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  • Doc Rivera Brings Carnival History to Life at the IISA Carnival Museum
    Doc Rivera has been the curator of the International Independent Showmen's Museum for 5 years. He has dedicated his time to the museum in order to preserve the storied and exciting history of the carnival industry and achieve the museum's mission of telling the history of the carnival from its inception in 1893 through today. Now boasting over 100 exhibits, 1000s of artifacts, and countless photographs, the museum is poised to expand further and continue its important mission. 

    The museum, located in Gibsonton, Florida, had humble beginnings in the 1980s. The museum of those days would be unrecognizable compared to its modern-day counterpart. "The museum originally began in a little green house across from where the museum is now. It was house on a piece of property the club had purchased," says Rivera. The museum lasted for a while in the little green house but it was old and the structure didn't hold up well to mildew and termites alike. And, "as artifacts were coming in we began to outgrow it," says Rivera. 

    Now, the museum lives in a 54,000 square foot building and even this building is bursting at the seams, "It sounds like a lot of space but we're running out of room," says Rivera. "There are some artifacts that are not on display for the public solely because we don't have enough room for them, and that's a shame." Rivera says they're in the middle of a capital campaign they started this year to build a 20 x 60 steel building that will be attached to the main museum. Rivera plans to house the many rare carnival wagons they have at the museum in the new, steel building. Currently, the carnival wagons are outside of the museum, exposed to the elements and harsh Florida weather. Rivera estimates they need $100,000 to construct the new addition. 

    He doesn't expect the fundraising or construction to happen quickly, though. When the 54,000 square foot main building was erected, it took time and was done in stages as money was raised. They overcame several hurdles during the piece-meal construction such as nasty weather and vandals. "The building was exposed during construction and some people went in and stole all the copper wire out of the conduits so that caused a delay," says Rivera. Finally, Jim Frederiksen donated the last $1 million needed to finish construction. Now, the building has been open since 2011. "It started out with stuff scattered around, it took time to get it to where it is today," says Rivera. 

    The museum features exhibits about the history of traveling shows such as Royal American Shows, Strates Shows, Medicine Shows in America, and Wild West shows. Rivera explained that in the formative years of the carnival industry, a big show would only have 3 or 4 rides but would have 15 or 20 shows. "Each exhibit tells its own story," says Rivera. There are many interactive exhibits throughout the museum such as information about the Wild West Shows of the past. A monitor in that area is constantly playing a slideshow and guests in the exhibit can see artifacts such as Geronimo's top hat and Buffalo Bill's 6 gun. 

    Other interactive exhibits include the American Beauty 1950 Alan Herschell Carousel, information on Father Mac the Carny Priest,  A Sideshow Exhibit, a Strangest Couple in the World: Al and Jeannie Tomaini Exhibit.  A Viking Giant Exhibit will be coming soon. Rivera is working on a life sized replica of the Viking Giant, Johan Petrussen. He will be dressed in different outfits and used as a photo opportunity for guests as well as an opportunity for them to take in his unfathomable 8ft 8in height. Rivera revealed he is also working on a two-headed baby exhibit. 

    One of the most important parts of carnival industry history are the Minstrel Shows of yore. While Rivera believes it is important to share this pice of history with the public, he also acknowledges that the shows are an extremely racially sensitive topic. "We work really hard to handle that part of history in a diplomatic and respectful way," says Rivera. Minstrel Shows got their start in 1841 when workers would perform on Sundays when they were not working in order to entertain themselves. "These shows were an important part of industry growth. And, performances in Minstrel Shows actually led to people of color getting more performance gigs in the entertainment industry," says Rivera. 

    In addition to these exhibits, Rivera has constructed an area dedicated to wood carving. It explains how carousel horses were hand carved out of wood and beautifully, painstakingly hand-painted. The upstairs portion of the museum has space dedicated to the history of carnival games as well as an extensive library which, among other things, houses Billboard Magazines from 1902 onward. Other notable items in the museum include a 1903 ferris wheel which still turns and a Royal American Shows office wagon that museum visitors can go into and look inside. "We have the office wagon set up like it was back in the day. It's set up just how an office was set up on the road," says Rivera. 

    Rivera is hoping to modernize the museum by digitizing reading material and records from years ago. He also hopes to digitize the countless photos which are kept in the museum. "I get a lot of calls from people who are looking for information about their relatives who may have traveled with a show. Geneology is a big thing now," says Rivera. Just this week, Rivera was able to help a man who was looking for information about his mother, Rivera was able to point him in the right direction thanks to the artifacts in the museum. 

    Digitizing the magazines and records will help preserve them and make them more readily available to those who are interested. Rivera says he has thousands of old photographs which are not dated or labeled. Whenever people look through them and have any new information, Rivera encourages them to write it on the back of the photograph in pencil as the lead does not fade or damage the picture. 

    Rivera says the Showmen's Club is dedicated to preserving and expanding this museum not for their own interest but so that the artifacts and stories they tell will be helpful for generations to come. "Eventually, the time of the carnival will come to an end and when that occurs, people will want to know about this industry and what was so great about it," says Rivera. Preserving the past is hard work, though. Rivera says the exhibits are largely based on the artifact donations they receive regularly. A lot of things have to be fixed up or restored a bit before they can be on display. 

    Rivera is dedicated to making the museum available to the community. Once a month a support group called "compassionate friends" meets in the upstairs area of the museum as do circus model groups. "We use the museum as a public service whenever possible," says Rivera. 

    The International Independent Showmen's Museum has a Facebook page which Rivera manages himself. "I'll post a picture that would be of interest to someone in our industry but also to the public and tell a little story about what's being shown or going on in the picture," says Rivera. He attempts to post every day but sometimes is too busy with museum upkeep as he is a team of one. 

    March 22nd-25th the museum will be hosting the 1st Showmen's Riverfest featuring Arnold Amusements. The carnival will be set up at the Showmen's Club. Arnold Amusements will provide rides, food, and games. The proceeds from the event will go toward constructing the new, steel addition to the main museum. 

    Currently the museum is only open on the weekends although Rivera would love to see it open during the week as well. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for students, and children are free. 

    Carnival History Videos Featuring Doc Rivera

    courtesy of Chad Griffith

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    Hollywood Meets the Traveling Carnival:

    Museum Photos from the MCW Gallery

    Doc Rivera


  • Ft. Worth Stock Show Attendance on Par with 2017
    At the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, a legendary Texas event adapts to the digital age.

    The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo's 2018 event lived up to it's slogan, "this thing is legendary." The show celebrated its 122nd year from January 12 to February 3 at the Will Rogers Memorial Center with a theme of "Buck, Sweat, and Tears," bringing together livestock exhibitioners, cowboys, and carnival goers alike. This year's event attracted approximately 1,214,000 visitors, thanks in part to FWSSR's ability to honor the event's storied traditions while adapting to the digital age. "We put the cowboy in the City of Cowboys and Culture," says FWSSR Publicity Director Matt Brockman.

    There was something for everyone at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. This year's event boasted more than 33,000 exhibition entries for the livestock show - an all time record - including entries from 44 states and three Canadian provinces, as well as thirty six rodeo performances, concerts from local musicians at the Coors Light Roadhouse, a carnival midway, and food from a plethora of diverse concessionaires. Throughout each aspect of FWSSR, organizers worked hard to meet the demands of the digital age while keeping the traditions of the rodeo and stock show alive.

    Mr. Brockman notes the diverse audience to which the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo caters. "Regardless of whether this is where you were born and raised or you just moved here, the  opportunity to celebrate what makes Fort Worth unique connects our community to its identity and heritage." The show catered to all in the area, from corporate clients, to families enjoying a day on the town, to farmers and cowboys, each with different needs and expectations. This year the show developed an app to help make everyone's experience more enjoyable by helping visitors find parking and providing easier access to the schedules for various events. "We're always looking for ways to utilize digital technology as tool to enhance the experience or make it easier to get here and enjoy the event."

    The FWSSR also utilized an app for the 7 acre carnival midway, organized and run by Talley Amusement. The Magic Money system allowed people to purchase ride tickets and concession stand goods via their smartphones or a wristband loaded with credits. Brockman notes that the Stock Show and Rodeo is "adapting to a digital world where people are paying for everything - whether at the grocery store or on a ride at a stock show - with new and different means." The utilization of the Magic Money system, he says, has inspired show organizers to explore further options of digital payment in future shows.

    Changing needs and demands also affected the food offered at this year's Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. While the concessions in the carnival midway were provided by Talley Amusements, for the rest of the grounds the FWSSR turned to Colbert's Catering which then subcontracted catering to a variety of different smaller vendors. "When you have a venue like ours, you have a broad mix of attendees be it people on a corporate outing or a family on a budget. We try to offer both from an entertainment and food concession perspective." Brockman notes that as the world becomes more health conscious, more attendees sought foods like salads, while some came to the stock show for traditional foods like corn dogs and cotton candy. He also noted a need to cater to a more corporate demographic with steak dinners and a nice bottle of wine in a white tablecloth setting. Colbert's Catering provided it all, ensuring that every guest that comes to the stock show left satisfied.

    Stock show exhibition entries were at an all time high this year, with 33,000 entries - a 16% increase from the year before - and boasted entries from 241 of Texas's 254 counties in addition to a majority of US states and several Canadian provinces. While a win at the first major livestock show of the season is a huge deal - Brockman describes it as akin to "winning the Superbowl" - many exhibitioners got even more from the experience. FFA and 4H junior exhibitioners from Texas had the opportunity to compete for scholarship funds, become more knowledgeable about their livestock's important place in the food chain, participate on a judging team, and learn from open show exhibitioners who were able to guide them in their pursuits of a career in the livestock business.

    The open shows were also a fantastic opportunity for the public to learn about the superior parentage of the meat that ends up on their plates. Visitors had the opportunity to witness blue ribbon livestock from all over North America and then continue to the Texas Farm Bureau of Agriculture's section of the show where they had the opportunity to learn about everything from cotton farming to milking a cow, to vegetable farming and textile production. FWSSR worked hard to emphasize the farm to table aspect of many of the products utilized in everyday life from the milk that goes into ice cream to the steak that ends up on a plate. Another portion of this section of the show included Vine2Wine, a program designed to highlight the state's growing wine industry and allow visitors to learn about wine production while sampling the local product.

    Competition met entertainment during the rodeo portion of the show. This year the rodeo saw 36 performances over 23 days with cowboys travelling from Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and across the United States for a chance at a chunk of the $800,000 purse. One of the largest professional rodeos in the country, this year's rodeo attracted nearly 1,100 contestants, many with sights on the National Rodeo Competition in Las Vegas. Many cowboys who fared well at FWSSR took home not just a purse of between $10,000 and $18,000, but the chance to perform on an even larger national stage. More than the opportunity at rodeo notoriety, though, was the tradition of the event. Matt Brockman notes that "our professional rodeo this year was 100 years old. There is a lot of tradition there. We like to say that our rodeo performances are like going to a baseball game at Wrigley Field."

    The rodeo and stock shows weren't the only sources of entertainment for FWSSR guests. Each year the Coors Light Roadhouse brings acts from all over Texas and the Southeast, including themed performances such as soul groups for Martin Luther King Jr Day and a Best of Mexico celebration featuring a local mariachi band. "We don't have an arena or coliseum that seats the big numbers." So while big name acts don't necessarily fit the show's footprint, Brockman explains that the show focused on highlighting local and regional acts, further solidifying the stock show's celebration of Fort Worth culture.

    To enjoy all that the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo has to offer, visitors had a choice between two ticketing options. A daily general admission ticket ranged from $10 for an adult to $5 for children under 16 with 5 and under getting in for free and provided access to the carnival, livestock, stocks shows, and rodeo shopping experience. However, the cost to see a rodeo was generally $22-$30 depending on the performance, but admission to the rest of the grounds was included.

    Another aspect where the FWSSR crew - which was comprised of 20 full time employees, 916 temporary employees, and 1600 volunteers - made use of available digital technologies was in the marketing of this year's event. While the team utilized traditional marketing platforms like television and print, Brockman notes that they were more assertive on social media, reaching out to their more than 280,000 Facebook followers, 15,000 Twitter followers, and 22,000 Instagram followers with this year's marketing strategy. The team also implemented more geo targeted ads, spending an estimated $300,000 for their efforts.

    Social media engagement didn't end before the FWSSR began, though. "We're only here for 23 days through the year so we're continually looking for ways - whether through mobile app or other means - to engage people while on the complex." This year that looked like sharing selfies that visitors took on the big screen during rodeo performances but Brockman notes that his team is looking for ways to further that engagement and to further enhance each visitor's experience.

    The future looks bright for FWSSR. As the show looks forward to celebrating its 123rd year in 2019, they also look forward to cutting the ribbon on their new Dickie's Arena, a much needed addition to the grounds which will house all future rodeo performances, allowing the Will Rogers Coliseum, which has hosted rodeos since 1944, to be utilized for horse show events and other offerings. The new arena, which is built in the unique art deco style of the rest of the complex, is "a crowning achievement" for FWSSR, allowing the rodeo performances to adapt to the digital age as much of the rest of the stock show has, with modern bells and whistles. With all of these updates and changes, the tradition of the Stock Show and Rodeo remains of the highest priority. "People expect to come here and see the same thing. They like continuity and the comfort of knowing that they are going to come here and experience all that the FWSSR has meant to them for decades. But you still have to freshen it up." With 2018's changes and updates, the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is certainly on the right path.

  • Florida State Fair adds New Entertainment for 2018
    The 2018 Florida State Fair, held February 8th-19th, focused on providing fairgoers more entertainment than ever before and creating ways for families to affordably come out to the fair. While attendance was slightly down from last year, consistent with other major 2018 fairs so far this year, there was plenty to celebrate about the event. Executive Director, Cheryl Flood, is already planning ways to make the 2019 fair better than 2018. 
    Attendance and Family-Oriented Discounts
    2018 fair attendance was 423,726 compared to 2017's 440,718. During the fair, adult admission was $13 and kids admission was $7 (6-11), kids 5 and under were free. Before the fair began, guests could purchase advance sale tickets through the Florida State Fair website or at local Publix stores. 
    Other than the advance sale, fairgoers could take advantage of themed days throughout the fair featuring discounted admission. Opening day of the fair was Heroes Day "Military, Police, Firefighters, and First Responders got in for free with ID and could bring up to 3 family members with them for free," says Flood. February 10th was 4-H and FFA day, and "Seniorrific Days" featuring discounted admission for seniors 2/12-2/16. 
    For the first time this year, the Florida State Fair teamed up with a local chain, Hungry Howie's to create "Hungry Howie's Family Nights." The deal was available after 4pm Monday-Thursday nights the second week of the fair; for $50 families received 2 adult admission tickets (over 18), two child admission tickets (under $18), 2 adult wristbands, and 2 child wristbands. A box top coupon was available for $5 off the family four pack. The chain even held a very successful pizza eating contest at the fair on Tuesday, February 13th.  On 2/16, the fair featured $5 admission after 5pm. Lastly, the fair worked with Coca Cola to create a promotion for the last day of the fair. "Admission was $5 when you brought in an empty Coca Cola product bottle or can," says Flood. 
    "We had tons of new entertainment this year appealing to all ages," says Flood. Some of the new acts this year included: Professor Smart's Science Show, Josh Knott's Extreme Illusions and Escapes Show and camel rides. The 2018 fair also featured an "extreme sports series" for the first time which featured a BMX/FMX Freestyle Madness Show, Mini Monster Trucks, Lawnmower races, The Ninja Experience show, and for the first time in decades, a demolition derby. 
    Also new this year, the fair booked shows featuring stars from popular Disney and Nick shows. Teen Stars Live starred characters from current popular shows with lots of interactive elements for the audience. The teen stars included: Calum Worthy from Austin & Alley, Addison Riecke from the Thundermans, Sky Katz from Ravens Home, and Kevin Quinn from Bunk'd. 
    Finally, the fair hosted the first ever Florida State Fair Dance Championships. Stars from the hit show Dance Moms judged the final of the competition. Gianna Martello and Chloe & Christi Lukasiak were there to rank the performances and offer constructive advice for dancers. The fair partners with Ms. Lisa's Dance Studio, a local dance studio, to run the contest. Gianna Martello also hosted a Master Class for dancers. 
    The fair also worked with their local PBS station to create a PBS Kids Zone in one of the buildings on the fairgrounds. The Kids Zone featured 18 costumed characters from popular PBS shows, arts and crafts, dance parties, interactive games, and story times. According to WEDU, the local PBS station, the Kids Zone was the largest gathering of PBS costumed characters ever. This was a great opportunity for families with smaller children to beat the heat for a bit and interact with some of their favorite characters.
    In addition to staged shows and ground acts, the fair booked a few strolling acts: The One Man Band, Fritters, and Max Power the Robot. 
    In terms of musical acts, the Florida State fair welcomed back some old favorites including Leroy Van Dyke's Country Gold Tour and Dennis Lee. They tried something new with the Country Gold Tour this year; admission into the performance was included with fair admission, but seats on the floor of Entertainment Hall and closer to the stage were extra. The new Country Gold Tour model was successful, the shows were all well-attended. Two stages: The Tampa Bay Times Stage and the Sleep Number Stage, rotated musical acts throughout the fair. The Tampa Bay Times Stage featured acts such as Dennis Lee and Kazual while the Sleep Number Stage featured local bands each night.
    The Florida State Fair midway is Independent and managed by Frank Zaitshik and Wade Shows. "This year we had 110 rides on our midway and 13 different ride companies represented," says Flood. The ride gross was slightly down from 2017 at $4,527,371 compared to 2017's $4,782,746, but was still the second best ever.
    Frank Zaitshik, President of Wade Shows, had many positive things to say about the 2018 Florida State Fair "We had ideal weather and some people thought it was too hot. However, we were up going into the last day of the fair but the kids were out of school on President's Day last year and this year they were in school due to a Hurricane make-up day so that hurt us," says Zaitshik. 
    The 110 rides at this year's Florida State Fair included the State Fair's Mega Slide which Wade Shows manages for them and the Midway Sky Eye. "We had some great independent operators on the midway this year that did a fantastic job," says Zaitshik. Despite the decrease in ride gross this year, 2017 and 2018 are still the two best ride revenue years at the Florida State fair, according to Zaitshik.
    Wade Shows continues to work to improve their customer service on the midway as well as guest amenities. "We have a great relationship with lots of cooperation at the Florida State Fair. Under Cheryl Flood's direction I believe the fair is headed for great things. Knowing Cheryl and her staff, I believe they won't rest until 2019 is better than 2018," says Zaitshik. 
    Although he was in constant communication with his management team, Zaitshik was unfortunately ill for most of the Florida State Fair. He congratulated Jimmy Danton, Mike Thomas, and the rest of his management team on a job well done. 
    The 2018 fair featured several unique food items that were advertised prior to the fair. The Chicken and Waffle Pizza, Banana Frenkle Funnel Cake, BBQ Pulled Pork Ribbon Fries, Chicken Parmesan Chompers, and Firecracker Corn were crowd favorites. Lastly, The Big Jerk: 2+ pounds of tortilla chips layered with island rice and beans, shredded jerk chicken, lettuce, Caribbean cheese sauce, and fresh pico-de-gallo won the People's Choice Food Award this year. 
    Livestock And Agriculture
    The Florida State Fair places a big focus on the livestock and agricultural aspects of the fair. One of their main missions is to educate the people of Florida about agriculture and livestock around the state. There were plenty of exhibits at this year's fair centered around education. 

    The Ag-Venture Tent, Agricultural Hall of Fame Building, Youth Poultry and Rabbit "Ask Me" booths, and Educational Showcase Field Trips for 1st through 5th graders provided information for fairgoers of all ages. 
    Little Farm Hands was a new educational exhibit at the 2018 Fair. "The focus group for the building were 3 to 7 year olds and aimed to teach them where their food comes from. As the children came into the building, they were given an apron and pail to collect products at different stations. A few of the activities included collecting eggs from chickens and placing them in egg cartons, milking a dairy cow and collecting an actual milk carton and picking some Florida oranges. This exhibit was extremely popular for the parents and kids," says Flood. 
    The fair's livestock shows this year included: open and youth beef and dairy, youth swine, youth steer, open and youth dairy and boer goat, open pygmy goat, open and youth rabbit, open and youth poultry, youth sheep, open and youth llama, and youth dog. One new show added this year was an open Charlois show. According to Flood, animal numbers were up this year and exhibitor numbers were consistent. 
    The Florida State Fair works with a budget of approximately $450,000 to advertise the fair. They spend 45% on Television, 35% on radio, 13% on billboard/outdoor, and 7% on print. 
    Advertising material was centered around the 2018 fair's theme "Discover The Fun at YOUR Florida State Fair." Flood and her staff came up with this theme to remind Floridians that the fair is all about them and something they should be proud of and enjoy; "Each year we're surprised by how many folks don't know about the Florida State Fair so we wanted to create a campaign that put a strong emphasis on its connection to the people who live in Florida. We are the Florida State Fair and we belong to all the people who live in this great state. It's a tradition that's been going on for 114 years and with your help, it will continue to go on for another 100 or more years," says Flood. 
    Staff and Goals For The Future 
    The fair hires about 700 season employees to help the fair run smoothly. There are about 60 year-round employees at the Florida State Fair office. 
    When asked about some proud moments from the 2018 fair, Flood said, "We had wonderful weather, lots of new exciting entertainment, and most importantly a safe and family-friendly event where memories were made." 
    When asked about goals for the 2019 fair, Flood said, "For the 2019 fair I wold like to continue to grow our entertainment and increase what we offer the the public in the evenings, increase our community involvement, and finally grow our attendance."

  • South Florida Fair down 5% due to weather
    The 2018 South Florida Fair started out with some cooler weather but warmed up along the way. 2018 attendance was down about 5% from 2017 according to CEO, Rick Vymlatil. "2018 attendance is 427,005 and 2017 attendance was 448,025," says Vymlatil. "South Floridians do not like cold weather but we continued to roll on and the weather got nicer for us. Per capita spending was up on admission, rides, and food this year." 
    Magical Parades
    One of the things that makes the South Florida Fair unique is that they have a different theme every year and the fair team creates an exhibit or event surrounding that theme. This year the theme was "Magical Parades." "We built this theme off our successful Mardi Gras theme from last year. People loved the parades they were so popular so we really wanted to expand on that," says Vymlatil. 
    There was not a parade every night of the 2018 South Florida Fair but most of the days were covered. Parade themes included: Mardi Gras, 2 bike nights, "Mayor's Day" featuring 25 of the 38 municipalities in Palm Beach County, St Patrick's Day, Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year, Boat, and Football. 
    Some of the floats were physically the same in each parade but had different colored beads, different music, and different unites in the parade to tie the theme together. "The themes lend themselves to different things around the grounds. For example, the St. Patrick's Day parade featured people dressed as leprechauns, green beer, and green beads," says Vymlatil. In Expo West Hall the fair booked an ice show based on the "Magical Parades" theme, the show is produced by Rostyn Gudino and they performed 3 or 4 shows per day. "There were always long lines to get into the ice show, it was very popular," says Vymlatil.
    Before and after the parades, the floats are on display in the Expo East Hall during the fair. Also in Expo East Hall, the fair featured student art displays based on the theme of the 2018 fair. "We give local art teachers a cut-out based on the theme. This year, we gave them a cut-out of a parade float and students make an art piece based on the cut-out. Fairgoers judge the artwork and the winners get a pizza party," says Vymlatil. 
    Discounted Admission Days
    The South Florida Fair offers opportunities for discounted admission throughout the fair; the most successful of these promotions is $2 Tuesdays. "The $2 Tuesday idea came from a concessionaire about 2 or 3 years ago. He told us the Indiana State Fair does it. We sent a staff member to Indianapolis to check it out and decided it would be a good idea," says Vymlatil. Admission is $2 rather than the normal $15 adult admission price, every food vendor sells an item for $2, and rides are $2 a piece. "It's an inexpensive day at the fair for folks on a budget," says Vymlatil. Last year, $2 Tuesday was the 3rd best revenue day of the fair. 
    In addition to $2 Tuesdays, the fair offers a major senior day the second Monday of the fair when admission is $5. On opening day of the fair, they run a promotion where if fairgoers use their advance sale admission ticket on opening day, they get a free admission pass to come back and enjoy the fair. "This is an opportunity for us to front load our advance sales, hopefully folks like the fair and will come back and visit us again," says Vymlatil.

    Vymlatil says that the South Florida Fair has cut down on the number of acts they book for entertainment over the years. They don't book concerts on weekends or on Tuesdays of the fair. "We're lucky that our weekends sell themselves and now we offer $2 Tuesdays promotions which draws people to the fairgrounds on its own." 
    Performers at this year's South Florida Fair included: Matthew West, Chris Lane, Grand Funk Railroad, Atlanta Rhythm Section, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. This year they also produced a Latin festival held on the middle Sunday of the fair featuring Latin acts from 2pm-10pm. The festival had a bunch of different genres of Latin music in order to appeal to as many people as possible. "We've tried the Latin festival for many years and just couldn't seem to get it to stick, we finally moved it to a Sunday and it's been really great," says Vymlatil. 
    Ground acts at the 2018 South Florida Fair included: Lady Houdini, the Stars of the Peking Acrobats, the Tricky Dog Show, Ham Bone Express pig racing, Tyzen the Hypnotist, and Dennis Lee. "This was Dennis Lee's 33rd year at the fair. We've gotten to see his kids grow up and his act change and he's gotten to see us grow as an event," says Vymlatil. 
    Wade Shows Midway 
    The carnival provider for the South Florida Fair Midway is Wade Shows. "The midway gross was the highest in the history of the fair, reaching over $4.8 Million. We had the Midway Sky Eye here, the joint venture between Frank Zaitshik and Michael Wood, the tallest traveling ferris wheel in North America," says Vymlatil. "It was its first appearance here and it did very well."
    Frank Zaitshik, President of Wade Shows, described the 2018 South Florida Fair as an event with a "rough start but a great finish."He echoed Vymlatil's assessment that the weather was a bit cold for Floridians at the beginning of the fair but the weather rounded out nicely. "On those lesser weather days, people think 'there are two more weeks to go.' Although the economy appears to be improving, people are conscious of their money. Do you want to go on a day that's sunny or a day that's windy and cold?" says Zaitshik. 
    Wade Shows along with a select group of independents brought 72 rides to the 2018 South Florida Fair. "We're very conscious of the rides we choose. It goes to show that if you pick the right 72 rides you can play a fair of this size and still get great revenue results," says Zaitshik. "We're very privileged to play the South Florida Fair. They're great people to work with." 
    Livestock, Youth, and Exhibits
    The South Florida Fair features a variety of livestock shows including steer, goats, rabbits, poultry, and dairy. The youth market steer and hog sale raised $450,000. The fair also features a scholarship program during which the fair gives out about 21 scholarships, around $35,000 worth during the fair. There are also a variety of competitive exhibits displayed throughout the fair "it's all the classic fair stuff," says Vymlatil. 
    The advertising budget for the South Florida Fair hovers around $500,000. They use all the traditional media outlets including radio television, newsprint, and digital. "We've gotten a lot more into digital than we used to, that's the reality now," says Vymlatil. "We spend about $50,000 on news print, $150,000 on television, $65,000 on billboards, about $45,000 on digital, and about $40,000 on production. 
    The fair team also focuses on community promotions. Some of the floats for the parade came in early and were used in local holiday parades around the county. The Fair has a "Street team" which promotes the fair at local events. At the local outlet mall the Saturday before the fair begins, they host a giveaway for a free admission tickets good any Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday of the fair if you donate to the local food bank. Vymlatil recalled that they raised 10,000 pounds of food. "We've only done that promotion for about three years now but it caught on really well," says Vymlatil. 
    In line with their community focus, the fair hosts the South Florida Fair kids mile which is a promotion run with the local school district. It's a combination reading and exercise program in which the kids enroll to read and run all year long. "The goal is for the kids to read a certain number of books to log running a marathon over the time. They run the last mile at the opening day of the fair. 2,400 kids ran this year," says Vymlatil. 
    Six years ago, the fair started working with the Citizenship Department of the government to host a citizenship ceremony at the fair one afternoon. "Over 500 people took their oath of citizenship to the United States of America at the fair with their families. I talk to other fair managers and say it's a good thing. Immigration isn't a popular topic right now but these people did it the legal way and it's really amazing," says Vymlatil. 
    Goals For The Future
    The South Florida Fair has about 50 full time staff members. Throughout the year everyone works on the fair among other events but Vymlatil feels the marketing department works primarily on the fair year-round. "We have periodic staff meetings throughout the year, they get more frequent closer to the fair and we have one each day during the fair," says Vymlatil. 
    "Like everybody else we want to do better than the year before. The Parades were a big undertaking, we were all wondering 'how is this going to work out?' I think we did it right. Reception from the public was really positive," says Vymlatil. 
    "We're fortunate that we've got some great partners. Frank and Wade Shows continue to impress us. He's never comfortable to sit back . He always does his best to give us a better show each year. His partner Michael Wood is also fantastic. We also are appreciative for the opportunity to partner with Coke and King Lighting who are great partners for us," says Vymlatil. 
    The 2019 South Florida Fair will be January 18th-February 3rd.

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HEADLINES from the web
Wade Shows
Central Florida Fair
Orlando, FL
3/8/2018 - 3/25/2018
Deggeller Attractions
Miami Dade County Fair
Miami, FL
3/15/2018 - 4/8/2018
Deggeller Attractions
Putnam County Fair
Palatka, FL
3/16/2018 - 3/24/2018
Deggeller Attractions
Clay County Fair
Green Cove Springs, FL
3/29/2018 - 4/7/2018
Wade Shows
Poteet Strawberry Fest
Poteet, TX
4/13/2018 - 4/15/2018
Deggeller Attractions
Dunn P.A.L. Fair
Dunn, NC
4/13/2018 - 4/22/2018
2017 TOP 50 FAIRS
1. Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo - Houston, TX
2. Texas State Fair - Dallas, TX
3. San Antonio Livestock Show & Ex. - San Antonio, TX
4. Minnesota State Fair - St. Paul, MN
5. San Diego County Fair - Del Mar, CA

View Top 50 Fairs
The Industry Buzz
H2B Update: Get The Press to Cover You

Two articles on the current H2B visa cap crisis recently appeared in major newspapers; one in the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the other in the Denver Post. Both articles were excellent. We need a similar article in every local newspaper across the country.

Every H2B employer has to advertise in its local paper as a condition of getting DOL approval. This gives them the 'in' with editors to ask the paper to do a story on the critical shortage of seasonal labor which has been compounded by the lack of H2B visas. 

Step-by-step guide

  1. Go to your local paper's website. Click on "contact us" to locate the email address for the newspaper's editor;
  2. Use the SEA template letter for your email to the editor. Click here for the template letter.

There is nothing new to report on the inclusion of (or lack thereof) cap relief in the upcoming Omnibus spending bill. Negotiations are ongoing. I will send out an update as soon as I have one. It is vitally important that you keep up the pressure.

Click here for the latest instructions on the specific ask of your Members' of Congress.

  Posted by Gray Delaney, Seasonal Employment Alliance on 3/14/2018
Ray Cammack Shows Purchases KMG Konga from Mike Demas
MCW confirmed that Ray Cammack Shows purchased a KMG X-Factory, themed Konga, from Mike Demas.  The extravagantly themed X-Factory made its US debut in 2017, however, played very few events due to a change of business by Mike Demas.

The ride is equipped with water fountains, a operator booth, fully integrated sound system, and a RGB color changing light package.

It is currently being operated at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (Houston, TX) through March 18.

  Posted by Matt Cook on 3/12/2018
Passing of Ron Morris
Recently retired OABA Director, Ron Morris passed away peacefully last night, after recovering from extensive heart surgery in New York City.  As the former owner of Spotlight Graphics, a Sarasota, FL, Ron's love was always the circus and carnival industry, after his first experience at the CNE in Toronto in 1952. 

His industry experience as a business owner, show producer, booking agent, concession manager, and advance promotion and marketing background in both the United States and Canada provide Ron with many opportunities to have fun in the industry.  

Ron was an active member of Showfolk's of Sarasota (past president), IISA, OABA, NICA, IAFE, SLA, and the Circus Producers Association, which gave him a large network of industry associates, clients and most of all many good friends.  

OABA's former Chair Wayne McCary, who knew Ron for close to 30 years, enjoyed traveling with him to Europe, to attend the International Circus Federation meetings, the annual European Circus Federation's Competition in Monaco and visit with his European showmen and friends.  

Wayne says, "He had sawdust in his shoes.  His love for the business took him to every corner of the World, where he had legions of friends. His last circus adventure carries on with great crowds in Hawaii." 

Our deepest sympathy to his wife, Arlene, his trusted wife, companion and fellow traveler.

  Posted by OABA / Bob Johnson on 3/8/2018
Second Half of FY2018 H2B Visa Cap Met on March 1
On March 1, 2018, USCIS announced that it had received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for FY 2018. During the first five business days USCIS received approximately 2,700 H-2B cap-subject petitions requesting approximately 47,000 workers, which is more than the number of H-2B visas available. As a result, USCIS, in accordance with applicable regulations, conducted a lottery February 28 to randomly select enough petitions to meet the cap. USCIS will reject and return the petitions and associated filing fees to petitioners that were not selected, as well as any cap-subject petitions received after February 27.

  Posted by Matt Cook via USCIS on 3/1/2018
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.

Victor Products -Concession Supplies & Equipment Sales

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.

Triangle Poster & Printing is your source for carnival posters, signs, tickets, coupons, and more for special events, carnivals, fairs, festivals, and circuses.  Visit for more info or call 412-371-0774.

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.

BATTECH is an amusement ride manufacturer, producing popular rides such as the Cliff Hanger, Zero Gravity, Downdraft, and Super Slide.  Visit for more info.

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