Shamrock Shows started in 1989 and is based out of Milton, New York. The carnival services events such as festivals, fireman’s carnivals, church bazaars and fundraisers throughout the Hudson Valley Area. During the winter, Shamrock Shows also plays at select Florida-based locations.
The company features up to 22 rides on its midway, depending on the location. There are typically 18 rides each week, or the rides featured may be split into two smaller units some weeks. Some of the attractions include the Fun Slide, Dizzy Dragons, Gondola, Sizzler, Orient Express, Swinger, Truck Stop, Wave Runner and Wind Jammer.
New for this year, the company recently purchased a Crazy Dance, which should be ready for next season. Delivery is expected as early January as it is presently in the process of being built.
O’Keefe says that other recent purchases include a Speedway bought by his son, Jason, and a helicopter ride bought by his daughter, Heather. Keeping the midway modern and appealing has also been a priority.
“We also recently beautified the midway, putting LED lights on all our rides,” he adds. “We only have three left to do and I hope to complete them before September. “
On a Shamrock Shows midway, visitors can enjoy treats such as cotton candy and fried dough. Some of the popular games featured include the water game, balloon pop, minion darts, poster darts, cork gun, speedball, avalanche and gold fish.
The company is family run by Colin O’Keefe and his son and daughter. Jason is his right-hand man and helps with welding and fabrication on the rides. Additionally, he owns a funnel cake stand and three kiddie rides. Heather works in the office and with concessions, as well as with the rides.
“I’m very lucky they like it and I am blessed they want to stay in the business,” O’Keefe says of his children.
Though the carnival world is continuously evolving and at times the road ahead may seem uncertain, the future of Shamrock Shows is bright. When looking toward the future, O’Keefe says that his children plan on continuing the business and keeping it growing, a fact he is very happy about.
“I’m going to be semi-retired in the next couple of years,” he says. “My son and daughter are going to take over and I’m blessed that they want to take over the business and work that hard.”
As far as this season goes, things kicked off a little shaky but are now looking up. It was a bit of a rough start as O’Keefe said there were eight weeks of rain that put a damper on things. However, the business pulled through and even secured four new shows for this season, two of which have already been played. In May, O’Keefe says that Middletown, New York was a success, as was an event they played in Spring Valley.
“We did very well at both locations,” he says. “In August, we will also be at the Otisville County Fair. They invited us back again. We will also be at the Grahamsville Little World’s Fair again; last year they hired us back and said we were the best fit for the fair. We are very happy with that.”
The Grahamsville Little World’s Fair is the longest running independent fair in New York.
Though Shamrock Shows continues to be successful, there are always challenges to overcome.
O’Keefe says that in particular, there have been some challenges maintaining the business in today’s market and one of the biggest obstacles has been bringing on foreign workers with the new H-2B visa regulations.
“We were lucky to get workers this year, as it is difficult to get people that want to work six to seven days a week,” he shares. “They have to be dedicated. There is always something changing with the regulations, and in the carnival business you have to be willing to change with the times.”
O’Keefe has made it a point for Shamrock Shows to keep up with the times and does not want to remain a “dinosaur” in the business. He believes it is critical to roll with the changes.
“Something we have done is modernized the midway,” he says as he discusses one way he navigates through these changes. “We brought in ATMS and credit card machines, as people don’t seem to carry a lot of cash these days. It has worked to our advantage as people tend to want to get money for things like games and food on the midway.
“My theory is that every business is changing with the internet and shopping online,” he continues. “People can change and go with the flow, and if they do, I think they will be OK. No business has it easy these days, but we have to adapt as we go along. There is a good future with carnivals for young people, because as older people retire it leaves opportunities. Things will change and we have to change with them.”