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Arnold Amusements Prioritizes Family While Looking Forward to the 2023 Season
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From its creation, Arnold Amusements has a family owned and operated carnival. In 1980, Ivan Arnold, along with his wife and three children, started Arnold Amusements Inc. with the intention of fostering safe, family fun through their carnivals. Following Ivan's passing in 2021, his family operates the show including his two sons Tom and Jon, Jon's wife Karen and children Alex and Jillian. With almost 60 rides, Arnold Amusements plays events from “Michigan to Tennessee to Alabama and then a lot of fairs and festivals in Florida,'' Arnold explained. Tom's sister owns another carnival company, TJ Schmidt and Co.,  that she started with her late husband, Terry, but they still work together from time to time helping each other out with rides and labor.

Ivan's memorial on the midway

The 2022 Season: Trials and Triumphs


Reflecting on their 2022 season, Tom was hoping for numbers like 2019, and in most cases, they achieved that. Given the uncertain 2020 and 2021 seasons, Arnold Amusements was thrilled to see that some fairs “were up from 2019 making for an overall great season,” Arnold mentioned.

Their route consists of all kinds of events ranging from churches to county fairs to large events like the Michigan State Fair and Ionia Free Fair.

Although Arnold explained how he “loves all of the events [he] does,” no season comes without challenges, and given the nature of both supply chain and labor shortages, Arnold Amusements was not spared from those issues.

When asked about the challenges Arnold Amusements faced during their 2022 season, Arnold was quick to state labor and supply chains as his biggest problems. The carnival industry relies heavily on labor from H-2B workers, and, as he puts it, he “does not think the business would survive without them.” In May of 2022, Arnold Amusements was expecting to receive 30 H-2B employees. Unfortunately, this did not happen as planned, with Arnold Amusements receiving only 13 of the 30 workers they initially needed, and they did not arrive until August of 2022, nearly halfway through the fair season.  According to Arnold, a lack of labor results in issues “with the number of rides [they] are able to bring to each spot” which in turn affects the event as a whole. Luckily, Arnold Amusements was able to get enough labor to operate their events smoothly, but this challenge is something they hope will get resolved prior to the 2023 season.

In addition to labor struggles, supply chain issues continue to plague almost every industry, making stock and even rides themselves difficult to acquire. For Arnold Amusements, they had to “decide whether to raise game prices” due to rising costs for prizes and game stock, even though that was something he “did not want to do.” Though they expected some of these supply issues, the backlog for ride parts, stuffed animals, and even cups affected the carnival's day to day operations. Rising costs for fuel and inspections also impacted Arnold Amusements during their 2022 season. Fuel costs rose to nearly $6/gal at some truck stops, making transportation from spot to spot exceedingly expensive. Florida's inspection costs can go anywhere from “$150 to $300 per ride, per week, which makes it difficult to play smaller weekend festivals,” according to Arnold. Deciding not to play a smaller venue is never an easy decision for the show, as they value and enjoy each event they play, regardless of size. Beyond the challenges, Arnold explained how much he enjoyed the past season saying how it “went by so fast.”




Looking Ahead, Exciting New Plans for 2023


When it comes to the 2023 season, Arnold Amusements has plenty to look forward to. The past two seasons saw some fairs and festivals forced to cancel their events due to restrictions, but for Arnold Amusements and the Central Panhandle Fair, a Hurricane caused them to cease operation for the 2022 season. Now that the area has recovered from the storm, Arnold cheerfully announced that he looks forward to “returning to play the fair again this October.” The return of the Central Panhandle Fair is one of the many highlights of the upcoming 2023 season that Arnold Amusements is anticipating.

Although it is hard to beat the excitement of a restored fair, Arnold Amusements also has a new ride that they are planning on utilizing for the 2023 season. Tom said they “ordered a new Alien Abduction from Wisdom Rides of America” that they should have ready in February of this year. Supply issues are still affecting this area of the business, but Arnold is hopeful that it will arrive in time. Even with the supply chain issues, Arnold Amusements is always looking for more rides to add to their show because, as he put it, “ We are collectors.  We love stuff.”


An Innovative Solution to a Difficult Obstacle

       

One way that Arnold Amusements is combatting the supply shortages in the carnival industry is buying used rides from other shows. Arnold mentioned how they recently purchased a used Dragon Wagon that they plan on utilizing in the 2023 season. Another way they are responding to the shortages is reimagining older rides in their collection. For example, last season they refurbished a Rock-O-Plane ride they owned and put it out at one of their events. According to Arnold, “younger kids have not seen those rides” and were “lining up to ride it.” Based on the success of the Rock-O-Plane project, Arnold Amusements purchased a Loop-O-Plane that they plan on renovating for this upcoming season.



With all their exciting plans for 2023, Arnold tied the success of his company back to family. When asked about their best event, Tom could not choose one. He explained how he “loves all of the events [they] do” and he considers them “all like family.” The carnival industry boasts many family owned and operated businesses, and Arnold Amusements is no different. For Arnold, his goal for every fair season is that “everyone has fun and stays safe” and he looks forward to a “nice, safe 2023 fair season.”


Rock O Plane before complete refurbishment
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