Del Mar -- Bigger isn't always better and in the amusement ride business and Mike Wood's Wood Entertainment Company takes that philosophy to heart. With only 9 rides: a Mondial Magnum, Mack Sleigh Ride, Wisdom Starship 3000, Satori Kiddie Swing, Chance Carousel, Falgas Safari Train, Tivoli Techno Power, Owens Mardi Gras and Bluebeard Inflatible Slide, Wood plays some of the largest fairs in the United States.
"We play every independent fair there is and some large events with a handful of carnivals", said Mike Wood, CEO. Traveling from coast to coast WEC plays the San Diego County Fair, the Ventura County Fair, the Texas State Fair, the Minnesota State Fair, Santa's Enchanted Forest in Miami, FL and the Florida State Fair as an independent. Add to that list the South Florida Fair and the Oklahoma State Fair you have a route th
at spans over 3,000 miles, playing six of the Top 50 fairs in the United States.
The show plays approximately 20 dates a year, the independent route listed above and dates with Alamo Attractions, Wade Shows and isolated dates with other companies to fill in his route. With fuel prices rising at such a high rate, Wood says he tries to play only the best dates where he has a chance to make a profit. "What you do today must count, there is no more practicing", said Wood.
In Del Mar, Wood said the fair was down slightly but that was due to the event being one day shorter. Ride gross was going to be about the same as last year he said. The midway in Del Mar had about 80 attractions. In addition to WEC equipment independent operators Patrick Sheridan, Rick Barton and Bruce Pereleman all brought equipment as did many West Coast shows.
Del Mar was the first date for the newly refurbished Magnum. Wood said the ride was the subject of a $100,000 overhaul during April and May of this year. "We took the ride apart, cleaned it, painted a new backwall and did a lot of electrical work", said Wood.
In fact, the Magnum now has 10,000 new LED lights from Tom McDonagh with just a few incandescent bulbs left. Wood also used 3,000 10mm LED lights for the back of the ride,s seats . These "pin spot" lights and chasers were specially designed for the ride by Lights in Motion. Wood said he hoped the LED lights would result in a significant fuel savings when using the ride. "With LED lights, most of the energy is used for light, with incandescent bulbs the energy is used mostly for heat", said Wood.
In addition to the new light package, the ride got a brand new paint scheme from "T.J. the Painter". Wood said the ride now has a California theme with a 20ft tall girl in the middle and a Ford Mustang to the right of the platform.
The overhaul paid off in Del Mar where the Magnum finished #2 behind Steve Vandervorste's Crazy Maus roller coaster, according to Wood. This was the ride's highest finish ever at the fair. "It was a combination of great visibility, the new look of the ride and the best operational crew I have had", said Wood.
The higher gross could not have come at a better time for Wood who said he spent a record $40,000 to take 14 loads from his San Antonio headquarters out to Del Mar. Wood said he did what he could to save costs, trimming unnecessary vehicles, making sure the most efficient electrical generators and supplies are used, limiting hours that power is run and replacing inefficient light bulbs with more cost efficient LED lights.
Photos of the Magnum can be seen at the conclusion of the article.
"The last 15-20 years, we have been a little bit up each year", said Wood. "This year, we will have to be up over 20% just to overcome the increased costs", he added. Wood said he believed the business would be ok in the long run but cautioned, "We have to re-invent ourselves. Carnivals need a good, profitable mix of rides, to trim fat, become more efficient and to be run more like a business. We need to take our expenses very seriously."
Wood said he has observed that those games, rides and food stands that offered a great value or had a hot item were doing well. He expects customers to be more discerning than ever with their money this year, looking for a good value.
"I think maybe what you will begin to see is more regional carnivals. Shows will have tighter routes, overlap less with their competitors." He said the economy may even cause shows to work together for their respective bottom lines. "Two shows working together could swap some events on their routes", he speculated. Each company would then maintain a tighter route, saving on fuel and expenses.