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Over 500 delegates attend


By Alan Nogiec

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Williamsburg, VA -- The Virginia Association of Fairs held its 91st Annual Conference January 4 & 5, 2008 at the Williamsburg Lodge. The theme for the program was "Past, Present & Future".

President Joye Wood welcomed the delegates to the opening session, where she described a number of actions that the Board of Directors addressed over this past year. After breakfast, Conference Chair Blaine Lenhart introduced Bobby McLamb, President of Artists and Attractions Entertainment Management and Booking Agency who provided an invigorating and humorous talk titled "Four Keys to Ensure Greater Success".

Program Co-Chairmen Blaine Lenhart, Kelly Liddington, and Robbie White developed a program that provided a wide variety of educational topics presented by individuals in the fair and related industries. The program committee welcomed Nancy Smith, from the South Carolina State Fair, who presented a program on sponsorships.

On Friday January 4, Miss Sara Land Wirtala, the 2007 Miss Virginia Association of Fairs opened the Trade Show, welcoming thirty-five (35) exhibitors.

The only carnival with a display this year was Cole Shows Amusement Company, owned by R.C. and Betsy Cole. R.C. and Betsy play more fairs in VA than any other carnival with 12 events total. Mr. Cole is also an associate director for the VAF.

The show announced that they had signed long term contracts with the Clark County Fair, the New River Valley Fair and the Jefferson County Fair in West Virginia. Cole plays 2 fairs in West Virginia and 2 festivals in North Carolina in addition to their Virginia events.

Cole Shows purchased a Zipper this year which was added to a lineup that included a new Catch N' Air from the previous year. Like many carnival owners, Cole was worried about rising diesel prices and expenses cutting into his already slim bottom line.

Cole Shows usually operates two units each week and the show has many long time employees. Betsy Cole joins the show after school is finished for the year, bringing along the couple's son Austin and daughter Megan. The kids own a basketball game together and they both work in the stand during the year. Megan also helps her mom in the popcorn stand. R.C. said Austin's duties consisted mainly of "talking to girls and helping to tear down".

J.R. Roark is a long time employee and concessionaire who runs one of the Cole units. Todd Desgranges of Stuart Concessions operates food stands on the show and Adam Warren has a grab and one of the show poppers.

Office duties are capably handled by Leo Kimberley and Joy Bush runs the company's home office and helps out on the lot at the shows larger events.

R.C.'s role was described by his family as "riding around on the golf cart and talking on his cell phone".

Cole Shows made a foray into trailer building this year. The show manufactured three spin ride trailers for their own use and to sell to other shows. Cole said he hoped this business would blossom into additional revenue for the company during the year.

At the conclusion of the convention, the annual business meeting was held. Delegates in attendance elected to a second term on the board were Elaine Dillow and Brenda Rich, Fair Directors and John Sampson, Associate Director. Elected to a first term were Essie Berry, Fair Director and W. G. Bulifant III, Associate Director. Pam Daneker was appointed by the Board to complete the term of Ralph Janes, who resigned for personal reasons.

The Board elected the following officers: President -- Joye Wood, Vice President -- Keith Johnson, Secretary -- Betsey Brown, Treasurer -- Dr. Sexton Burkett.

At the meeting, Kelly Liddington announced that the board's effort to nominate retired Executive Director Hazel Staley for the IAFE Haas & Wilkerson Heritage Award was successful. Mrs. Staley received her award at the IAFE Convention in Las Vegas Nevada this past November.

Mr. Liddington also announced that the funds the VAF Board provided to Mrs. Staley for travel expense was presented back to the association to be used for the VAF Scholarship Program. The Board agreed to identify a scholarship in honor of Mrs. Staley.

Dave Leonard, Past President, announced the creation of the "VAF Past Presidents Hall of Honour". In a ceremony held January 5, 2008, thirty four (34) past presidents were inducted into the Hall of Honour.

The fund raising efforts for the scholarship funds generated $3,749.00 from the raffle of a 42" HD TV, and $5,080.50 from the auction and silent auction.

Final registration numbers recorded 500+ delegates. As expected, the Hospitality Committee from the Warren County Fair did an excellent job entertaining the delegates. The claim that at one time or another all 500 delegates visited the Hospitality Suite was probably not far from the truth!

The 92nd annual conference will be held January 2nd and 3rd, 2009 at the Renaissance Hotel in Portsmouth Virginia.

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