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  • Rocky Mountain Association of Fairs - 91st Annual Convention
    The beautiful city of Spokane, Washington was the site for the 91st annual convention of the Rocky Mountain Association of Fairs convention held on November 9 - 12, 2016.  

    The Doubletree Spokane City Center hotel is located on the banks of the Spokane River in downtown Spokane and served as the host hotel for 436 delegates representing fairs in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and North & South Dakota.  

    Musical and variety acts showcased on the stages in the Grand Ballroom following each meal.  Johnna Johnson got the group motivated to "Just Jump" with her lively and humorous keynote address on Thursday morning.  The educational programing featured a variety workshops including:

    Volunteers: The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers and the Millennials; Vendor Issues from A to Z; Farm to Fork Movement - It's Here to Stay' Volunteers: Recruiting & Retaining; To App or Not to App; Latest Social Media Treads - What? Not Again!; Service Member Marketing Materials - What Fairs Need; Interim Event Set-ups/Tracking to the Maintenance Staff; Livestock Shows at Fairs; The Power of Great Service; Gun Show/Concealed Weapons on Your Grounds; Fairgrounds Design Trends; Rodeo Trends & Issues; Using IPads for Exhibit Check-in, Judging & Kiosks; Unique/Creative Low Maintenance Landscaping; Gate Promotions that Work; Your Fair in the "cloud"; Spin to Win:  Insure the Media is Telling Your Story Your Way; Livestock Show Ethics.  The group loaded on buses on Saturday for a trip the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds for a tour, lunch and a workshop on Drones - Is there a proper place & time for this new tool?, presented by Bird Eye of the Sky.  

    Award for recognition of outstanding individual in the RMAF membership were presented throughout the convention.  Janet Konkel, Weld County Fair, Greeley, Colorado is the Fair Manager of the Year, Criss Crozier Neiman, Wyoming State Fair, Douglas, Wyoming is the Fair Person of the Year and Marty Davis, is the Service Member of the Year.  

    The Hall of Fame award was presented to Bob Batista, Western Idaho Fair, Boise, and the family of Lloyd Shelhamer accepted the Heritage award.  Mr. Shelhamer was very active in the RMAF.

    The final dinner on Saturday night was highlighted by the presentation of the Summit Awards to the fairs that participated with their photos and marketing pieces from their 2016 events.

      The gavel was passed to the incoming President of the RMAF, Dane Dugan who announced the theme for 2017 "Set Your Wheels in Motion - active, elevate & innovate" and invited delegates to save the date of November 8 - 11, 2017 for the 92nd annual convention to be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the Hotel Eleganté in conjunction with the Colorado Association of Fairs & Shows.

  • New Carnival, Promotions Help Four States Fair
    The 2016 Four States Fair saw a slight increase in attendance; hosting about 85,000 guests over the ten days. Admission was $7 for adults, $5 for children 6-12, and kids 5 and under were free. This year, the fair also offered an admission "Fun Pass" for $65; those who purchased the pass were able to come to the fair every day. In addition to regular admission prices, the Four States Fair offered admission specials on Senior Citizens Day and Salute To Our Heroes Day. Senior Citizens Day was on Sunday; seniors got in for free and the fair provided shuttles to the front gate. 

    Additionally, the fair partnered with a local hospice facility to provide senior citizens with free blood pressure tests, free food, and free blood screening. Senior Citizens Day was very well attended according to Lisa Barr, COO of the Four States Fair. Salute To Our Heroes Day took place on September 11th; all first responders were admitted into the fair for free in order to thank them for their service to the community. 

    The Four States Fair partnered with Wrights Amusements this year. Barr found Wrights Amusements at the Texas Fair and Expo Show. According to Barr; the decision to make Wrights their midway provider was an easy one; "I fell in love with them on the spot. Wrights Amusements are good people and a good carnival company. We look forward to continuing our relationship with them." Wrights Amusements offered customers $30 armbands each day of the fair; the pay one price ride option every day was very popular with fairgoers. In partnership with the Four States Fair, Wrights Amusements offered a $2 Tuesday ride special for the 2016 fair. 

    The Four States Fair provided fairgoers tons of family-oriented entertainment. On their outdoor stage, they hosted local entertainment: radio stations and popular bands. 

    Football is huge in Texarkana so the fair hosted post-football game dance-offs at the fair to encourage high school aged students and people from the community to integrate the fair into their normal football routine. All the local entertainment is included with the price of admission. Wednesday through Saturday, the fair held PRCA extreme bull riding and rodeo; "The show was very well received and had big crowds," said Barr. Additionally, on the first Saturday of the fair, they had a demolition derby which also had a great  crowd. 

    Barr felt that these thrilling acts attracted audiences of all ages. The fair also had Bob Burnham's Family Entertainment Show, which hosts mock game shows for families to enjoy, as well as The Banana Derby, a dog racing show with monkey jockeys! 

    The Four States Fair also uses their Agricultural Learning Center as a family attraction throughout the fair. The Ag learning center is usually used as a field trip area throughout the year but is a main attraction during the fair. The staff in the Ag Learning Center gave away free ice cream, answered questions about the educational displays, let children milk a fake cow, and monitored the petting zoo complete with facts and general information about the different animals. 

    Food plays an important role at the Four States Fair and is often people's sole motivation to come out each year. According to Barr, "A lot of people come out just for the fair food." 

    One of the most popular items is the peanut patty, they're generally only sold at the fair so people wait all year to get them. The fair also boasts an impressive amount of fried foods including the cajun corn dog (new this year), and fried cookies and candies. One of the fair's year-round vendors tried a new item at Barr's urging: the funnel cake hamburger. Barr loves working with the vendors and pushing them to try new and creative menu items each year; "I am very fortunate. I have a great group of vendors who put up with my ideas." 

    4-H and FFA have a big presence at the Four States Fair. They host the largest livestock show in Arkansas for junior breeding beast cattle; this year's show included over 600 head of cattle. In addition to livestock shows, 4-H and FFA members participate in goat shows, dairy shows, and swine shows throughout the fair. Every year, they hold a couple of volunteer kid's days at the fair for kids in pre-k all the way up to 3rd grade. On the volunteer kids days, the participants get to enjoy the agricultural learning center, and see a min-rodeo created just for them.

    The Four States Fair has lots of domestic exhibits so that members of the community can participate in the fair. They have one building strictly for fine arts and photography displays. The Home Arts section of the domestic exhibits includes canning, baking, sewing, clothing, woodworking and needle-working as well as many other displays. All judging is done prior to the fair and then entries are displayed for fairgoers to enjoy. Anyone can enter their home or fine arts goods into the competition so it is a great way for many members of the community to get involved with the fair. 

    Advertising the Four States Fair is a unique challenge as the fair staff aims to get their message out to residents of four different states: Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. They do a $40,000 cash buy for media advertising as well as some additional trade. 

    The Four States Fair advertises on television, radio, print, and social media. Barr mentioned that they have pulled back a bit on their print budget but still make sure they advertise in all the local social magazines. This year, the fair staff decided to increase their social media budget from $100 to $1,000. Barr says that this has made a huge difference for the fair and they've noticed a lot more participation on their social media sites. Barr does Facebook posts and contests where customers like and share statuses and post their favorite fair photo in order to win a fair fun package. The Four States Fair makes sure that their message is consistent in all marketing efforts; "We want our customers to feel like a kid; leave all stress and worries behind when they're at the fair," says Barr. 
    The Four States Fair is a 501-C(3) nonprofit organization. The fair receives some grants for advertising. The fair operates the rest of the year on year-round events, they try to make sure their facilities are constantly booked in order to fund fair activities. Barr says that they operate on a $1M budget. 

  • Arkansas State Fair signs NAME to provide midway in 2017
    After 22 years with Deggeller Attractions, the Arkansas State Fair has signed North American Midway Entertainment to a new 5-year agreement with a 5 year option to provide the carnival at the event. 

    President and General Manager of the Arkansas State Fair, Ralph Shoptaw, made the announcement and said he was looking forward to the changes N.A.M.E. will bring, but remains very thankful for the all that the Deggeller family has provided to the fair in the past. "The staff at Deggeller Attractions are wonderful people and we have thoroughly enjoyed our association with them all these years", said Shoptaw.

    According to Shoptaw, the Arkansas State Fair has been looking at N.A.M.E. for a while. N.A.M.E.'s biggest appeal is their recognition as one of the best carnivals in the industry and their record as the largest traveling amusement park in North America; "This is a really good opportunity for us to bring in a carnival with their reputation. N.A.M.E. is a really great show" says Shoptaw. 

    Perhaps one of the most important factors in signing N.A.M.E. to run the midway is the routing, after NAME's acquisition of the Tula State Fair midway contract last year. The International Unit of N.A.M.E. will now move only about 275 miles into Little Rock instead of making a jump almost triple that amount into Columbia for the South Carolina State Fair. From Little Rock, the unit has a 450- mile jump into Mobile for the Greater Gulf State Fair.

    When making his decision, Shoptaw spoke with Mark Andrus from the Tulsa State Fair to get some feedback. Andrus spoke highly of N.A.M.E. and praised the job they had done in 2016 at the Tulsa State Fair. Once Shoptaw heard such a glowing recommendation, his decision was easier to make. 

    Andrus and Shoptaw agreed that N.A.M.E. has fantastic customer relations: an important feature for large, state fairs. Customer relations staff and booths are set up at various locations throughout the midway in order to make sure guest's needs are met and the midway stays neat and clean. 

    Shoptaw looks forward to taking advantage of the customer service N.A.M.E. provides as well as the almost 65 rides that will come with the International Unit. The Arkansas State Fair will have 2 spectacular roller coasters, the newly rebuilt Polar Express ride, the Giant Wheel, the Century Wheel, the Mega Drop, and many other new midway attractions.  Shoptaw believes the addition of such spectacular and thrilling rides will add to the success of the fair. 

    Shoptaw has been working closely with many N.A.M.E. team members to make sure the transition is seamless. Danny Huston, Jeff Blomsness and Tony Diaz, have worked closely with the Arkansas State Fair team. 

    Shoptaw has been very pleased with the expertise of the N.A.M.E. staff, especially Tony Diaz, manager of the International Unit; "he has been in the business all his life, he's a great carnival manager" observed Shoptaw.

    Danny Huston, President of N.A.M.E., released this statement about signing the Arkansas State Fair contract; " North American Midway Entertainment is thrilled to have the opportunity to provide a world-class midway experience for the Arkansas State Fair patrons beginning in 2017. Ralph Shoptaw, together with his team, have developed an event known for delivering high-quality family entertainment year after year. We look forward to building on this success through a strong partnership with the Arkansas State Fair over the next decade." 

    Last week, the fair announced that it would be running a total of 11 days in 2017, one day longer than previous fairs.  The fair traditionally opened on Friday, however, it will open on Thursday this year.  

    "We have been seriously considering this move for several years and our executive committee felt like the timing was right," Shoptaw said in a statement.

  • Promotions, Headliners Boost Jacksonville Fair
    The 2016 Jacksonville Fair took place November 4th-13th with preview days on November 2nd and 3rd. This year's theme, "Red, White, and You" gave the fair a patriotic feel that was fun for all customers. 

    Admission and ride specials, family entertainment, concerts on the main stage, as well as plenty of agriculturally based exhibits and shows kept fairgoers entertained throughout the entire fairgrounds. 

    Normally, admission to the Jacksonville Fair is $10 for adults, $5 for children (6-12) and seniors (65+), and children under 6 are free. 

    However, the Jacksonville Fair offered admission specials almost every day of the 2016 fair, allowing more affordable fun for families.

    On opening preview day, November 2nd, admission was $3. Seniors got into the fair free on Friday, November 4th and Friday November 11th. For Saturday's special, The Jacksonville Fair focused on the Navy vs Notre Dame game which took place at EverBank Field in Jacksonville that day; from 10am-4pm students 17 and under as well as anyone with a Notre Dame/Navy game day ticket were admitted into the fair free. 

    On November 8th, the fair hosted a "Terrific Tuesday" special for their family day; one child 12 and under was admitted free with the purchase of a full price, adult admission ticket. 

    Friday, November 11th, the fair saluted military men, women, and their families. All military and dependents were admitted free with a valid military ID. Saturday, November 12, students ages 17 and under were again admitted free from 10am-4pm. Finally, on Sunday, November 13th, anyone with a Jaguar/Houston game day ticket got into the fair free.

    This year's fair featured plenty of entertainment for fairgoers of all ages to enjoy. Every day of the fair there was a concert or show on the main stage. 

    Blackjack Billy, Chris Janson, Clayton Anderson, Easton Corbin, Branch & Dean, Trent Harmon, Craig Campbell, Little River Band, RaeLynn, Foghat, and DJ Eric Leffler rocked the stage throughout the 2016 fair. 

    Additionally, The Gathering Concert on Sunday, November 6th was a huge hit; it featured renowned gospel and Christian singers/groups. 

    On Saturday, November 12th, the fair hosted Dance Day, featuring amazing local dance talent all day long. 

    In addition to featured concerts and local acts on the stage, the fair provided plenty of family entertainment. The Firefighter Show, NoJoe's Clown Circus, Kachunga & The Alligator Show, Robinson's Racing Pigs, the CW17 Video Lounge, The Kenny Ahern Family Comedy Show, Civil Air Patrol, Florida Crops, Wine Down and Paint the Town, Kidz Science Safari, and The Butterfly Encounter were all at the 2016 Jacksonville Fair to provide customers with non-stop entertainment. 

    The Jacksonville Fair contracts with Belle City Amusements as their midway provider. Belle City provided a big variety of rides and games. 

    Additionally, Belle City and the Jacksonville Fair offered many ride specials so that families could affordably take advantage of all that Belle City Amusements had to offer. 

    The Ride Fanatic Wristband was available on Fridays and Saturdays of the fair; the wristband was $25 and included unlimited rides. 

    Monday-Thursday of the fair, wristbands for unlimited rides were available for $20; a special was run for a $10 band on Tuesday and Friday the 11th for military members and families. 

    On opening day, Belle City featured $3 rides and an unlimited ride wristband for $15. 

    Lastly, the fair and Belle City sold an advance sale Mega Pass; available before November 1st. Mega Passes could be purchased online or at local Walgreens stores; the $20 Mega Pass featured unlimited rides and gate admission for any one day of the 2016 Jacksonville Fair. The daily ride specials and variety on the midway resulted in a successful year for Belle City at the Jacksonville Fair. 

    4-H and FFA programs are alive and well at the Jacksonville Fair. This year, livestock competitions were lively and varied including: beef cattle, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, geese, and turkeys. 

    Kids from the area come to the fair ever year to show their animals and reap the benefits of a year's worth of hard work and discipline. 

    In addition to competition, 4-H and FFA areas at the fair are also used to educate the public about agriculture. The Jacksonville Fair features "Old McDonald's Farm House" where fairgoers can watch baby chickens hatch, visit "Farmer Tom" to learn how to make rope, and talk to Scrambler the robotic egg to learn more about chickens, and a farming lifestyle in general. 

    The 2016 Jacksonville Fair also hosted several opportunities for domestic exhibits at the fair. They held contests in fine art, practical art, photography, Christmas crafts, needlecrafts, weaving, and many others. 

    The domestic exhibits and competitions provide people in the community an opportunity to directly participate in the fair. 

    The fair always gets lots of entries and judges are often blown away by the creativity exhibited by the community. 

    Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the Jacksonville Fair is the cooking contest sponsored by King Arthur flour. Contestants make dishes using King Arthur flour and present them to the judges for evaluation. The cooking contest draws enthusiastic participants and eager crowds. 

    In addition to agricultural and domestic contests, the fair holds scholarship contests for "students looking to further their education at a college, university or technical school from Duval, Nassau, St Johns, Baker, or Clay Counties." 

    The Jacksonville Fair scholarships have been awarded since 1955 and over $1,000,000 has been distributed to local students. The fair's Lasso Club has a big hand in contributing to the scholarships as well as providing grants to local 4-H and FFA groups. The Jacksonville Fair and its partners are devoted to investing in the community's youth and the deep, agricultural history of the fair. 

    The Jacksonville Fair advertises through many media channels such as radio, tv, and print. Recently, as digital media has become more popular, the Jacksonville Fair has been sure to keep up with the trend. The Jacksonville Fairgrounds has accounts on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. 

    The 2016 Fair held many contests on their social media platforms, giving away VIP concert tickets, free entry to the fair, drink vouchers, and many other prizes. They used the hashtag #jaxfair to stay connected and interact with the social media community. 

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2016 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

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The Industry Buzz
Elliotts Amusements optimistic about 2017 season
Elliott's Amusements had a successful weekend at the 132rd Annual Convention of the Michigan Association of Fairs & Exhibitions (MAFE) at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Owners Debbie and Tracy Elliott visited with fair boards and committees throughout the weekend at their trade show booth.  They are optimistic about the 2017 season which includes a strong route of Michigan county fairs during the months of July and August.   Debbie reported three major purchases in 2016 were highly successful including an ARM Ali Baba, a Sellner Bear Affair, and a Watkins Tempest.  Although no major ride purchases are planned for this year, the show will be bringing out a refurbished Chester Built elephant ear concession that looks like new, and last fall Tracy completed a new state of the art winter quarters and shop building in Dansville, Michigan.   Operations managers Nick and Kasey Elliott as well as patriarch Jim Elliott also attended the convention. The show opens the 2017 season on April 6 in the mid-Michigan area.

  Posted by Michael Prelesnik on 1/20/2017
Marko Popovich Jr. Passes
It is with great sadness to announce the passing of veteran showman, Marko Popovich, Jr. on January 16, 2017.  Visitation will be held at the National Cremation & Burial Society located at 308 E. College Ave in Ruskin, Florida on Thursday, January 19 from 12 noon until 1pm.  Masonic services will begin at 1pm.  Following the service, the family invites everyone to the IISA in Gibsonton for a celebration of life.  Posted by Matt Cook / Obiturary on 1/18/2017
Ivan Arnold, Jim Elliott, and Joe Skerbeck inducted into the Michigan Association of Fairs and Events Hall of Fame
Ivan Arnold of Arnold Amusements, James Elliott of Elliott's Amusements, and Joe Skerbeck of Skerbeck Entertainment Group were inducted into the Michigan Association of Fairs and Events Hall of Fame on Friday.  

For over seven decades, Ivan has enjoyed a fascination with the carnival industry.  In 1980, Ivan started Arnold Amusements and along with his wife Agnes and family, have grown the company to entertain millions of visitors each year throughout the states of Michigan and Florida.  Ivan is also an active member of the International Independent Showmen's Association in Gibsonton, Florida; helping coordinate club events and the annual trade show and extravaganza each February.

Joe Skerbeck is a 5th generation carnival owner and has been a member of MAFE for over 50 years.  During that span, he has conducted numerous workshops at the convention and has served as an associate board member.  Joe has also been active in the OABA, currently serving on their board.  Joe believes in following his family's tradition, "Quality is paramount to us.  If things aren't 100% right we won't do them."

James Elliott, AKA Jimmy the Pipe has been active in the Michigan Fair industry since the 1950's.  His love for the show started as a youth watching the animal trains being unloaded at the Ionia Free Fair and continues on.  Jimmy has worked with many individuals in our industry and has been involved with 90% of the fairs in Michigan during his career.  He is also very active with the IISA Carnival Museum in Gibtown.

Congratulations Ivan, James, and Joe on being inducted into the MAFE Hall of Fame!
  Posted by Matt Cook on 1/15/2017
Bates Amusements to cease operation after 2017 season
It was announced during the Ohio Fair Managers meetings on Thursday that Geary Bates' Bates Amusement Company would cease operation after its 2017 season.  It is rumored that Geary's brother, Eric, who owns Bates Brothers Amusements, would pick up some of the dates.  Please keep posted to for continued coverage.  Posted by MCW Editor on 1/6/2017
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.

AMUSEMENTS OF AMERICA IS NOW HIRING & BOOKING for the 2017 season!  Employment Inquiries call 
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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!

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