Officially North American Midway Entertainment (N.A.M.E.) celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, but the company represents decades of midway experience. The self-proclaimed "largest midway provider in the world," is the rare carnival that traverses both sides of the Canadian/United States border, with a circuit that begins in March and winds down in November, but for Danny Huston, Owner / Chief Operations Officer, regardless of the milestone of ten years, his outlook remains optimistic.
"We expect 2014 to be another huge success for North American Midway Entertainment and our clients," said Huston.
While declining to discuss his revenue results, Huston insists that the company has continued the upward trajectory since its founding. "In 2013 our overall revenues were up and we expect 2014 to be another success," said Huston.
10th Amalgamated Year
North American Midway Entertainment was incorporated on October 13th, 2005, an amalgamation of what at the time were five leading midway providers in the Outdoor Amusement industry. The merging companies included Conklin Shows, which was founded in 1927 and at the time of amalgamation had become the largest midway provider in North America; Farrow Shows, incorporated in 1981; Astro Amusements, incorporated in 1973; and All Star Amusements, incorporated in 1974. According to Wikipedia, in 2006 N.A.M.E. also acquired Mid America Shows and several contracts and rides from Cumberland Valley Shows. Four years ago, on December 20th, 2010 Huston and Jeff Blomsness purchased N.A.M.E. from the Cypress Group.
At the time of the original merger, Conklin was the major midway providers to the Canadian market, which enabled N.A.M.E. to establish a foothold in the lucrative north country market. "We have so many great and long-standing partners in both countries and we make every effort to provide the best services possible," said Huston.
While the Canadian market is still profitable, rising energy costs remain a concern. "The main challenge for us is the fuel and trucking costs with all the miles we travel," he added.
Canada & U.S.
According to Huston, N.A.M.E. owns more than 200 rides, food and games concessions, providing entertainment "to approximately 15 million attendees at over 130 events annually, including 10 of the top 50 fairs in North America, in 20 states and 4 Canadian provinces."
He added that this "number is a steady number," but "we have several new events this year and currently are in the process of signing contracts with new clients."
The leading N.A.M.E. fairs in its 2014 season include: Eastern States Exposition - Springfield, Mass; Canadian National Exhibition - Toronto, Ontario; Calgary Stampede - Calgary, Alberta; Indiana State Fair - Indianapolis, Indiana; Illinois State Fair - Springfield, Illinois; Edmonton K-Days - Edmonton, Alberta; Mississippi State Fair - Jackson, Mississippi; Kentucky State Fair - Louisville, Kentucky; Miami Dade County Fair - Miami, Florida and South Carolina State Fair - Columbia, South Carolina.
"We truly do not have a favorite event," said Huston. " All of our events are important to us and we strive to always do our best no matter what size the venue is."
In other words, the company prides itself on its flexibility. "Our company is diverse and we have the ability to provide smaller events with 20 rides as well as the ability to play large events such as state fairs with as many as 100 rides," said Huston.
Enhanced Games/New Rides
Around the country, games are not as popular as they once were, but Huston insists that N.A.M.E. has mitigated the decline, maintaining top-of-the-line plush prizes and implementing an overall enhancement of the games division. "We begin with the simple concept that everyone likes to win and then we inundate our midways with quality stuffed animals and toys," said Huston. "Our Upgrade Program theme, together with the newly-designed canvas, clear and professional signage, and our energetic staff makes playing the games almost as much fun as winning. Our games are supervised by our management team to ensure that they meet our exacting standards."
For the 10th anniversary of the company, N.A.M.E. has re-introduced Remix, one of its signature rides. In fact, the company also acquired a new Remix so now two of its touring units can feature this crowd favorite. "Remix has been refurbished and we bought a new one," said Huston. "This high speed ride can best be described as an extreme version of the classic ride the Scrambler. The ride holds 36 passengers and sends riders spinning on six arms with each end holding three cars rotating on a vertical axis at approximately 21 RPMs. Each arm supports a cluster of cars, which rise into a 90 degree angle at a horizontal position. The center spins in one direction and the satellites spin in the opposite direction while the arms simultaneously spin outward. The brilliant colors on Remix make this a high-speed exciting ride that very few thrill riders will ever pass up."
Introducing new and/or refurbished rides is essential to the N.A.M.E. philosophy, "We always keep our Midways fresh with new rides each year, which attracts new guests and also retains happy guests who come back every year," he said.
While the Remix may get some new attention, the mainstays of the N.A.M.E. midway remain, "Our Giant Ferris Wheels and Roller Coasters are always perennial favorites for our guests."
In addition, he added that other new rides include a Himalaya, Fun House, and Zero Gravity as well as Elephant Ride and a Wacky Worm roller coaster, which are children's rides. "We are also refurbishing a Camel Fun House that will be ready soon," said Huston.
The most important improvement to the N.A.M.E. Kiddeland occurred in 2006, when it became smoke free. "We place smoke-free suggestion signage at all entrances to Kiddieland and placed other signs throughout Kiddieland," said Huston. "This is a volunteer / suggestion program that we do not enforce but have found the vast majority of our customers choose to not smoke while in the children's area. We also have implemented family-friendly pricing that is affordable for families."
One of the first shows of the year for N.A.M.E. was the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition, an 18-day Florida fair that concluded March 31st. According to fair organizers, per-capita spending was up more than 5 percent, including midway revenues and reportedly, Miami-Dade granted N.A.M.E. a contract extension through 2017. For Huston, the fair was a positive harbinger for the season. " We just completed the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and it was another success with increased attendance," he said. "We are expecting an overall great season. And, we are hoping after the long cold winter, fairgoers will be raring to go to have tons of fun on our Midways."
The secret is a simple one, making sure every experience at the Midway is a positive one. "We want each guest to leave our Midway with a smile and a happy memory of their day at the fair," Huston said. " We do that by providing the safest and most exciting rides, delicious food, fun games and workers who are attentive and kind to each guest."