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Reithoffer Shows adds new equipment; signs Upper SC State Fair


By Don Muret

Photo courtesy of Reithoffer Shows

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Reithoffer Shows has upgraded its operation with several new attractions for 2015, including the super-spectacular Zamperla Air Race.

The Gibsonton, Fla. company took delivery of the piece mid-season in 2014 and it played the entire fall route,  said Rick Reithoffer, the show's co-owner running the Blue Unit.

Zamperla has reportedly sold two other Air Races targeted for amusements parks, leaving Reithoffer Shows with a unique offering this season.  The first portable version was purchased by Jeff Brady, but has since been sold to Orlando based Fun Spot Amusement Park.

"I will have the only one in America traveling over the road," Reithoffer said "It's going to take six to seven tickets."

Photo By Reithoffer Shows
The Air Race features a 60-foot platform with eight "arms," which Reithoffer described as airplane-style seats that each carry two passengers. The arms rock and back and forth as the ride goes around in a circle. On the third rocking motion, the arms complete a 360-degree turn, giving riders the ultimate thrill.

The carnival outfitted the piece with a $100,000 LED light package that adds to the premium experience. It takes six to eight hours to set up and and tear down can be completed in under four hours, Reithoffer said.

"It turns every color of the rainbow," he said. "It's so bright you almost need to wear sunglasses at night. It's been a big hit on my show."

Separately, the carnival bought a new Zero Gravity from Battech Enterprises at the Gibtown trade show. Other new additions to the Blue Unit include a Ross Owens Magic Maze and Wisdom's newest Himalaya that comes from the factory equipped with LED lights. Reithoffer expects the Himalaya to be delivered by early summer.

Between the Blue Unit and the Orange Unit run by Pat Reithoffer, Rick's brother, the carnival now has four Himalaya attractions made by various manufacturers. The German Mack piece, themed as the Arctic Blast, was rebuilt from top to bottom a few years ago at a a cost of $250,000 and looks brand new, Rick said.

The list of other rides that have been refurbished over the past year includes a YoYo, Sizzler, Zipper and a Wisdom Tornado, which was stripped down to a bare frame and redone to the point that it's also essentially a brand new piece, Reithoffer said.

Meanwhile, Pat Reithoffer, Rick's brother, purchased a Mulligan wheel from Myers International Midways that had recently been renovated with LED lights, as well as a new Wacky Worm.

Like many other shows, the Reithoffers over the past five years have been going through the process of replacing most rides' standard light schemes with LEDs. To date, 85 percent of the show's 113 attractions have been reformatted with LEDs. It's a hefty investment but the show has seen cost savings from no longer having to run extra generators for the old lighting system, Rick Reithoffer said.

Individually, the Ring of Fire stands out for three LED rings and a new battery-powered light system on the train itself that's "something special," he said.

The Blue Unit's 90-foot-long front gate marquee also holds LED lights. "The look of the show is now fantastically beautiful," he said. "We decided to bite the bullet and get it done Plus, with the old lights, we end up replacing bulbs in wholesale fashion. For some rides, we might have one-third of them go out after a long jump."

New spots for the Blue Unit this year are the Monmouth County Fair in Freehold, N.J., July 22-26, and the Sumter County Fair in Sumter, S.C., Sept. 29-Oct. 4.

The Orange Unit picked up one new date, the Upper South Carolina State Fair in Greenville, S.C., an event previously held by Jeff Brady's old Playworld Amusements. Brady worked with Pat Reithoffer to get the spot during the 2014 IAFE convention in Las Vegas. This year's fair dates are Aug. 27-Sept. 7.

The event ties into the Orange Unit's route that covers four other fairs in North Carolina and South Carolina, including the Piedmont Interstate Fair in Spartanburg, S.C., about 30 miles northeast of Greenville. This year's Spartanburg dates are Oct. 12-18.

In early March, the Blue Unit was finishing its run at the Southwest Florida Fair in Fort Myers, where it set up more than 50 rides.  

Reithoffer Shows has played the event for about 20 years and last year signed a five-year extension. Then it's on to the Collier County Fair in Naples, Fla., before heading north in early April to play a large portion of late spring and summer months in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

The Orange Unit heads to Washington D.C. where it will play fairs in the same general region as its Blue counterpart. Both units head south in the fall.

This year's Georgia National Fair in Perry will serve as a milestone for the Reithoffer family. It will be the 25th year the show has played an event that was formed in part by Pat Reithoffer Sr., father of Rick and Pat Jr. He played a key role for developing the fairgrounds property serving the state's largest fair.

This year, the carnival doesn't expect to encounter issues over its use of foreign labor. Last year, Reithoffer Shows, in conjunction with the OABA and other carnivals, planned to file suit against the federal government for holding up international workers tied to the H2B Visa program due to what they were told were red flags raised over background checks.

One day in mid-June 2014, just before the suit was to be filed, at the eleventh hour, those workers were released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to go work for their respective shows, Reithoffer said.

The situation falls in line with past years where carnivals have battled with the feds over establishing wage equality among international and domestic employees. The issue at hand is some carnivals tend to pay internationals higher wages than domestic workers to match their higher level of productivity in a labor pool that often struggles to provide quality American labor.

"I've never had an attorney say 'We will win' before but that was the case here," Reithoffer said. "We had them dead to nuts. They released workers to every show at 12:01 a.m. We had been running our show about 60 people short after the federal government held them up in Vermont and California."

For Reithoffer Shows specifically, the carnival has never had a problem with equal pay for its seasonal workers from Mexico. "I have one standard scale and starting rate for everyone," he said. "A lot of guys I have as key personnel are American and they are just as dedicated as the internationals."

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