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Joe Tellone's Sunshine Amusements Scales Back Route
Despite rumors, show is still in business
By Ron Weber
Joe Tellone is not dead, he declares. "I guess I have been pronounced dead quite a few times, but the bad part is, Barbara never received any flowers", said Tellone when reached at a carnival he is operating in South Carolina.
Joe and his wife Barbara operate Sunshine Amusements, a company they have owned since 1981. They traditionally travel the East Coast from Florida to New Jersey. In 2009, Tellone revamped his route and will only go as far north as Virginia, playing South Carolina as well. He suspects that the change in routing and giving up some long time events in the north was part of the reason for rumors circulating about his show's demise.
Joe laments the regulatory changes that have been made in New Jersey over the years, making business more and more difficult for small operators. "I have chosen to not go back to New Jersey, where I have made a good living for quite a few years. Government has taken over in our industry there, like it has in so many other facets of life", he said. "I love this business but I don't want all the aggravation and nausea that comes with operating in that type of environment", he added.
Sunshine Amusements plays small county fairs and festivals with 12 - 20 rides. They carry a Balloon Wheel, Sea Ray, SBF Drop Zone, Chance 3-abreast Merry Go Round, Swinger, Scrambler, Dragon Wagon, Slide, Bear Affair, trucks, trains and several other kiddie rides.
Tellone broke into the business while selling 8 tracks and stereo equipment at fairs. He previously worked as a stockbroker and an administrative assistant to the Florida Secretary of State. He also served as an officer in the New Jersey National Guard.
Tellone branched out from stereo equipment, purchasing a trailer made for iron-on T-shirts and a duck pond game. Instead of stock, Tellone gave live animals as prizes. Winners received a goldfish, hamster, parakeet, rabbit or puppy depending upon their number.
While playing fairs, Tellone said he saw a bright future in the food business and purchased a fried dough trailer. He had two lemonade locations at the North Carolina State Fair. After a particularly good year, he purchased a Konkord Kastle bounce and booked with Deggeller Attractions in Deland, Fl. He then purchased an F-80 and triple-decker kiddie ride from Don Deggeller.
The next year, Tellone made a deal wit Babe Vivona of Amusements of America to provide the kiddie rides for his unit of Amusements of America. In 1979 he became the unit's lot man.
In 1981 Tellone met Jack Royal at St. Stephen's church in Mirimar, Fl. Arriving home that night he announced to his wife Barbara, "Honey, I just bought a carnival". The show's first spot was Elizabeth City, NC. Thinking their route was full, Tellone learned the show had only 6-8 events and many of those were on a handshake deal. "I had to learn how to book spots real fast", said Tellone.
Ten years later, in 1991, also at St. Stephen's church, Tellone had booked in Deggeller Attractions and was contemplating leaving the business to go to work making furniture. Don Deggeller asked Tellone to come to work for him and Tellone brought Sunshine Amusements to the Deggeller midway. One year later, he joined Lawrence Carr Amusements as a general manager before reintroducing Sunshine Amusements as a stand-alone company the following year.
Tellone said at this stage in the game he was looking to make life on the road as easy as possible. He hopes to sell some of his equipment in the next couple of years and make his route even more truncated, eventually only playing in Florida and South Carolina.