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  • Salem Fair:  Virginia's Largest Fair

    Although by industry standards, Salem Fair is just a "baby," within 27 short years it has managed to become Virginia's largest.  Not only that, Fair Manager Carey Harveycutter explained that "attendance for this year's event was the highest in fair history as approximately 340,000 folks toured the 14-acre midway."

    Zero to 340,000
    So how does a fledgling fair "fly" from zero to 340,000 within just 27 years?  Harveycutter generously shared some tips for doing so.  He advised, "Make sure you hire good people to work with you, especially the person who handles corporate sales, the one who understands just what corporate entities want out of such an event." 

    Harveycutter continued, "Meet with local citizens in order to discuss what the fair brings to the marketplace.  Set up a fenced area so that you can charge admission – that's often a necessity.  And make sure that you have a great partnership with your carnival midway."

    Harveycutter and fellow Civic Center administrator John Saunders had long felt the need for a Salem Fair.  However, there had been an amusement park called Lakeside in the area, and they did not want to compete with an existing tax-paying entity.  When Lakeside closed, they took that as a signal to move ahead with their dream.

    However, the going was tough at first.  There wasn't enough money back then to fence the lot, and so admission was free from the start.  Because "it's then hard to go the other way," there has been no gate charge ever since.  This, as well as the ongoing free parking, has been offset by funding from sponsorships, independent concessions, the Coliseum at the Civic Center, etc.

    Harveycutter reminisced that when he and Saunders attended their first International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) conference in Las Vegas, he was in his 30s and Saunders was in his 20s.  They deliberately asked attendees in their 50s and 60s to tell them "what we don't want to do."  This openness to seasoned advice has served them very well throughout the years.

    Country Road, Take Me Home
    Neither has it hurt the Salem Fair any to be right off of a major thoroughfare within the Blue Ridge Mountains, Interstate 81.  Nestled in the Roanoke Valley, Salem's locale is considered to be the "commercial and cultural hub of much of Southwest Virginia and portions of Southern West Virginia."  Wikipedia also extols this area's historical trail ways and railways.

    Harveycutter said, "This year we received a Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) grant, and we were able to take our advertising within about a 200-mile radius of the fair.  This attracted people who may not have otherwise thought about us."

    He continued, "We're seeing a lot more of an ethnic mix these days.  More and more visitors are coming from all over, and we're now one of the top 20 events in the Southeast for the summer season.  This year 25 young people from China came to our fair.  They all had a wonderful time.

    We also had at least two family reunions that arrived here on charter buses.  We're going to work some more on attracting great groups like these."

    Harveycutter concluded, "Good weather makes a fair manager look really good."  And this was  certainly a banner year!  The July 14, 2014 press release stated, "For the most part, the weather was outstanding and as a result, ticket sales for rides were way up and the independent food operators also reported very solid gains."

    Win-Win Stats
    The July 14th press release also reports that attendance "for the opening night of the fair was the highest since 2010 and July 4 attendance was greater than any other Independence Day in the history of the fair." 

    "In addition when patrons were asked to bring canned food to the fair on July 8 for the Salem Food Pantry, they responded by contributing 13,000 pounds of non-perishable food items and boosting attendance on that evening by nearly 50 percent...  Creative arts and horticulture exhibits also were up 30 percent this year as 2900 individual exhibits from 940 exhibitors were on display."

    This year's advertising budget was $70,000, with a breakdown of 40% TV, 40% radio, 10% print and outdoor, plus 10% social media.  Harveycutter noted that this year's print allotment was a lot less than in previous years.  As for social media, "it grows each year and gives you an opportunity to interact with your customers."

    Harveycutter further explained, "We did text campaigns with our strongest radio station, Star Country.  You could text in to win ride passes, and we could text folks specific specials. We also had a Survivor casting contest with our CBS TV affiliate, which turned out to be a great promotional idea."

    The Deggeller Midway, which Harveycutter credits as being instrumental in drawing a huge crowd, was "up about 15% this year."  He explained, "We did a ride promotion just about every day.  Deggeller's Giant Ferris Wheel is always very popular, and the Super Nova always does well.  There are also 12 to 14 kiddie rides, and the families love them."

    Harveycutter added, "When diesel fuel went up, we looked for a way to help the carnival compensate for that.  We began a fuel rebate program by raising our ride prices some.

    Half of that raise went straight back to the carnival to assist with the increasing fuel costs."

    Grounds acts were also super this year.  There were a number of "firsts" for the Salem Fair, including Team Rock Martial Arts and Hilby the Skinny German Juggle Boy, Sean Watson the Illusionist from Starshine Events, and A Grizzly Experience. 
    Harveycutter added, "When we book animal acts, we make sure that the people take care of their animals and don't abuse them in any way." 

    Looking ahead to 2014, Harveycutter predicts "minimal changes" - just some tweaking concerning traffic flow and main-gate wristband sales.  After all, why mess around with such resounding success?      

  • Florida State Fair Authority Awards Midway Management Partner Contract to Wade Shows

    TAMPA, FL - The Florida State Fair Authority announced yesterday its Board of Directors has formally approved W.G. Wade Shows, Inc. as the new Florida State Fair Midway Manager.  The Fair Authority's Midway Evaluation Committee brought forth the Wade Shows recommendation to the Board after a formal Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) proposal and review process.  Projected benefits of the 3-year agreement include increased patron safety, reduction of the Fair's Midway overhead and increased revenue, and updated Midway brand and uniformity, all while allowing provisions for the Fair Authority to have final control.  The contract will begin immediately and Wade Shows will provide a new Midway experience for the 2015 Florida State Fair from February 5-16th.

    "We are so pleased with this process and excited about the possibilities," says Doyle E. Carlton, III, Florida State Fair Authority Chairman of the Board.  "It is always good to have a fresh set of eyes, and Frank Zaitshik of Wade Shows has been here at the Fair, and has so many great ideas to invigorate our Midway," Mr. Carlton continues.  "There will be a new design to the Midway that will be more family-friendly and lend itself to a very secure environment for Fairgoers to enjoy.  We feel this move will be positive for all involved."

    From 1992 through 1997, and again from 2005 through 2014, the Florida State Fair has operated under an Independent Midway structure, where Midway operations such as rides games and food concessions (in the Midway) were fully managed and overseen by the Fair Authority.  In recent years, hard costs, including staffing personnel costs have greatly increased. 

    The new Midway Management contract, considered a Hybrid Contract, ensures the Fair will continue to maintain the highest quality Midway. The Fair will retain the right of approval over the Midway layout and ride selection.  Under the agreement the Florida State Fair will continue to set up and oversee the Mall area, and all non-midway food concessions, which is nearly 80% of total food operations during Fair time.

    Wade Shows is the largest family-owned carnival business in the U.S. and plays more State Fairs than any other carnival company. Ranked by Carnival Warehouse magazine as the 3rd largest carnival operator in the U.S. based on attendance, Wade has had a long-standing relationship with the Florida State Fair.  The company has been a part of the Fair for 23 years, and has partnered with the Fair Authority on charitable events such as "Miles of Smiles" for underprivileged children.  Founded in 1912, Wade successfully manages and/or operates numerous venues including the San Antonio Livestock Show & Exhibition, the Oklahoma State Fair, the South Florida Fair and the New York State Fair; all with an annual attendance range from 550,000 to 1.7 million.
    "The Board's decision to approve the Midway Management agreement will benefit all of us," says Chuck Pesano, Executive Director of the Florida State Fair Authority.  "Since Wade Shows has been our largest Midway provider for the last ten plus years, the transition from Independent to Hybrid Midway should be nothing short of seamless.  Frank Zaitshik of Wade Shows calls Tampa Bay his home and is invested in this community. He is committed to improving with us."

    Operating under the direction of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and its Board of Directors, the Florida State Fair Authority, located on the fairgrounds' 330 acres in Tampa, Florida, strives to create positive entertainment experiences through the annual State Fair and variety of year-round events and quality competitive programs. The FSFA is committed to agriculture, education and community service with a focus on new opportunities. The Florida State Fair Authority (FSFA) operates strictly from revenues generated from the annual State Fair and other events throughout the year. Although the FSFA is an instrumentality of the state of Florida, it does not receive any annual tax appropriations from the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County or the State.

    Please keep posted to for more details on Wade Shows plan for the Florida State Fair midway.

  • Let It Be: San Diego's Fab Fair Gets Back to Beatlemania

    The 24-day San Diego County Fair presented by Albertsons/Sav-on, attracted 1,457,130 according toTim Fennell, CEO, who claims this is the 2nd highest attendance in the history of the fair, first held in 1880. In addition, revenue showed notable upticks in several segments, including, food concessions, midway ridership and merchandise sales.

    This increase in purchasing indicates consumers are more comfortable parting with their hard-earned disposable income. "Spending was up at the fair, maybe the economy is a little better this year," said Fennell. "It's not just the fair showing positive growth, all our events were up, including the horse show. Hopefully there are more jobs being created and there's more consumer confidence out there this year."

    The Del Mar Fairgrounds include Surfside Race Place, Horsepark Equestrian Center and the Del Mar Golf Center. The 22nd District Agricultural Association, a California state agency that owns and operates the fairgrounds, the San Diego County Fair,  the Del Mar National Horse Show, Professional Bull Riding (PBR) and The Scream Zone. The Fairgrounds hosts more than 300 events annually.

    This being drought-stricken California, rain was not a factor when it comes to the weather, but weather perfection made the San Diego shoreline unseasonably appealing. "We had perfect June weather, and it would have been all time high but when we get the warm weather, we compete with our beautiful beaches," said Fennell. "We lost a good 30-40,000 because of the weather."

    On the plus side, the fair, spread out over five weekends, and was closed all four Mondays. "We traded a weekend for a weekday," he added.

    The Beatles Theme
    The other reason this year's San Diego event could be described as fabulous may be found in its 2014 theme - The Fab Fair. The Beatles hit America in 1964, forever changing the world. The San Diego County Fair's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the "Fab Four" appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show (and their first U.S. hit songs, music tour and release of their groundbreaking film, A Hard Days Night) practically revived Beatlemania in Southern California.

    The San Diego County Fair celebration of the birth of the British music invasion with "The Fab Fair" attracted multiple generations of fairgoers. "Our board president came up with the idea, and we all agreed, everybody loves The Beatles," said Fennell. "There was a very clear popularity to the Beatles, and it was a way to talk about history and the 1960s. They affected everything, music, fashion, politics. The also cross generations, it's not just baby boomers. The kids of baby boomers grew up with the Beatles and so did their kids."

    The theme was drawn out with a 40-foot high Yellow Submarine, Beatles inspired uniforms for the workers, and a major exhibit of everything Beatles, which included rare memorabilia discovered overseas. "We sent people over to London, and worked with people and museums over there, and we developed relationships so we could put together a really thorough exhibit."

    He added, "when we develop a theme we worked with schools and the community to tie in as much education as possible. The Beatles were a natural."

    According to Fennell, shortly following last year's fair (the 2013 theme was Video Games) - about 40 people, including staff and board members - "brainstorm" about the theme for the fair, setting goals and devising ways to best to carry through those themes.  The Beatles and British invasion music of the era had to be well-represented. The Fab Fair promised 24 days of Beatles music, which was played by a variety of tribute acts, including Britbeat, British Invasion, The McCartney Years, and the Fab Four. Beatles music was played live every day of the fair. "The Fab Four have been here before and they have a guy who plays Ed Sullivan to introduce them, in keeping with the 50th anniversary, it is very humorous," said Fennell,. "I was surprised how every night, the shows were almost a full-house and the exhibit was packed."

    Themes & Education
    One of the strategies of the fair is to have a pop-culture oriented theme, which Fennell admits years ago first met with some resistance by the regional agricultural interests in the fair, "Some of the agricultural people felt they were taking the spotlight away from the mission of the fair, but you can't argue with the numbers. We've been able to grow attendance to our fair and our other events, and we put the revenues back into the facilities."

    With the historical context of the Beatles as gateway to discussion of the social changes of the 1960s, the educational mission at the heart of the fair was mollified. In turn, the agricultural inception of the fair is strengthened by an expansion of awareness of California's agricultural industry. "We broadened the theme which brings in more people and that exposes them to more agricultural exhibits," said Fennell.

    While Beatles A-Z could be heard daily, there was other major headliners at the fair's multiple performance spaces. Stages at the San Diego State Fair included the Plaza Stage, Coors Light Rock On Stage, Ford Dealers, Paddock Stage and the Heineken Grandstand Stage, which featured other headliners including Toni Braxton & Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, Huey Lewis & the News, REO Speedwagon, America, Taylor Hicks, Kristian Bush, Leon Russell,  Fee Waybill and The Tubes, Grand Funk Railroad, Darius Rucker, Jeff Dunham, Third Eye Blind, and the 10th Annual Gospel Festival featuring Fred Hammond.

    Revenue Streams
    The San Diego County Fair operates an Independent Midway, contracting with 14 midway operators, for 82 rides. The midway was up 5 percent, with the top 10 rides being: Crazy Mouse, Grand Wheel, Sky Ride, Magnum, G-Force, Fast Trax, Olympic Bob Sled, Sky Flyer, Alien Abduction and Carousel. "There are pluses and minuses to having an independent midway," admitted Fennell. "But from our standard, we sell all the tickets and control the sales. The rides do bring in the people, and the people spend money. We keep the look of the midway consistent. All the staff, all the ride workers, all wear uniforms, which we design."

    Merchandising is another revenue stream this fair has cultivated. Their in-house graphic artist created a fair logo that was used on various souvenirs and knickknacks. "We work with a merchandiser, but we do it all in-house," said Fennell. "That's an advantage we have, because we created a revenue stream."

    Fennell, estimates that the San Diego County Fair merchandise generates a few hundred thousand dollars of revenue, he recommends "keep it basic - some kids and adult items - apparel and accessories, pens and pencils.'

    According to Fennell, the Beatles and people's love of the music and the optimism they engendered had an effect on increasing per-capita purchasing. "People were staying longer at the fair, and if they stay longer, they spend more money," he said.

    What they were frequently buying was something to eat. "Food concession revenues were 9.24 percent higher than last year - and Premier SMG, the fair's onsite cater which serves alcohol and handles grandstand F&B, was up by more than 16 percent. Fair cuisine stats include: 15,000 pounds of bacon by Bacon-A-Fair; more than 3,000 Martha Stewart hot dogs and more than 2,000 Emeril-Bam hot dogs sold by Pink's 20,000 pounds of whole wheat cinnamon roll mix, 4 tons of cinnamon & sugar and 500 gallons of cream cheese frosting used by Country Fair Cinnamon Roll and 21.5 tons California grown potatoes used by Tasti Chips.

    Fennell said that Chicken Charlie was "probably the most successful food vendor, and their Krispy Kreme Triple-Decker Cheeseburgers were a hit at this fair." (20,000+ of this donut/hamburger concoction were sold during the 24-day event.)

    Speedier Promotions
    The fair's marketing showed little change, except for the typical trends of less print media and an expansion of social media promotions. "Our promotions were very balanced - we promoted the theme, food and items, and we promoted the value," said Fennell. "We are promoting more through social media. You can put the promotions out the next day."

    Fennell sees social media enhancing  the bedrock of fair marketing. "The best promotion is word of mouth," he said. "If you have a customer who has a great experience, and they tell another someone else, that is the best. With social media, that word of mouth gets disseminated much more quickly."

    The Fair paid tribute to Tony Gwynn, Baseball Hall of Famer and beloved player for the San Diego Padres, who passed away on June 16th . "We made up special programs for the day, and we ran a promotion that if anyone had a San Diego Padre ticket, they got in for free. We had about 4-5,000 who participated, and we had some press, newspaper and radio mainly, but that promotion was done almost entirely through social media."

    Having a pop culture oriented theme may be unusual for U.S. fairs, but the San Diego County Fair is probably more traditional that the theme indicates. For Fennell, innovation is not just the key to success, it has long been part of the fair business, at least in San Diego. "If you keep your fair relevant, have new programming, and keep it educational, fun and exciting, you are going to have a good fair," said Fennell. "You have to think outside of the box, and be entrepreneurial, and make good business decisions."

  • Fairbanks Fair Wars: Golden Wheel Amusements Summer Spectacular competes with Tanana Valley State Fair

    In a few days, Fairbanks Alaska will be the setting for what might be called Fair Wars as two midways a mere four miles apart compete for riders.

    Not content to merely accept the loss of its long-term midway contract to the Tanana Valley State Fair, which runs August 1-9, Golden Wheel Amusements, which has had up until now what most consider a monopoly over Alaskan midways, will hold its first Summer Spectacular from July 25 to Aug. 3 at the Ice Alaska park, also in Fairbanks.         

    Acrimony & Midways

    Two midways in one town at the same time is causing heated acrimony in America's far north. "We don't think it is ethical for the fair (ed: carnival), who was with us a for a long time and made a lot of money with the Tanana Valley State Fair, to go against the fair like this," said Joyce Whitehorn, general manager, Tanana Valley State Fair.

    Whitehorn added that she feels the Summer Spectacular is retaliation by Golden Wheel Amusements against the fair for awarding its 2014 contract to A-1 Midway. "They are out to get us, they said so in the papers," she said.

    Chase Eckert, spokesman for the family-own-and-run golden Wheel Amusements, can understand the bruised feelings resulting from the announcement of the Summer Spectacular, but is upset over the allegations that question the ethics of the largest midway provider in Alaska.

    "Obviously we feel they made the wrong decision in not bringing us back for the 2014 fair, and we hope someday to be back with the fair. But we were with the fair for 38 years, we love the fair. My grandma brought the first midway that ever was at the Tanana Valley Fair." 

    He added, "we have nothing against the Tanana Valley Fair or the fair board or A-1 Midway."

    In fact, Eckert feels their presence in Fairbanks during this time of the year is all about the community. "We have families there who have worked for us every summer, they depend on those wages," he said. "You can see the prices of our events, they are very affordable and we work closely with churches and community organizations. It is disheartening to hear the things being said about us."

    Hurting Fair

    In March, the Tanana Valley Fair board announced the end of their contract with Golden Wheel Amusements - which had been providing the Tanana Valley midway since the 1960s - and awarded the midway contract to A-1 Midway, from Manitoba, Canada.

    Mike Mills, founder of A-1 Midway, expected that entering the American market may would not be without obstacles, but having a midway go head-to-head with its former client was unexpected.

    "It is a shot at both of us, A-1 Midway and the Tanana Valley Fair" said Mills. "Golden Wheel Amusements thinks they have everything in Alaska tied up, and if they take money away from the fair, or if they split away money from the fair's midway, then it is not enough of a financial reason to warrant me coming to the states. I think it is pretty unethical to hurt the fair, to take money from the fair, after more than 30 years of making money with the fair."

    What is particularly irksome to  Mills is not that Golden Wheel Amusements in playing Fairbanks, but the timing of the event. Mills criticizes the company's timing for "predating and over-lapping the fair. They could have played Fairbanks at a different time. They could have filled a void in the community. Instead, they are starting their own fair, and all the money they make will go into their pockets, instead of going into the community. It is unethical."

    Mills added, "They are trying to get me out of there, and maybe I would do the same thing if I was in their position, but I wouldn't go out of my way to hurt the fair. I don't know of any other carnival who would. They haven't had competition in more than 30 years and they were being too high on the hog and think they can dictate to fairs. If you lose a contract bid, you get other business then try again next time. You don't try to hurt the fair."

    More Vendors

    Mills however is intent on looking at the silver lining within this dark cloud of Alaska fair politics. Mills feels his company got a unintended boost from the Summer Spectacular."I've been practically assured that I will get a long term contract," he said. Some of the rides his midway will feature include a 102-foot Chance Sling Shot, an Inverter,  Zipper, Space Sled and Ferris Wheel.

    "Competition just makes us better," Mills said. "I was content on playing Fairbanks. This just makes me want to be the better midway."

    According to Whitehorn, the Tanana Valley Fair accrued other benefits than different rides from a contract with a new Midway provider. "We were limited to 45 outside vendors. Golden Wheel brought in all their food and game booths. Now we are going to have lots of other vendors, and more commercial vendors. We will have over 300 vendors."

    But in town where the fair was the annual extravaganza that united the community, the Summer Spectacular by GoldenWheel Amusements is now dividing the town. Like the state fair, Ice Alaska is a non-profit outdoor facility. There's now bad blood between these two local nonprofits, for which Whitehorn blames Golden Wheel Amusements. "It is not ethical to have two nonprofits go against each other," said Whitehorn.

    Ice Alaska

    The Golden Wheel Amusement Summer Spectacular will be the first summer event held at Ice Alaska, famous for hosting the annual World Ice Art Championships - a competitive celebration of icecarving - each February/March. "This is the first try for a summerevent for us," said Hoa Brickley, Business Manager, Ice Alaska.
    According to Brickley, Golden Wheel Amusements contacted them with a proposal to host their new event. "Golden Wheel Amusements called us in March when they lost the contract for the fair," said Brickley. "We were able to make a deal. We are leasing them the land. We are just making a little extra income. Everybody can use a little extra income."

    Brickley emphasized that the involvement of Ice Alaska is merely as landlord. "We are not making any decisions, we have nothing to do with the fair," she said. "Golden Wheel has been doing this for more than 30 years, they're experienced. We cannot tell them what to do, we are only leasing the land."

    Bad Blood

    The timing of the Summer Spectacular  to precede and overlap with the Tanana Valley Fair was coincidental, Eckert claims. They were the only open dates during the company's hectic summer schedule. "The reason we are in Fairbanks at this time is this is when our calendar was open," he said. "Everyone we have ever worked with in the state would agree that we have nothing but the highest ethics."

    He also emphasized that the event will be distinct enough to avoid confusion with the Tanana Valley Fair. "It is not a fair, if anything it is a spectacular party for the community," he said.  "We will have 25 rides, about double what we've had at the fair, simply because we have more space now. This will be the event we always wanted to have."

    Entertainment for the spectacular will include two Christian Music concerts, the Rotten Brothers' sideshow, Skateboarder Tim Byrne, and Masa Suzjuki, a Free Running Artist from Japan who has appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

    With two midways, Alaskans will have more midway options than ever before.  The question that will be answered is if the area can sustain two midways in at the same time?

    "We welcome competition," said Whitehorn. "But the fair is the fair, and it is a lot more than Golden Wheel Amusements. There's not much we can do about it except put on the best fair we can."

    But even after both midways are broken down, the negative fallout from the Fairbanks Fair Wars will likely remain.

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HEADLINES from the web
Houghton Enterprises
Cochranville Fire Company
Cochranville, PA
7/23/2014 - 8/2/2014
Amusements of America
Ohio State Fair
Columbus, OH
7/23/2014 - 8/3/2014
Fiesta Shows
Bangor State Fair
Bangor, ME
7/25/2014 - 8/3/2014
Wade Shows
Ozark Empire Fair
Springfield, MO
7/25/2014 - 8/3/2014
Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair
Fredericksburg, VA
7/25/2014 - 8/3/2014
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7/27/2014 - 8/2/2014

IAAPA Attractions Expo - Orlando, FL
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Annual IAFE Convention and Trade Show - Paris Hotel - Las Vegas, NV
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I.I.S.F. Gibtown Extravaganza - Gibsonton, FL
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2013 TOP 50 FAIRS
1. Texas State Fair - Dallas, TX
2. Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo - Houston, TX
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Mary Vakulskas, mother of Carnival Priest, John Vakulskas passes

Mary Vakulskas, loving mother of Tom, Janet,Maria and Father John Vakulskas died July 20, 2014 in Sioux City, Iowa.

Visitation, Wednesday, July 23 3-8 p.m. at the
Christy-Smith Funeral Home
Larkin Chapel
2320 Outer Drive North
Sioux City IA 51104

Funeral: Thursday, July 24 at 10:30 a.m.
Church of the Nativity
4242 Natalia Way
Sioux City, IA 51106

  Posted by Matt Cook on 7/22/2014
Walter F. Larson, original manufacturer of the Super Loops, passes

Walter F. Larson, original manufacturer of the Super Loops ride, passed away on July 18, 2014.  Walter F. Larson was born on Sept. 26, 1930, to Walter W. Larson and Anita Jarvis Larson.  Upon graduation from Plainview High School, he attended American Flyers pilot training school in Fort Worth. He married his high school sweetheart Sharon Turner on April 9, 1950. He worked for Claude Hutcherson as a charter pilot and held special fond memories of the medical charter flights he flew. Later, he opened a Ferguson tractor dealership which became known as Larson-Turner Massey-Ferguson located at Fifth Street and Yonkers in Plainview. After selling the dealership to the James Brothers, he ventured into manufacturing high clearance tractors. He possessed a unique and uncanny ability to take what was good and make it awesome. These tractors were customized for a number of unique applications which included being used on tomato plantations, harvesting grapes and corn de-tasseling. He also manufactured Versa-trac highway sweepers. In the early 1970s, he began manufacturing amusement rides and is best known for the Super Loops carnival ride, known today as The Ring of Fire. Featured in the movie "Big, "SuperLoops was the ride Tom Hanks was not big enough to ride. He retired from this business in 2007.

He is preceded in death by a daughter, Melinda Larson. He is survived by his wife of more than 64 years, Sharon Larson; sister Sally Hale of Lubbock; daughters, Sarah Larson of Elgin, Texas, Loretta Haynes and husband Jim of Las Cruces, N.M., and Alice Kofahl and husband Lloyd of Dallas. He is survived by six grandchildren - Dr. Ann Marie Baker and her husband Dr. Chris Baker of Damon, Texas, Andrea Hebison and husband Kent of Lubbock, Larson Hampton and wife Brandi of Aledo, Texas, Katherine Kofahl, Laura Kofahl and Lee Kofahl, all of Dallas. He is survived by eight great-grandchildren, Aria Gras, Ainsley Baker, Preston Baker, Kayden Russell, Addison Hampton, Levi Hampton, Ashlynn Hebison and Zavery Hebison; nephews Tom Andrews of Bowling Green, Va., Jim Andrews of Lubbock, and niece Anita Page of Lubbock.

Memorial services for Walter F. Larson were held on July 21, 2014.  Memorial contributions may be made to: St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 710 Joliet St., Plainview, TX 79072 or Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, 600 SW 11th Ave., Amarillo, TX 79101 or to one's favorite charity.

  Posted by Obituary on 7/21/2014
Wade Shows ranked top finalist by Florida State Fair Authority
The Florida State Fair announced Wade Shows was the top ranked finalist to submit a bid to operate the midway at the Florida State Fair.  The Fair has invited Wade Shows to enter negotiations with the fair to coordinate the midway at the 2015, 2016, and 2017 state fairs.  If a contractual agreement between Wade Shows and the Florida State Fair Authority is not reached, the fair will then enter into negotiations with the second ranked highest bidder, Reithoffer Shows.  As more details are announced, we will report them here.  Posted by Matt Cook on 7/8/2014
Miller Spectacular expands route into Kentucky; adds five rides
Freddy Miller reported a strong start to his family's carnival, Miller Spectacular Shows, 2014 season.  Miller expanded its route into Kentucky, picking up several county fairs previously played by Myers International Midways, including the Taylor County Fair in Campbellsville.  So far, Miller has been happy with the new spots on his route and sees a lot of opportunity for growth.  "The fair board at Taylor County was great to work with.  They were very accommodating and open to ideas on ways to grow the fair in the future".   Miller also reported the purchase of five rides including a Zamperla Samba Balloon and Surfs Up.  The Samba Balloon replaces the shows old balloon ride which was damaged in an accident earlier this season.  The show also added two new Schantz food trailers earlier in the year.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 6/27/2014
In our efforts to chronicle the history of our industry, we could think of no better way to further this endeavor than to interview industry pioneers and preserve their videos for posterity.

Wade Shows -HIRING for 2014, NOW BOOKING, Office Manager & Assistant wanted, Custom Fence & Signage available!!

Showmen Supplies- LED Lighting, Electrical, and MORE!

1st Class Shows is now hiring for the 2014 season.  We are seeking quality game help for our Chicago summer route followed by a strong lineup of southern fairs in the fall.  Call Jimi Johnson at 813-318-2909 or visit

Wisdom Rides manufacturers some of the most profitable amusement rides in the industry including the Viper, Beetle Bobs, Starship 3000 / Gravitron, Dragon Wagon, and the new Looney Lagoon.  Visit for more info!

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.

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