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.