ST. PAUL, Minn. --- The Minnesota State Fair is getting a mouthful of the Big Apple this year.
The New York New York, a new four-story fun house owned by Joey Weaver and his uncle, Bobby Myers, anchors the back end of the Mighty Midway here at the state fair, running through Labor Day.
The $1 million piece is produced by Gosetto, an Italian ride manufacturer. It's among about 12 pieces still held by Myers International Midways. The longtime Florida show operates as an independent after downsizing its business in 2014.
Here at one of the best state fairs in the country, Myers showcased the fun house along with its Crazy Dance, Wave Swinger and Monster Truck ride. Five days into the fair, the New York New York, despite its location, was holding steady as one of the five to 10 most popular pieces, according to Weaver, co-owner of the Myers operation.
State fair officials strategically placed the fun house in that spot to beef up the back end of the midway, and halfway through the event, it's paid off, drawing lots of traffic to the colorful attraction, Weaver said. The ride was delivered on July 29, in time for the Wisconsin State Fair. The fun house finished as the fifth-most popular ride in West Allis, riding about 36,000 people over 11 days, he said.
There are enough gadgets to thrill the most experienced fun house enthusiast, featuring 32 animated tricks, including rolling carpets, swinging bridges, a rolling barrel and a slide circling down from the top level as patrons complete the excursion. For those who prefer to bypass the slide, there are stairs up top to walk down to ground level.
To accentuate the Big Apple theme, Myers officials built a pair of Statue of Liberty displays book-ending the ride, plus a souvenir photo booth. They installed 10 cameras throughout the fun house to take photographs posted for sale and to keep an eye on the operator and patrons, Weaver said. Speed controls for the tricks act as another safety measure.
"We tried to step it up a level," he said. "The cameras are there for safety. They're pointed at every obstacle. It gives us some backup."
The fun house is transported on two trucks, one of which is used exclusively to handle the slide. Myers officials custom built the second trailer with a crane mounted to a flatbed trailer, which is used to attach the slide to the fun house. The initial setup in Wisconsin took 22 hours and the time it took to tear down was cut in half. In Minnesota, it took 15 hours to set up New York New York as the Myers crew gets more familiar with the routine.
The structure runs on hydraulics controlled by a wireless remote. Workers build the fence and platforms. It takes eight employees to run New York New York and they get frequent breaks to keep them fresh on a sophisticated piece.
In late April, Weaver traveled to the factory in Italy to monitor construction time. Officials had it built to U.S. specifications,considering European standards are not on par with ASTM guidelines, Weaver said.
As far as Weaver knows, there are two other fun houses similar to the New York New York operating in the U.S., including Ray Cammack Shows' Fun Factory. Another four-story fun house, S&T Magic's King Curtis, runs out of Gibsonton, Fla.
Weaver, the 25-year-old son of the late Vince Weaver, whose family owned the old Interstate Amusements, is adjusting to life as an independent. Myers International Midways no longer relies on generating most of its revenue from selling tickets tied to running a 50-ride show. Now, it's about putting a greater focus on running a few select major attractions efficiently, he said.
Individually, the rides cater to separate audiences. The Crazy Dance, for example, draws the teen crowd. In Minnesota,the Wave Swinger is set up in Kiddileand, playing oldies music. The New York New York is marketed for all ages, Weaver said.
Elsewhere, the Ice Jet, a re-themed Chance Alpine Bobs, is sitting in Oklahoma City waiting for the Great State Fair Oklahoma, Sept. 17-27. The Crazy Dance and Wave Swinger will join the Ice Jet in Oklahoma City, and all three rides will move to the Tulsa State Fair, running from Oct. 1-11. Wade Shows runs both midways.
The New York New York and the Monster Truck ride, meanwhile,will stop in Dallas for the State Fair of Texas, another independent midway. Dates are Sept. 25-Oct. 18. All told, Myers sends rides to about a half-dozen fairs, including the Florida State Fair and the South Florida Fair in West Palm Beach, two more Wade spots.
They have a full crew that keeps busy refurbishing rides in their Florida shop, some for other carnivals including Reithoffer Shows, Amusements of America, Modern Midways, Drew Exposition, Deggeller Attractions and Paradise Amusements. The Myers shop re-skinned the back wall on the Magnum, a spectacular owned by Michael Wood that's set up here in St. Paul.
As an independent, Weaver enjoys spending more time with his family compared with the grind of being on the road as a full-time carnival. Joey and and his wife, Ashlee, have a 6-year-old daughter, Cynnimin,
"We don't go on the road now until late July and are home by mid-November," he said. "We live on the river in Gibtown ... it's a big reason why we did get rid of the show. The way it was before, you can't just jump on a plane and go home. it's part of the nature of the beast. My daughter gets to go to a regular school and I wouldn't take that away from her."
Weaver and Myers split the responsibilities of handling equipment. In the coming weeks, Weaver will go to Oklahoma and Myers will be in Dallas for the run of state fairs. It's the way they like it now. A few days before Minnesota got underway, Weaver treated his help to a trip to the Mall of America.
"When we had a show, we couldn't do that with 50 rides and one day to set up," he said.