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Carnival & Fair News
Carnival & Fair News
Skinners Amusements adds Downdraft for 2018 Season
Show puts extra emphasis on preventative maintenance
Friday, June 1, 2018
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Skinners' Amusements is eager to showcase its new Downdraft ride. The piece was supposed to be delivered by Memorial Day, but officials with the Illinois carnival said it's been delayed until June.

Battech Enterprises produces the attraction, which is a newer version of the Hurricane, said show owner Pat Skinner. The ride tower is black, with red sweeps and gold cars.

The equipment carries a polished stainless steel finish, which was customized for the carnival, said Jared While, her son-in-law who helps manage the operation.

CMD Enterprises equipped the ride with an LED light package. Skinners' Amusements ordered the ride before last year's IAAPA show in November, While said. The total investment is more than $500,000.

"We had a Hurricane years ago and it was a good thrill ride for us, so we thought this one would be a strong addition," Skinner said.

The Downdraft is one of several Battech pieces on Skinners' lot. Last year, the show bought a Black Widow from the same manufacturer.

Apart from new rides, the issue of preventive maintenance is on the minds of all carnivals after the tragic accident at the 2017 Ohio State Fair killed a teen-age rider.

For Skinners' Amusements, it means checking closely for corrosion on all of its equipment. The show's Ali Baba, which is about 20 years old, is one ride currently being refurbished after corrosion was found.

ARM, the ride's manufacturer, is making the repairs at a cost of $75,000. It's expected to be back on the midway sometime in June.

"It will be like new when it's done," Skinner said. "There has definitely been a ripple effect [after the Ohio accident], which is a good thing. We check our equipment all the time."

Skinners' Amusements' headquarters are in Crystal Lake, Ill. and the carnival plays a 40-mile route north of Chicago.

It's among the oldest carnivals in the region, dating to 1910. For some events such as the Lake County Fair, Skinners' Amusements is the only carnival they've had since their inception.

The show also has long-standing relationships with the Boone County Fair and McHenry County Fair in northern Illinois.

Pat Skinner expects a banner run this year in Boone County, where fair officials have booked country star Trace Adkins as the main headliner. His performance is set for Aug. 11 in Belvidere.

"It's one of the best fairs in the state," Skinner said. "They're not afraid to spend the extra dollar to get the big crowds. Some other country fairs remain [fiscally] conservative."

"McHenry has a very aggressive fair board," she added. "When they get newer and younger people in there, it really helps."

The carnival's route includes Old Settler Days (June 14-17) in Rockton, Ill..This year, the event has an especially strong live music lineup, which should help strengthen ticket sales for Skinners' midway.

This years' acts include Chase Rice, who scored a No. 1 country album in 2014, hip-hop artist Nelly and the classic rock package of Rick Springfield, Dennis DeYoung & the Music of Styx, Greg Kihn and Tommy Tutone. DeYoung is a Chicago native and a co-founder of Styx in 1970. He's traveled with his own group playing the music he created since the late 1990s.

This year alone, the Rockton festival spent $400,000 on talent.

"They'll make every penny of it back," Skinner said.

To accommodate Old Settler's Days and its multiple concert headliners, the carnival worked with Genoa Days, a firemen's fest, to adjust it dates (June 6-9) for 2018, she said.

On the labor front, Skinners' Amusements has found enough qualified help over the years without using international labor.

Pat Skinner knows it's a stressful time for other shows that rely on the H2B Visa program and must hold their breath to see whether they'll receive the visas they request through the federal government.

"We have enough local help," she said. "We're 40-milers and most of these guys can go home at night. We do furnish bunkhouses and transportation."

The carnival's ticket prices remain the same for 2018 which has been the case for the past four years, Skinner said. Single tickets cost $1 and wristbands cost $15 in advance and $20 for most events.

Skinners Amusements

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