Danny Brown has no complaints about how things are going this season out west in the carnival business.
Brown's Amusements, owned and operated by Danny and his wife, Sherry, is based in Mesa, Ariz. To date, the weather has held up in Arizona and Colorado, the two states where the show plays the first few months of the year.
Most important, people have jobs, which is a good thing in the midst of an economy that can't seem to shake off the effects of a damaging recession. Brown's is holed up in Colorado for the next several weeks and the state's natural gas industry is keeping folks gainfully employed, according to the carnival's chief executive.
"Everybody's working," Brown said. "It's been a good run and one of our better years for weather."
The history behind Brown's Amusements is an inspirational story of how hard work can lead to a rewarding career. The Browns started out more than 30 years ago as independent concessionaires. Over the years, they grew their business to a point where they started buying rides and building a strong route covering Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. The show now has 32 rides split into two units on the road for 43 to 45 weeks a year, according to Brown. The carnival plays about 15 county fairs over that period of time.
Brown's Amusements has played one new fair this year, the Clark County Fair & Rodeo in Logandale, Nev. Clark County itself covers a lot of territory, including Las Vegas. Logandale is 45 minutes directly north of Vegas.
The April 11-14 proved to a nice run for the show with plenty of entertainment. The majority of attendees still originate from Sin City, Brown said. The week prior, the show plays the Yuma County (Ariz.) Fair, one of its biggest dates of the season.
After about six more weeks in Colorado, the carnival heads to Utah and Wyoming and dips into Idaho before heading back south to Arizona to play fall fairs for a month and half.
In the midst of some of the country's most rugged terrain, the show does its best to keep the jumps manageable, with no more than 125 to 150 miles between events, Brown said.
Brown's Amusements closes the season with corporate rentals and parties in December. It's always nice to get paid upfront for those dates, Brown said.
The carnival's newest attraction is a Pharoah's Fury, which Brown purchased at the end of last year and totally rebuilt for 2012. It's a solid ride, takes only one trailer, is easy to set up and tear down and generates significant revenue due to its high capacity, Brown said.
Help hasn't been a problem. The carnival relies heavily on foreign labor, employing more than 50 Hispanics under the H2B Visa program for the past eight years. As is the case with other shows, Brown said he's glad to have a program providing reliable workers.
For the past four years, Brown's Amusements has been using tokens as one option to pay for rides, games and food on the midway.
"Everything goes into a machine, even for food," Brown said. "It cuts down on the cost for us having to buy tickets every week and also cuts down on the lines at the ticket boxes."
Customers that prefer to pay for rides and concessions with credit cards and debit cards can buy tickets directly from the show office. The carnival does not charge those patrons a fee to pay with plastic, Brown said.
All told, the investment to buy token machines cost about $50,000. Brown got the idea for using tokens from Pat Crabtree of Crabtree Amusements. "I picked his brain," Brown said. "He's a friend of mine and I thought we should do it too."
CLICK HERE to view photos of Browns Amusements from the 2012 Yuma County Fair