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  • Midway Millennials
    Midway Millennials is an ongoing series profiling the new generation of fair professionals

    James Dillman III is the 35 year old owner and operator of an independent dark ride called the Haunted House. Like all independent ride owners, Dillman is responsible for every aspect of his ride: maintenance, travel, set-up, tear-down, etc. As a millennial in the carnival industry, Dillman has seen considerable change in the business and works to add a modern twist to the long history of back end pieces and dark rides on the midway. 

    Historically, dark rides are considered back-end pieces just like fun houses and glass houses. Back-end pieces are labor intensive and require more maintenance and attention to detail than most other carnival rides require. Dillman cites the Zacchini family as the pioneers of the back-end piece industry; they built their own equipment and traveled around the country. Dillman states that owning and operating a back-end piece such as a dark ride, requires a particular expertise. Dillman' ride was manufactured by Hollingsworth in Sarasota, FL; he owns the 2nd to last one built by the company.The ride was bought from Bill Black in Washington state. Black customized his ride to increase  capacity and loaded it with tricks. The cars seat 4 people rather than the typical 2 and the ride consists of 11 tricks over 60 seconds. Dillman designs his ride to give customers a thrilling, fun experience; "I aim for a Disney's Haunted Mansion experience. I want riders to say 'That was pretty cool; I was entertained.' I don't want to terrify them."

    Dillman is no stranger to the carnival business; a third-generation carnival worker, he learned everything he knows from his concessionaire grandfather, Robert Patton, and his electrician father, James Dillman II. Both worked for Cumberland Valley Shows and his father worked for Strates Shows most of his career. Dillman recalls traveling with his family and working on the rides at a young age; "I remember being 7 years old and giving relief to the operator. People would say 'you're a little young to be running a ride!'" At the time, the Dillman family had a permanent home and the children would only travel with his father in the summer to enjoy family time and visit the different locales. Dillman and his sister began traveling full time after his graduation in 1999. In 1972, James' father left Strates Shows and began to buy his own rides and equipment in the 80s. In 2007, Dillman completely took over from his father. 

    Dillman has noticed considerable changes in the industry during his time working on midways. One of the most interesting developments has been the change from paper tickets and wristbands to electronic, barcode-bearing wristbands and tickets. Rides use a "gun" to scan the tickets and wristbands, providing a very accurate rider count. 

    Strates Shows utilizes one these new systems, the FunCard, and Dillman feels this is a positive change on midways, especially for independent ride owners. "With the barcode and electronic systems, emphasis is placed on the amount of people going through your ride and compensation is often based on the popularity of the ride. I can't imagine a fairer way of doing things," says Dillman. 

    In order to integrate technology into his own small business, Dillman has changed all of his safety and employee paperwork from hard copy to digital through google drive. He says it is a lot easier to keep track of everything and has worked well for him. 

    Additionally, Dillman is in the process of changing the lighting on his ride to LED and is modernizing the tricks inside the ride to have them operate electronically instead of mechanically. 

    When asked about his favorite part of the independent ride business, Dillman says he loves the travel and sightseeing and appreciates the history of the back-end piece and dark ride niche on the midway. Just like with any other small business, owning and operating an independent ride comes with its challenges. Dillman says it is crucial to manage money properly and only  cautiously spend. Even if the ride could use something new and there's money to spend, Dillman thinks about bunkhouse and traveling expenses as well as the balance of good and bad weeks on the road. Dillman mentions weather as a crucial factor to his ride's success; "It was a rough Spring, weather-wise, and you can't control the weather so I'm always thinking about what I'm taking in and what I'm spending." 

    Dillman's season started in Florida with Strates Shows, moving north to a new event in Myrtle Beach, before moving to NY to play three events with Fair Productions, operators of the Hudson valley Fair, the Brookhaven Fair over Memorial Day and the just-concluded Palisades Fair which took him through July 4th.  

    Dillman and his Haunted House dark ride will be playing the rest of their route with Strates Shows. He likes staying with Strates as he feels they are fair with their compensation for independents and work with him on placement of the ride; "Strates is a very good show to be around. You stick with one show when they're this great to work with." Dillman  and his Haunted House are headed next to the Orange County Fair , the Erie County Fair and the Champlain Valley Fair before heading south for Strates' southern route.

  • Del Mar Fairgoers Go Mad Over Longer Fair
    Saying that Tim Fennell, CEO, The San Diego County Fair, feels excited about the 2016 edition of this California tradition risks understatement. "It was the biggest fair we ever had, the highest revenue we ever had, the highest attendance," he said. "It was a great fair, and a very safe and secure fair."

    A total of 1,609,481 fairgoers - the highest attended San Diego County Fair ever - came through the gates between June 3 and July 4. The previous attendance record was set in 2012, with a total of 1,517,508 guests. The Fair was closed six days during that period, but this year the fair added an additional day, making it a 26-day event. 

    An attendance of 96,501 was achieved on Sunday, July 3, placing that date within the top four attendance dates in the fair's history.  

    Calendar Games
    When Fennell took the helm of the fair in the early 90s, the fair was 20 days, but across the decades the fair has been inching longer, day by day. With Independence Day falling on a Monday, it made calendar sense to be open on the last day of the long holiday weekend - the fair traditionally ends either on or after Independence Day.

    "It was a business decision just as it was a business decision to add days," he said. "We picked up an extra weekend and were closed during some weekdays."

    He said that the bargain - adding weekend always boosts business but being closed on weekdays during a month-long period means down days for vendors - was not universally received at first and he did receive flack. "But the weekends more than make up for it. You cannot just sit back and expect things to go the same every year. I knew the demand was out there - our numbers show the demand is out there."

    In addition, the regional economy seems slowly improving.

     "The economy is picking up, it's positive, but it is still not that great," he said. "People are working but they are not getting pay raises and the cost of living keeps rising. I think people are used it, and it is a new norm."

    Even if the economic climate is more positive this year than last year while not as positive as it should be, families still appreciate the value of the fair. "Where else can you get the entertainment we have a fair for a $12 admission fee? We have 10 stages of entertainment, and all the food and rides, exhibits. That's why we got 1.6 million this year, but a better economy helped. Still, going to the San Diego County Fair is a much better value and cheaper than going  to the movies.  Plus we offered a variety of discounts and passes, which increases the attendance and makes the fair available to more families."

    Midway Increase
    Typically the fair contracts with about 13 ride companies for its midway, from operators large and small. But adding days and eliminating slower weekdays, extending the length of the fair, Fennell said was generally well received by the ride companies. "They want people on their rides, so taking away a dead day and adding another weekend is worth it to them," he said. "No one complained about their routing."

    But who can complain with success? He said the midway revenue increased 4.3 percent, reaching $10.8 million. The top 10 grossing rides at the San Diego County Fair were Crazy Mouse; Skyride; Grand Wheel; Fast Trax Mega Slide; G-Force; Olympic Bobs; Magnum, Carousel; Sky Flyer and Alien Abduction.

    A 26 day fair is the longest fair in the history of the San Diego event, which dates back to 1880. Since it also the highest attended, Fennell estimation of the demand proved realistic, not merely optimistic. Does the success of the 2016 edition of the fair mean longer fairs in the future? "Could be," is all Fennell would allow. "Stay tuned." 

    Fennell described the 2016 San Diego County Fair was a "very well balanced fair, we had 85 rides, tremendous exhibits, more than 100 food exhibits and more than 500 commercial vendors. We had a great team to put on the fair and a great marketing theme."

    Go Ask Alice
    Perhaps his enthusiastic recap of the fair can be seen as a self-fulling prophecy based on theme - "Mad About The Fair." This clever theme tied two overlapping images - Alice in Wonderland and Steam Punk.  This very original idea was developed internally. "It came about through team work, we asked our team what would be a good theme for next year, and key people in our exhibit department made a proposal."

    Of course Alice in Wonderland is based on the Victorian era children's novel - "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" - that is also beloved by adults; Steam Punk is a general fashion and arts movement that combines Victorian era fashion and technology, but within a science fiction context - steam powered robots for example. Steam Punk is a popular concept used in video games, movies, televisions, comic books and novels. What seems astute about this very imaginative marketing hook is that it is based on a sentiment all fairs share: nostalgia.

    Fennell admits he was skeptical at first, having never heard of steam punk. "I did some homework, and even went to a Steam Punk convention in Reno," said Fennel. "We were able to expand it, and there were a lot of associations in the fair already. And it looked great, so we put steam punk in our merchandise, themed our entrance, we had tea parties, did give always for people who dressed up in costumes. It brought in young people, but it also brought in middle age people as well. It was very successful."

    The fair increased its marketing budget by under 5 percent, said Fennell, with a great shift away from print. "The reality is, less and less people are reading newspaper or watching TV, so we are shifting our marketing dollars away from old media to more new school media. We try to stop on trends and this year, we are really expanded the social media, which worked in great with our Steam Punk theme."

    Unfortunately an online presence can be lost amid the rapid pace of the internet, and Fennell said the fair did shift more dollars towards outdoor advertising. "We did more billboards and wrapped more buses this year, that medium we have expanded."  

    The scope of the marketing reach also expanded, not only to other California counties, such as Los Angeles, but to Nevada, especially Last Vegas, and even Arizona. "We are getting more people traveling to the fair," he said. "We have even gone international."

    By international he means our neighbor to the south, Mexico. "We market into Tijuana and Northern Mexico," he said. "We have a large Hispanic population here, and a many families visit us from Mexico. Most of our marketing is bilingual, and we have an English version and an Hispanic version, which use across the border." 
    The fair also features two Hispanic nights with Spanish language faves: Los Tigres Del Norte and Los Tucanes de Tijuana. 

    Harder Booking 
    San Diego was able to get a remarkable lineup of headline entertainment ranging Lady Antebellum, which Fennell  said was probably the best draw, to country stalwart Kenny Rogers who saying Farwell to his fans with his Final World Tour: The Gambler's Last Deal.  Other acts included Switchfoot,  Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Michael McDonald, 3 Doors Down, Grand Funk Railroad, Hailee Steinfeld,  and Brian Wilson. The fair also hosted its 12th Annual Gospel Festival, which featured Gospel music legend, Shirley Caesar. 

    Booking headline entertainment for the San Diego County Fair had never been more challenging than it was last year and Fennell does not see an improved scenario for next year. "It's very, very competitive," he said. "We have more music festivals and casinos. The casinos don't have to worry about making money on the concerts, they make their money on more people playing the slot machines. It is more difficult. A lot of acts that always came to fairs are getting eaten up the competition

    As a result, the fair increased its budget by 8 percent, but the booking department is scrambling harder to get a fair deal. "In my opinion, the risk fairs face is to overpay for acts. We have a narrow window, only 26 days and we really have to do our homework."

    Fennell said the fair will not follow a path similar to other fairs, of saving costs by cutting back or even eliminating headline entertainment. "Headline entertainment is an important part of our programming, so we will continue to find the best acts for our fair, and try to bring them to San Diego. We are committed to name entertainment for our fairgoers."

    Will booking be easier for next year's fair? 

    "No, I do not see the situation changing any time soon," said Fennell. "What we do is continuing to book the fair earlier and earlier. Typically we were looking at acts during the meetings of the International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE) in December, but now we are starting before that, at least by September. It is getting earlier every year." 

    Food Trends
    Food & Beverage spending was $23 million, up 11 percent. Some of fun food stats the fair releases:   Dixie's Donuts fried more than 188,000 mini donuts; Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls used 15,000 pounds of cinnamon roll flour, and three tons of cinnamon and sugar; 500 pounds of organic coffee flavored with 52 cases of vanilla and hazelnut creamer, were served; Pink's sold more than 20,800 hot dogs. Bacon-A-Fair used more than 21,000 pounds of bacon; Pignotti's sold ,more than 1,000 Pasta Salad Bread Bowls, and 1,500 Lasagna Sandwiches; Candy Factory went through two tons of ice for the Mad Hatter Monster Shaved Ice Crazy Cone; and Chicken Charlie's sold 10,000 "Chicken in the Waffle on A Stick," 2,000 orders of Shrimp Fried Rice and 7,000 pounds of Kool-Aid Hot Wings. Juicy's sold more than 75,000 of their new all-natural, hormone free hamburgers - the "All American Bacon Cheeseburger," and the "Western Burger."

    Even though attendance was up, the increase in food - higher than both attendance and other indicators, such as midway rides - indicates that "people were staying longer at the fair," said Fennell. 

    Fair cuisine can often be considered fattening, and while the fair promoter in him likes to say to "people who are counting their calories that fair food calories don't count," he did see a new fair food trend in 2016.

    "Fair food is fun, but I did notice one trend, that there was more healthy food items among all the fair foods," he said. "I did see more grilled chicken for instance, amid all the fried chicken. The vendors are offering healthier dishes, even vegan dishes, to people. People are eating healthier, so that might be part of that trend. I did notice this and it will be interesting to see if this is true at other fairs this year." 

  • Nevada State Fair:  Revived & Well in Carson City
    Founded in 1874, the Nevada State Fair ran for 136 years until 2010, when bankruptcy and organizational malfeasance led its demise. But in 2016, Nevadans finally had their state fair back, albeit at slightly smaller scale and a new location - Carson City, the state capital. 

    The resurrection of this Silver State tradition  began in 2013, when a new nonprofit Nevada State fair agency was formed. The state gave this agency grants and other support; Carson City casinos and other local business sponsored the fair and a range of politicians and other state dignitaries attended the ribbon cutting ceremony opening the four-day fair, which attracted about 8,000 per day. 

    The fair had free admission and free parking, and although the 2016 return might be smaller in scale, the fact seems to be that it was a success and that augurs well for the future. 

    Fair Demand
    "The demand for the fair was palatable," said Bob Robinson, Executive Director, Nevada State Fair. "We had a phenomenal first fair, and the feeling was overwhelming that people really wanted their state fair back, they needed it." 

    Exact estimations of attendance and spending are difficult for the comeback fair because admission was free. "That is part of our mission, to keep it free to the public," said Robinson. 

    Next year, the fair plans to expand its agricultural exhibitions and begin adding other fair activities. But this year the fair had rides, food, entertainment and representations of state pride. None of the organizers are denying that things can be improved, "but we are defiantly on the right track and we are definitely going to have this for years to come," Robinson declared. 

    Overcoming Apprehension
    When Harry Mason, CEO, Brass Ring Amusements, first heard about the revived fair, he admitted he was apprehensive. More than a decade ago - the early 00's - he was the midway provider, "but it was a very poorly run organization, " he said, adding that he declined to renew the contract well before the 2010 demise of the original fair.  He was also concerned about the location move - the old fair was held in Reno, a much larger market. 

    But he was convinced that the new fair organization was  reputable and committed to quality outdoor events when he met with Robinson. "Bob knew about events, and the organization wanted to put on a good community event, a good fair."

    And the apprehension about Carson City also quickly faded away. "I wasn't sure about the fairgrounds, I had heard they had only done a couple of carnivals before, but they were very professional."

    In addition, while Reno might be bigger, the flash and glamour of that famed gaming destination in the long run might be less conducive to fairs than Carson City. "Carson City is more residential," he said. "It may be half the size of Reno, but it has more families and that is the demographic you want. It's very appropriate to have the state fair in the state capitol. The fairground is two blocks from the state capitol, so you can see the state capitol building in the background. " 

    The midway featured about 20 rides, according Mason, with the top attractions being the Century Wheel, Carousel, Drop Tower, "which is always really popular," he added, and Vertigo. In addition, the Brass Ring Amusements, midway had 16 games and four food stands

    "It was a good size show," he said. "It was a good crowd, they were not afraid to spend money."

    Improving Economy
    An improving Nevada economy seems also to have had a positive impact on the fair, and likely fueled the revival of a state fair in Nevada. Robinson said the Nevada economy may not be at the pre-recession levels, "it has bounced back, the real estate market is very strong and unemployment is lower.  It's not where it was before the bust, but there is a recovery and I think that was a factor in bringing back the fair, a huge factor."

    He pointed out that four or five years ago, immediately after the original Nevada State Fair folded its tent, "people weren't spending. But now there are more families, and they can afford to do something, they have more disposable income, but they are still watching their budget so as long as it is not expensive. The fair is perfect, and they families want good, wholesome entertainment that is affordable." 

    "Northern Nevada is going through a renaissance of food, outdoors, the arts, and industry," said Kyle, Hoverath, Social Media Manager at Visit Carson City, who worked closely with the revival of the Nevada State Fair. " We are hot right now. It showed at the fair with the participation by industry. You can tell we are on an upswing because families came out multiple days and bought ride tickets and funnel cakes. It really is an affordable night out for a family and the community came out to enjoy it" 

    Brass Ring Amusements plays a western states circuit, and an upbeat comic climate seems the rule in 2016. "People are spending more, the economy does seem better," he said. "We are on track to be 8 percent above last year, which was a record year for us."

    Barebones Marketing
    According to Robinson, the fair's marketing budget was bare bones - about $35,000. The Carson City Visitors Bureau was instrumental in providing marketing and printing services, as well as extensive social media marketing, especially Facebook and Twitter. "We reached out to the Hispanic community and did a lot of radio collaboration," said Robinson.  Mason said his company did "$12,000" in ride promotion. 

    The fair's  musical entertainment were all Nevada-based artists, covering a range of genres, including Bluegrass, Jazz, Folk, Dance, Big Band, and Rock. With so many casinos and music venues in the state - coupled with the budget restrictions of this revived fair determined to avoid the financial pitfalls that doomed the previous incarnation of the Nevada State Fair - the fair declined to use nationally known headliners. But local acts brought small but loyal followers to the fair, "we reached out to the different counties, so most of Nevada was represented on the stage too," he said.

    The new Nevada State Fair celebrated everything Nevada with The Rendezvous, a reenactment theatrical troupe who recreated mining camps and other historic western scenarios. "People here love their history, and they recreated trading with Native Americans and other scenes, they have a following," he said. The only paid event was had historical overtimes "the Wild West Wine Run on the V&T Railway." The V&T is an authentic steam locomotive from the 19th century, a popular attraction in Carson City. For the fair, the train went on a limited run to Virginia City and back. 

    The fair's logo featured a vintage Ferris Wheel, a nod to both Nevada and Fair history: George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.  invented the original Ferris Wheel, said to have premiered at the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, while he was a resident of Carson City.  His residence, the Sears-Ferris House in Carson City, is on the  National Register of Historic Places. "It's our piece of fair history so that's why we had the wheel in our logo," said Robinson. "Carson City was thrilled to have the new state fair here because they are proud of this history."

    Food Network Films
    About 30 food vendors were showcased at the Nevada State Fair, and according to Robinson, sales were brisk. "The food vendors were happy with the turnout, I got very positive feedback," he said. "The demand for Indian Tacos was huge, that was the one question I seemed to get the most frequently. Funnel cakes were very popular, they even ran out of ice cream." 

    One unusual and popular food item was the "Fried Pickle with Bacon on a stick, dipped in Chocolate," said  Hoverath. 

    While the food vendors may be limited compared to other state fairs, the Nevada event received some national exposure. The Food Network attended the fair and filmed segments. "They contacted us for a list of our food vendors, and apparently they are planning to do a couple of episodes from for their series on State Fair food," said Robinson. 

    The fair featured an additional 55 vendors and booths,  with everything ranging from an animal trailer from the Nevada State Department of Wildlife to a Hot Tub and other vendors. "All the vendors gave me positive feedback and most said they would come back next year." 

    The fair also made sure the revived edition was as state-wide as possible. Robison said that 16 out of 17 counties were represented. "We reached out and they each had a booth and representation."

    First times only happens once - well, technically in the case of the Nevada State Fair, twice, the first, first time was in 1874. What is clear in Nevada is that enthusiasm for the 2017 State Fair is abundant.  "It is exciting to have the opportunity for what all intents and purposes is a new event," said Mason. "This fair has a lot of potential and a lot of support."  

    He added, "We will be communicating throughout the year, but we will probably have a discussion sometime in October. We talked about a lot of ideas, such as using a second location for a Kiddie Land and having shuttle buses taking customers back and forth. We would like to get more rides. There are a lot of things we can do." 

  • D&J Amusements Resurges into Chicago Carnival Market
    The legacy of Spectacular Midways lives on through D&J Amusements, a Greater Chicago carnival co-owned by Dan Driskill and Joe Frankowski.  

    Both men worked for the old Spectacular show owned by Bob Driskill, father of Dan and Robby Driskill, now employed with Smokey's Greater Shows in Maine. 

    In Chicago, D&J is in the midst of its sixth season after picking up the pieces in 2010 following some financial issues during the recession tied to the Driskill family's operation of a family entertainment center in Aurora. The Driskills were using money connected to their carnival business to keep the doors open at the FEC, and ultimately had to file for bankruptcy protection. The untimely situation resulted in the Driskills losing both businesses, according to Dan Driskill.

    "It was right before the economy took a [dump]," Driskill said. "We took $250,000 from the carnival and invested it in the FEC in one year to keep the doors open. Due to the cross-collateral [arrangement], we couldn't keep the carnival  in business. The bank we used in Chicago got in financial trouble and couldn't re-write the loan. Once we were in trouble, we filed for bankruptcy. Dad retired but we still had [festival] contracts."

    Six years later, though, D&J Amusements is doing well, thanks to agreements with Firestone Financial and used ride broker Tommy Coffing that helped Dan Driskill get back on his feet as a carnival operator. He took on Joe Frankowski, a long-time Spectacular Midways employee and Driskill's best friend dating to high school, as a business partner. Together, they launched D&J Amusements.

    In addition, Robert Salerno, owner of All-Around Amusements, another Chicago carnival, extended a helping hand. "Rather than take dates and work against us ... he helped us get back on our feet and we now have a good working relationship, sharing equipment and events," Driskill said.

    Case in point: Over the Fourth of July holiday week, All-Around Amusements provided rides for an event in Oak Forest, Ill., a date held by D&J Amusements. D&J, meanwhile, had its show set up at the annual Naperville Ribfest, one of Chicago's biggest summer celebrations.

    The Driskill family has played the Ribfest for 25 years now between D&J and Spectacular Midways. It's one of about 20 dates Dan Driskill kept after the old carnival folded.

    "It was nice to be able to hang on to our old dates as part of the transition to the new company," Driskill said. "The committees stuck with us. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here. We've played the Gaelic Park festival for 23 years and the St. Gerald's Catholic church festival for more than 20 years."

    D&J Amusements' route extends beyond Chicago to North Carolina, Florida and Oklahoma through booking rides with Michael's Amusements, Amusements of America and Wade Shows, respectively. For several years in the 1990s, Spectacular Midways booked equipment with Wade at the State Fair of Oklahoma, and the Driskills' relationship remains intact with Frank Zaitshik, owner of Wade Shows.

    In the early spring, D&J kicks off its season in North Carolina booking with Michael's Amusements, playing some smaller towns in the eastern part of the state. The Vivonas, owner of Amusements of America, use some of D&J's rides for its Florida church celebrations. Frankowksi typically travels out of state to oversee its operations with Driskill helping at times on lot layouts.

    Over the past two years, D&J has invested close to $200,000 to rebuild rides and attractions, including the Club Scene fun house, a Kilinski slide, Crazy Sub and the Rainbow Rock, as well as LED retrofits on all pieces. 

    "We're trying to make what we have better," Driskill said. "Before we buy new, we want to make sure what we have is in good shape."

    D&J's labor situation is in good shape. It's better this year than in past seasons, Driskill said. The carnival does not use international workers. Most of its employees are "American made," he said. "We've been very fortunate."

    Key personnel include ride superintendent and electrician Vince Yacovella, who's going on his 35th year working with the Driskill family among the two carnivals. "Every time the [crap] hits the fan, we call Vinny," Driskill said. "He's a personal friend who attended my wedding."

    Lori Driskill, Dan's wife, runs the show office and the popper. They married in 1997 after first meeting each other at Sandberg High School in Orland Park, Ill. Paulette Frankowski, Joe's wife, comes from the Larkee family, owner of Tip Top Shows in Wisconsin.

    Dan Driskill sees the economy getting better in Chicago, although he said fuel prices are higher in Chicago than in other markets. Ride grosses are improving and the weather has cooperated in 2016, he said.  At the same time, D&J Amusements has held the line on ticket prices. 

    "We've kept ticket prices the same since we've taken over company the past six years," Driskill said. "You can't keep gouging the customer. Sometimes,less is more. You offer them a better deal and they will spend more money in other places."

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The Industry Buzz
Tara Pugh passes - updated 7/18
It is with great sadness to report the passing of Tara Pugh. 

Pugh, Tara Michelle 36, of Lithia, made her final jump to be with the Lord on July 12, 2016.

Tara was a devoted wife, mother, daughter, aunt, niece, cousin and friend. Born in New Castle, IN, raised in Gibsonton, FL before moving to Lithia. Tara spent her childhood with family on the road, traveling with the Amusement Industry. Nothing much changed as she grew into adulthood and met and married the love of her life. Together, they built Pugh Concessions and continued to travel, spending the majority of their time with Reithoffer Shows, Inc. Tara is preceded in death by her maternal grandparents, Forrest (Ace) and Nancy Mathews.

She is survived by her loving husband, Robert (Beau) Pugh; sons, Clark and Parker; Mother, Carla (Dick - deceased) Rigby; father, Coy Heatherly Jr. ; grandmother, Barbara (Jim) Evans; brother, Coy Max Heatherly; step-brothers, Rande (Joelle) Rigby; Robby (Tish) Rigby; aunt, Teresa (Al) Rimes; uncle, Jeff (Jeanie) Mathews; in-laws, Robert "Bobby" (Debbie) Pugh; Cheri Pugh; Lori (Doug) Dills; as well as

many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Tara was remembered most by the big beautiful smile always displayed on her face. Her main devotion in life was to make her "three boys" happy. She loved and lived life to the fullest. She loved to entertain and plan elaborately decorated events. She enjoyed boating and traveling. She was passionately committed to her family and she had an unwavering love for her business. Tara was a gold card member of the International Independent Showmen's Association and a past First Lady.

Services will be held as follows:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Serenity Meadows
6919 Providence Road, Riverview, FL  33578  

Visitation will be held from 10:30 am to 1 pm with the funeral service beginning at 1pm.

Flowers are appreciated .. Tara Loved Flowers!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tara's family and friends.
  Posted by Matt Cook / Obiturary on 7/13/2016
Wade Shows adds first portable Street Fighter Revolution in US
Wade Shows CEO, Frank Zaitshik announced the purchase of yet another new ride for the 2016 season, a Street Fighter Revolution from Technical Park.  The Street Fighter Revolution is in similar design to the traditional Street Fighter, but it makes a complete 360 degree loop upside down.  The show purchased a used Street Fighter from a showman overseas and Technical Park will be converting it to the looping model at their Italy based facility.  While several Street Fighter Revolution models have been sold to piers and small amusement parks in the US, Wade's Street Fighter Revolution is the first portable version to be owned by a US based Carnival.

The Street Fighter Revolution joins a long list of purchases made by Wade Shows for the 2016 season - totaling over $5 million.  Earlier, Wade Shows announced the purchase of a 45 meter Giant Wheel in partnership with Wood Entertainment.  The Show also added a Zero Gravity from Battech, a Puppy Roll from Featherston, a Dumbo ride from Kolmax-Plus, and a used Jungle Twist coaster.  The show also is having its Zipper re-manufactured by Chance Rides, which will be like new and feature the manufacturers new open air tub design.
  Posted by Matt Cook on 4/25/2016
Chance Rides President, Mike Chance, passes
Statement from Dick Chance, CEO Chance Rides and father:

"Yesterday our family and company suffered a tremendous loss. Our son and company president Mike Chance lost his long‐term and well‐fought battle with depression. Mike had suffered from this tough disease for years and had faithfully sought treatment and relief from its effects. Like any other disease that is not yet well understood, depression is often difficult to successfully treat.  

We are proud of Mike for bravely fighting this disease for years while living a full and rich life as a wonderful husband and father, son, grandson, brother, friend and a great company leader. He was a triathlete who competed alongside friends in Iron Man triathlons across the country.  

Mike valiantly fought this disease while focusing on doing great work together with our employees so the fact that he had this disease will come as a surprise to many who knew him.  Just as with other diseases that take our loved ones too early, our family's hope is that research into the treatment for depression will advance. And that those seeking relief from this disease will find a path to successful treatment."

Mike Chance died Tuesday, April 19 at age 42. Service arrangements and memorials are pending. Chance Rides announced the news to employees this morning and is offering ongoing grief counseling for its 100 employees. 

A celebration of Mike's life will be held Wednesday, April 27, 2016, at 10:00 a.m. at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church 1550 N. Chapel Hill Drive, Wichita, KS 67206. 

Memorial contributions may be made to the following organizations:  
KidzCope, 9415 E. Harry, Suite 501, Wichita, KS 67207
Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas, 555 N. Woodlawn, Suite 3105, Wichita, KS 67208.    

  Posted by Dick Chance Press Release on 4/20/2016
Wisdom Rides Walter Williams passes
Long time Wisdom Rides parts department supervisor, Walter Williams passed away peacefully at his home on Friday, April 8, 2016.  

He lived his youth all over the world as an "Army Brat". It was a life he loved and one that led him to join the United States Air Force on his 17th birthday. He served 8 years, being stationed in the U.S. and Korea. He was a part of the effort in shipping of all ammunition at Kunsan Air Base to the Vietnam War. While a member of the Air Force, he also received numerous citations for various services. He was honorably discharged in December of 1967. He was then employed at Coors Brewery in Golden until he was forced to resign after developing asthma which rendered him allergic to the hops. He and his family the moved to Sterling, where he worked for Evans Railcar until its plant closed. In December of 1987, he went to work at Wisdom Manufacturing where he worked in purchasing and selling until his death. He loved his work.

Visitation will be from 4 pm to 6:30 pm Tuesday, April 12 at Tennant Funeral Home in Sterling, Colorado. Vigil and Rosary evening service will follow at 7 pm. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10:00 am Wednesday, April 13 at St. Anthony's Catholic Church with Father Michael Bodzioch celebrating.
  Posted by Matt Cook / Obiturary on 4/11/2016
In our efforts to chronicle the history of our industry, we could think of no better way to further this endeavor than to interview industry pioneers and preserve their videos for posterity.

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!

Deggeller Attractions is now hiring ride, game, food, cdl drivers, and more.  Visit to apply.

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.

Evans United Shows is now booking game concessions for the 2016 season!  Call Tom Evans   (816) 392-0759
 or email

Rocken Graphics specializes in ride, concession, and trailer wraps for the amusement industry.  In addition to wraps, Rocken Graphics is also a one source sign shop providing game & concession signs, ride signs, midway signs, a-frame signs, and much more.  We also produce digitally printed canvas for a high-impact on the midway! Call 740-459-9045 or visit for more info.

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