Sunny skies brightened the mood on day two of the 2012 IISA Convention. Crowds seemed to swell and there was plenty of activity at the exhibit booths. Many vendors remained optimistic about the outlook for 2012 with early indications pointing towards a good buying climate.
Betsy and R.C. Cole of Cole Amusements Co., Inc from Covington, VA were on hand for the first time in several years. The Coles recently purchased an Eli Hy-5 II wheel with a "magnificent" lighting package. Betsy Cole said the show had a "very good" year and the couple was looking forward to 2012.
The Coles recently renewed their wedding vows on December 13th for their 25th anniversary. Following the ceremony, they took a second honeymoon to Key West.
The Coles are truly a family show, playing mostly in the western portion of Virginia but also venturing east and sometimes north towards D.C. Daughter Megan is a freshman at Virginia Tech where she plans to major in Psychology. She hopes to work one day as a child psychologist. Son Austin is a Junior in high school and plans to become a Pediatrician. Both kids help on the show during the summer.
Betsy said her recently updated husband was even better than the first version. Congratulations to them both!
Another family affair is Owen Trailer where father Ross and sons Jeff and David were manning the booth at the show. On display was a new Wacky Shack funhouse that will be going to Dick Stewart of Stewart Amusements.
Other projects in the pipeline include a Cuckoo Haus for West Coast Amusements, another for World,s Finest Shows and a Wacky Shack for Frasier Shows. The company hopes to do 8 to 9 projects this year.
Last year, Owen built 4 high-end bunkhouse units for Mike Wood. They have also built ten for Ray Cammack Shows and 17 over the course of three years for North American Midway Entertainment. Owen doesn,t see a big market for his bunkhouses because they are built at the higher end of the market where there is less demand from show owners.
Owen Trailers was born in 1946 when Ross, father Loren, working in trailer sales, built a game trailer for a carnival operator he had met. Owens became friends with many carnival operators including a young Ron Burback, who was one of the first people he met in the industry. In 1957-58, he began building for Lloyd Hilligoss. Owens built games, food trailers and ticket boxes for Hilligoss and other shows. SJM Shows, Larry Davis, John Lopez and Western Pacific Shows made up the bulk of his business for 20 years.
In 1977 Ross Owen bought the company from his father and continued to grow the business. In 1992, after experimenting with similar ideas for year, he was approached by Guy Leavitt of Ray Cammack Shows to build a funhouse. After the first piece was built, the company began to take a new direction building fun houses and glass houses.
Owen sometimes muses with others about which company built the first food trailer in the industry. In 1955, his father built a 20 foot trailer for Pete Sutton which some claim was the first of its kind.
Owen has personally been coming to the IISA Trade Show since 1979 or 80. The Owen Trailer Company has been exhibiting for 18 years and they are looking forward to a fruitful experience at the show in 2012.
Each year, we have new faces stop by the MCW booth to visit. On Wednesday we met show owner Daniel Weaver, owner of Trowver Rides. The name is a combination of his wife,s maiden and married names.
Weaver bought Powell Amusements, a show that carried eight rides after spending over 40 years in the business as a food, game and ride operator. The show expanded to eleven rides and plays events in western Pennsylvania.
Right now the show carries only kiddie rides and plays festivals, firemen,s dates and community celebrations. Weaver says he is hoping to expand his ride arsenal so he can compete in the county fair market.
Another success story came by the booth, Philip Hendricks of Banana Derby. Phil is in his fifth season operating his show where monkeys act as jockeys, riding dogs around a track. Affectionately known as "Monkeys Riding Dogs" the show has been a big hit both with fairs and in the media.
Hendricks had an unusual path to the industry. He has been a circus fan since the age of six but his career path led him to the law. Hendricks was an attorney for 10 years in the Chicagoland area. His career included a five-year stint as an assistant prosecutor in DuPage County. He was even involved in a murder case where he took the confession of a murderer in a domestic case.
Even in college, his interest in the industry continued to increase. Philip attended the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale which has one of the largest libraries in the country. The stacks included issues of Amusement Business magazine and Philip spent countless hours perusing the magazine, learning about the industry. He read books, articles and was particularly intrigued by ads selling side shows and freak animal shows.
Philip had an interest in animals at an early age when a trainer taught him how to train dogs with voice and hand commands. Over the years, Hendricks acquired animals for his "backyard zoo" in Oswego, IL. His inventory grew to include llamas, an emu, goats, dogs and many others.
In 1996 he had an opportunity to go to Alaska with Dick Garden,s circus. He had met and worked with Garden,s lion tamer assisting with the cats and learning about the act. When his friend broke his leg and was unable to perform, he and Hendricks struck a deal to bring Hendrick,s animals to Alaska along with a display of the cats. Having made this venture into the business, Hendricks was hooked.
He made a commitment to work in the industry but he had to wait two years for his cases to wind down in the legal system. He began training his dogs for an act and presented Captain Phil,s Canine Capers in the circus.
Hendrick,s soon took the bold step of buying Bob Childress, Hendricks Brother,s Circus, a company already named for him! It was on the circus that he met his first monkey, Gilligan. Hendricks saw how the monkey and the dogs interacted, with the monkey sometimes riding on the dogs, backs. The idea for the Banana Derby was born and Hendricks began planning an act he could book at fairs.
He advertised on the web and got his first booking, the Queen City Fair in Meridian, MS in June of 2007. The fair was approaching quickly in the fall and with the circus season winding down, Hendricks needed to add additional animals for the act. Reading the Chicago Tribune one day, he noticed an ad for a Capuchin monkey in Wisconsin. After making additional animal purchases, Hendricks presented the act in Meridian and took lots of pictures.
After the fair, he developed a brochure and began booking the act in earnest. He booked the Arizona State Fair, the Alabama State Fair, the New York State Fair and the Erie County Fair. In 2011 he played 21 dates, about half fairs and the other half carnival still dates. The show currently has four monkeys and five dogs.
On Wednesday, look for additional reporting on outdoor exhibits and we are recording more Pioneer videos to be posted soon.
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