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Ray Cammack Shows adds five new rides for 2014


By Don Muret

Photo courtesy of

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Ray Cammack Shows was expected to take delivery of a new Galaxy rollercoaster in time to play the Los Angeles County Fair later this month, according to Tony Fiori, the carnival's longtime director of media relations.The portable coaster is one of about five new attractions for a show widely regarded as one of the best and most progressive carnivals in North America.

One example is the carnival's mobile application that can be downloaded for free on smartphones. Not many other carnivalsare tuned into that piece of technology.

Guy and Charlene Leavitt own the business that turned 50 years old in 2013. Guy Leavitt historically shies away from interviews and lets Fiori do the talking for the show. In addition to the Galaxy, RCS purchased a new Wave Swinger, the Pelican Splash, a kid's flume ride, and three concession trailers:Photo By Pickle Pete's, Biggie's BBQ and Fried Affair selling deep-fried Oreos.

The Pelican Splash and Swinger were already operating at the Orange County Fair, Fiori said.The carnival plays only about a dozen dates a year but those events are some of the most lucrative in the fair and festival industry. Last year, the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, Los Angeles CountyFair, San Diego County Fair (Del Mar) and the Arizona State Fair all ranked in the top 10 of the top 50 fairs in North America. All are RCS dates.

The Phoenix-based show traditionally kicks off the season in Houstonat Reliant Park, a large property covering Reliant Stadium, home ofthe NFL's Houston Texans, and other entertainment venues.Despite a final weekend of rain, the month-long event drew attendancein the 2.4 million to 2.5 million range, typical for the livestockshow, Fiori said. RCS has played the date for about 20 years."This year, they made some changes and gave us some more room to setup rides as the event has expanded," he said.

Next up were two dates closer to home, the University of Arizona Spring Fling and the Pima County Fair, both in Tucson. For the Spring Fling, RCS moved its lot back to the U of A campus for the first time in 15 years, Fiori said. It was previously held at Rillito Park Race Track, a horse racing facility. This year, the event celebrated its 40th anniversary, and after some "politicking" by local officials, the Spring Fling relocated back to the school grounds to mark the occasion, he said.

The exact location of the midway moved after new buildings were constructed on the site of the old lot at the school, Fiori said. RCS set up 35 rides on campus.The Pima County Fair is actually about 15 miles outside of Tucson and RCS beefed up its midway to include 50 rides, he said. In between those two dates, RCS set up its Grand Wheel at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. The event started in 1999 and over the past 15 years it has grown into one of the largest music festivals in the country, drawing about 90,000 people buying three-day passes.

The carnival played a new event this year, the Conejo Valley Days, May
8-11 in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Fiori said the festival needed a carnival and had been in touch with RCS over the years about potentially filling the date. This year, it worked out, he said.The show stays in California for most of May through September with a string of impressive dates --- the National Orange Show, Del Mar, the Orange County Fair, Antelope Valley Fair and the L.A. County Fair.

Del Mar has been an independent midway for many years and RCS set up 23 rides this year. The midway itself was up in ride revenue, Fiori said. 
"Weather was great and the fair management does a great job," he said,tipping his hat to Tim Fennell, the fairgrounds' CEO.

As of early August, the show was still playing the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa. Last year, the month-long event drew 1.37 million patrons, placing eighth among the top 50 fairs. RCS was off to a great start over the first half of the fair thanks to wonderful California weather, Fiori said. "The economy is getting better and we have nothing to complain about," he said. As per tradition, the carnival will conclude the season at the Arizona State Fair in its hometown of Phoenix.

All told, RCS carries 85 rides, 55 games and 25 food concessions and the show owns 98 percent of the equipment. Key personnel includes Ben Pickett, vice president of purchasing and new development, and his wife, Joy, the carnival's chief financial officer. Joy Pickett is Guy and Charlene Leavitt's daughter. Chris Leavitt, their son, is a vice president in charge of lot layout. Kim Palmeiri is in charge of food and games, Fiori said. Annie Kastl and Steve Charleston also help manage the game operation. All three have been employed with RCS for many years, Fiori said. Fiori himself has been working for the carnival for 35 years. "It seems like yesterday when I started," he said. "We're always looking to improve and for the show to get better and safer."

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