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MCW Interviews Roger Wadkins
Owner of Sherwood Amusements and manufacturer of the Wadkins Expo Wheel
By Paul Paron
A gorgeous weekend in late April found Matt's Carnival Warehouse in Southern Maryland where we got to spend a little time with Roger Wadkins owner of Sherwood Amusements. Sherwood currently has a complement of 25 rides, several games and two food including a popcorn wagon.
We asked Roger how he got involved in the business.
RW: "I first walked on a carnival midway when I was 12 years old. It was Rosedale Attractions, and I knew what I wanted to do from then on"
MCW: Rosedale is still around, aren't they?
RW: "Oh yes, they're one of my main competitors, just like Shaw and Sons. We have twenty-five rides now. We started with about fourteen, but we're all out there looking for good events."
MCW: When you were putting the show together you purchased several pieces from Cliff Taylor. Did you pick up any of his route at that time?
RW: "No, the spots I got were ones that I'd already promoted, and the committees were satisfied with the job we did and the dedication we showed. This has been a family business since I started it and that's worked out well for us. When Cliff got out of the business everybody was shooting at every event he had. "
MCW: What would you say the biggest challenge is out here today?
RW: "Trying to survive. Make a living. You know you think you have things handled, and then something else comes up. We survived a major fire in winter quarters two years ago, and lost over a half million dollars in equipment. We rebuilt, and are better for it, but there is always something unexpected happening.
MCW: A half million dollars? What did you do?
RW: "I cried."
MCW: You'd never know that you went through a fire when you look at your equipment. The show looks great.
RW: "Thank you. We're always upgrading our appearance. We redid our carousel, and I just finished redoing an F80. It's a beautiful piece and I'm really proud of the paint job we put on it. "
MCW: Who manufactured that ride?
RW: "It's a Goforth. They're out of business now, but it's a great piece. "
MCW: What else is new this year?
RW: "We picked up a Paratrooper we are going to redo this fall, and we have a new Funnel Cake trailer."
MCW: I have seen that. It's a Rapsure, and they did a very nice job. Is it show owned?
RW: "Absolutely. So we own the Popper and the Funnel Cake. My wife still runs the popper. She's the boss out here. We've been married for thirty-five years. We're also expecting our third grandchild-so yes, there are additions constantly."
MCW: Employees are always a challenge. Is turnover much of a problem for you?
RW: "Not really. I treat my people well, and I've had some employees for thirty five years."
MCW: That's amazing. Still, most of the shows have suffered from a lack of good employment candidates. We've seen a lot of South Africans, Mexicans, Poles and Russians. Do you use foreign employees?
RW: "Yes, as a matter of fact, my Russian employees arrive next week."
MCW: Roger, we're all familiar with situations where committees want more equipment than their events may warrant. How do you handle that?
RW: "Well, you see we do have a Flying Bobs out there. Most of our committees are pretty reasonable, and we have a wide enough assortment that we are able to keep them happy. The equipment has to make sense for the event."
MCW: Aren't you in the manufacturing business also?
RW: "We bought out Bob Childress' slide operation, so we manufacture the giant slides, and we also manufacture the large wheels - The Wadkins Expo Wheel. The shop runs year round and I couldn't do it without my two sons, Roger and Kevin. They keep things going, and I depend on them. I can't say enough nice things about my family."
MCW: Well that's just terrific. You've been very generous with your time, and I thank you very much. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
RW: "Yes, since I mentioned Roger and Kevin, we put up a display every year at the IISF and this is the second year in a row we were awarded the plaque for the Most Impressive Outdoor Display. I'm very proud of that, and very proud of my family. They are what keeps things going here, and I'm a very lucky guy."
MCW: Thank you again Roger, best of luck to you this season.