Wednesday, December 10th concluded a fruitful 2014 IAFE Convention and Trade Show for vendors and participants. By trade show closing at 2:30 pm indications are that fairs are spending money on entertainment and services.
The trade show contained many of the vendors you would expect to see including numerous ticketing companies, acts and agents for entertainment, insurance companies, suppliers and even a few oddities such as Tempur-Pedic Mattresses and BMW Motorcycles.
Several carnivals also exhibited during the show, hoping to snare a contract or make connections that could lead to business in the future. Frazier Shows was one of those exhibitors.
Bryan Broetsky, son of show owner Steve Broetsky, was working his booth on the show floor. The show was purchased by Broetsky 14 years ago from Cecil Frazier. At the time, the company carried 18 rides and played 4 states.
In the ensuing years, the Broetskys have grown the company to 27 rides, covering seven states. The show now plays Arizona, Nevada, Nebraska, Wyoming, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. Some of the top events on the route include stops at the Navajo Nation Fair in Window Rock, AZ, participation in the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, and the fair in Jackson Hole Wyoming.
Frazier Shows was promoting their new Freak Out Ride which was delivered in Nebraska earlier this year. They also purchased a Zamperla Crop Duster and Chance Century Wheel from Dave Helms. Another showcase ride for Frazier Shows is the Experience, one of only two operating in the country.
In addition to the rides, the show has purchased several new Peterbilt tractors. These tractors are "decked out" and placed near the midway during events for the crowd to admire. The show has found that children and families even take their picture with the trucks during the event.
Broetsky, a Communications major in his senior year at ASU, has been working with the show's Facebook page to promote their events. Broetsky has purchased ads and asked for likes and comments during giveaways of wristbands. The strategy has paid off as the show has garnered over 20,000 likes, probably the most of any carnival in the US!
Bryan Broetsky has two sisters, Ashley and Andrea, both of whom assist in the office and help run the show.
The show opens the 2nd week in February and closes the week before Thanksgiving. The route both begins and ends in the show's hometown of Phoenix.
Michael Wood is the OABA's 1st Vice Chairman and will be taking the Chairman's seat in February of this year. This is the 50th year for the OABA and Wood finds it special that the first OABA leader was his mentor and father's business partner, Glenn Wade. His father, "Red" Wood served as Chairman in the organization's 26th year.
Wood, an independent ride operator, plays many of the largest fairs in the US, and has been deeply involved in what he considers to be one of the most important issues facing the industry today; labor.
Wood believes the mid-term elections helped the industry's cause and he is hoping legislators more friendly to the OABA's position will be attaining power in Congress.
The OABA recently hired two new lobbyists, Greg Hartley and Joan Galvin, in May of 2014 to help "step up the game" for the OABA.
Issues the OABA would like to see addressed include bunkhouse credits, staggered arrivals for H2B workers, better fair wage methodology and relief from the cap of 66,000 for all users, possibly including a returning worker exemption.
The looming spending bill due by Dec. 12 holds hope that the lobbyists will convince friendly legislators to include riders to defer the interim wage rule. The Service Contract Act sets wage rate according to "prevailing" rates.
Another item Wood would like to seek help with is the long recruiting periods and the requirement to advertise until 72 hours before the period begins.
"About 50 - 60% of carnivals have H2B workers", said Wood. Even smaller carnivals and food concession operators are starting to use the H2B program because of the benefits of being able to contract a dedicated, skilled workforce.
When asked about potential problems such as the language barrier for workers dealing with US guests, Wood said the issue was worse in areas without a large Spanish speaking component. He said many shows were working to overcome language issues by providing training in English and installing message repeater systems on the rides.
Wood is quick to point out the benefits for the foreign workers. They are able to come to the US and develop skills. Many earn certifications and certificates such as CDL licenses, crane licenses, forklift operator licenses, welding certifications and food service certifications. These skills are extremely beneficial to the worker when they return to their home country.
The exchange rate is another big factor, said Wood. In Mexico, the workers would earn 300 to 400 pesos a week as opposed to $300 - $400 dollars in the US. Many workers earn as more or more than their parents back at home who have been in the workforce their whole life. They send part of their wages back home to support their families in many cases.
Wood is optimistic about effecting some of the changes the OABA is pushing for during the term of his Chairmanship.
As the trade show was winding up, there are several breaking news items that were discussed and we are working on full stories in the coming weeks. They are:
1) West Virginia Fair Manager, Marlene Pierson-Joliffe, a 25-year veteran of the event, will be moving to VA to take a similar role with the Virginia State Fair. No replacement for her in Virginia has been announced.
2) Strates Shows won the contract to provide the midway for the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, VT. The event, which runs over Labor Day fills an important gap in the Strates Shows route.
3) Andy Cashman was named General Manager of the Maryland State Fair and two Great Frederick Fair veterans, Becky Brashear and Robert W. Fogle, Jr., will be joining his team.
4) Swank's Steel City Shows has been sold and Eddie Powers and several former Powers' Great American employees will be taking the helm.
5) The Volusia County Fair in Florida unexpectedly let go manager David Viers. No replacement has been named yet.
As usual, we will keep you posted as events unfold.
2014 IAFE / SLA Convention Coverage