The joint North Carolina/South Carolina Fair Association Convention was held January 5-7, 2011 at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The convention has been alternating between the two states, for two years it has been held in North Carolina and then one year in South Carolina. The next two years will be held in North Carolina as originally scheduled, however, it was decided that the two states would be not be holding the convention together though North Carolina will welcome delegates from South Carolina.
Sources close to both state delegations said talks were being initiated with North Carolina to join the Virginia convention in the future and South Carolina to possibly join with Georgia. Prior to holding the convention jointly, both North Carolina and South Carolina held separate conventions in their respective states.
Several new carnivals attended the convention for the first time. Art Gillette of Castle Rock Amusements was present, contemplating extending his season into the south or alternatively, possibly booking some equipment with other carnivals at southern fairs. Art reported that the Vermont State Fair, in what seems to be a pattern of back and forth over the past several years, will be going with Coleman Brothers Shows for their midway in 2011.
Another show new to the convention was Interstate Amusements of America, represented by Rob Lawrence. Lawrence said the company, now owned by Kelly Weaver for the past 2-3 seasons, has been playing primarily in Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky and Alabama but they were hoping to move east in the future to play North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Western New York. Lawrence said the show was booking largely for 2012 but there seemed to be several opportunities for a show of his size. The carnival carries about 25 rides including a Chance Rock and Roll, Pharaoh,s Fury, Wipeout, Sizzler, Tornado, Mulligan Wheel with LED package, Bumper Cars, kiddie rides and back end pieces.
Other shows present at the convention were Power,s Great American Midways, Reithoffer Shows, Amusements of America, Strates Shows, Dreamland Amusements, Wade Shows, North American Midway Entertainment, Big Rock Amusements, LLC (Matt McDonagh), Playworld Amusements, Smokey Mountain Amusements, Drew Expositions, Fun Rides and Brinkley Entertainment.
In the case of Ronnie Turner's Fun Rides, Turner has a unique role. Turner manages the Lee Regional Fair in Sanford, NC in addition to owning a small carnival. Turner uses Playworld Amusements for his fair, saying the company does "a great job, they are nice people". His own company, which he has operated for 15 years, plays 10 festivals and fairs in addition to booking independently. "We had a good season", said Turner, though he was worried about fuel prices looking ahead to 2011. Turner was interested in possibly adding an ice cream trailer to his operation. He currently plays an independent food route that includes the Minnesota State Fair, the North Carolina State Fair and the Dixie Classic Fair.
There were several midway changes talked about at the convention. Wade Shows signed the Robeson Regional Fair in Lumberton, NC and Reithoffer Shows will be returning to the Western Carolina State Fair where fair board member Warren Lucas is the new President of the South Carolina Association of Fairs. He takes over from Jerry Pitts of the Coastal Carolina Fair in Charleston, SC, the largest volunteer run fair in the U.S., according to Pitts. In Fayetteville, at the Cumberland County Fair, Harlen Bast will be coming from his park at the beach to play the fair in September. In Kinston, the Lenoir County Fair will be played by Amusements of America.
Looking unbelievably fit and sharp as ever, Morris Vivona, Sr., company CEO and still active unit manager, laid claim to being the oldest active showmen in the country. Morris turned 90! this past Halloween at the Coastal Carolina Fair where his birthday is always a cause for great celebration.
In a seminar held during the convention, Tom Chambers, amusement ride bureau chief for the North Carolina Department of Labor reported that 2010 was a good season given the economy. He called it one of the best and safest on record with no reportable incidents in 2010. Chambers credited the cooperation between the bureau, the fairs and the amusement ride companies as the major factor for the excellent performance in 2010. Chambers said the bureau began keeping a file on each amusement ride company that operated in the state in 2010. The results of the inspections will continue to be kept in a file for each amusement company so the inspectors can provide feedback to the shows regarding repetitive issues that could be reduced through training and equipment maintenance. In other changes for 2011 and beyond, Chambers said the state has begun their own training certification program for inspectors. When completed, there will be "ride specific" training for inspectors across the state. They are developing inspection forms and procedures for the program. Due to the high level of inspections requested, Chambers said the inspection division will be requiring a 10 working day notice for all inspection location requests. Chambers encouraged feedback from the participants both at the session and during the season, promising to listen to his "customers" and make the bureau better with each passing year.
During the luncheon, awards were announced for each category of fairs in North Carolina. The winners in the Agricultural category were: Category 1, Lenoir County Fair, Category 2, Columbus County Fair, Category 3, Wayne Regional Fair and for government sponsored fairs, the Dixie Classic Fair. Youth Award winners were: the Avery County Fair, Category 1, the Iredell County Fair, Category 2, the Wayne Regional Fair, Category 3 and the Dixie Classic Fair, Government Division. The media awards went to: the Stanley County Fair, Category 1, the Wilson County Fair, Category 2, the Wayne Regional Fair, Category 3. The Outstanding Fair awards were won by: Drexel Fair, Category 1, Columbus County Fair, Category 2, Wayne Regional Fair, Category 3. The Holmes/McBride award for outstanding contributions to the fair industry went to Bobby Brinkley for carnivals and Steve Mains, Hickory Fair, for the fair award.