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Showmens League to host annual Christmas Party this Friday


By Don Muret

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The Showmen's League of America's annual holiday party is Friday, Dec. 6 at Hanson Park Elementary School in Chicago. There will be two live productions, at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Local ringmaster Keith Strauss will again be the master of ceremonies, leading a showcase of acts featuring clowns, jugglers and magicians. In addition, Santa Claus is scheduled to make special appearance to distribute goody bags provided by carnival toy suppliers to the school's 1,500 students in attendance. The club itself makes popcorn and cotton candy for the kids.

For almost 70 years now, the Showmen's League has produced a holiday celebration for underprivileged children, including the past 20 to 30 years for Hanson Park school, a public institution that provides education for many physically challenged kids among its general population. The SLA's tradition began in 1946 at the old Sherman Hotel in Chicago, and has played multiple venues over the past 60-plus years. In the 1990s, the famed Medinah Temple played host to the party under the direction of the late Pat Delaney, the SLA's former secretary. After the temple closed and was turned into a department store in 2000, the party moved to a union hall before finding a home at Hanson Park's gymnasium over the past 12 years. The school is located at Long and Fullerton avenues on the northwest side of Chicago.

On Dec. 5, the night before the party, the Showmen's League will have a dinner at its headquarters in downtown Chciago and invites all members for an evening of fellowship, said Peter Kasin, co-chairman of the Christmas party and a member of the group's board of directors. The meal will be served at 7:30.

This year marks the 100th year of the Showmen's League, the carnival industry's oldest organization founded in 1913.. The SLA will induct its 2014 president Dale Merriam during its annual banquet, Dec. 20 in Las Vegas. Merriam is the owner of Merriam's Midway Shows, a Texas-based carnival with roots in Minnesota. The banquet is part of the International Association of Fairs and Exposition's annual conference and trade show. Chris Atkins of Luehrs Ideal Rides steps down as 2013 SLA president. Paul Kasin and Ron Porter move to first and second vice chairs, respectively, and Debbie Powers will take over the group's third vice chair in Vegas. Tom Powell, former editor of Amusement Business, was set to go through the chairs but has declined due to health reasons, Kasin said.

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