CHARLOTTE --- Amusements of America may be looking for a new spot to play here in the Queen City after the owners of the Metrolina Tradeshow Expo sold the 94-acre property in March to Beacon Partners, a real estate developer.
For the past five years, the carnival has played the Metrolina grounds twice a year in the spring and fall. The spring date, called the Charlotte Fair, typically coincides with Cinco de Mayo and draws many Hispanic families with 30 rides and attractions booked through event promoter Larry Linton.
But that could all change now after the property was sold in March. Beacon Partners plans to develop an $80 distribution business park on site and construction is set to begin during the second half of 2016, according to local reports.
Marco Vivona, running the carnival's unit here, said Linton is searching for other potential sites including the possibility of moving the event to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The track has multiple campground sites with ample room to set up a carnival. At the same time, the promoter and carnival officials have not ruled out coming back to the Metrolina grounds pending the new development, Vivona said.
Otherwise, Vivona said this year marked the first time Amusements of America caught nice weather on both weekends of the spring event. Dates were May 6-15. In addition to the carnival, the event featured professional wrestling, The Magic of Bob Bohm, the West Texas Rattlesnake Show, the Aguilar Family Circus & Thrill Show and Boger Farm's Animal Petting Zoo.
Sideshow operator Jack Constantine booked multiple attractions in Charlotte. Rio Cristiani's fun house and dark ride, and Phil Wilson's mechanical bull and bungee jump were also part of the mix. For the Charlotte Fair, ride wristbands were $25 with about 300,000 $5 off coupons distributed throughout the Charlotte market. Gate admission was $8 for adults, $5 for children age 5 to 11 and free for kids 4 and under.
In other news, Amsuements of America has purchased two used rides, including an Orbiter from Florida show owner Bobby Myers. In addition, the Vivona family acquired a Kamikaze in a three-way deal between show owner Todd Merriam and Chance Rides that resulted in Merriam getting a Zipper from the ride manufacturer. Amusements of America sandblasted the Kamikaze and installed a new LED light package on the ride, Marco Vivona said.
Separately, the carnival bought a 500-kilowatt generator from Billy Tucker's Dixieland Amusements after Tucker made the decision to get off the road and start an amusement park in Alabama. Amusements of America also purchased a new bunkhouse from Kale Gorham with fiberglass inserts for $36,000. The inserts create five to six separate rooms and the fiberglass material makes it easy to clean, Vivona said.
During the offseason, Amusements of America made a deal with North American Midway Entertainment to share equipment for fall dates when both carnivals are spread thin with conflicting events. Amusements of America has committed to supplying 15 rides for the South Carolina State Fair in Columbia after NAME picked up the Tulsa (Okla.) State Fair.
"They picked up Tulsa and it closes on a Sunday and they open in Columbia the following Wednesday," Vivona said. "It's impossible to get there with all the big rides. You just can't do it."
In return, NAME will reciprocate by providing about a half-dozen rides at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair in Statesboro, Ga., which runs immediately following the Eastern Carolina Agricultural Fair in Florence, S.C. Amusements of America plays both fairs in October. It has enough equipment for Florence, where its winter quarters are situated, but needs help in Statesboro, Vivona said.
Both carnivals agreed to the deal during the IAFE convention in Las Vegas. They signed the agreements at the Gibtown trade show in February.
Elsewhere, Amusements of America picked up one new fair, the Hickman County Fair in Centerville, Tenn. It fits in nicely in mid-August, between the Ohio State Fair and the Wilson County Fair in Lebanon, Tenn.
Upcoming events include two stadium parking lot spots: the Capital Fair at RFK Stadium, May 27-June 5, in Washington, where Major League Soccer's D.C. United plays its home games, and the State Fair Meadowlands, June 23-July 10, next to MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Jets and Giants.
The carnival returned to Puerto Rico after an extended absence to play the island, booking 35 rides for a five-week run from early December through mid-January. The show went back to Puerto Rico after two years of playing Peru, an even longer boat ride that beat up the rides and heavily damaged the shows Giant Wheel. The salty air over the ocean is bad for the rides in general, Vivona said.
"Even in Puerto Rico, there was salt damage," he said. "We spend a lot of time pressure washing and painting rides after we get them back from the island. But my wife [Lourdes] is from Puerto Rican and she loves to go down there. She's the happiest one of all."