Grove.  McPeak elaborates, "Fiddler's Grove is our historical village.  It contains more than 50 buildings that have been either relocated or replica-built."
    The fair's website explains that these buildings include the Hagar Cabin, the Stringtown General Store, the Grist Mill, the Blacksmith's Shop, the Rowland Barnyand the Melrose Church.  There are nightly demonstrations in such skills as campfire cooking, broom making, wood carving, quilting, spinning and weaving.
    The freshly-made molasses is finger-licking good.  McPeak added, "We have a working grist mill that is powered with electricity to turn the water wheel.  We grind corn for meal, grits and hash."
    "On Saturdays we have salsa making and a barbecue cookout.  There's a worship service at the Melrose Church on Sunday morning at 9 o'clock.  We also do sacred harp singing."
    "Plus, there are two different Civil War camps, providing two different views at how life might have been back then.  One camp shows the military tents, attire, things like that. The other shows how civilian families helped out with canning, washing clothes, cooking, etc."
    McPeak continued, "We attribute our success to having good clean family fun and something for everyone.  On the modern end of our spectrum, Amusements of America brought us some new rides this year.  A very popular one was Nemesis 360."  
    "Crazy Mouse and Ring of Fire have also been midway favorites.   Amusements of America has been our provider for the last five years, and they will be with us again next year."
    "The 4-H Chicken Shack was another real crowd pleaser.  They work with an old family recipe that's been passed down for years and years.  Their barbecue chicken is grilled over an open fire and served with cobblers."
    As for other happenings, there were plenty.  McPeak said, "We had livestock shows in three different barns each night of the week.  There was music on seven stages, and a motor sports arena every single night of the fair.  The Exhibit Buildings featured entries by our local community, both youth and adults."
    "This year, for the very first time, we extended the school spirit jam to include our football kickoff.  All of the area schools brought their football players, which involved even more of   the students and their parents than usual."
    Great Stats
     McPeak reported that attendance reached 557,702 this year, the second-highest total ever.  

    She added, "We had a couple of days of rain that affected us, but good weather otherwise. Temperatures were in the 80s by day, and in the 70s by night."
    "We were able to keep our advertising budget within set limits by utilizing a lot of in-kind services.  Our person who's been heading this up for many years does a great job with community networking.  Being this close to Nashville also really helps."
    "We had some really good promotions, too.  On Saturdays we had Early Bird Specials with $2 off admission from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  On Monday, Senior Citizen Day, people 60 and over got a dollar off.  On Sunday, if you brought a bulletin from your favorite place of worship, you got $2 off (adults only).  On opening day, if you bought one carnival-ride $22 armband, you 
    could get a second one at half price."

    Gate admission was regularly $8 for adults, $6 for children 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under.  Season tickets were $33 each.  There were acres of free parking, and preferred parking was $5 per car per day.  On Saturdays only, patrons could purchase round-trip train tickets from Nashville to the fairgrounds and back.  These special ticket prices ($21 for adults, $16 for kids ages 6 to 12) included fair admission.
    The Wilson County Fair committee is already working on next year's plans.  McPeak and her team are hoping that at least part of the new Expo Center will be ready for use by then.  She's hoping for a 2016 as bright as 2015 and then some.

  • Minnesota State Fair: Attendance Dip, Spending Up
    Spending up in spite of a slight dip in attendance? This seems to be the scenario for the 2015 Minnesota State Fair, whose organizers feel that this success is attributable to a shared attitude by those who make the largest fair in the Midwest possible.

    "We set the bar," said Jerry Hammer, Executive Vice President & General Manager, Minnesota State Fair. "There's an understanding here among everybody who works at the fair that we have to do better than we did every year. But that's because the fairgoers have a real personal ownership of the Minnesota State Fair and we want to exceed their expectations." 

    Attention to Details
    But setting that bar higher this year meant some more attention to detail and the overall experience. For example, last year the fair reopened its West End Market, a section of the fairgrounds first constructed in 1964, a $15 million project. As a follow up, the fair focused on relatively smaller upgrades. "We had more and better landscaping, we paid more attention to cosmetic changes and details, we repainted, replaced windows," said Hammer Some of our buildings are more than 100 years old and some were built during the WPA program in the 1930s. We take great pride in the history we have here."

    This year, one very classic structure celebrated a centennial, Ye Old Mill -the oldest attraction of the fair and touted as the original Tunnel of Love and with a marketing campaign emphasizing tradition but encouraged  "selfies" in front of this classic fair backdrop and hawking commemorative t-shirts. "People come to the fair for the traditions and this has been one of our great traditions."

    Community support and being a tradition shared by multiple generations can be said of many fairs, but Hammer had some validation from an international perspective. During this year's fair, he was hosting a party from the Royal Agricultural Society, a group of fair organizers from the United Kingdom and Australia. "They were seeing three different fairs, but they came back twice to our fair because we really promote a sense of ownership by the fairgoer and they said they could feel that. They wanted to come back. The fair is a collection of experiences, and has really earned its reputation as the Great Minnesota Get Together." 

    The 2015 Minnesota State is considered the 4th highest attended fair in its history, although the rankings are veering close to entering the too close to call category. This year's fair attracted 1.78 million - last year, they exceeded 1.8 million attendees - but we don't count everybody," Hammer said. "We don't count kids and that probably adds another 100,000."

    He added, "we did a record Labor Day, which is the final day of the fair," he said, with the fair receiving 178,000 fairgoers."

    The weather was cooperative with very little rain. "We are not as subject to weather this year, we didn't have the extreme heat and high humidity," he said.

    Snapchat Sizzle
    But in spite of the attendance dip, the fair had sell out grandstand performances and noticeable revenues for food sales and the midway. Perhaps some increases can be attributed to an advertising campaign that combined the old media with a new emphasis on Social Media, particularly the relative newcomer to the platform, Snapchat.

    The fair's advertising budget is $965,000, which is little changed form 2014. "We still do a lot of broadcast commercials," Hammer said. "There are 30 radio and TV shows that do a broadcast from the fairgrounds, which helps quite a bit. Probably the most valuable is radio, we still seem to reach the most people with radio." 

    According to Lara Hughes, communications supervisor, Minnesota State Fair,  the fair upgraded its online video presentations, which were posted on Snapchat, then reposted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. "These short videos gave followers much more flavor of the action or of an exhibit than a photo or even a series of photos," said Hughes. "We panned a wall full of crop art entries rather than showing photos of just some, did a 360 in 10-seconds of the Craft Brewers exhibit and of the Find Arts Center, which may be unfamiliar to some guests."

    In addition, the fair also produced "more behind-the-scenes and set-up video and photos to highlight what happens beyond what every fair guest sees. The goals of this was to build intrigue and interest in a larger variety and diversity of what the fair encompasses beyond the more well-known activities and exhibits; to quench people's curiosity about what happens behind the scenes and what goes into planning and preparing for this huge event; and highlight fairgrounds improvement projects so people gain a more concrete understanding of how we are reinvesting revenue into creating a better fair experience."

    The fair's expanded its use of Snapchat, the launch of which started a week before opening day. "We filled our story with videos and photos that captured shows, exhibits, displays, demonstrations and fair scenes - more content than what we used on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram," Hughes explained. "We tried to show a "day at the fair" and at any given time, had approximately 15-20 photos or videos posted. We launched this to reach a different and additional demographic from our other social media channels and to give people more than what we felt we could post on our other channels without overloading. By the end of the fair, each snap was consistently viewed by more than 1,400 people."

    She added that the reception of the campaign was "particularly successful. We heard anecdotally from many young people, ‘Are you the fair's mystery Snapchatter?', and several let us know that they enjoyed looking at our story each day, because it was gave unique insight into a day at the fair. We also believe that we introduced new aspects of the fair to younger people so they'll expand their fair experience."

    Fair Cuisine
    Food & Beverage showed a more noticeable revenue increase. Food revenue was estimated at $42 million, an 8 percent increase over 2014. Hammer admitted that there were a small part of that increase can be attributed to an uptick in food prices, although the increase in prices was only about " two to three percent, and seven out of the top 10 foods saw zero price increases."

    The Minnesota State Fair opens at 6:00am, and as a result, "breakfast gets bigger every year," with some of the new breakfast food items including Smokey's Breakfast Burger, Minnesota BEE-NICE Gluten-Free Muffin, Minnesota Wild Rice Benedict Muffin and the Pretzel Croissant Sandwich. Hammer admitted, "The French toast served in our Blue Barn was very popular." 

    Not that the fair did not have new foods. The Minnesota State Fair featured more than 300 food vendors; organizers claim more than 500 different edible items are available at the fair, including more than 40 new food items. 

    Some of the popular new items according to Hammer included Buffalo'd Bones, a "type of grilled rib," he said as well as Butter Chicken Samosas, Chilled Bread Pudding, Grilled Venetian-Style Pizza, Kimchi 'n' Curry Poutine, Limerick Stix, Mac & Cheese Cupcake, Maple Bacon Funnel Cake, Tikka On-a-Stikka, Sausage Sister's Sriracha Sliders, five new flavors of  SPAM Burgers and Caramel Chocolate-Dipped Bacon Ice Cream. "We had a lot more gourmet style food, people come to this fair to eat," he said. "We also had a lot more ethnic food, like the Kimchi 'n' Curry Poutine, which was a Korean deal. It is more than just the typical deep fried foods you see at most fairs;."

    If there is one signature food of the Minnesota State Fair it's "Sweet Martha's Cookies, "There's always a line," he said. "People come every year for these cookies, it's the one food item we are really known for."

    Sold Out Shows
    In terms of concerts, Deff Leppard, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood were sell outs, and Alan Jackson and a double bill of country music legends Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson were near-sell outs, according to Hammer.  In addition, the fair featured a rare fair appearance by the Alternative Country faves, the Avett Brothers and Minnesota's own favorite son, Garrison Keillor, who brought his live radio show of Prairie Home Companion for a stop on his farewell tour. "Garrison is a perfect show demographically and chronologically for the fair, seniors are as into Garrison as hipsters."

    While a seller's market still persists, Hammer pointed out that 2015 was actually an easier year for finding the right mix of headliners. "Talent buying was a tougher two years ago, when there seemed to be a large number of festivals," he said. "It hasn't really gotten an easier, but it wasn't as tough. It depends on who is going and doing the fair circuit and we had good names this year who were on tour and within the vicinity of the fair." 

    When it comes to talent buying, instead of worrying about issues outside of the fair's control, such as routing, artist price and availability, and competition for acts, Hammer points out that the fair is more attuned to those event issues it can control. "We work really hard to have good relationships with artists, managers and promoters," he said. "We also work had to have as good a facility as we can and an environment where artists like to come and work, which is good place as any. The artists aren't asked to pose for pictures with the fair manager, we don't do meet and greets, we have a very good reputation.  They are very appreciative."

    Independent Midway 
    1. Crazy Mouse Spinning Roller Coaster - S.J. Entertainment
    2. Sky Flyer - Reithoffer Equipment Co., Inc.
    3. Super Nova Roller Coaster - KB Concessions LLC
    4. Hurricane - Showtime Rides, Inc.
    5. Gondola Wheel - Playworld Unlimited
    6. New York New York Fun House - Myers International Midways, Inc.
    7. Starship 3000 - Laser Fair, Inc.
    8. Rock It - State Fair Services, Inc.
    9. Techno Power - Wood Entertainment Co., Inc.
    10. Raiders - Rose's Rides, LLC
    11. Wave Swinger - Myers International Midways, Inc.
    12. Puppy Express - Prime Pacific Ent., LLC
    13. Kite Flyer - Alamo Amusements, Inc.
    14. Equinox - Laser Fair, Inc.
    15. Tilt-A-Whirl - Playworld Unlimited

    1. Bottle Up - Candice P. Anderson
    2. Whopper Water Race - Cassata Concessions
    3. Goblets - Candice P. Anderson
    4. Long Range Basketball - Oren Concessions LLC
    5. Goblets - Candice P. Anderson
    6. Shoot Out The Star - Midwest Concessions, Inc.
    7. Rising Waters Water Race - Cassata Concessions
    8. Top Glo Water Race - Cassata Concessions
    9. Ring-A-Bottle - JBS Concessions
    10. Star Dart - Diversified Amusements, Inc.
    11. Mini Ball - Oren Concessions LLC
    12. Long Range Basketball - Oren Concessions LLC
    13. Fish-A-Rama - Oren Concessions LLC
    14. Ring-A-Bottle - Trejo Concessions
    15. Big Mouth - Potopas Concessions, Inc.
    The independent midway at the Minnesota State Fair featured 61 rides, split between the adult rides and the Kidway (the fair had 31 children's rides). The fair contracts with about 25 ride companies, and ride revenue was up 7 percent, reaching $3.95 million. "We had no change in our ticket prices or our promotions," said Jim Sinclair, Deputy Fair Manager.

    New rides for the fair included the New York New York Fun House - Myers International Midways, Inc. and the Super Nova Roller Coaster by KB Concessions LLC, both which were in the top 10 grossing rides of the fair. The top three grossing rides include Crazy Mouse Spinning Roller Coaster by S.J. Entertainment, Sky Flyer by Reithoffer Equipment Co., Inc. and Hurricane by Showtime Rides, Inc.

    Given that the fair attendance dipped 3 percent - in terms of bodies, Sinclair estimated the decline translated into 45,000 fewer fairgoers than 2014 - while factors like good weather encouraged more lingering at the Midway, the extra spending "shows that the economy has improved, people are spending more this Summer."

    Games were also up - about six percent -$264,000. Sinclair is hesitant to note this as the start of a comeback for what many see as a declining feature of fairs. In fact, he points out that the since going independent 20 years ago, Minnesota State Fair organizers have made a concerted effort to improve the game segment, most notably improving the prizes and chances for fairgoers to win. It may have taken two decades, but "we have struggled with the historical perception that the games were fixed, that nobody wins. I think when games are operated smoothly and fairly, people will play. Playing games on your phone is not the same experience as playing them at the fair."

    In addition, it's the traditional games that seem to be making the most significant comeback - Bottle Up by Candice P. Anderson was the leading game. "There is more comfort playing the familiar fair games you can only play once a year. If you create the right environment, and have a fair stock through, games are still a very important part of the midway." 

    Overall, it was a "very strong midway," said Sinclair who also noted that the concerts, such as Def Leppard, brought the right mix of crowds to the fair. Since the Minnesota State Fair is such a vast outdoor event, attendance is not as dependent on the headline entertainment on any given night. Even so, Sinclair conceded that sometimes the concerts bring in crowds which show little interest in the rides and games, and other times the sweet spot is hit and music audiences become gleeful midway participants. The latter was this year's scenario.

    "Some artists have a demographics that just don't like to go on rides or play games, but this year that didn't happen," he said. "Our opening night was Def Leppard and the midway was up 58 percent. You never really know which crowd will be good for the midway, but this year it worked out." 

    The 2015 Minnesota State Fair also saw re-commitment to environmental awareness and best practices by the fair. A new exhibit was the ECO Experience, a green stage shedding light on climate change, environmental issues, and other inconvenient truths. Some of the exhibits include a  25-foot high "Bagnado,"a  plastic tornado made of plastic bags -Minnesotans throw away 500 tons of plastic bags and packaging every day, according to press materials, more than 12 pounds every second, as well DIY recycling, a demonstration of green RV practices and free toy made from recycled materials given to the first 800 kids each day who complete the daily kids activity. "We are the largest sustainable fair in the country," said Hammer. "We are very proud of that."

  • Year of the Farmer Reaps Success for Indiana State Fair
    The theme of the Indiana State Fair - The Year of the Farmer - was appropriate to a state fair intent on both celebrating agriculture and injecting new energy into the leading annual outdoor event in the state called the Cross Roads of America. 

    "Our Year of the Farmer  the theme went very well," said Lesley Gordon, Media & Community Outreach Manager, Indiana State Fair Commission. "We definitely pride ourselves on the importance of  agriculture in our state, and the agriculture exhibits and 4-H competitions. Every year we emphasize a different food commodity, but this year we decided to place the emphasis on the farmer."

    Agriculture Celebration
    Gordon said that in keeping with the everything agriculture theme  educational exhibits on farming, maize, and a Lego construction of farm equipment were featured displays. Through a survey system using interactive kiosks, "over 90 percent of fairgoers surveyed that the Year of the Farmer was a big success and like how the farmer was highlighted in our exhibits."  

    The Indiana State Fair featured 12,416 exhibitors representing nearly 45,000 exhibits, and recognized 24 4-H youth with monetary awards totaling nearly $100,000.  "Celebrating the Year of the Farmer with Dow AgroSciences was a timely recognition for the hard working families that sacrifice to provide the food that feeds families all across this country and the world," said Gordon.

    Attendance Dip
    The 2015 Indiana State Fair suffered an attendance dip to 907,342, (down from 954,000 in 2014). "There were a few rainy days, and a rainy forecast that hurt attendance," said Gordon. 

    The year of the farmer theme also co-promoted two other features of the 2015 Indiana State Fair - the unveiling of a newly renovated Farmer's Coliseum - which hosts paid concerts for the fair - and a new emphasis on locavore fair cuisine among the food offerings. Gordon stated that while she didn't have "final revenue figures," she said that "there was great value in our free entertainment and our concessionaires not being overcrowded."

    In spite of inconsistent weather, the fair had several positive signs. "We had a record breaking opening Saturday and the best $2 Tuesday in history," said Gordon. "We had four days having attendance over 70,000. We had steady crowds to enjoy all the new attractions and  diverse, free entertainment. "  

    The fair's theme also continued a more state-wide attendance. "Our overall trend has been we are getting more people from further away," said Gordon. Through an annual third party survey, 66 percent of fairgoers came from outside the immediate metro-area of the fair. 

    Radio Marketing
    In terms of marketing, the biggest push this year was a "new focus on social media marketing," but she added that the partnering with radio was significant. "We did quite a bit on radio, we spend 40 percent of our advertising budget on radio." 

    The radio partnership promoted the fact that  "with many of the acts we were able set up meet and greets and other promotions that worked out very well. The Indiana State Fair has a reputation for its crew and facility and we have not found this year buying talent was much more difficult than last year." 

    The Farmer's Coliseum was closed last year, undergoing a $53 million comprehensive renovation. Reopening for the 2015 fair, the eponymous facility "tied really well into our theme, but people in this area love the venue and they were excited to see it open again and see performers on the improved stage," said Gordon.

    The Farmer's Coliseum hosted paid concerts, which included Jake Owens and Summer Jam. In addition, the upgraded coliseum  hosted A Prairie Home Companion - the host Garrison Keillor is on a farewell tour, and Indiana was one of the few fairs he played this summer. "It was one of our three paid concerts, and it was a near-sell out," said Gordon. "It was very highly attended and well received."

    It also meant partnering with local NPR radio stations for additional promotions. "Local NPR stations have come to the fair, but we were able to do a lot more cross-marketing with them, with ticket giveaways and we expanded our exposure to that market," said Gordon. "The fair was featured on a couple of local talk shows, which was great exposure too." 

    The fair expanded its outreach to the Hispanic market. The first Sunday of the fair is always an Hispanic Music Festival, but on a Thursday they featured the comedian Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias, and with both events they tied marketing and promotion with local Spanish language radio. "Our Hispanic fairgoers increase a few percent every year," said Gordon. "We are very tied into this market, and this year was the first time we hit it twice. It worked out very well and will probably repeat  the two Hispanic nights next year.

    Farmer Food
    The fair featured 140 food vendors and the fair implemented a clever food promotion  that also reinforced the theme of the farmer-centric theme of the fair - the Indiana State Fair ‘Field to Fair' food contest - where all submissions all had to be made with locally grown or produced Indiana ingredients, "the winner was a smoked pig patty sandwich that was a twist on the traditional sausage sandwich," said Gordon. 

    The fair's signature food item she said was a "deep fried corn on the cob," and other popular food offerings included "deep fried Oreos, deep fried red velvet care, deep fried butter and deep fried macaroni and cheese," she said. 

    Regardless of the deep fried staples remaining popular with fairgoer palates, "we really didn't go overly into the deep fried foods. They're still popular, but they don't seem to be as popular as they were. We were one of the first fairs to ban all trans-fats, back in 2012, and there's speculation that our fairgoers seem to prefer healthier foods, more vendors were offering healthier options this year."

    Case-in-point was the Fresh Market, which featured fresh and healthier items, mostly made with Indiana grown and produced ingredients. "It  was our second year and we added a lot more vendors to the market. There was a big demand to bring it back, people loved the fresh deli and other foods. My favorite dish was a turkey sandwich." 
    NAME Midway
    The Year of the Farmer had a positive impact on the fair's midway which was provided by North American Midway Entertainment (NAME).  "The second Saturday of the Fair was our biggest day we've ever had at the Indiana State Fair in all the years we've played there," said Amy Girton, Director of Communications & Media Relations, NAME. 

    The NAME Midway featured 54 rides, although according to Girton, the selection had not drastically differed from previous summers. "We brought back Pharaoh's Fury, which has not been there in several years," said Girton.

    According to Girton, the most effective promotion was a web-based pre-sale program. "The promotion that continues to grow is the advance online ticketing sales, which was up again this year." Girton declined to say by what percentage revenue was up. 

    The 2015 Indiana State Fair emphasis on the farmer was deemed a success. "As far as the goal of the state fair commission and the board, the education programs, we reached them." said  Gordon "We have a made a very sustainable fair, and we have a successful 4-H program, and we get a lot of new people into the programs this year."

    She added, "were an ongoing, self-funded fair, with only about 2 percent of our budget coming from the state government. We are trending well with our visitors and our vendors."

  • Wood Entertainment discusses Minnesota & Texas State Fairs
    Wood Entertainment fell short at this year's Minnesota State Fair compared with previous runs in St. Paul. Independent operator and company owner Michael Wood feels the addition of some new pieces in Minnesota ate into his ride receipts. 

    He's not disappointed by any means. The event, which this year drew about 45,000 fewer fairgoers than last year's record attendance of 1.82 million, remains a marquee spot for all ride owners doing business at the fair, Wood Entertainment included. Wood had its Magic Maze Glass House, Techno Power and Magnum set up on the primary midway. Its Safari Train and Daytona were part of Kidway.

    The Techno Power and Magnum were both 5 percent down in ride grosses compared with 2014, according to Wood. The Magic Maze was down by 1 percent, he said. 

    Wood, a veteran of multiple Minnesota state fairs, pointed to three new attractions he believes affected his bottom line: Myers International Midway's New York New York fun house, plus Kyle Wisdom's Equinox and Playworld Amusements Super Nova roller coaster. The fair added a second coaster this year behind Steve Vander Vorste's Crazy Mouse, a longstanding tradition in St. Paul. The fun house and the coaster were his closest competitors for business, Wood said. 

    "There is only so much money to go around," he said. "Something had to come down. The fair had been running with just one coaster for several years before they put the second one in there. It's just the way it is. My stuff has been around for awhile."

    Presently, Wood Entertainment, whose headquarters are in San Antonio, has the same attractions set up at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. The fair began Friday Sept. 25 and continues through Oct. 18. 

    "The economy is good in Texas [despite oil prices dropping below $50 a barrel] and people are spending money," he said. 

    Wood feels the Texas fair is spending more money on advertising the event, especially on television. Based on his experience, it's never been a big priority for state fair officials, but this year, he's seen more commercials airing before the event than he can remember in a long time. 

    "They're getting the word out, and the Texas-OU football game ... is always a wake up call," he said. "It's like the switch turns on." 

    The Oct. 10 game at Cotton Bowl Stadium remains a centerpiece of the state fair. This year, as fans gorge on corn dogs and new bacon-infused specialties served by stadium concessionaire Ed Campbell, the struggles tied to the Texas football team and the athletic department in general provide an interesting backdrop to the Red River Showdown. 

    The school fired Athletic Director Steve Patterson earlier this month and finds itself with empty seats for home football games in Austin at a stadium with more than 100,000 seats. 

    Regardless, Wood feels the Cotton Bowl,which seats 92,100, will be filled for one of college football's fiercest rivalries. The game typically draws a 50-50 crowd split down the middle, for which the dividing line can be seen by the burnt orange and crimson red shirts worn by fans cheering for each school. If ticket sales struggle in Austin, "they'll get rid of them in Norman," Wood said, referring to the city where the University of Oklahoma is situated.

    Texas-OU Day traditionally results in the fair's biggest day for food and beverage sales but it doesn't mean big business for the carnival midway, Wood said. Instead, Columbus Day, which this year falls on Oct. 12, a holiday that brings lots of kids to the state fair, is a bigger day for ride sales, he said.

    For Wood Entertainment, the same attractions produce different results in Texas compared with Minnesota. In Dallas, the Techno Power and Magnum are his two biggest grossing pieces, but are much closer in sales than in St. Paul. And in Texas, the Daytona does better than the Safari Train. The Magnum's best fair overall is the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar. No two areas of the country are alike with regard to what's popular among patrons.

    "The [Huss] Pirate Ship, for example, can't win you a quarter in St. Paul, but it's always in the top 10 in Dallas," Wood said. "In some places, the swinging boat kicks butt."

    After the State Fair of Texas, Wood heads to the Coastal Carolina Fair in Ladson, S.C., a city about 25 miles northwest of Charleston. The fair's Dates are Oct. 29 to Nov. 8. He's been booking equipment there with Amusements of America, the carnival holding the midway contract, off and on for the past 10 years. For that spot, Wood is paid a rental fee for supplying rides.

    Over the years, Wood has learned a valuable lesson working with major carnivals. Last year, the Vivona family, owners of Amusements of America, told Wood they didn't need any of his rides for the Coastal Carolina Fair. But this year, they requested he bring some equipment. "If you go when they need you, you're treated fairly," Wood said. "If you push your way in, it doesn't always go well."

    Wood finishes the season at Santa's Enchanted Forest in Miami, where he meets up with a few carnivals at the independent setup, including Michael's Amusements, Wade Shows, Dreamland Amusements and Rockwell Amusements. This year's dates are Oct. 29 through Jan. 3, 2016. The Techno Power, Daytona and Magnum will all be set for the seven-week run in south Florida.

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HEADLINES from the web
Poor Jack Amusements
Poor Jack Amusements
4/21/2015 - 10/10/2015
Houghton Carnival
Middletown, DE
9/25/2015 - 10/31/2015
Murphy Brothers
10/1/2015 - 10/11/2015
Reithoffer Shows
The Cleveland County Fair
Shelby, NC
10/1/2015 - 10/11/2015
Wade Shows
Tulsa State Fair
Tulsa, OK
10/1/2015 - 10/11/2015
Wade Shows
Robeson County Fair
Lumberton, NC
10/2/2015 - 10/10/2015

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

Annual IAFE Convention and Trade Show - Paris Hotel - Las Vegas, NV
[more info..]

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

2014 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. Eastern State Exposition

View Top 50 Fairs

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The Industry Buzz
Bingo Hauser Passes
MCW has learned that Canada's West Coast Amusements founder, Bingo Hauser, has passed.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hauser family.  As more information comes available, we will post it here.

In 2012, we conducted a video interview with Bingo as a part of our "Four Questions with Industry Pioneers" feature.  That interview can be seen by clicking here.
  Posted by MCW on 9/14/2015
Ray Cammack Shows buys Dutch Lamberink Gondola Wheel

Ray Cammack Show's Guy Leavitt and Ben Pickett announced the purchase of a new Gondola Wheel, built by Lamberink BV of the Netherlands and sold through Peter Theunisz's Used Rides Europe.  The wheel stands 108 ft tall and has 24 gondolas capable of seating up to six adults.  The ride has a LED color changing lighting package, galvanized sub-frame, stainless steel fencing, electric motors, PILZ safety system and Emmerson frequency drive units. What is so unique about this wheel is that it can be set up without the use of a crane and moves on only 3 semi-trailers!  Cosmetically, the wheel will have a white color scheme and will feature a RCS logo on the axle hub.

The wheel will be delivered in December and shipped to Galveston, TX. The wheel will have a large sign on the axle with the RCS logo on it.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 9/9/2015
Reithoffer Shows debuts new Galaxy Coaster in NM State Fair

Reithoffer Shows announced the debut of their new Galaxy roller coaster at the New Mexico State Fair, opening September 10.  The Galaxy was built by Interpark of Italy, whom acquired the ever popular Pinfari coaster models.  The Galaxy has the same track layout as a Pinfari Zyklon and travels on three trailers.  After the New Mexico State Fair, the coaster will play the Georgia National Fair and will travel primarily on the blue unit.  Last week, the show debuted a new Wisdom Himalaya themed the Music Express at Riot Fest in Denver, CO.

Reithoffer's coaster purchase marks the fourth new coaster purchased from Interpark by a North American carnival in the past year.  Last year, Ray Cammack Shows purchased a "Zyklon" model coaster, and this year three more were sold to Playworld Amusements, Wade Shows, and Reithoffer Shows.
  Posted by Matt Cook on 9/4/2015
Tim Nolan Passes
Timothy J. "Tim" Nolan, 53, of Zanesville, passed away Sunday, August 30, 2015. 

Tim was born on August 24, 1962 a son of the late Fred and Sallie Nolan. He was a graduate of Maysville High School and MATC. Tim was the owner of The Treasure Cove and brought the game room concept to Zanesville in 2005. Being a part of the Nolan family he was deeply involved in the Nolan Amusement business all of his life, always providing quality entertainment whether with rides or concessions. He was a great promoter and always had new and inventive ideas. At the time he was trying to revive the old "Moxahala Park", it was his dream.

He is survived by one son, Timothy James "TJ" (Klissa) Nolan; three grandchildren, Ashlynn, Makayla, and Tanner; one brother, George Scott (Amy) Nolan; long time fiance, Chris Boring. 

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by two brothers, Rick Nolan and Kevin Nolan. 

  Posted by Obiturary on 9/3/2015
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.

Belle City is NOW HIRING FOR 2015!  Ride Supers and Ride Foremen - Chance Giant Wheel Foreman - Electrician Wanted!  Call Zack: 321-578-0449 or 
Charles 407-399-1831


All Around Amusements is now hiring ride, game, food, help for the 2015 season.  Call 815-725-2323 for more info or visit

Need ride wheels?  Advance Caster & Wheel specializes in new & re-tread ride wheels for carnival and amusement rides including Zipper wheels, Ring of Fire/Super Loop wheels, Roller Coaster wheels, and much more.  Call 616-241-4519 for more info.

Great Southern Amusement is now booking rides, games, and food for a strong Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina FALL route.  Now hiring for rides, games, food and more.  Call Larry 347-535-7824

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