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  • Virginia Association of Fairs Convention Gets Connected
    The annual convention of the Virginia Association of Fair Managers showed a forward-looking organization, that despite challenges, is taking fair traditions into the 20th century. 

    The theme of the convention - Get Connected - emphasized social media, networking and cost-effective communication. 

    "This was one of our better received themes, we are always trying to enhance the educational experience of attending the convention for the fairs," said Sam Long, President. Virginia Association of Fair Managers, and Chair Director, Field Day of The Past (the association has 64 members, including county fairs and other outdoor events and festivals). 

    "So many of the fairs are smaller fairs, they do not have the finances and monetary resources, or a full time staff, to work on advertising and promotion. A lot them have yet to fully understand social media."

    Social Media
    One purpose for showcasing the current state of social media at the annual convention is so the top brass can get acquainted with a means of marketing and fair promotions too often regulated by older executives into something done only by the young. 

    Old Dominion fairs seem to understand that change must begin at the top. "A lot of the board members and fair managers say 'I don't understand social media', so their fair don't use it as well as they could," said Long. 

    "But these board members and managers came to the sessions with an open mind. They were able to understand that social media is now the world we are living, it's inescapable. It was one of our better sessions, but we're always to trying enhance the educational experience of coming to the convention."

    But knowledge can be fun. The convention of Virginia fairs has been on a course set by its organizational team to make the event, "as fun, entertaining and informational as our fairs," said Long. "It's an educational conference, but we want to be enjoyable. Fairs are about fun." 

    The outlook of Virginal fairs is positive, with most events having an upbeat year in 2015. "The Virginia fair industry, except for when you get bad weather, has been as strong as it has ever been," said Long. "There were many fairs who told me that 2015 was one their best years they had in their history." 

    An improving regional economy - bolstered by an economic recovery and lower fuel costs - helped create this optimistic attitude, but Long points out that is also the result of a concerted effort by local fairs to get younger. This youth movement is happening both internally and externally. 

    Getting Younger
    "The fairs themselves are readjusting to try and recapture the younger market, both young families and younger adults." Said Long. "Our fair industry has taken a look at where we are versus what we have to offer them. We have become more aware of the younger market, and how to capture that younger market."

    The convention devoting so much time to helping fairs expand their social media presence seems emblematic of the Virginia fair makeover. "We are also seeing younger people at different levels of the fair and attending our conferences," said Long That gives me the best hope of for our future. Our convention attendees are getting younger." 
    Attracting a new generation of fair organizes is not accidental. "One of the stronger points that we have been emphasizing is communication, between the fair managers, our members and the association," he said. "Our round table discussions include the large and small fairs, and we are getting feedback from all the managers. We are finding topics and speakers that people want, and we are maintaining that upward direction."

    Entertainment Changes
    The convention also featured a trade show floor with 45 vendors, and a showcase of music acts of different genres, including pop, country, and gospel as well other types of performers, such as magicians. The musicians were acts with regional popularity, with the potential of some local followers but more importantly, were affordable. 

    Like most fairs in the nation, Virginia fairs are struggling with increased competition, especially from festivals, and the rising costs of entertainment. "Headline entertainment has gotten so expensive, above $200,000 in many cases, that the fairs cannot afford these types of acts," said Long. "It is a balancing act, and many fairs are passing on that entertainment. It used to be you found somebody up and coming, someone young, who gets the new crowd or you resurrect a group, but those acts are harder and harder to find."

    He added, "we are seeing limited options in terms of groups that are affordable. It always has been a balancing act, and it does happen on occasion that you book some rising star who has a hit in April and then will work for less money, but sometimes when they get hot they leave you."
    The trend now among Virginia fairs is to book the less than marquee names showcased at the convention and supplement their entertainment with "the loud and noisy," events said Long. "You are seeing fairs adding more Demolition Derbies, Monster Trucks and Tractor Pulls. They are doing really, really well."

    The balancing act is the cost can be a fraction of what it takes to get a headliner, savings both on the booking and the production costs of top name concerts. "They do require real estate, but you do save money," he said. "They are popular. We are seeing more motor sports and car racing at events too."

    In addition, the lower gasoline prices has only enhanced the affordable appeal of replacing music with machinery in the grandstands. One of the more trendier motor sports are Lawn Mower Pulls. "These are starting catch on, it is really a different sport than the tractor pull and a lot of these lawn mowers have really popular engines," said Long. 

    Fair Funding
    Fair funding, a perennial topic of concern and discussion for convention attendees, was top-of-mind at this year's gathering. Governmental funding has basically dried up in Virginia, "and fairs are in great need of sponsorships. Fairs are looking at new industries for sponsors, or expanding ways they can use sponsors," said Long.

    A new funding hope is now visible on the horizon. A new program was announced by the Virginia Department of Tourism - famous for the iconic "Virginia is For Lovers" campaign- that will provide up to $50,000 in matching funds to support fair advertising. 

    The details are still being worked out, such as how fairs would feature the familiar tourism logo in their advertising as well as how fairs will participate - initial plans say that up to three fairs can participate to together in order to accumulate the necessary amount of funds that the state ill match. "We are still in the planning stages," said Long. "It is very positive, because this is the first state funding of any kind in a long time. But we are still working out all the details."

    What are Virginia fairs looking forward to the most beside good weather in 2016? Actually 2017, more precisely, January of next year - the 100th anniversary of the Virginia Association of Fair Managers. "We are very excited about making that event happen. We are looking for having some sponsors, doing things up right, embracing the past and looking forward to the future." 

    The celebration is expected to be much like the attitude of the annual county fairs that comprise the membership of this century-old organization. "The atmosphere of a county fair is very particular, only you can create that. It is a team effort, and you get one chance a year to represent your county, and that is at the county fair.

    Awards presented at the annual convection included: 2016 Fair Person of the Year- Brenda Rich- Fauquier County Fair, Warrenton and Hazel M. Staley Volunteer Award- Macine Williams- Caroline County Agricultural Fair, Ruther Glen.

    A total of 25 fairs entered the annual Communication Award competition, which is determined by a point system in three by admission categories: 7, 000 gate admission and under division; 7, 000-30,000 gate admission division; and 30,000+gate admission. Winners were: Under 7, 000 division - Patrick County Agricultural Fair; 7, 000-30,000 division - Caroline County Agricultural Fair and 30,000+ Russell County Fair & Horse Show, Lebanon. In addition, Jensen Hoover, Miss Shenandoah County Fair, Woodstock, was named 2016 VAF Queen.

  • Rosedale Attractions Purchases The Assets of Billet Amusements
    Rosedale Attractions and Shows has purchased the assets tied to the old Billet Amusements of York, Pa., which has gone out of business. The purchase covered 16 rides and a generator and Rosedale made the decision to keep six pieces, said Tom Gaylin, the show's owner and operator

    The rides Gaylin decided to keep as part of the acquisition include a Zipper, Roundup, Cobra and a carousel. In turn, he swapped the Cobra and Roundup for an Orbiter from Sherwood Attractions, owned by Roger Wadkins, maker of the Expo Wheel. The transaction did not include any dates. "The route was in turmoil by the time they sold the show," Gaylin said.

    Rosedale's headquarters and winter quarters are in Baltimore County, Md. The family now lives in Ruskin, Fla., not far from Gibsonton, home of the carnival industry's annual trade show. Tom and his wife, Barb run the show full-time, assisted by their twin sons, Jason and Joey, both 33 years old. In a few years, Jason and Joey are expected to take over the show that has now expanded to six generations, according to the carnival's web site.

    "I'm semi-retired or retired, depending on which family member you talk to," said Gaylin, who's already retired from his side job as an amateur wrestling referee after officiating in 32 NCAA championships. "The boys are excited [to take over]. They're good kids and complement each other. One is a builder, the other is a bookworm."

    The carnival dates to 1928, when it was known as Eastern Amusement Company, a two-ride operation that played the streets of Baltimore. The show's name changed to Rosedale Attractions after moving to Rosedale, Md., in unincorporated Baltimore County. Ann and Tom Gaylin Sr., Tom's grandparents, expanded the operation to eight rides before turning the business over to Tom Gaylin Jr. in 1966. Twenty years later, Tom Gaylin III assumed control of the carnival in 1986 and expanded its name to Rosedale Attractions and Shows.

    Rosedale owns about 40 rides and plays events in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The carnival sticks within a 150-mile radius of Baltimore on purpose to keep everybody fairly close to home, Gaylin said. The show picked up two county fairs for 2016, the Clarke County Fair in Berryville, and the Amelia County Fair in Amelia, outside Richmond.

    "We have consolidated our route and are going out later this year in the last week of April," Gaylin said. "We will stay out later too, until late October into early November."

    Gaylin is a member of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association board of directors, and does not use international labor on his show. Instead, he provides his employees with some perks and advantages over what other shows provide their workers.

    "We're fortunate to think outside the box to create ways to keep Americans working," he said. " We do the necessary drug and background checks and we treat people as human beings. We pay a fair wage. I don't pay salaries; I pay by the hour and that's key. You pay a person a $350 salary for 40 hours a week and then ask them to work overtime without pay, they resent it. Then you've created a monster."

    Rosedale's seasonal labor sleeps in portable dorms, an upgrade over the traditional bunkhouse, Gaylin said. The air-conditioned dorms have 64 square feet of floor space with a closet and storage space, and are equipped with microwave ovens, refrigerators and televisions. 

    "We spent a lot of money on those dorms," Gaylin said. "The tradition of our industry is when they hire someone, they become a ride operator who also does setup and teardown, and becomes [an equipment] driver and maintenance man. On our show, we hire individuals for separate jobs. We let them decide what to do."

  • Carnival Warehouse Interview: Michael Wood/OABA Chairman
    The mobile amusement industry had a year of contrasts in 2015. 

    On the one hand, in spite of record rainfall negatively impacting the Southeast in the Autumn, the fair industry seems by and large to have had an up year. On the other hand, the H-2B work visa program - which provides affordable labor essential to the functioning and profitability of the industry - was under legal attack, including a moratorium, now lifted, on processing foreign workers visas, requiring an amped-up lobbying effort from the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, the largest organization representing the mobile amusement industry. 

    With so many peaks and valleys - not to mention more than a few scary twists and turns - 2015 resembled a roller coaster or other thrill ride that OABA members know so well. It was during this turbulent yet upbeat climate that Michael Wood - a 3rd generation 'carny' and president, of  Wood Entertainment  Company, a ride company who subcontracts with other midway providers - assumed the role of OABA chairman.

    In early January, Carnival Warehouse interviewed Wood about the state of the fair industry, the year that ended and the shape of things to come in 2016. He said that he was raised with two mottos, "either lead, follow or stay out of the way," and "when you aren't willing to act, you give up your right to complain."

    One trait  this OABA chairman cannot be accused of is an unwillingness to act. Wood spent 2015 in Washington alongside industry lobbyists, talking about industry issues with other carnival companies and fair executives at conventions and trade shows, and of course, he was like he is every year, there on the front line of the business, interacting with fairgoers on the midway. In his Carnival Warehouse interview, conducted by email and phone, Wood  both challenges the industry to embrace change while admitting that he gained a new found admiration for the future of fairs  as they expand their "footprint" in the American entertainment industry. In many ways, Wood's attitude contains the same contrasts reflected in the year he just experienced during his tenure as OABA Chairman.
    Carnival Warehouse: What kind of year did the fair industry  have in 2015? 

    Michael Wood: 2015 was a good year, mired with rainy weather early, but a very strong finish. The Southeast did get a lot of rain at the tail end, which impacted some fairs, but they were not a total washout. When the weather cleared they had good days, which says a lot about the product fairs are bringing to their communities.

    CW: Is consumer confidence back, are people spending again? 

    MW: Hard to say on the level of confidence, but they certainly are tired of the doomsday forecasters. Obviously people are spending more money, and the economy is not as bad as it was. Why it is better is debatable. People like what we do and fairs and the outdoor amusement business are  perceived as a good value. Lower gas prices has put more money back into the family budget, hence the strong finish to the season.

    CW: What has been the impact of the lower fuel costs on fairs and their midway partners? 

    MW: They have helped, but Department of Labor adjustments to the prevailing wages that are mandated for H-2B employees, and therefore all employees, more than offset those savings.

    CW: What are you most proud of accomplishing as OABA chairman? 

    MW: Just to have been part of our history the most, more specifically that we did to impact the laws governing the H-2B program through our advocacy efforts in DC. We, for the first time in our 50 year history, actually are a force on Capital Hill, one of the very reasons for our formation back in 1965.

    CW: What surprised you most about the job of OABA Chairman? 

    MW: Realizing the potential of our industry. We are some of America's  great entrepreneurs. Until I was exposed to more of a world view, instead of my own personal view,  I didn't understand what the potential for us really is. When I got to Capitol Hill, and I was discussing H-2B and sitting side by side with representatives from Marriot Hotels and Six Flags and big theme parks and other big corporations and engaging them in conversation and comparing our business models, I realized that the fair industry is now in the big leagues. We have barely scratched the potential of this industry. We sell fun, we sell family and we as a whole can tap into that, and together we can resolve all the issues facing us.  We may have to change some of the ways we do things, but resistance to change is what holds us back. There's a lot of possibilities for us. 

    CW: Are presidential election years good or bad for the fair business? 

    MW: Good. Where do all the politicians like to go for photo ops, where can they go to make the most impressions? Every presidential politician likes to be interviewed at the fair, at least the Iowa State Fair. Also, every local and state politician goes to the fair to be interviewed. The fair business is where retail politics gets conducted, that gives us more attention and makes more people interested in coming to the fair. Presidential elections give our industry a lot of free publicity.

    CW: What can the industry do in 2016 to ensure that the H-2B program does not become confused with some of the anti-immigration rhetoric that has emerged during the election so far? 

    MW: Engage with your fairs and the communities in which they reside to tell our side of the story. When I posted my jobs on the Texas Work Force website, for two months, I got zero calls. When somebody says that we are taking away opportunities for American workers, that is an opportunity to explain what we are facing in the mobile amusement business. The only way to change that perception is through telling your side of the story. The people who come here through H-2B work really hard, go through a screening process and go home after the season is over.

    CW: Have the fairs supported the mobile amusement industry efforts in terms of H-2B visas?

    MW: We received greater participation out of our fair partners last year. We've made a lot of progress with fairs, more and more have spoken out on our behalf, such as the Minnesota State Fair. Many fairs have answered every call to action we've put out. They recognize the benefits of the foreign guest workers to their organization and also to their customers. They like the kind of employee that H-2B brings in and more importantly they like the consistency of these employees, it makes their life easier with the midway contractors and third party subcontractors when they have the caliber of these employees on the midway.

    CW: What can the mobile industry do in the near future about the H-2B Issue?

    MW: The OABA  spent over $1 million in lobbying and I've spent 8 and half years, on behalf of our members. We cannot continue to further fight the battle, effort-wise and financially, without more support from ride operators, manufactures, concessionaires and fairs. When congressmen and senators hear from a voter, from somebody in their district, from their area, writes a letter, that carriers a lot of weight, more weight than people think.  

    CW: What H-2B relief did the fair industry receive from the omnibus bills signed by President Obama at the end of 2015? 

    MW: Many procedural things, but the two most impactful are lengthening of the season from 9 back to 10 months, and reinstatement of the returning worker provision. Where anyone here on a H-2B visa in 2012-15 will not count against the cap in 2016 ensuring that everyone has a shot at getting their workers. Unfortunately the DOL (Department of Labor) is slow walking the processing so their arrivals may not be timely. 

    CW: How will H-2B workers and the carnival companies  who use them be affected this year? 

    MW: What the Omnibus provisions did was give us back the returning worker exemption, which won't count against our cap. The question is timing, because usually I would have all my workers before Christmas, but now the processing has to begin on February 1st, so carnival companies at fairs with early start dates might be scrambling to get workers. But by Memorial Day, when the bulk of the season begins, all the workers should be in place. The benefit of lifting the cap is that this puts experienced workers back on the front line. I hire locals and many midway companies do at many fairs, but you need to put experience back into the equation. Having the experienced employees enhances the experience customers have of the midway. 

    CW: How do the provisions of a new National Labor Act affect fairs and midways?

    MW: The Browning-Ferris Industries case out of CA, in the simplest of terms, a contractor is responsible for the employment practices of it's subcontractors.  In our case, fairs can be held at least partially responsible for what carnivals and food and game concessionaires do on their fairgrounds as it relates to their employees. Yes that includes litigation over employment practices, discrimination, and wage and hour issues.

    CW: What emerging trend in 2016 should fairs and carnival companies be most aware of? 

    MW: Without question wage and hour actions by State and Federal Departments of Labor. The simple fact is they never dreamed we could, or would, impact the Omnibus spending bill, so they have an axe to grind.  They need to justify not only their existence, but validate they are still on the right path to those they answer to professionally and politically.

    CW: What OABA event at the upcoming trade show are you most excited about? 

    MW: The Mobile Amusement Industry Summit held at the Gibtown trade show grounds. We are giving our industry an opportunity, members or not of the OABA, to communicate the issues that confront them to us.  Communication is key to any association, and we cannot work on an issue we are unaware of.  Most importantly, we also look to communicate what we have been doing on behalf of everyone in the industry thus far, and ask for their help to continue to do so. Our goal is to use something as simple as communication to reunite our divided house within the industry. Individually we are noticed, but together we succeed!

  • More Kids & Young Families Means More Midway Makeovers
    Hook them in when they're young and you'll have them for the rest of their lives. 

    The majority of fairgoers who make their state fair an annual event are often motivated to revive happy childhood memories of being on the midway with their parents. What's old is new again, because many fairs and carnival companies have refocused their attention on the young family market. 

    Many in the fair industry, recognizing a demographic trend that indicates an uptick in younger fairgoers, have been cultivating how they appeal to younger families in the post-recession (although still shaky economy), 21st century. 

    Growing Kids Market
     To make their fairs more young family appealing, fairs are both expanding midway Kiddielands and finding new ways to appeal to younger families, i.e., parents with toddlers, tweens (and pre-tweens). In addition, when carnival companies augment their ride inventories, it's through an influx of rides for the non-thrill set.

    Catering to families is far from a new phenomenon for fairs, but the fresh buzz and renewed energy about young families is undeniable.  "What we are seeing are that the new rides manufacturers  are bringing into the country are family rides," said Robert W. Johnson, President Outdoor Amusement Business Association, Inc.. "There are  more children coming to fairs. The trend is that that parents want to experience the rides with their children. Fairs are creating new Kiddielands and making their fairs more family friendly, because that's the growing consumer market now."

    Growing is the key word. According to U.S. Census Data, in 2013 19.8 percent of the population are under the age of 14. Other demographic shifts show that this age-group will grow as a segment of the population.  Millennials (defined as between ages 18 to 34 in 2015) are projected to number 75.3 million, surpassing the projected 74.9 million Boomers (ages 51 to 69). And, this new group of parents appears ready to be even more fertile than their predecessors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every 1,000 women of childbearing age in 2014, there were 62.9 births, up from 62.5 births in 2013, and the first increase since 2007.  

    What this is leading to is a boom in family rides. Len Soled, President, Rides 4U, Inc., a U.S. distributor of used, refurbished and new amusement rides, says his sales show a "market shifting towards more  family rides because there are a more young families. It's is a bigger market right now. If you as a carnival company are able to show that you have more family rides, then you are able to catch more of this growing market. Fairs are looking for that. "

    Family Experience
    Family rides are those suitable for all family members, obviously distinct from thrill and spectacular rides, which usually have a 42-inch height requirement. According to Soled, there is a parallel trend, showing an upswing - albeit not as a big an increase towards "kiddie rides," (rides with a 36-inch or lower height requirement.) "You are seeing more of these rides just for kids, something that fills in the category for the youngest segment of the market. It is growing but not growing nearly as fast as family rides."  

    A demographic shift may be an over-riding factor, but Soled emphasize that cost-savings by both manufactures and carnival companies have also influenced how carnival companies spend on new rides.  Family rides and Children rides can be as low as "one fifth the cost as the spectacular rides, and they require less labor to set up and to operate," he said. "They are more cost effective, especially with the family rides, because  they are popular, you get a wider range of ages riding them. They're a better return on investment."  

    But midway providers do not operate in a vacuum, and the increase in both younger families and midways that meet their needs is fundamentality changing midways. "Fairs realize you just can't plop rides for kids in the midway," said Soled. "There's a rising demand for these rides, but the environment has to be safe and family friendly, which often means away from teenagers, who can get rowdy. The fairs and outdoor parks have recognized it's a nice market, they are seeing more of a demand and more money generated by catering more to the parents with younger children." 

    For midway providers, responding to demographic trends has meant a re-imagining of their midways. "The birth rate had been diminishing in the early 90s, so we saw more spectacular rides, for teenagers and adults," said E.J. Dean, President, Fiesta Shows.  "Now, we are seeing more interest in the family rides, that's the fastest growing market in terms of ridership. We've always had those rides, but now the families want to experience the rides together and designers are making rides for that family experience."

    Segregating Midways
    Dean said that in the middle of last summer, his carnival company brought in a family style spinning coaster, "and it became one of the most popular rides. A ride like that places you right in the middle of that demographic that's growing at fairs, parents with young kids and pre-teens."

    He estimated that of the 20 new rides in the past two decades or so he's added, "18 have been either family or kiddie rides. It used to be two or three in the family or kiddie segment, and now we have eight to ten." 

    Apparently, today's parents and children actually enjoy each other's company. Togetherness seems another trend changing the landscape of the 21st century midway. "You are seeing more younger families on the midway, and they are playing games together, the midways are a little relaxed, because the ridership has been broadened to include the whole family," said Dean.

    To further enhance the kid-and-family friendly midway and fair environment, Dean has noticed that several fairs have separated the "kiddieland, keeping rides and activities that specific to young families and the pre-tween, to draw them in. They are booking some entertainment in the early part of the day just for this market, and they are keeping headliners at night, which can attract a different crowd."

    He added, you are a "slower pace, a family atmosphere. They don't want to maximize the high-energy, but have something for the growing family market. It's a lot more Sesame Street and Barney, you are seeing this at Amusement Parks and Disney World, where we group together the attractions for the younger families and children away from what appeals to teens and younger adults."  

    The Coastal Carolina Fair was one of many fairs dramatically responding this increase in young family. The local economy and housing market is booming, according to  Joe Bolchoz, Director of Media & Public Relation, attracting more and more new families to this market. "They're more kids in the area, and we got a lot of young families moving into the area," he said. We bill ourselves as a family fair. We are not an old fashioned sawdust fair, we are family-oriented."

    One sign of this fair's 21st century family-centric image is the midway, provided by Amusements of America. In 2015, 34 of the 66 rides were family (or kids only) rides, a proportion that has steadily increased over the years. In addition to an expanded Kiddieland to accommodate the increase in this segment of rides, fair organizers separated it from the teen/adult-only rides, creating a kind of "mini-me" for the young families. "Having different midway areas actually spreads the crowds out, and we are able to separate the teenager and young adult crowd from the family crowd with children," said Bolchoz. "The feedback we were getting is that the families preferred this so this year we had different midways." 

    Constant Upgrades
    The Minnesota State Fair started segregating Kiddielands by age 20 years ago, but that commitment to growing this younger family market has only gotten stronger. According to Brienna Schuette, CFE, Marketing & Communications Manager, Minnesota State Fair, the children's area is "several blocks away from our Mighty Midway. We renamed it "Kidway" to create a new atmosphere and experience for families away from the midway. We work annually to mix in new rides to keep the attraction options fresh."

    In 2016, Schuttee said that funding approval is expected for a new Kidway restroom facility "with 14 family restrooms in addition to men's and women's restrooms with multiple changing tables in each--an added convenience that improves the family experience at the fair. The proposed restroom project would expand the Kidway area and likely give us an opportunity to add a couple new rides."

    The fair has also ramped up its children-friendly offerings, said Schuttee, with two Kids Days when kids (5-12) save on admission, new educational exhibits "specifically designed to target children and families", including "the Alphabet Forest where kids use the fairgrounds for vocabulary-building games and meet local authors; Math On-A-Stick, which was new in 2015, as a place to play and explore math concepts at the fair; the Baa, Oink and Moo Booths and Equimania--breed-specific educational exhibits; the Thank-A-Farmer Magic show, designed to engage children while they learn the important role agriculture, farmers and ranchers play in their daily lives."  

    She added, "In 2015, for the first time, we offered free sunscreen at all of our information booths throughout the fairgrounds. This new program provided an outstanding guest service for all fair guests, especially children and families."

    Child Safety
    New for fairs in 2016 is an OABA-produced new Children's Ride Safety video, a very kid-friendly  (and suitable for parental viewing) about safety awareness on the midway, including ride protocols, proper behavior and other aspects  younger fairgoers should know. The video stars offspring of Ray Commack Shows staff, with its main sponsors being Kaliff Insurance, Farrow Finance and Allied Specialty Insurance. 

    According to Johnson the new video was a much needed update to a previous OABA video, "because there are more kids rides and more kids and they should be aware of midway safety," he said. "the hope is that fairs will share this video on their websites."

    The video features an entirely contemporary feel, done in news station format, with anchors sitting at the desks, then cuts to correspondents who board rides, explaining height requirements, etc.. The twist is that all these CNN-like characters are portrayed by the target audience, kids. "With all the distractions kids have today, we wanted to find a way to capture the attention of this audience, teach them the importance of safety, so they can make the most of their visit and their money at the fair,"  said Amber Swedgan, Education Chairman, OABA, who is also a Media & Communications Consultant and wrote and directed the new video.

    Swedgan said the video had premiers at the industry conventions to great acclaim. "We are promoting it as a free tool for fairs to use to encourage safety and promote the midway to children and their parents. The feedback has been great. It gives the fairs an image of safety and being a family friendly environment, and you know when you get those kids as customers, they come back to the fair every year for their life. The fairs want to promote safety to children because the customers don't separate the fair carnival from the fair." 

    Carnival Video FINAL-H.264 from Robert Johnson

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NICA Business Expo & Fare Foods 2016 Food Show - Tampa, FL
[more info..]

I.I.S.F. Gibtown Extravaganza - Gibsonton, FL
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Showmens League St. Louis Winter Meeting - 2pm at IISA Club Meeting Room - Gibsonton, FL
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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

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The Industry Buzz
OABA releases new ride safety video
The Outdoor Amusement Business Association released a new safety video earlier this month.  The purpose of the video is to help educate the general public about a safe visit to the carnival and carnivals, fairs, and events are urged to share the video on their web sites and social media.  Amber Swedgan, chair of the OABA Safety Education Committee, produced the video in-conjunction with the Ray Cammack Shows Christian Academy this past fall. 

  Posted by Matt Cook on 1/25/2016
New Equipment Purchases for Illinois Shows
Several Illinois based carnivals revealed new equipment purchases during the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs trade show this past weekend.  

Missouri based Tinsley Amusements announced the purchase of a Charlie the Chopper from Majestic; American Banner purchased a Ali Baba from A.RM., Fantasy Amusements purchased a fun house from Owen Trailers, and All Around Amusements purchased a Kolmax Flying Elephant ride and a Wacky Shack from Owen Trailers.

Kolmax, a ride manufacturer based out of the  Czech Republic, will be displaying All Around's new Elephant ride at the upcoming Gibtown Trade Show and Extravaganza.  Jeremy Floyd will also be taking delivery of the same piece, with his debuting at the Florida State Fair booked with Wade Shows.   While not attending the IAAF Trade Show, Illinois based Windy City Amusements and Modern Midways both announced the purchase of Vertigos from ARM with both shows set to take delivery this spring.
  Posted by Matt Cook on 1/18/2016
Dreamland Amusements to debut new Technical Park Giant Wheel at FL State Fair
Dreamland Amusements is slated to debut its new "Dream Wheel", built by Italian manufacturer Technical Park, at the Florida State Fair with Wade Shows this February.  The Dream Wheel stands 22 meters (72ft) tall and is equipped with a advanced LED light show.  The wheel is the first of its kind to have LED back-lit gondolas which have the ability to be synchronized to music.  The wheel racks on one semi trailer.  The Dream Wheel is the first of two Technical Park 22m Giant Wheels coming to the USA; the second of which belongs to Strates Shows who will be taking delivery this spring.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 1/15/2016
Classifieds Maintenance
Over the last few days, the self post classified ad section on was down for maintenance resulting from a recent hardware upgrade.  As of January 11, 2016 - the self post classified system is back up and running.  Click here to access the classifieds.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 1/11/2016
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.

LIFETIME Products is building bunk houses for carnivals, concessionaires, entertainers and more with units starting at just $39,900.  Call 813-781-9182 for info. is now open for business!  Visit to purchase Wisdom Ride Parts and LED lighting!

Custom printed digital canvas from Waterloo Tent & Tarp!

NEW Concession Trailers from Trailex - Formerly Caravans Unlimited.  Visit us at or call 800-282-5042 for more info.

Fred's Tents specializes in canvas for Food Concessions, Game Booths, Ride Tops, Skirting, Ballies, and Flags.  SLIDE BAG SPECIAL!  CALL FOR DETAILS!

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