Amusements of America in the National Spotlight Joe Vivona appears on The Voice; Concessionaire Mel Melton appears on Carnival Eats
By Don Muret
CHARLOTTE --- Amusements of America has caught the national media's attention in multiple instances over the past several months, leading to some nice exposure for the carnival and its concessionaires.
On the first occasion, a younger member of the Vivona family, the show's owner, grabbed the spotlight on national television. Joe Vivona, 27, son of Morris Vivona Jr and grandson of Morris Sr., recently competed on The Voice, a talent show on NBC. Joe Vivona was eliminated after the first official round, but the fact that he was able to showcase his talents on the popular show was a thrill for his family and relatives.
Vivona, a New Jersey resident, works as an office manager for Morris Vivona's unit playing the East Coast. He started singing as a teen-ager, performed at this sister's 16th birthday party and then formed a local boy band playing "sweaty basements" around town, according to a story in the Daily Record newspaper.
His interest in music led to Vivona completing an audio engineering program in New York City. It was in the Big Apple where Vivona first auditioned to be on The Voice, said Marco Vivona, Joe's cousin and the son of Dominic Vivona.
After Joe Vivona made the cut to compete on live television, the show's producers visited the Coastal Carolina Fair in Charleston, S.C. last fall to film a background piece on his role in the family-owned carnival.
Vivona appeared on TV in March. For those familiar with the show's format, Vivona advanced to the "battle round" after a successful blind audition, his first broadcast appearance, resulting in three of the four celebrity "coaches" turning their chairs around to face him directly, a sign of their approval for him to move on in the competition. For the blind audition, Vivona performed John Mayer's "Dreaming with a Broken Heart."
For the next step, Vivona selected Pharrell Williams to be his coach for the competition. Vivona teamed with Caity Peters, another Team Pharrell member, on a duet of Billy Joel's "Honesty," in which they were actually competing against each other. Unfortunately, Peters edged out Vivona to advance to the "knockout" round and Vivona's brief appearance in the national spotlight was over.
For Joe Vivona, it doesn't mean his singing career is over. Both Marco and Robbie Vivona, son of Phil Vivona, feel their cousin has the potential to become a recording artist in the future.
"He's got some talent," Robbie Vivona said.
Separately, Mel Melton, a 50-year concessions veteran booking food stands with Amusements of America, is set to appear on an upcoming episode of "Carnival Eats," entering its third season on the Cooking Channel. The format has show host Noah Cappe visiting fairs and carnivals to see who's making the newest, and in some cases, the most outlandish, midway food items.
The folks tied to Carnival Eats met Melton during their visit to the Gwinnett County Fair in Lawrenceville, Ga., a date played by Amusements of America. They were looking for additional content and asked carnival officials about the rest of their route.
Those discussions led to Carnival Eats officials making a second visit to Amusements of America's lot, this time at the Eastern Carolina Agricultural Fair in Florence, S.C., the city where Marco Vivona now lives and where the carnival has its winter quarters.
Melton had a few conversations with the show's producers to create a new food item. The result: the deep-fried okra burger. It's a half-pound hamburger served on a kaiser roll and topped with deep-fried okra, pimento cheese, bacon and jalapeno peppers, with mayo, lettuce and tomato.
"They had run out of things to do," Melton said. "They've done every funnel cake imaginable. They asked me about doing a burger. I came up with okra since it's a Southern thing and we're in the south."
Stay tuned. Melton's turn in the spotlight comes June 9, the date of the Carnival Eats episode featuring the deep-fried okra burger.
Joe Vivona's The Voice Audition:
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