The second week of June led us to the small town of Colonial Beach on Virginia,s Eastern Shore, overlooking the beautiful Potomac River. Colonial Beach plays host to the Potomac River Festival each year. This year,s event included a beauty pageant, majorette competition, craft show on the boardwalk, and several parades including the Nation,s Noisiest Fire and Rescue Parade, which comes by it,s name honestly, since the reporters have been hearing sirens in our heads since the event.
In addition to the entertainment listed above, the event has a carnival that is held Wednesday through Sunday on the Town Hill. For the last several years the carnival has been provided by Inners Shows of Franklinton, NC. Donna Inners, owner of Inners Shows, was on site helping employees and visiting with guests while we were there and graciously granted us an interview.
Inners Shows is a third generation company with two units that currently books fairs, festivals, and carnivals in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, And Maryland. Ed Inners Jr. and Donna Inners own and operate the show with Donna running one unit and Ed running the other.
Inners shows started in 1909 in York, PA as Inners Amusement Company with Ed Jr,s grandfather, Frances Grover Cleveland Inners and his Grandmother, Mazie Jacobs. Inners Shows started with a couple of food stands and then ventured into the ride side of the business.
The first ride they purchased was a kiddie airplane ride which is still in use today. When the wings fell off of the airplanes the ride was used as a swinging boat ride until it was refurbished back into a plane ride which is now known as the Jet Ride. Frances Inners passed away in 1955 and the company was left to Ed Jr,s father and mother, Ed Inners Sr. and Mareta Inners who continued to operate and expand the carnival. In 1991 Ed Sr. suffered a debilitating stroke that lead him to turn over the day to day operations to his son, Ed Jr. Mareta continued to carry on the tradition of the carnival. Ed Sr. passed away in 1997 but Mareta can still be found working in the Candy Apple or Cotton Candy trailer or anywhere she,s needed these days. Frances Inners had a dream of owning a Ferris Wheel but he was unable to afford one prior to his passing. In his memory, the family purchased a Garbrick 10 seat wheel shortly after his passing.
As with a lot of carnival companies, Inners Shows is a family affair, Ed Sr,s brother Jake joined the business after spending four years in the Air Force, he expanded their ride lineup to include a Carousel and the Paratroopers. Jake stayed with the company until 1974, when he purchased the equipment and routes of Reynolds Rides and Amusements of Maryland and formed his own company, Majestic Midways. In 1991 Donna Moore came into the company with sixteen concessions and game trailers. Donna would later marry into the family and become Donna Inners, taking over one of the units.
Once Ed Jr. began managing the day to day operations he made additions and upgrades to the company. They added a Rapid Slide, Jitterbug (Way-out swings), Firehouse Playhouse from Highlite Manufacturing, a Merry-Go-Round, a Spin Ride Dizzy Dragons from Sellner, Hi-Roller, Chance Skydiver, a Titanic inflatable, and upgraded the show,s transportation fleet.
Inners currently has twenty-seven rides on their show which includes the Sidewinder, a Mixer, the Musik Express, Hi-Roller, the Scat, a Trabant, Ferris Wheel, Jitterbug Swing, a Supershot, Paratrooper, Hustler, Sea Ray and two inflatables, purchased new additions this season. They also have ten Kiddie rides including the Jet Ride and a Hampton Quad Runner which they received in a trade for their Skydiver. They have several bunkhouses, utility equipment, generator trailers and several other vehicles including two new trucks that Donna purchased during the off season.
Some of the rides set up at the Colonial Beach spot were the Hi-Roller, Sea Ray, Firehouse Funhouse, and Rapid Slide. Also present was the Floss, Candy Apple and Funnel Cake trailers owned by Donna and fourteen gamew.Each off season the rides are all taken to their Winter Quarters in North Carolina for maintenance, painting and refurbishing. Inners fully refurbishes two rides every off season. In an effort to cut costs, Inners Shows is attempting to downsize next season and combine the two routes into one.
Donna said that the economy is not the greatest for the industry right now, and that some of her biggest challenges in the industry are insurance and the lack of drivers. Employees are a big focus for Inners Shows as Donna Inners stated "If it weren,t for the employees there would be no us".
Some of Inners key personnel are Tommy Salater who has been with the show longer than Donna and Ed have been together and Robert McMannis, another long time employee. Salater is Inners ride supervisor and McMannis is a driver and a Kiddie ride operator. During our visit all of the employees were nice and courteous and the event was busy.
Even though it has been a tough economic year Inners still has a full schedule which includes several new events this season. Some of the new spots include Manassas, VA; Richmond, VA and Alexandria, VA and they are booked with Majestic Midway to play in Baltimore, MD next to Camden Yards. So far the weather has cooperated and has not had a negative impact on the season.
Into their 101st season, Inners Shows continues to attract guests with a good mix of new and vibrant colored rides, older nostalgic rides, good customer service, clean, friendly, knowledgeable staff, exciting games and delicious food.