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Triple Treat Shows Celebrates 19 Years in Business

8/28/2017

By Don Muret

Photo courtesy of

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Triple Treat Shows is one Ohio-based carnival that's taken a hit economically after the tragic ride accident in late July at the Ohio State Fair, according to Russell Clements, son of carnival owner Jay Clements.

The company has deep roots in the Buckeye State, tied to the extended Kissel family that's been in the carnival business since 1932 and whose members run multiple shows. In Columbus, the July 26 accident that killed a teenager on a KMG Fireball shook the entire carnival industry and instantly became national news. 

Unfortunately, some reports have been misleading, with broadcasters and news sources confused over the difference between portable rides and permanent attractions set up at theme parks and making inaccurate statements. The result is further damage to the outdoPhoto By or amusement industry.

"The accident put a black eye on the industry, and when things hit closer to home in your own backyard, you feel it," Clements said. "We've seen a little bit of an impact. After it happened, the media showed up at the Butler County Fair the next morning [where Triple Treat was set up] to get reaction."

Triple Treat has no KMG rides, so the carnival was not affected by the manufacturer's statement alerting Fireball owners to cease operation until further inspections are completed. Show officials have considered buying a Freak Out, another KMG product, as they upgrade their route with more fairs. At $700,000, it's a major investment for the mid-sized show. Poor Jack Amusements, an Indiana-based carnival that plays Ohio, has a Freak Out, and Clements said he plans to consult with Poor Jack's Gary Bohlander "before pulling the trigger" on a purchase.

Otherwise, the carnival continues to grow under the Clements family's leadership. The most recent acquisitions include a Wisdom Alien Abduction. The show spent the offseason rebuilding a Ferris wheel and a swing ride. The Typhoon, Ali Baba and Hurricane are  the bigger pieces among Triple Treat's 20 total attractions.

On his own, Clements owns a Euro bungee, moon bounce, rope ladder and the swing ride, in addition to a steak on a stick food stand. 

All told, the carnival has deals with about seven Ohio county fairs, most of which it's had relationships with for seven to 20 years, Clements said.

Most are mid-summer events, but the Brown County Fair in Georgetown sticks out in late September. Kids get out of school for the week to attend the pay-one-price fair, and typically, the line for admission stretches 100 people long when the ticket boxes open for the day, he said. Admission is $10, which includes the carnival midway, resulting in a huge bargain for fairgoers. Triple Treat makes it up on volume, Clements said.

"We know it's a hell of a spot and that's why we keep going back," he said. "We've been playing it for 17 years."

New dates include the Montgomery County Fair, which had been a Labor Day spot near downtown Dayton but changed its dates to mid-July, and the Obetz Zucchini Festival in Columbus in late August.

In late April and early May, Triple Treat starts the season at Thunder Louisville and the Kentucky Derby Festival, two of the biggest special events in that part of the country. Thunder on the River is a one-day speedboat racing event, followed by a nine-day festival tied to the world's greatest horse race.

It's somewhat of a quirky setup. The events are back-to-back and situated next to each other. Triple Treat Shows combines equipment with a few other Kissel family carnivals.

"We're open for one day [for Thunder Over Louisville] and then we quickly tear down, set up and open three days later literally 100 yards away for the Kentucky Derby Festival, which runs nine days," Clements said. "We bring in 12 rides on our own. It's basically three carnivals set up next to each other."

In addition to working with the overall Kissel clan, Triple Treat shares rides with Poor Jack, Classic Midway and Fun Time Carnival. The four shows help each other fill gaps when needed in their routes. That's the case at Montgomery County, where Triple Treat supplemented rides with Poor Jack and some Kissel family members.

The Circleville (Ohio) Pumpkin Show is another strong event for Triple Treat Shows, which books five rides at an event that draws up to 400,000 attendees in a town of 14,000. Separately, Triple Treat books a few pieces with North American Midway Entertainment at an indoor spring event at the I-X Center next to the Cleveland airport.

Jay Clements, Russell's father, owns the show, and when he's ready to retire, his 41-year-old son is poised to take over the operation as a fourth-generation showman. Triple Treat will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2018.

"My dad is in his mid-60s and he's out there like the rest of us," Jay said. "My mother, Vicki, is a Kissel, and my grandmother, Barb Kissel, still runs Kissel Shows. Mom and Dad worked for my grandmother for 25 years and started their own unit in the 1990s."





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