Wintering in the Caribbean is a family tradition for the Vivona family and their company, Amusements of America. For well over a decade they have brought rides, games and equipment during the winter months to the island of Puerto Rico for "La Feria".
The rides are packed in containers and placed on a boat for transport. In 2007/2008 they brought 35 rides to the event. Unfortunately, Mother Nature did not cooperate this year. A tropical depression seemed to linger over the island said Dominic Vivona, Jr., CFO of the company. In addition, Puerto Rico has been hard hit by a recession and the lapsing of a special tax arrangement that brought jobs from drug companies to the island. All these factors contributed to a down year for the event.
On the bright side, A of A expanded their presence in the Caribbean with a sim
ultaneous date in the Dominican Republic. This effort was also impacted by the weather and other variables, but in the end, it was a good first effort. Plans are underway to make some changes for a return next year.
Back on the mainland, A of A's 2008 route added many new dates with the development of a relationship with Mark Lovell and his staff at Universal Fairs.
A of A will provide the carnival at four of the six events produced by Universal Fairs in 2008. A of A is scheduled to bring 55 rides to the Delta Fair and Music Festival, August 29 - September 7, 50 rides for the Alabama State Fair, September 19 - 28, 35 rides for the Tupelo Fair, October 3 - 12 and 40 rides for the Middle Tennessee State Fair, October 22 - 26, 2008.
Vivona said A of A is encouraged by the caliber of the staff and the business approach of Universal Fairs and looks forward to a long, successful future with the event production company.
2007 was a year of sorrow and celebration for the Vivona family . The family lost one of the five founding brothers, Sebastian "Babe" Vivona after a long battle with Parkinson,s disease.
The year ended on a positive note however with the wedding of Phil Vivona and Jane Baxter. Both Phil and Jane had lost their spouses and the two began dating. Owning her own equipment, Jane has an independent route but books her rides with the Vivona family in the spring.
Tragedy struck the Vivonas again last week with the passing of long time company president John Vivona in Miami. Three of the original brothers are still active in the company. Morris, Dominic and Phil Vivona still oversee the day to day operations of the two units.
In addition to the brothers, many sons are active in the business. Dominic Vivona, Jr. is the Chief Financial Officer for AofA, Morris Vivona, Jr. runs the second unit as general manager, Marco Vivona works on his father Dominic,s unit and moves rides, Phil,s son Robbie Vivona does lot layout and another son, John Thomas, runs the company,s winterquarters.
One major change for 2008 will be the moving of their winterquarters to Florence, SC from Miami, FL. The Vivonas struck a deal with the Eastern Carolina Agricultural Fair to lease property in the winter months.
While there are some buildings that can be used, A of A plans to make several capital improvements to the property which should create a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Vivona cited the increasing costs of doing business in South Florida as the reason for the move. The move will be a return home for the Vivonas who used to store their equipment in nearby Sumter , SC for many years before purchasing a carnival with a South Florida route and moving south.
The company is exploring options for the Miami property and no decision has yet been made.
One of the final projects completed in the South Florida winterquarters is the complete refurbishment of their Zierer Wave Swinger. The ride has been rebuilt from the trailer up and an already beautiful piece will receive new life in 2008 on the AofA route.
In another property decision, A of A has decided to sell their Henderson, NC property that has housed the Vance County Regional Fair for many years. The event is produced by Kendra Novey of Admit One Special Events.
Expansion in the Henderson area has reached the once rural section that surrounds the fair. Rising prices and taxes have also contributed to the decision. While the property is on the market, they will continue to produce the fair until a deal is finalized.
Vivona, who is also 2nd Vice-chairman of the OABA, said A of A is cautiously optimistic about the coming year. "We have a lot of exciting opportunities, but we still have to be aware of changes in the economy and the rising fuel costs", he said.