Jody Cadwell has been in the outdoor amusement industry for quite sometime. Throughout the years, he’s always had a few irons in the fire but has now settled on a couple of things he loves. His carnival company, Boardwalk Attractions, is not a traditional road carnival, according to Cadwell. “We’re based in Hampton Roads, Virginia, everything is done in this area or not far from it,” says Cadwell. In addition to the carnival company, Cadwell does some booking with Deggeller Attractions and Dreamland Amusements in the Hampton Roads area through his company called National Event Management Company. Cadwell found a niche market in his home area and has done well providing Hampton Roads with amusement opportunities.
Prior to starting his carnival company, Cadwell operated amusement parks for 23 years. HIs parks were located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and the Outer-Banks area in North Carolina. Last year, Cadwell closed his last park in Virginia Beach, selling the property to developers. “We bought the property when the market wasn’t great and made some key deals. The parks did well for us but they had run their course,” says Cadwell.
Currently, Boardwalk Attractions travels around the Hampton Roads Area with 10 rides, 3 games, and 1 food stand. Cadwell’s 2018 season started in mid-March at the Virginia Beach Farmer’s Market for 7 weeks. “We started out only opening up on the weekends and then full weeks during spring break,” says Cadwell. Now that the Farmer’s Market has ended, Boardwalk Attractions will set up at St. Matthews Catholic Church, then the St. Nicholas Catholic Church and St. Pius X Catholic Church.
Then, Boardwalk Attractions makes its biggest trek of the season to Chincoteague Island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, about 80 miles away from the Hampton Roads area. Once they arrive, Cadwell and his show will stay there for 8 weeks before moving down to Cape Charles and back to Hampton Roads. Boardwalk Attractions then stays at Hunt Club Farms in Virginia Beach from mid-November through mid-January. Cadwell finish up his season at the Macarthur Center Mall in Norfolk, Virginia for a winter show featuring an ice skating rink. “We don’t travel with bunkhouses or house trailers, our employees go home each night and so do we,” says Cadwell.
Boardwalk Attractions was born from Cadwell’s booking and contracting business, National Event Management Company. “I started getting calls from a lot of small festivals and events in my area that were having trouble booking or attracting a carnival. I created this small unit and started booking it. It’s done very well and kept us busy,” says Cadwell. Boardwalk Attractions consists of: kiddie airplanes, a 2017 Zamperla Fiesta Balloon Wheel, a Gold Rush Train, Helicopters, Monkey Mayhem, Ocean Rage, a Speedway, a Super Slide, Tea Cups, Balloon Bust, Long Range Basketball, Water Race, Ring A bottle, a Duck Pond, and a Funnel Cake Cart.
Cadwell says he works on his rides and games continuously throughout the year, so there aren’t many major projects to report on currently. Boardwalk Attraction’s newest piece is the 2017 Zamperla Balloon Fiesta Wheel. “We always try to make sure our equipment looks good and is up to date. We don’t have as many projects to do during the slow season since our show doesn’t get as much wear and tear on the road,” says Cadwell. He’s happy with the size of the show but eventually would like to grow Boardwalk Attractions to 15 rides.
Due to their short traveling distance, Cadwell is fortunate enough to hire employees who mostly come back to work for the show from year to year. A lot of his workers are high school or college aged kids and some are adults who pick up the second job to earn some extra cash. “We have about 4 key members of the team who work with us each year and we're very grateful for that,” says Cadwell. Other than hired employees, Cadwell relies on his family to keep the show running smoothly. His wife, Pat, handles the office and operations while his son, Evan, is the main operations guy on the show. Evan splits his time between Boardwalk Attractions and his job as Venue Manager for Ice Rink Events. “It works really well for Evan because our season slows down in the Winter while the ice rink season gets busy,” says Cadwell.
Boardwalk Attractions relies on their website and social media sites to help promote and advertise their events. “We’re very active on our social media sites. We do lots of giveaways and tend to get good response with those,” says Cadwell. Because their spots throughout the season are so close to one another, Cadwell sees the same customers frequently. “People follow us around, we’re kinda like the neighborhood amusement park and we like that feel,” says Cadwell.
Most of the rides are kid or family rides so their company is geared toward children. “We are more of a family and children show, we probably lose a kid’s interest at around 13 years old,” says Cadwell. Single ride tickets are sold for $1.25, 25 tickets are $25, 50 tickets are $45. Each ride takes about 2-4 tickets. “We offer wristbands at our events, but prices vary based on location.They’re usually about $17-$20,” says Pat Cadwell. Boardwalk Attractions does not sell tickets or wristbands in advance but the Catholic Churches they play do offer advance sales and do very well with it, according to Cadwell.
“The carnival business has been good to us,” says Cadwell. “I love what I do and am glad I can do it in the Hampton Roads area.”