Reithoffer Shows has signed a four-year contract with Expo New Mexico to provide all midway rides, games and food concessions after winning a competitive bid process, according to show owner Rick Reithoffer.
The agreement carries a four-year option in Albuquerque for the event formerly known as the New Mexico State Fair.
For Reithoffer Shows, it marks the first time in its 118-year history that it will play the Southwest after concentrating on the East Coast and Southeast portions of the country for more than a century.
"it's new territory for us, a fabulous opportunity," Reithoffer said by phone over the weekend. "It's a big fair and another one of our marquee spots. We think it will open up some doors for us elsewhere out west."
hoffer Shows replaces Murphy Bros. Exposition, the Tulsa, Okla. carnival that held the New Mexico contract for many years in conjunction with Reed Exposition, its subcontracting entity. Last year's fair drew about 460,000 in attendance. The midway grossed $1.73 million in 2014 and the fair retained 33 percent of sales from ticket and wristband receipts, according to the RFP listed online. Last year's fair had 43 rides.
Reithoffer Shows won the contract after responding to a request-for-proposal issued Jan. 30 with a deadline of March 3 for submissions. It was an extensive proposal running 64 pages long, taking into account "every nut and bolt you could think of, who you were and your capabilities," Reithoffer said.
The fair committee responsible for choosing the midway provider evaluated all bids on the merits of their equipment separately from the financial component submitted by each proposer, before combining the two parts on a points system.
Reithoffer would not discuss his financial arrangement with Expo New Mexico but he said the committee was impressed by all the "big steel" the carnival promised to bring to Albuquerque.
"I don't believe in giving it all away, because it's expensive to do what we do," Reithoffer said. "That way, we can continue to reinvest in the carnival."
All told, the show will book 50 rides and attractions, including some brand new pieces of equipment Reithoffer plans to acquire in the next few weeks. He declined to provide further information until after those purchases are completed.
"We are in negotiations with two big ride manufacturers," he said. "We plan to wow the people of New Mexico. They're going to see some equipment they have never seen before."
The new spot works out nicely with the routes played by Reithoffer's Blue and Orange units. It fills a hole left after the carnival lost the York (Pa.) Interstate Fair after its Labor Day events. The show will send equipment 2,000 miles west after playing dates in West Virginia, New Jersey and New York.
"It's a three-pronged attack," Reithoffer said, referring to the conversion of equipment coming together on the road to Albuquerque. "We have time to do it. It's a much longer jump than we usually do. Our longest is typically 1,000 miles."
In addition, some rides Reithoffer books at independent midways at the Wisconsin and Minnesota state fairs will make their way to New Mexico's midway, he said.
Reithoffer Shows will also bring a new cashless ticketing system to New Mexico that it recently introduced at the Collier County (Fla.)Fair.
Produced by American Charger, a leading manufacturer of coin-operated machines for car washes and automated laundry services, the system uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology embedded into smart cards and wristbands distributed by kiosks set up on the midway.
It's the same technology some Major League Baseball teams use for fans to gain admission and buy concessions. For Reithoffer Shows, there is an RFID reader at every ride that scans the smart card's bar code and removes the appropriate credits before the customer gets on the attraction. The reader's light turns from red to green signaling the ride credits have been transferred, Reithoffer said.
The new program has a customized software package tied to mobile tablets the carnival uses to keep track of all ride credits purchased in real time. All of that sales information is downloaded to Reithoffer's office system at the close of business every day. There is no hard-wiring required for the system unlike some other cashless ticketing operations used by carnivals.
"If you have a cell phone that works on the fairgrounds, this program uses the same system," Reithoffer said. "The only signal we need is wireless."
The new system eliminates the old method of weighing tickets to determine total sales and also cuts down on employee theft from cash taken in the ticket boxes, he said.
The total investment in the new technology is $500,000. At this point, the show has 12 kiosks and plans to add another dozen machines in the next few months as fair season gets in full swing.
"It's a state-of-the-art system," he said. "At this point, Disney [Parks] and our carnival are the only ones using it."