Hurricane Sandy wrecked several amusement parks along the Jersey shore, but carnivals playing the New York and New Jersey were spared from the devastation, according to officials from four traveling shows.
The dramatic photograph of a roller coaster surrounded by water at a flooded park in Seaside Heights, N.J. was one example of the extreme damage suffered by the old-time pier parks, some of which were completedly washed away from the late October storm, said Bill Reiss, owner of Blue Sky Amusements in Long Island, N.Y.
Blue Sky, as well as Big Ben's Midway, another Long Island carnival, and Skelly's Amusements of Williamstown, N.J., were finished for the 2012 season with most of their equipment packed up and stored in winter quarters. Campy's Amusements, meanwhile, of West Patterson, N.J., made it through the storm with 11 rides set up at a Halloween date in Vernon, N.J.
"We were very fortunate," said Keith Campanello. "We stripped most of the rides before the storm and the equipment we did have set up survived without damage. We took down the Hy-5 wheel, Dragon Wagon, Tilt bonnets, canvas and the lighter equipment.
"If we were further south it might have been a different story," Campanello said. "We were in north Jersey, we weren't along the coast where the brunt of the storm hit. The parks did everything they could to prepare for the storm but you can't take a [permanent] coaster down."
Both Blue Sky and Campy's Amusements helped local businesses by renting their big generators to keep the electricity flowing in areas that were otherwise without power after getting hit hard by the storm. Campanello rented his 500-kilowatt generator for $5,000 a week and his 250-kilowatt unit for $3,000 a week. Both were used by factories in Morris County. "We were getting a ton of calls for help," Campanello said.
Blue Sky rented their generators to a local hospital in Long Island, among other businesses, Reiss said. "We were reasonable with our rates, we didn't [gouge] anybody," he said.
Reiss' show set up a week before the hurricane in Bergen County, N.J. and tore down Saturday night, two days before the hurricane struck the area, which turned out to be "the heart of the storm," Reiss said.
"We had everything just about packed up and ready to go in our winter quarters in Long Island," he said. "My house, my shop, we sat pretty well. The Jersey pier lost a lot of complete parks. Seaside Heights lost 30 of 35 rides."
Benny Martinez, owner-operator of Big Ben's Midway, was done with the season and was able to rent a few generators as well to businesses in need. "Everybody on Long Island was OK," Martinez said.
Skelly's Amusements, located between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, was also finished for the year with no damage done to its equipment, said owner-operator Mike Skelly.
"We knew the storm was coming," he said. "It sort of missed us in terms of the heavy rain to the south and the flooding to the north. The eye came over the top of us but we didn't lose power at all. Very fortunate."
As of the second week of November, there were pockets of New York and New Jersey still without power, carnival officials said. Skelly, reached on the road driving through the Poconos in Pennsylvania, said he saw power lines down 50 miles north of his home in New Jersey, an indication that many residents were still living in the dark.
All things considered, Skelly Amusements had a good summer en route to one of its best years ever, Skelly said. "We're still catching up from last year though, which was one of our worst," he said.