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Corpus Christi's Buc Days shifts dates; contracts Wade Shows as the midway operator


By Mary Weber

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Buc Days 2017, held in Corpus Christi,TX, is virtually a month-long celebration for the town of Corpus Christi. According to Buc Days President and CEO, Johnny Phillipello, the event is comprised of three different elements: Rodeo Corpus Christi, the Buc Days Stars and Stripes carnival, and the Buc Days parades. 

The fun began April 27th-30th with Rodeo Corpus Christi. The standard PRCA rodeo events were held: bareback riding, steer wrestling, mutton bustin', team roping, saddle bronc riding, calf scramble, tie down roping, barrel racing, bull riding, barrel man and bullfighters, and steer roping. For the first time, the Buc Days commission added a concert series to the rodeo. Dwight Yoakam, Aaron Watson, William Clark Green, and Siggno entertained guests throughout the rodeo. The schedule each night incPhoto By luded a two hour rodeo and a one hour concert; "We got some really positive feedback from the community about the addition of concerts this year," says Phillipello. 

Another new addition for the 2017 Rodeo Corpus Christi was an "interactive zone" outside of the American Bank Center which included fun games and activities such as mutton bustin, roping demonstrations, face painting, and food trucks for families to enjoy on their way inside the arena. Ticket prices ranged from $15-$28 and Phillipello says the rodeo saw a 38% increase in ticket sales this year. About 21,000 people attended the 2017 Rodeo Corpus Christi. 

The Stars and Stripes Carnival and Buc Days Festival Parades took place May 4th-14th. May 6th the Illuminated Night Parade was held and on May 13th the community enjoyed the junior parade. The Buc Days Festival kicked off with the dunking of Corpus Christi's mayor, which is an 80 year old town tradition. This year, the Stars And Stripes Carnival had a new midway provider, Wade Shows. According to Phillipello, the Buc Days staff received many compliments from patrons about Wade Shows' cleanliness and guest amenities such as shaded seating areas and guest relations services. 

Admission to the carnival was $5 for adults and $3 for children; military personnel were admitted for $3 each day of the festival. There was live music each day of the carnival as well as a petting zoo and pony rides for guests to enjoy.

The ride gross was up 5% from the 2016 Buc Days Festival, according to Phillipello. Once the Buc Days staff and commission decided to change midway operators, they had to shift the dates back one week; "We started off strong the first week and then kinda leveled out the second week. With the change in operators and dates plus the move from tokens to the electronic ticketing system, we're really pleased with a 5% increase from last year and look forward to continuing growing a great partnership with Wade Shows" says Phillipello. 

The Stars and Stripes carnival featured about 40 rides with some crowd favorites such as the Super Cyclone, Extreme, and Rainbow. Wade Shows sold packages of 4, 25, and 50 tickets as well as unlimited ride wristbands each day: $25 on weekdays and $30 on weekends. Mega Passes were also available for the first time this year. For $55 in advance and $65 at the event, customers could ride an unlimited number of rides throughout the entire Buc Days festival. Wade Shows and Buc Days sold discounted wristbands and Mega Passes through Innovative Ticketing. Buc Days offered many other discounts for customers such as dollar rides on opening day, a $5 off a wristband coupon for children in school and a B.O.G.O. wristband coupon for Mothers on Mothers Day.

According to Wade Shows President, Frank Zaitshik, Wade Shows ventured into uncharted waters once they got the Buc Days contract. Normally, they start the move up north after Fiesta San Antonio but instead adjusted their schedule to include Buc Days prior to their jump to Mt Clemens, Michigan. "Buc Days is at a beautiful, scenic location but we faced a few challenges as it is near some city parks with lots of activity surrounding it. Making sure, with a show of our size, we got all our equipment in the right places and the support equipment close enough to do its job without disturbing anything or sacrificing appearance was a bit of a challenge," says Zaitshik. 

With the support of the Buc Days staff and commission, Wade Shows was able to successfully lay out a beautiful midway. Zaitshik named a couple other challenges such as another carnival pre-dating the Buc Days festival in a near location and the date shift which landed closing day on Mothers Day. "We always have expectations and are very pleased with the feedback from the community and the ride gross. We have a long way to go with this event. Despite challenges we faced there was a feeling of optimism between us and the Buc Days staff and commission. We are going to face these challenges and build a bigger and better event each year," says Zaitshik.

According to Phillipello, Buc Days has a fantastic relationship with Corpus Christi tv and radio stations. These relationships made it very easy for Phillipello and the rest of the staff to advertise Rodeo Corpus Christi and the Buc Days Festival. In addition to radio and tv advertising, Phillipello says they hired a company to do their social media marketing. The Caller Times, Corpus Christi's local newspaper, featured a few targeted articles about Buc Days; "this allowed us to tell our story and communicate new things and changes this year such as the move from tokens to the electronic ticketing system. We are the longest running festival in Corpus Christi so the media really embraces us" says Phillipello. 

Buc Days is a nonprofit organization that focuses on giving back to the community, mainly through providing scholarships to students. Phillipello says that they have been awarding scholarships for the last 20 years or so. Buc Days' staff are still finalizing their numbers for this year's awards but they give back as much of the net profits as possible. 

Buc Days features a King and Queen scholarship program in which 20 high school seniors are given the opportunity to participate in a leadership program. Buc Days picks a King and Queen from that group and they are awarded around $40,000 in scholarships collectively. Recently, Buc Days donated $30,000 to support veteran housing in the community. The money helps veterans find a home and then pays their rent for a year.

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