Frank Zaitshik says his company, Wade Shows, is on a roll. "We had a tremendous 2015", he said. "There were lots of hills and very few valleys, it was probably the best year we have ever had", he added.
Wade Shows started out the season in January at the South Florida Fair in West Palm Beach. The midway had seven record days and broke all revenue records, reaching a high of $4.628 million dollars on a midway of about 80 rides.
FIRST YEAR WITH HYBRID MIDWAY AT FLORIDA STATE FAIR
From South Florida, the show moved on to Tampa for the Florida State Fair. The company faced a big challenge, managing the formerly independent midway for the first time. Wade Shows introduced a new hybrid midway, where the company managed the midway and provided approximately 60% of the 115 rides.
The fair received 22 new rides and hundreds of thousands of dollars in midway improvements including wider midways, additional landscaping, 16 rest areas, 100 benches, 40 picnic tables, 16 light towers and a completely rebranded midway area.
"We had a plan to transform the midway. We developed new shirts and logos just for the Florida State Fair and we added a new area featuring the Florida theme, 'Fresh From Florida'. "
Florida State Fair CEO Charles Pesano was equally pleased with the presentation. He told Carnivalwarehouse.com just after the fair "Wade Shows took on the financial investment to have portions of the midway expanded with new asphalt, add new rest areas, and provide uniquely Florida State Fair customized canvas for all rides and vendors. This resulted in a top-notch looking midway with great consistency."
The Wade-managed midway was up approximately 15% from the independent midway in 2014. Wade offered wristbands to the public each day, a change in price offering from 2014 where only weekday armbands were offered.
2015 SPRING AND EARLY SUMMER
From its Florida events, Wade played its usual route of Spring events in Michigan. The weather cooperated for most of the season and events tended to be up, resulting in a very good spring according to Zaitshik.
Things heated up in the summer when the show's 2nd unit landed at the Delaware State Fair in July. The show fielded a 56 ride midway arsenal and great weather and fair marketing helped achieve a 6% revenue increase and a record midway run.
In the Midwest, a Wade unit headed to Missouri for county fairs and celebrations as well as the Ozark Empire Fair and a record run at the Missouri State Fair.
RETURN TO NEW YORK AND NEBRASKA
After a great Wayne County Fair in PA, where attendance was slightly down from a record 2014, the Jimmy Danton-managed unit headed to Syracuse for its sophomore run at the New York State Fair.
Wade Shows received a tremendous amount of publicity for its debut on the midway in 2014 and promotions like wristbands every day and Dollar Day on closing Labor Day Monday led to the company smashing all ride revenue records.
"I knew we had a big hill to climb with all the success and publicity last year", said Zaitshik. "We developed some new weekday promotions such as Wade Shows Wednesday to offer guests a value that approached that of the crazy, wonderful Dollar Day we had on Labor Day 2014", he added.
2015 proved to be slightly down from 2014 but still clocked in as the second best midway revenue year in fair history. A late Labor Day led to some schools opening prior to the end of the fair, holding back attendance on weekdays.
While one unit was playing the New York State Fair, another unit was at the Nebraska State Fair. Frank's son Gary led this unit to a record run in Grand Island. Fair attendance broke the 350,000-person mark for the first time and the event will receive its 2,000,000th visitor in Grand Island on the first day of the fair in 2016.
STATE FAIR ROUTE IN FALL
The show's fall route has been equally strong so far. They recorded record ride grosses at the Tennessee Valley Fair, its second best year ever at the Oklahoma State Fair and a record Tulsa State Fair.
"We work with some great fair partners", said Zaitshik. "Tim O'Toole and his team in Oklahoma just keep getting better and better, Scott Suchomski, and his father before him, do an outstanding job in Knoxville and Mark Andrus and Amanda Blair in Tulsa have just been a terrific team to work with these past three years."
Wade units also play the Coosa Valley Fair in Rome, GA, the North Alabama State Fair, the Middle Tennessee District Fair and the South Mississippi Fair, all of which had record or near record runs.
The only event on the show's route hurt by Hurricane Joaquin was the Robeson Regional Fair in Lumberton, NC. "They were clobbered by the weather. They were only able to open up a few days of the run. My heart goes out to them and all the events affected by the hurricane in the south. It's a tough pill to swallow", said Zaitshik.
Zaitshik spoke to Carnivalwarehouse from the North Carolina State Fair where, along with Powers Great American Midways, they were closing in on a record run. He next heads to the Alabama National Fair before finishing the season at the Fair at Fenway in Fort Myers.
$3 MILLION RIDE INVESTMENT IN 2016
What do you do after an incredible, record-breaking season? For Zaitshik, resting on his laurels is not an option.
"I have budgeted, and will invest, $3 million in new equipment for the show in 2016", said Zaitshik. "I owe it to my company, my fairs and our wonderful guests throughout the year to keep improving our midway presentation and I am going to make an unprecedented move in 2016", he added.
What types of rides will be added to the lineup?, Zaitshik was asked. "I am looking for rides that are game changing - mind blowing. I want rides that will bring enormous thrill and excitement for our events and make all fair guests, riders or not, sit up and take notice", he added.
Pressed for examples, Zaitshik mentioned possibly the largest Giant Wheel in North America or a "super coaster", larger than even the four he currently owns, or something completely new and exciting.
"I am going to consult with my staff, ride experts, my fairs and I will even welcome proposals from ride manufacturers", said Zaitshik. "I want rides that are unique, bigger and badder than anything on the road today; bring me your best ideas", he concluded.
In an interview with Carnivalwarehouse at the start of the 2015 season, Zaitshik predicted "buckle your set belt, we're going to have a great year." With $3 million in new purchases, it may be "hang on to your hats, 2016 is going to be even better".