CONCORD, N.C. ---- Nobody has to tell Les "Corky" Powers about the difficulties facing carnival owners these days.
Powers, whose family owns Powers Great American Midways, has observed several carnivals go out of business over the past year, which he believes is due in large part to federal regulation of businesses conducting interstate commerce.
"Every city, county and state has different rules and every time you turn around, there's something else to contend with," Powers said while his carnival was set up at the Cabarrus County Fair. "I can see more shows going out business."
"As a result, there are several fairs thinking about shutting down because they don't have a carnival," he said. "I've had some fairs call me up and say 'Name your price.' They're desperate for a carnival. But it's hard for a large carnival like us to play smaller dates. We have such a large staff and to set up only 10 rides at an event doesn't work."
"People still in [the carnival business] have such a love and passion for it. They don't want to give it up until they absolutely have to. Who else would want to do this kind of work? We love the business but to be honest we're ready to close for the season."
The Powers family has been through its own hardships over the past 12 months. A horrible ride accident during last year's N.C. State Fair left Anthony Gorham, a husband and father, with permanent injuries including brain damage, according to local reports.
The accident occurred on the Vortex, a ride operated by Joshua Macaroni and booked through Powers Great American Midways, the holder of the midway contract in Raleigh.
Lawsuits were filed against the two shows in addition to ride operator Tim Tutterrow and Joshua Macaroni, the owner of the Vortex whose family owns Family Attractions.
Corky Powers declined to comment on the accidents and the legal action because it remains tied up in litigation.
Most of the 90 to 95 pieces at this year's N.C. State Fair will be supplied by Powers Great American Midways and Wade Shows. One exception is the Delusion, owned by Dreamland Amusements, Powers said.
The state fair lineup will include three brand new Powers pieces: the Majestic Fly-O-Plane, the first portable model that's a reproduction of a park ride; a KMG Khaos, a pendulum-type ride similar to the Freak Out but one that does a complete 360; and the Spin Zone, made by Amusements Products.
The Fly-O-Plane made its debut at the New York State Fair before it was sent back to the Majestic Mfg. to be installed with "bells and whistles," including scenery and extra lighting, Powers said.
A fourth ride, the Wisdom Stampede, was delivered to Raleigh last year and returns in 2014. The Stampede was new to Cabarrus County though and the lines to ride the attraction were some of the longest at the fair.
Some other Powers rides showcased here and at the state fair might as well be classified as new pieces. The Speed has been completely refurbished after about eight years of operation. As it stands now, LED light packages cover 99 percent of the show's ride arsenal.
"Our shop works year-round," Powers said. "We trade equipment out as we see fit. We buy five to eight new trucks every year and are in the process of buying four new generators."
Wade Shows, owned by Frank Zaitshik, will bring its new Comet Coaster to the state fair, as well as the Rainbow, which Powers described as a "giant, Ali Baba-type ride."
The two shows work closely together. Powers Great American Midways sent a bunch of equipment to Syracuse for the state fair this year as Wade completed the first year of its contract there. It was a new beginning after Strates Shows played the state fair for 74 consecutive years.
Ride ticket prices have remained stable this year. Powers' goal is to continue to make outdoor entertainment affordable for families through wristband promotions. At Cabarrus County, the cost was $25 and $22 for advance sale. The advance discount used to be $5, Powers said.
"We cater to the local people who can't afford Disney," he said. "The fairs work with us as well to provide extra entertainment."
Powers has no complaints over labor. He's got a good crew and employs 49 international workers. The rest are Americans and many are longtime Powers employees.
Key managers and supervisors include concessions manager Steve Ianni, second unit manager Jeremy Thomas and George Campbell, second unit office manager. Powers' son, Eddie and daughter Tracy and their families own rides and games.
"The biggest supporter is my wife Debbie," he said.
Overall, the season has been a bit flat but if the show can finish off its North Carolina run of six fairs with good weather, it will be up over last year, Powers said. Expenses are greater but the price of diesel was down to $3.15 a gallon at the time the show filled its generators here.
"It's been up as high as $3.65 a gallon depending on the time of year," he said.
From Cabarrus County, which ran Sept. 5-13, the show traveled to Greenville, N.C. to play the Pitt County Fair, Sept. 16-21. Pitt County is an old Playworld Amusements date. It's one of the shows Powers mentioned that's no longer traveling over the road as a single unit.
Rowan County, the North Carolina fair Powers gave up to play Pitt County, was taken over by Dreamland Amusements. Powers Great American Midways had finished its contract at Rowan County, Powers said.