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NAME's Pat Repp Comments on 2009 Season
Fairs and events are holding their own in a tough economy
By Matt Cook
MCW had the opportunity to interview Pat Repp, North American Midway Entertainment's Unit Manager for the Astro Amusements Unit. We asked Pat about NAME's season, fairs he has played, the impact of the economy on the amusement ride business and his background in the industry. We caught up with him at the Sauk County fair in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
MCW: How has the 2009 season been? Have you noticed if the economy is affecting spending? What about games specifically?
PR: It's been OK, not down a lot, not setting any records, but we're holding our own. I really don't think the economy affects our business as much as the weather does or I might say the "weather forecast"… too many people plan their day on what the weatherman reports. The games are doing ok, they are getting anything that's left after people ride and eat.
MCW: Can you give me a brief synopsis of the events you have played so far?
PR: My unit left Miami for Shreveport, (Holiday in Dixie), played spots up through Mississippi, Illinois and Iowa, before playing Steamboat Days in Burlington, IA in mid-June. We then played Dixon, IL for the 4th, followed by Fairs in Baraboo, WI, Waukesha, WI and Dubuque, IA. We are in the heart of Fair season right now in Rochester, MN.
MCW: Any news regarding the upcoming IL state fair?
PR: Not really, we had a banner year there last year with beautiful weather and hope for the same this year. Amy Bliefnick, the manager there is great to work with. I use Tinsley there with 12 pieces and Cody Casper with his Wave Swinger. Tinsley puts 8 in the Adventure Village Amusement Park and 4 on the midway
MCW: Who are your key employees?
PR: Dennis Konkey is the head electrician and maintenance supervisor. His son Dennis Jr. is our ride and personnel supervisor, this is his first year in that position. Vicki Syler is in charge of the office. Floyd Kirby is our truck mechanic and George Parmonicutt is our welder and general fabricator. Richard Finkenstein is in his 2nd year running the food operation and Chris Christy is my runner and truck driver. Wayne Ong manages our show owned games. My son Adam is also out with me, getting an education between his Sophomore and Junior years at Western Ill. University. My management staff does an excellent job and makes my life easier.
MCW: Who has concessions on your unit?
PR: Krista (Roach) VanNiekerk puts up between 8 - 10- games, Dennis Voss with 2 - 4, Jim Holtz with 2. Those are the main ones, we add when needed. We also carry 8 show owned games as well.
MCW: Have you used any special promotions to help increase spending?
PR: We still do Dollar Nights the first night of some Fairs, which is a nice way to kick of the week. Here in Rochester we do "Deuce Night", $2 rides and $2 parking and admission. Like most shows, POP's seem to be what the public is looking for, so we do a lot of that promotion. I'm always trying different ideas to improve the gross, but have found if you have a good product and good weather, you'll make money.
MCW: How much are ticket prices?
PR: We use 3 levels of pricing, 4 for $5, 22 for $25 or 55 for $60. Rides take 2,3 and 4 coupons.
MCW: What are the top rides on your unit?
PR: The Freakout always tops the midway, with usually the Century Wheel, Himalaya, Spin out and Orbiter not far behind. The old classics like our Tilt and Scooters still do well. Our 3 abreast Carousel still cracks the top 5 at times and has been the top ride here in Rochester the past 2 years.
MCW: We spoke briefly about the Freak Out. Can you tell me a little more about the ride such as its performance, transportation, and the LED light package?
PR: It is easily one of the best investments out there today. Relatively easy to move, on one truck and sucks up the tickets. It also puts on a great show for the public, between the lights, music and motion of the ride swinging over the midway. We've had some small issues with the operation, but between Dennis Konkey Jr, and Wes Sparks, (Unit #2 manager), they know about all that can cause problems now. We,ve had very little down time. The LEDS set it apart from most others rides, however, it has been a chore to stay on top of them and keeping them going at times. We seem to have it figured out now, between brushes, relays, fuses and drivers, it's just a matter of eliminating each problem one at a time to get to the issue
MCW: On a personal note - can you give me a little background information on your history in the business?
PR: I started when I was 11 working in a Popper, got it in my blood and I am still out here. I worked for a couple different shows and owned my own equipment as well. I've been able to learn a lot over the years from people that have been successful and use that in my management style.