This year, Tom Arnold begins his second decade as the head of operations for Arnold Amusements. Like many carnival companies, Arnold Amusements is truly a family affair, Tom runs the company for his father. Arnold Amusements' season kicked off in late February in Florida.
2016 will mark the 36th year that Arnold Amusements has been on the road. Ivan was a unit manager for Wade Shows prior to starting out on his own. In 1980, after the show was purchased by Frank Zaitshik from Glen Wade and Red Wood, Arnold formed what is now Arnold Amusements.
Over the years, the route has remained very steady, the show plays largely in Michigan in Spring and summer before heading to Florida with stops in Tennessee and Alabama. Highlights of the summer include the National Cherry Festival and the Northwestern Michigan Fair and Elk Harbor Days. In Alabama, the show plays the Baldwin County Fair in September and then the Northwest Florida Fair and Hillsborough County Fair before ending the season. The season starts up again in Florida, playing churches and events through April before they make a jump back to Michigan in May.
During the offseason, Arnold Amusements has an extensive maintenance facility in Gibsonton, Florida where they rebuild rides from the ground up and perform maintenance limited to welding, electrical, hydraulic, mechanical, and cosmetic repairs. The show worked on several projects over the winter and the show is in good shape heading into 2016.
Arnold Amusements has seen great crowds in recent years but in late 2015 inclement weather shifted things. The start of the season was great, with brisk business and strong attendance. As the show moved South however, the weather took a turn for the worse."We started off great but the weather in Florida put a damper on our fair," said Tom.
2016 did not start out any better for the show. After an ok February, it rained for three consecutive weekends in the month of March and the rain continued into the first weekend in April. Arnold was keeping his fingers crossed that the weather for the remainder of April, as projected in a long term forecast, would remain clear.
Despite the weather challenges, Arnold remains optimistic. "There has been a lot of rain this year in Florida but we are still doing well. When the weather is nice, the crowd is great. It's better than the 8 inches of snow Michigan is getting right now," added Tom.
As it stands so far this year, Arnold Amusements will be on the road until a week before Thanksgiving. The carnival has 40 rides, all of which are owned and operated by the show. The lineup includes 10 thrill rides, 14 kiddie rides , and 14 family rides. Highlights include a 1001 Nachts, a Freak Out, Orbiter, Shock Drop, Pharaoh's Fury, Zipper and Giant Wheel.
Arnold Amusements added two new thrill rides for 2016, a Wave Swinger and a Zero Gravity from Battech. The two new attractions will add to an already diverse arsenal of rides the show carries.
On the concessions side, Arnold Amusements purchased a new lemonade trailer last fall that will be traveling with the show. Other concessions include a popper, pizza, funnel cake and grab, all operated by the show and run by Arnold family members.
As far as his crew is concerned, Arnold says he does not have many of the problems that plague other shows. "We are a tight knit carnival family, most our crew has been the same for years," said Arnold. Keeping and maintaining a steady work force is important to the Arnold family because the show's brand is a family atmosphere. The company requires drug testing of all employees and clean, well-groomed, uniformed employees are essential to the success of the show.
With a steady labor force, the show has not had a big need for foreign workers; a solution to which many companies have turned. In fact, Arnold Amusements has hired only 1 person through the H2B visa program. Although the show has not had a need to use the program, Tom Arnold still sees the benefit of having the program the in place to help those who are struggling to find competent, reliable workers. "Fairs and carnivals always need help. It's great that there is a program in place that aides us in hiring workers."
Arnold Amusements maintains a modern website with route list, ride lineup and the even sell tickets to events online. In addition, the company maintains a social media presence with a regularly updated Facebook page as well as Twitter and You Tube buttons on their website.
With two new major purchases, a steady route and a stable, veteran workforce, Arnold Amusements only needs a little help from Mother Nature to make 2016, their 36th season on the road, a success.