Mike Reisinger has beefed up his carnival by purchasing some big pieces of equipment over the past several months.
Reisinger, 55, owns Michael's Amusements of Fayetteville, N.C. The carnival has been in operation for 23 years. Reisinger, born into the business, owns 33 rides. His show plays Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Ohio.
This year, the show features a Freak Out purchased from Playworld Amusements, The piece, owned by Playworld principals Mike Curry and Scott Bradd, became available after Jeff Brady, owner of the Michigan-based show, made a decision after the 2013 season to no longer run a full-service carnival, according to the company's website.
Reisinger shared the cost to buy the Freak Out with Joe Frankowski, his partner in the transaction. Frankowski is the co-owner of D&J Amusements, a suburban Chicago carnival he runs with Dan Driskill. Together, they worked for the old Spectacular Midways owned by Dan's father, Bob Driskill. Spectacular Midways is no longer in existence.
Reisinger and Frankowski worked out an agreement where they will share use of the Freak Out over the course of the season. Michael's Amusements will take it on the road for its fall and spring dates in the Carolinas. In turn, D&J Amusements will set up the attraction on its midway in Chicago during the months of June and July.
The Freak Out paid dividends earlier this year in Florida, according to Reisinger. It was among the top-grossing rides on Michael's midway at a church festival in Hollywood, Fla., a lineup that included a Vertigo, Drop Tower, Tilt-a-Whirl, Sizzler, Scat, Scream and Musik Express.
Michael's Amusements takes the month of June off and works on equipment in the shop before heading to Ohio to play county fairs from July 4 through Labor Day.
The carnival also sends a half-dozen rides to New Jersey for McCafferty Entertainment, a Jersey operation, to set up at church bazaars and festivals in that state. Reisinger and fellow show owner Danny McCafferty are long-time friends dating to their formative years working for the old Dell and Travers Show in Greensboro, N.c.
In Reisinger's opinion, it makes greater sense for his carnival to take a midseason break in June instead of playing some mediocre spots where the best he might do is break even before hitting his busy stretch of county fairs.
The show's other ride purchases include a Cliffhanger acquired from a New Jersey amusement park and a Scream from Eric Bates. In addition, Reisinger bought a half-dozen new Ford pickups and tractors to help move the carnival.
Michael's operates in Florida from Halloween through April 1, which includes a nine-week run at Santa's Enchanted Forest, a themed holiday event in Miami tied to an independent midway. The show then plays 14 of its own dates before supervising Amusements of America's Florida church route in the spring in conjunction with Frankowski.
It's an ideal route, Reisinger said. There are a few big jumps as the show moves from North Carolina to Ohio and Florida, but otherwise, it does not move more than 100 miles after it sets up in those three states, he said.
The Central Carolina Fair in Greensboro is one of the carnival's bigger fairs. It's held on the grounds of the Greensboro Coliseum complex and fair manager Chris Kelly has done a nice job growing the event over the past few years by booking multiple nights of entertainment at the new amphitheater on site, Reisinger said. This year's fair dates are Sept. 12-21.
Reisinger's family is heavily involved in the business. His wife Sherry runs the office. Their 23-year-old daughter Whitney works food concessions and rides. Three nephews, Albert, Robert and Joshua Irwin, move some of the show's big rides. Their contributions to the operation help ease the strain of finding qualified labor, Reisinger said.
Most of the fairs booked by Michael's Amusements run pay-one-price ride promotions. The fairs often cater to an older crowd and offer those midway specials to give them their money's worth, Reisinger said. But he's not a fan of the promotions because they are hard on the help and the equipment. Patrons pay $20 to $25 for a wristband, and "all of a sudden ... they feel like you work for them," he said.