Andy Schoendienst, whose family owns Luehrs Ideal Rides, says he has never had a bad season in the carnival business.
Give Schoendienst credit. It pays to have a sunny disposition in an industry largely dependent on the weather.
"We had a lot of rain this year and a lot of heat and who knows what's going to happen with the economy after this fiscal cliff issue is resolved," Schoendienst said. "Hopefully, we'll survive, but business is good."
The carnival calls Florida home but spends the season playing Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. The show is closing in 60 years of operation after the late Hub Luehrs founded the carnival in 1957. Hub's daughters, Lorelei Schoendienst, Andy's wife, and Jean Luehrs, have carried on the business. It's now four generations strong with Andrew Schoendienst, 25, Andy and Lorelei's son, a ride owner and a principal part of the show.
"I'm afraid to give him a title," his father joked.
The carnival has made a few recent ride purchases for 2013, including a Surf's Up from Rides 4 U's Len Soled. The show plans to re-theme it as a Volkswagen bus, Andy Schoendienst said. The family also upgraded support equipment with new a bunkhouse.
There are some new dates on the horizon but Schoendienst declined to specify those bookings. As of early January, the family planned to attend the Indiana and Illinois fair meetings to firm up those events, he said.
One mainstay is the Arkansas State Fair in Little Rock, where Luehrs books about 10 rides with Deggeller Attractions. The Luehrs and Deggeller families are friends and neighbors in Florida. Andrew Schoendienst is responsible for Luehrs equipment in Arkansas, as well as the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, where North American Midway Entertainment runs the midway.
"Whenever I send something somewhere, he manages it," his father said. "He'll take care of the unit."
The Clairs' daughter, Kristin, and her husband, Chris Atkins, take care of the food on the show. Chris Atkins is the son of Tom Atkins with Mighty Thomas Carnival.
Ask Schoendienst about fuel costs and he says there were "mainly up" in 2012. "In fact, one of my drivers called me recently and was so excited because diesel had dropped to $3.40 a gallon. It was $4.25 a gallon in the fall and that was high."
The carnival relies on foreign labor but continues to use domestic help as well. Unlike some other shows, Luehrs has no problems hiring American workers, Schoendienst said.
"All in all, we had a good year," he said. "We're living the life."