The concluding day of the IAFE/SLA Trade Show and Convention brought a change in leadership as Marla Calico was named new IAFE President/CEO, replacing Jim Tucker who will be retiring on January 1st, 2016. Tucker spent 15 years with the IAFE, building consensus and leading the organization through a period of great success and growth. Tucker honored fellow IAFE leader Max Willis, who will also be retiring at year's end. Willis was an important part of convention planning for the IAFE, serving in that role for many years.
The Hall of Fame award in 2015 went to retired Texas State Fair CEO Errol McKoy. McKoy served at the Texas State Fair from 1988 - 2014, heading for what all years except one, was the highest attended fair in the US.
McKoy began his career as a sky ride operator with Six Flags Over Texas, working with the company for 21 years before being lured away by the State Fair of Texas. McKoy grew the State Fair to over $40 million in revenue and oversaw an independent ride midway for the 24-day event.
In other leadership news, Kent Hojem was installed as the new IAFE chairman, succeeding John Sykes of the East Texas State Fair in Tyler. Hojem manages the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, Washington. The Washington State Fair itself has undergone change as well in recent years, changing its name from the Puyallup Fair to the Washington State Fair.
The next couple of years will be transitional for the organization. In addition to a new President and CEO, the IAFE will be moving its trade show and convention from Las Vegas to San Antonio in 2018. With two years left in Las Vegas, there will be a tremendous amount of preparation taking place before a change that is being met with some controversy. On the trade show floor, in informal interviews, some were excited about the change in venue to San Antonio while others lamented the change from Vegas where there are so many entertainment opportunities. Also cited by critics were the number of host hotels in San Antonio. They said they preferred the central location of one hotel in Vegas.
As details and plans emerge for the 2018, Carnivalwarehouse.com will be bringing you the details.
Howard Call is the State and Provincial Associations Representative for the IAFE and heads the Ohio Fair Manager's Association. Call managed the Summit County Fair before moving to Toledo. He rejoined the board of the Summit County Fair recently after some years away.
For the last twelve years, Call and his wife Theresa have managed the Ohio Fair manager's association, one of the largest state organizations in the country with 95 fairs.
Call said that some of the major issues facing the industry include environmental issues and the diversity of the fairgoing public.
Call said the fairs must work at bringing in populations that have not been historic fair attendees and the industry must come up with ways to attract these potential guests with new programming and ideas. "We have to figure out how to attract them", Call said, citing the growing Hispanic population in the state.
Call pointed to two events, the Lake County Fair and the Ohio State Fair as two examples of fairs that were doing a good job in attracting the Hispanic market. The Lake County Fair had special programming on Sunday, a traditional family day and the Ohio State Fair presented performances that appealed especially to the Hispanic market. These efforts bore fruit said Call and other fairs need to follow their lead.
On the environmental side, Call said the handling of manure and ensuring that manure is properly disposed is of high importance. Making sure water doesn't get to the manure and run across the grounds and promoting hand washing after all animal and grounds contact were two important steps to assure environmental safety on the grounds.
Ohio fairs are unique in that many of the fairs have independent midways that include games. Many of the carnivals just book rides and maybe a few food stands. "We have many strong concession families in the state", said Call. The Woods, Bates and Pences were all cited among many other Ohio families that have had food and game concessions in the state for generations.
Call lamented that fair guest's stays were getting shorter at many events and he said fairs need to look at their customer base to figure out how to maximize the customer's experience. Call said technology such as fair apps and online information could play a role in changing the guest's experience and result in longer stays and increased spending.
Russs Kissel and Nick Siebert of Kisssel Entertainment reported a good season when interviewed near the Rides 4-U/KMG booth following the finalization of their new ride purchases from KMG.
The carnival plays in GA, AL, TN and MS, where they carry 46 rides on two units from March until November. The units carry approximately the same number of rides each.
Russ and wife Tammy have operated Kissel Entertainment for the past ten years and the show is truly a family operation. Their daughter Savannah and Nick Siebert run the Jubilee Unit and daughter Madison and Tim White run the CelebrationUnit. All food and games are family owned and operated.
The show had the first KMG Inversion in the US and now will have a new Speed in the next couple of seasons. The show also carries the only Chance Rotor on the road, a Sky Diver, Thunderbolt, Chance Astro Wheel, 1001 Nights and Ring of Fire, among many others.
The show also purchased 2 new food stands from Schantz Manufacturing this year as well as a Grand Carousel from Jimmy Floyd and 2 new Cummins plants from Showmen's Supplies.
The show is very proud of its professional presentation and guest amenities. They carry "lots of gingerbread", according to Kissel. Among the midway amenities presented are office tops, guest seating, privacy screening, benches and wire covers. Kissel flags or American flags are the only adornments allowed to be flown on the midway and the show features uniformed color canvas.
The Kissels were especially proud to be awarded the Circle of Excellence from the OABA.