|Exclusive News and Interviews
Illinois Fair Convention
Show owners have new purchases, positive outlook
By Matt Cook
Photo courtesy of Matt Cook
MCW had the opportunity to catch up to many showmen at the Illinois Fair convention in Springfield. The mood among show owners was cautiously optimistic after a solid season in 2010. New purchases were being made and common problems such as fuel pricing and the game business were identified.
Tony and Willie Lowery of Lowery Carnival were attending the convention for the second year. They had a hospitality suite on the 12th floor as well as a display table in the trade show. They said that they recently took delivery of an ARM Vertigo just before the Louisiana State Fair. The ride is currently operating in West Palm Beach with Wade Shows. After West Palm, they will also book the piece into San Antonio Livestock Shows with Wade.
In 2010, the show made its first appearance in Northern Illinois for the Winnebago County Fair in Pecatonica, IL which was previously played by Spectacular Midways and Jeff Blomsness, All Star Amusements. Tony said the fair was extremely happy with their show and that they would be returning in 2011. The show jumped over 300 miles from the St. Louis area into Pecatonica and 300 miles south after the fair. They brought in a wide assortment of equipment including their Expo Wheel, Full Tilt, Super Sizzler, Sea Dragon, Zipper (Chain Saw), Tilt-A-Whirl, Wacky Worm, Mardi Gras and several others. They also booked in Todd Armstrong,s Wisdom Himalaya and Freddy Miller's Majestic X-Treme. Lowery hopes to build on their 2010 performance.
Like many show owners, Lowery expressed an interest in revitalizing the game segment of thebusiness. He noted that a cashless system similar to what Guy Levitt has implemented may be an option to help increase revenue on his games.
On Friday, Pat Repp and Tommy Thebault were present from NAME. The company was again hosting its annual party in their 3rd floor suite on Saturday evening. Pat said the Astro unit added two new spots to their Northern Illinois route, Sterling and Oglesby. Pat explained that Steamboat Days in Burlington, IA shortened its dates from two weeks to one week which enabled his unit to jump from Burlington to Sterling, IL. Having worked with the committee in Sterling during his tenure with CDAC Amusements, he was excited to return to the event.
Wes Sparks has been busy working on the Astro unit's equipment at it's Crystal Lake, Illinois facility. Sparks was working on the show,s Tornado and Orbiter. In February, he will return to Texas when Astro,s fair unit opens for the season. At that time, Rich Wyatt will continue winter quarter duties in Crystal Lake.
Each year, the company tries to rotate major rides across their units in order to try and give their events something new and different. This year, the Spin Out will be leaving the Astro Unit and will play the Canadian Unit with Tony Diaz. In return, the Rainbow (ARM Ali Baba) will join the Astro Chicago unit and Repp's Fair Unit.
Fantasy Amusements is another carnival that had a booth in the IL trade show area. President Bill Johnson was excited to announce that his company's new KMG Freak Out will be delivered sometime in May. He said the piece will have LED lighting and also a few changes in theme from some of the previous models. Bill is also excited about his upcoming chairman position with the OABA.
MCW also visited briefly with Dominic Marconni (Family Attractions) who was also in his second year at the Illinois Fair Convention. In 2010, he purchased John Luehr's Spectacular Attractions route. Dominic said that he was looking to purchase several used pieces to supplement his existing arsenal. He said that he would love to buy new, but with prices near $200,000 for a kiddy ride and $500,000 for a major ride, a show of his size just could not afford it. Currently, the show operates as two complete units and combines for some of its larger events.
Greg Maturo of Great American Shows reported his show was faring well. He said that his crew was busy rebuilding the show's two Tilt-A-Whirls and would soon be repainting the barrel on their Gravitron. He plans on selling one of the Tilt-A-Whirls after it gets out of the shop. Maturo currently travels as far north as Chicago and as far south as it's Madisonville, KY, the show's home base. Greg's father, Lawrence Maturo, who is now semi-retired from the business, still plays one event a year with a handful of joints on the independent midway of the Evansville Nut Festival, Evansville, IN.