COLUMBIA, S.C. ---- As the 2013 season draws to a close, North America Midway Entertainment was busy entertaining patrons at three locations, including the South Carolina State Fair.
In addition, the show had units set up at the Mississippi State Fair in Jackson and the West Side Nut Club, the annual fall festival in Evansville, Ind.
The international unit operated about 75 rides here in Columbia, the state capital, playing a spot that for several years was held by the old Conklin Shows before it was folded into NAME several years ago.
The same is true in Jackson, where the old Farrow Shows was headquartered and played the fair before it was also incorporated into North American Midway.
The old Miller Amusements, a Chicago-based show, held the contract in Evansville for many years before NAME took over. Rich Wyatt, Miller's former operator, is now a North American Midway unit manager.
For all units, it has been a banner season and the carnival is up over last year, according to Jeff Blomsness, the show's co-owner. His partner, NAME co owner Danny Huston, was in Evansville overseeing the operation at the Nut Club.
The international unit had a record ride gross at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass., said Tony Diaz, unit president. It was up 7 percent over last year's record number, Diaz said.
NAME started the season in the spring at the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair, where the show signed a four-year extension.
Diaz still can't get over how quickly the Calgary Stampede recovered after a massive flood crippled the fairgrounds in late June, less than two weeks before the event kicked off on July 4.
The Scotiabank Saddledome, the site of concerts during the Stampede, and the Big Four Building, home of children's exhibits, were both filled with water. Due to contamination from flooding, there was no foodservice allowed for several days while the site was cleaned up, Diaz said.
The Big Four building opened in time for the Stampede, as did the grandstand where the famous chuckwagon races are held. The Saddledome re-opened for live music during the second half of the event.
Thousands of people volunteered to clean up the property with work continuing 24/7 to ensure the Stampede would go on as scheduled.
"It was the 101st year and they were going to do whatever it took to get open on time," Diaz said. "Other construction projects in town were put on hold and they rebuilt the track. The whole town basically hauled in dirt. I don't know of anybody else in the world that could have pulled it off.
"I pulled in six days before the event," Diaz said. "Operationally, there were some delays but we secured some parking locations nearby. We had only four to five days to get everything set up instead of the normal eight days. But we have good staff on this unit and got through it."
The carnival was down a bit due to the weather but the Stampede still managed to draw one million in attendance, Diaz said.
The Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, another key NAME contract, was steady and basically on par with the 2012 fair, he said.
The Liberty Village neighborhood surrounding the fairgrounds has seen a resurgence in development as the population moves closer to the inner city, and a great number of CNE patrons walk or use mass transit to get to the event, Diaz said.
A new zipline provided by the CNE has proved to be a popular attraction that residents can see from their condominiums, he said.
Edmonton also proved to be a solid run after the fair rebranded itself as K Days, Diaz said. It was known was Klondike Days for years before changing its name to Capital Ex. Now, it's known as K Days, an abbreviated version of the original title.
The South Carolina State Fair closes Oct. 20. From here, North American Midway heads to the Greater Gulf State Fair in Mobile, Ala.,which runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 3.
"I was in Mobile [Oct. 10] and the fair has undergone new management over the past 18 months," Diaz said. "It's run by the Jaycees and you can only serve in that organization until the age of 40. There is an influx of new people working very hard. Some of the older ones continue to help."
NAME's other units, meanwhile, head to Texas to play a fall fair in McAllen, the Space Coast State Fair and Coconut Festival in Florida and the Brunswick Exchange Club Fair in Georgia. Those are the final four spots before NAME comes off the road for good in 2013.
Diaz lives in south Texas, not far from McAllen, and during his tenure with Farrow he helped develop a spring route along the Rio Grande Valley. NAME took over those spots, including Borderfest in Hidalgo, five miles from the Mexico border.
The show held the line on purchasing new equipment this year, Diaz said. The KMG Speed returned for the second year in South Carolina. The carnival purchased another model and themed it as the Mach III for a separate unit.
The pieces perform well and are great show pieces, he said. "As many people are watching it as there are waiting line to ride it."
Ticket prices remained stable for 2013 although the show did raise the price of its armband to $28 in South Carolina, a $3 increase over last year. It's good for the whole day and remains a bargain, Diaz said.
"We try not to be over aggressive with ticket prices," he said. "We raise them every two to three years depending on the event. We provide good value with the amount of devices and we provide and the hours of operation."
Help is always challenging but NAME is blessed with a strong crew of senior management to manage crews running in the hundreds, Diaz said.
Tom Thebault, Tim Merkel and Blake Huston are unit managers. Pat Repp is general manager of the Astro unit and concessions managers are Gary Magyoran and Patrick Hadley.
Wayne Kunz is operations manager for the international unit and Wes Sparks and John Anderson are midway managers. Bob Gill, another Farrow veteran, is office manager.
Dan Wagner is chief financial officer and Terry Foreman is vice president of financial operations. Mike Rinehart and Tricia Taylor share duties as safety director. Patti McClain Power is director of guest services. Mike Sievers is director of business development.