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  • Upgraded Fairgrounds, Strategic Marketing & Improved Economy Push Marion County Fair into Double-Digit Increases
    The fair season may not be over, but the winner of the biggest year-to-year jump in attendance  so far is likely the Marion County Fair in Indiana. Attendance increased an astounding 44 percent compared to 2016.           
    This growth spurt was not a fluke, or a bounce-back fair after a rained out prior year, but a tremendous leap in what has been a upwards trajectory in recent years. "We've been going up in attendance in the past three or four for years," said John Gardner, president of the Marion County Fair board of directors. "We had some lean years, but starting in 2013, we have been coming back."        
    According to Gardner, The 2017 edition of this 87 year old fair was "Excellent, it was a record year for attendance and revenue in the new millennium."

    Century's Best
    Attendance exceeded 67,000 for this regional Hosier State event, and spending also kept apace with the fairgoer turnout. "Attendance and revenues were the highest since revised accounting was put in place in 2008, he said. "We certainly believe it was the best year of the 2000s so far. Data from before 2000 is a bit unreliable."
    In other words, the fair is back to its 90s boom-time and shaken off its great recession doldrums. Gardner credited a handful of key factors that added up to this success: an improved local economy, upgraded facilities, a strong midway, new entertainment and attractions and a more concerted marketing effort and social media presence. 

    Except for a 2nd Friday downpour that left a muddy fairground, the weather was pleasant and in the 80s - ideal Midwestern Summer Days. Total revenue for the event was up 29.2 percent. Nature encouraged people to come out to the fair and this year, they had more money to spend. "The economy in Indiana has been on the rebound," said Gardner. "Maybe part of it is change in administration and there's some optimism. Our former governor is now Vice-president, unemployment is down, the local economy has picked up compared to last year, which was a election year, and people hold onto their money more when it's an election year. I think people have more expendable money than a year ago." 

    In recent years, the Marion County Fair has also picked up its year-round business, and much of this revenue has been reinvested in capital improvements. "We've made the fairgrounds more attractive and added amenities, and I think the word has gotten around," said Gardner. "The experience of coming to the fair has been improved, and that word of mouth has helped attendance."

    He added, "we repaved our main street, worked on the safety issues, upgraded our restrooms and other facilities. That has paid off, people realized that we upgraded, and the overall fair experience was improved from year to year." 

    North American Midway Entertainment AID
    Much of the upgrade program - which has been ongoing -  was done in collaboration with Danny Huston, President of North American Midway Entertainment (NAME) - and focused on the midway area of the fairground. "Danny's been very helpful and he has directed some of the improvements," said Gardner. "We have improved some drainage, but we are working more in that area, and are looking to expand the midway so we can get a roller coaster next year. Danny's been around a lot."  

    In keeping with the increased attendance, midway revenue was up 35 percent. The lineup was "very similar to last year," said Gardner, which included about 20 rides, evenly split between children/family rides and thrill, spectacular rides.  While one of the smaller fairs on the NAME route, Gardner noted that this leading carnival company 's headquarters is "just up the road from us." In addition, NAME has been the fair's midway provider for six years, which coincides with the recent growth trend for attendance, culminating in the 2017 44 percent attendance leap.

    "NAME worked with us on marketing, and did a lot of promotional work on their own as well," said Gardner. "Our online wrist band sales were way up this year, and we had great dollar ride nights."

    Marketing and promotion Gardner also pointed to as being key to putting the 2017 fair over the top in terms of attendance, spending and fairgoer enjoyment. "We've gotten better at it," he explained. "We've gotten better at targeting different customer groups, and using social media and reaching our target audience."

    The fair has a modest adverting budget - approximately $40,000, about the same as last year, and allocated in near-identical proportions: 40 percent local radio; 20 percent zoned cable TV; 15 percent print / coupon ads; 10 percent Facebook boosts; 10 percent billboard; and 5 percent miscellaneous. "The media mix was similar to years past" he said. "We continued to lean heavily on local radio for their live broadcasts and promotional partnerships." 

    The Marion County Fair featured more live coverage of its events, including six live television broadcasts and two radio remotes.

    The fair's grandstands are used mainly for ticketed motor/spectacle sports, including Monster Trucks, Demolition Derbies, and Truck Drag Races. This year, the fair collaborated with the promoters for these events for social media marketing and surprisingly, followers of those types of events have become major social media users, which supplemented other marketing efforts, such as promotions on the TV Motor Sports Network. "We've learned to be more efficient and to work with our promoters," he said. "The grandstand attendance was up, and we were getting people who had never been to the fair before, but were coming because of how we marketed our grandstand entertainment.  Partnering with promoters  helped a great deal." 

    Generally the fair "created more posts" on Facebook, as well as other compelling content. "We created a lot of slideshows using photography from years past and this year's features," he said. 

    Gardner used the term Real Time Marketing to describe how the fair used Facebook Live in 2017. "We highlighted major events as they were happening and invited people to come and join the fun."

    But that day of outreach through social media also may not have turned rainy days into clear sky nights, but it effectively enabled the fair to get the message out that the fair was open. "One day we had a lot of rain, which was remnants of a hurricane that affected a lot of the Midwest. It rained all day, but the night was clear and we used Facebook to tell people that events were going on, that we still had the Demolition Derby, and we answered a lot of questions about the fair."

    The fair's marketing theme was "Meet You at the County Fair," and even hadn't its own song. "We have rights to a song recorded by The Elms called "County Fair" that we used as the musical background track for our commercials," he said. " We feel this helps us stand out amongst other commercials and gives us a consistent identity each year. We've been using it for three years, and people recognize it and that recognition helps build attention."

    Although the fair's grandstand motor sports entertainment was paid, the music entertainment was free, which was heavy on country but "we had everything ranging from classic rock to blues, and we had a Caribbean music night and a gospel night."

    The surprise big hit was not music, it was Twiggy the Waterskiing Squirrel. "We didn't generate the pre-fair publicity on news media via Twiggy we hoped for, but on social media and for those attending the fair, it was our most talked about and shared feature," he said. "Crowds during the performances were huge with bleacher seating and standing room only patrons lined up 10 plus people deep all around his circular pool."

    Other entertaining critters drawing large crowds include Elite Performance K9s (Frisbee & obstacle course dogs) and the Swifty Swine racing pigs. 

    More than 50 food vendors were at the fair, and while data wasn't available on their sales, anecdotally, "they had great sales, and I had a lot more vendors wanting to sign up for next year before the end of this year's fair. I would ask them how's the crowd and how are the sales every day and this year I only got positive responses." 

    The new addition to the line up was a pizza vendor, who along with sausage, mushroom and other pizza toppings, added more exotic items - crickets, mealworms and scorpions - which grabbed attention if not outselling the pepperoni and other more traditional toppings. 

    Marion County fairgoers enjoyed the traditional fair cuisine, such as corn dogs, alligator bites and funnel cakes. "We also have the Original Elephant Ears, the woman who runs the stand claims her grandfather invented Elephant Ears, she's been here for years."  

    The Marion County Fair now has an enviable problem - topping  not just a record year, but a record set by a high margin. Gardner and his staff appear inclined to stick with a winning strategy: Keep learning and keep getting better.

  • 30th Salem Fair Continues Strong Run
    The Salem Fair turned 30 in splendid shape, sustaining robust attendance, increasing its ride revenue and following a strong year with another strong year. It's an amazing win for a fair which suffered rainy weather on three days, including  - July 4th. 
    "We had a great run, big crowds, some weather but worked through it," said  Carey Harveycutter, Fair Manager. 
    The 12-day event, held at the Taliaferro Complex night in Salem, Virginia - the county seat of Roanoke Virginia - attracted approximately 350,000  fairgoers- about the same as last year, which by most accounts was a record year for the fair. Harveycutter pointed out that the reach of the fair has grown, attracting visitors from throughout Virginia's Blue Ridge and beyond.

    30 Year Anniversary
    The appeal was a combination of a strong midway, and more muscular marketing efforts that were able to coalesce around the very effective anniversary theme. "This was an especially satisfying fair for all of us since it marked our 30th year of putting on this massive event." said Harveycutter. "The rain is always part of the process, but thanks to the great relationships we have with our longtime fairgoers and Deggeller Attractions we've learned how to weather all kinds of storms over the years."

    He sated that rain was on and off on Independence Day,  followed by a Thunderstorm on July 5th and a "major storm July 6th  that dropped 1/2" of rain in an hour with winds to 35 mph," he said, adding, remainder of run weather was very good."

    Harveycutter estimated that the 2017 version of the Salem Fair will generate about $250,000 in income through taxes and fees for the city once the final receipts are tabulated. In addition, several non-profits benefited greatly from this year's fair. Patrons donated 8,128 pounds of non-perishable food to the Salem-Roanoke County Food Pantry in one night and "thanks to brisk advance ticket sales at Kroger, the United Way received a substantial donation," said Harveycutter. "For every unlimited ride Megapass we sold in advance at area Kroger stores, a portion was donated to the United Way of the Roanoke Valley. This year they received $13,840 thanks in large part of the great partnership we have with the good folks at Kroger."

    He added that advance sale through Kroger Food Stores was up 20 percent.

    Digital Shift
    The Fair's adverting budget was $70,000, which Harverycutter said was the same as 2016. However, how that money was spend saw crucial change. The allocation in terns of media, according to the fair manager, was  Digital - 33 percent; TV -16 percent;, radio - 44 percent; outdoor - 7 percent. 

    The new ways of how the fair spent its marketing dollars is indicative of the contemporary media landscape. All fairs may face the same challenge - maximizing their marketing money - getting the biggest bang for the buck. But with more modest marketing budgets, more regional-sized fairs like Salem Fair have to be more attentive in terms of targeting fairgoers. Key is to go to where they are - and it seems they may be looking at screens, but that screen is no longer the traditional television screens of when the Salem Fair began three decades ago.

    "This year  we increased digital and reduced TV, both broadcast and cable," said Harverycutter.

    He explained that there were two reasons for shifting funds this year. "Our core audience [Women: 18-49 and kids 12-18] do not watch as much TV as we did."

    But as we all know, that core audience are replacing that TV time with smart phone time, an activity he sees increasing with the warm weather. "The other reason is that it is summer and so many folks are using their smart phones and tables all the time."

    The move towards expanded digitized marketing has others significant changes for the fair. "No print but we purchased digital products from our local daily," he said. " We utilized geofencing around various locations, digital static ads and 10-second video ads in all platforms." '    The economy seemed to have improved compared to last. Harveycutter admitted that it was "hard to determine," how much the economy may have improved from year to year, but that with unemployment in Salem only was 3.6 percent, "we are overall doing pretty good. Folks came out and had money to spend."

    Midway Up
    Midway spending was one of the most noticeable upticks in spending at the fair. Deggeller Attractions, which has been the carnival company for the fair for all of its 30 years, saw an increase of 5 percent. Harveycutter called the midway - which featured 43 rides - "the largest midway ever," he said.  New rides included kiddie bumper boats, kiddie train and Hydra, with the top grossing rides being the new Hydra and Giant Wheel.

    While there no discernable food trends among the nearly 20 independent Midway food vendors, popular items included Shish-K-Bobs, roasted corn and slush puppies; Goblin Gourmet (gourmet funnel cakes); Cajun Chicken; Pizza; Tiki Tea stands and Gentry Miller, whose fryer stand featured fish, shrimp, ribbon fries and fried veggies.
    The fair also featured 800 creative arts/horticulture exhibitors with more than 3000 exhibits, the Nickerson KS with Racing Pigs and Petting Zoo; Jill and Jeff Eaton with Kandu Magic & kid's stage, Butterfly Encounter Brunon Blaszak's Royal Bengal Tigers, Danny Grant Variety Show, Wildlife Wendy and her Tropical Birds, and Zuzu Acrobats.

    The free entertainment enhanced the fair's offerings, but the spotlight remained on community involvement. As the fair continued its "strong run" another year, the robust turnout of fairgoers was equaled by enthusiastic participation by the community. "Once again, the Blue Ribbon exhibits were a huge part of the fair," said Harverycutter. "More than 800 exhibitors competed in the 500 categories that ranged from floral arrangements to youth arts and crafts." 

  • Skellys Amusements adds Wadkins Expo Wheel for 2017; show provides rides at Penn's Landing through Labor Day
    Skelly's Amusements started in 1956 when Mike Skelly's father purchased a 4 horse, hand cranked, carousel he saw mounted on a truck on his way home from work as a book binder. Skelly's father would set up the carousel on the weekends and charge 10 cents a ride. He got his big break when a church was looking for a replacement for their carnival vendor. Skelly's father provided the carousel and the company grew from there. 

    Now, Skelly's Amusements owns 25 rides and runs a larger 40 miler operation in Southeast Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and some of Delaware. Mike Skelly co-owns the company with his brother in law, Tom O'Connor. According to Skelly, one of the most unique features of his company is the characteristics of its employees; Skelly's Amusements sends its employees home each night (with the exception of a couple events). They also provide their employees transportation to and from work using their small fleet of 12-15 passenger shuttle vans. 

    According to Skelly, in a lot of ways their employment conditions have produced loyal and long-time employees. For example, the Geshaker family consists of about 11 or 12 brothers and sisters who have been working for Skelly's Amusements for about 13 years. Currently, Tonya, Vilma, and Noelia Geshaker are working on the show. Unfortunately, Skelly's Amusements lost its longest lasting employee, John Giorno, when he passed away this past Winter. Giorno had worker for Skelly's for about 22 years.

    Skelly's Amusements is successful due to the hard work of its support staff and partners. Rick Marchione is the Skelly's Amusements concession manager who helps operate the show's cotton candy stand and contracts Mark Kistenmacher's funnel cake stand as well as some pizza and grab joints every now and then. Skelly's Amusements owns about 14-15 games and Rick Marchione, Mike's sister, Mary, and Frank Schwartz also own some games that travel. 

    Some of Skelly's additional key personnel include his wife who runs the lemonade stand, Tom's Wife, Deb, who runs the cotton candy stand, Mary LeZan who runs the office, and Will Carr who has helped maintain rides and has been Skelly's right hand man for around 15 years. 

    So far, 2017 has been a good season according to Skelly; "the Spring was a little wet and it seemed to rain on the most inconvenient days but Summer has been strong so far. Skelly's 2017 season is a unique one; their newest event is a Summer-long event running through Labor Day at Penn's Landing. "The event is almost park-like, there's no travel or jumps but it requires way more hours, almost about 70 a week," says Skelly. 

    So far, they have had Marchione's carousel, 6 games, a lemonade stand, and their Ferris Wheel at the event. 

    Throughout the Summer, Skelly's plans to rotate in different rides such as the ARM Typhoon. This year, Skelly's Amusements has purchased a Wadkins Expo Wheel as well as 2 bunkhouses from Lifetime Products. They also are constantly performing maintenance on support trucks and other vehicles. 

    With the exception of the Penn's Landing event, Skelly's Amusements does one event a week. They haven't had very much event turn over in the last 10 years, According to Skelly; "we are fortunate not to turn over a lot of dates. We've turned over maybe 2 or 3 in the last 10 years. Our contracts are generally long-term and we don't typically lose events." 

    Skelly's went to Middletown, Delaware then moved to a Fireman's Festival in Manasquan, New Jersey then to the Middlesex County Fair in North Brunswick, NJ. Next, Skelly's is heading to the GDS Fair in Pennsylvania. 

    When asked about Skelly's Amusements advertising strategy, Skelly said that they rely on the event sponsor to do most of the advertising. "Sometimes we'll place signs around the town to increase awareness" says Skelly. They also own an "ad trailer" made from an unused game trailer. Skelly had it wrapped with a carnival scene and have interchangeable banners with the event and sponsor name as well event dates. Skelly's Amusements also does some Facebook advertising when possible but, according to Skelly, it's been difficult to designate time to do social media marketing; "it seems like it takes one dedicated person to operate the social media accounts and it's hard to give it that kind of attention" says Skelly. 

    Armed with dedicated staff, consistent events, and capable key personnel, Skelly's Amusements is looking forward to the rest of their 2017 season.

  • Merced County Fair ''Even Better'' than 2016
    A rainy final day failed to dampen the spirits of the 2017 Merced County Fair, which had record attendance, increased fairgoer spending and an overall successful fair.
    The strategy to achieve this success included new attractions, an enticing midway, and expanded range fairgoer amenities. Perhaps more significantly, the Merced County Fair has extended its upward trajectory made possible by community support and giving that community what they want from its fair.

    "We had a great run this year and gave the community an even better Fair than last year," said Teresa Burrola, CEO of the Merced County Fair.

    'Even better' is the key phrase. The 2016 edition of the Merced County Fair was one of the best in the long history of an event said to have begun in 1891. In 2017, the fair was in the position of finding ways to both sustain the success and top themselves. Making the fair 'even better' according to Burrola seemed mainly defined as adding value to the ticket without raising its price. 

    Up Slightly
    "Last year, we had record-breaking attendance, jumping nearly 15 percent over our 2015 attendance," said Burrola. "Going into the 2017 Merced County Fair, we knew it was going to be hard to beat last year's attendance. However, we focused on bringing in more free attractions for Fairgoers, continually increasing the entertainment value of the Fair."

    The 2017 Merced County Fair's unaudited attendance total during the five days was 72,338 people, an increase of .04 percent from last year's record-breaking total of 72,311 people (adjusted audited attendance). Overall paid attendance was also up 2.3 percent. Following a record-breaking year, even a modest increase indicated the community support of the fair and it's new direction. "That is a testament to the role our Fair plays in the community; it is an annual tradition where everyone comes together," said Burrola. 

    The weather was generally good, if unpredictable. "The weather was unseasonably cool which made Fairgoers happy," she said. "Although on the final day of the Fair, we endured an unusual thunder and lightning storm."

    Affordability Focus
    Burrola said that "Affordability was a big focus,"  and offered a range of discounted promotions, such as $2 for Adult Admission and $5 for Unlimited Carnival Ride Wristbands when purchased pre-fair at participating Rancho San Miguel Markets and O'Reilly Auto Parts., as well as a $10 discount on a 5-pack of Adult Admission tickets was available online, or at the Merced County Fair Administration Office. 

    The fair partnered with Mercy Medical Centers for a new "We Care Wednesday, "a food-drive admission program, resulting in 7,088 lbs. of food collected, marking a 46.7 percent increase over last year's food take. 

    In addition, the fair offered an opening Seniors' Day, and a Kids' Day - sponsored by another local business, Golden Valley Health Centers, where kids 12 and under received free admission. The fair also provided free bus transportation, where "The Bus," which had 23 stops throughout Merced area, and offered riders a $2 discount off admission,.

    Passengers took advantage of these free rides to and from the Fair, plus more than 10,000 free trips were taken system-wide during the "Free Fares to the Fair" promotion. " We continued to market the Fair in the most efficient way possible and looked to promotions/partnership," she said, adding "we continue to market our Fair as a great option for company outings, hosting for the second year the Gallo Family Vineyards Company BBQ with over 600 people in attendance."

    The economy in the county may still be struggling - hence the needed focus on price promotions - but Burrola noted that the business climate has improved compared to 2016. "While the economy is still recovering, especially in the Central Valley, there are definitely positive signs of recovery such as our paid attendance and concessions growth," she said." People appear to have more discretionary dollars for entertainment or at least are utilizing what they have on an annual outing such as the Fair, which provides great entertainment at an affordable price."

    One indication that the economy was on the upswing could be seen in a robust animal auction program. For example, the Rabbit Auction saw the sale of 148 rabbits, 38 more rabbits than last year; and the Dairy Replacement Heifer Sale had 70 heifers sold, 17 more heifers than the year prior. A total of 618 goats, pigs, lambs and beef were sold this year, compared to 609 animals in 2016. 

    The food concessions were the most popular, and Burrola said per capita spending was $6.97 per person for food concessions. The fair features 32 food vendors, with overall revenue reaching $504,182.15, another slight increase in spending. New food vendors included: Eddie's Chinese Food, Wild Bill's Roasted Corn and BJ's Frozen Custard.  While she did not notice any new food fads at the fair, the most popular item was the old tried and true pulled-pork dishes, a trend she attributed to the weather. "BBQ Concessions did very well since temperatures were in the high 80s," she said.

    Spending was also up on the midway,  which was provided by Butler Amusements. According to Burrola, Butler has been the carnival provider for 14 years , and had  36 rides in 2017.  Burrola said the company had no new rides at the fair, but ride gross was up 0.76 percent, with the most popular rides for the fair remaining the Inversion, Vertigo, "and the classic Fair-favorite Ferris wheel," she said.

    Re-Branded Marketing
    The fair had a modest advertising budget of just over $50,000 and "includes Billboard, Print, TV, Radio, Digital & Social media advertising."
    The allocation of media spending was:  Print 15 percent, Digital 5.7 percent, Social 4.3 percent, Print 37.5 percent and TV 37.5 percent. "Billboard isn't accounted as it is a trade agreement; no cash is exchanged," she explained. 

    She added, "This year we added Instagram to our social network. We also utilized Facebook Live and IG stories more to make sure the sounds, sights and feel of the Fair made it to each one of our fans/followers. 

    Earlier in the year, the fair announced a rebranding highlighted by a new Merced County Fair logo, which was featured throughout the marketing and advertising materials, including its  website and social media as well as on signage around the Merced County Fairgrounds. It was the first new branding change for the fair since 1974, replacing it's a logo that had an antique plow, with a new more contemporary design showcasing crop rows and flag.

    The makeover emphasized the agricultural roots and mission - the Merced County fair represents the 35th District Agricultural Association - while highlighting a 21st century outlook. 

    "The creation of our updated brand for the Merced County Fair is rooted in our proud agricultural heritage," said Burrola. "It represents the unwavering commitment of our richly diverse county; its present-day look is more relevant to a broader demographic base and more applicable for use in digital platforms where a wider audience can become more engaged in all that the Fair has to offer. We are committed to remaining true to the core attractions of our Fair, while staying relevant to younger generations by adapting to new platforms to communicate and engage them."  

    She added that "Our 2017 marketing was all about agriculture and what an important role in plays in our community."

    Entertainment Mix
    The fair's entertainment include a mix of free music and grandstand spectacle. Music and other acts were presented on several stages, including The Coors Light Stage, the Bear Creek Plaza Stage, and the Outdoor Theatre, where - according to a fair press release - "an incredible array of musical acts played as part of the Table Mountain Free Concert Series presented by Coors Light...I Am King...The Michael Jackson Experience; John Michael Montgomery, WAR, Moonshine Bandits  and Noel Torres.

    New this year in the Grandstand, was the "Battle of the Bulls" bull riding competition. "That event drew big crowds of cheering fans," said Burrola. "We had great Grandstand entertainment this year and all shows did well. However, our Monster Trucks and Freestyle Moto X continues to draw the biggest crowds."

    Also new at the fair were Camel Rides and All-Alaskan Racing Pig, and both "drew big crowds daily," she said. "We added Flo the Clown to our strolling acts line-up and she was a hit with Fairgoers leading our daily tractor parade.  We brought in some new, free attractions on-grounds such as the Lorikeet Encounter and the All-Alaskan Racing Pigs."

    Perhaps the most significant family-friendly addition to the 2017 far was a private, air-conditioned facility for new moms to "nurse and change their babies," she said "Our new mommies that are either nursing or need to change their baby have the opportunity to go into a private room that is air conditioned and clean so they can tend to their babies."

    She added, all in all, I am so happy with this year's Fair and I want to thank the community for coming out to support us!" 
    "I want to say thank you to our community for continually supporting the Merced County Fair.

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HEADLINES from the web
Poor Jack Amusements
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4/21/2017 - 10/7/2017
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7/13/2017 - 7/23/2017
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7/14/2017 - 7/23/2017
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7/14/2017 - 7/30/2017
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7/14/2017 - 8/13/2017
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7/15/2017 - 7/22/2017

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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The Industry Buzz
Happy World Shows to Star in a Reality TV Series
Kevin Exum's Happy World Shows will star in a reality TV Series called Carnival Asia, which will document the true stories and challenges of an American carnival touring throughout Asia.

The show will focus on how the carnival adapts to doing business in a foreign country including different traditions, food, culture, and climates throughout China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

Happy World will be teamed with veteran producer Tom Lupo, President of Space Coast Pictures, Inc who will produce and direct the series.  

  Posted by Matt Cook on 7/17/2017
Bipartisan Senators Call on Administration to Approve Additional Seasonal H-2B Visas

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, led by Tom Carper (D-Del.), a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, including Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Mich.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and John Thune (R-S.D.), sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly urging him to use the authority provided by Congress to lift the cap on seasonal H-2B visas that employers rely on to fill summer jobs. The senators also expressed their concern about reports that visas may not be approved in time for peak tourist season. 

"Businesses in our states, particularly in our tourism industries, rely on the H-2B visa program to hire extra workers in the summer tourism season, when demand is greatest," the senators wrote. "The delay in approving additional visas during much of the peak season could hurt local employers' ability to keep their businesses going and meet demand. We respectfully urge you to use the authority provided by Congress to increase the number of H-2B visas available to seasonal workers, and to work with the Department of Labor to ensure that visas are available as soon as possible."

Last week, DHS confirmed it would increase the number of seasonal H-2B visas, but said that visas will not be available until late in the season, hurting many businesses who rely on seasonal workers. Additionally, reports indicate that DHS may only provide a limited number of visas under the authority. The letter asks that Secretary Kelly increase the number available consistent with the authority provided to him by Congress.

The text of the letter to Secretary Kelly can be found below and in pdf form here.

  Posted by Press Release on 6/28/2017
Department of Homeland Security to Begin Processing H2B Visas
Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has decided to issue a "limited number" of seasonal guest worker visas, the department announced Wednesday, though they still don't have a total and won't begin to issue them until late July.

The move offers a small amount of relief to seasonal businesses such as landscapers, summer resorts and seafood processors who have come to rely on foreign workers and who say they will be devastated without them.

But the department said the authority granted by Congress came so late that it's likely the number they issue will be relatively small, and probably far less than the approximately 70,000 visas Mr. Kelly could issue.

"We're doing the best we can given the short time frame," department spokesman Dave Lapan said.

Under the law 66,000 seasonal worker visas, divided in half between the winter and summer seasons, are supposed to be available for companies that cannot meet their workforce needs with Americans.

Congress has on occasion boosted the number of visas under what's known as the H-2B program, including in the spending bill that passed in May, which could have more than doubled the number of visas issued this fiscal year.

But lawmakers left the final decision to Mr. Kelly, who has criticized Congress for passing the buck.

He is now working with the Labor Department to come up with the exact number of visas his department can issue, and that are truly needed. Mr. Lapan said the visas will go to businesses where the lack of the foreign workers would hurt American workers who rely on them.

"He's committed to using this discretion that congress gave to go above the 66,000 cap. What that number will be remains to be determined," Mr. Lapan said.

Courtesy of the Washington Times.

  Posted by Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times on 6/21/2017
Jeff Miller Joins Fare Foods as Outside Sales Representative
Fare Foods, a leading outdoor amusement food service company, has announced the hiring of Jeff Miller as an Outside Sales Representative for the Southwest Region.  Jeff brings over 30 years of sales experience to his new role where he will be instrumental in expanding the Southwest Region.  Jeff's home and office will be based in the Dallas metro area. 

"Jeff brings numerous years of sales experience to his new position.  We are excited to have him on our team to further expand our Southwest Region," said Fare Foods President, Ron Porter.

Jeff's career in the outdoor amusement industry began in his early days as Production Manager for various carnival ride manufacturing companies then later transitioning into sales.  He traveled the country working with customers to design, install, and deliver amusement rides.  His impeccable skills resulted in an extremely successful career with his customers.  Jeff later accepted a role as Sales Manager for Chance Rides responsible for all carnival ride sales to U.S., Canada, and Mexico.  In addition to Jeff's new sales position with Fare Foods, he will continue to sell carnival rides for Chance Rides.  

"I am excited about the challenge to learn the inside row of the outdoor amusement industry versus the outside row.  I want to learn everything possible about the food supplied at the carnivals and fairs," Jeff said.  

Jeff's hobbies include working in his yard and watching sports as well as spending time and traveling with his family.

  Posted by Press Release on 6/15/2017
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