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 except
ion 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.