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C&L Shows Brings New Rides and Bright Lights to the Midway
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With a slogan of “The Brightest Lights, The Finest Midway,” C & L shows is marking nearly 41 years in the carnival business.

Nick Polakovsky is the general manager of the carnival, working alongside his father, Chris, who owns the operation; his mother;  his cousin, Jason and Jason's son, Jacob. Chris started the company in 1983.

Located in Mt. Pleasant, PA., C & L offers a wide range of rides to fairs and festivals throughout western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia from April to Halloween. The company added four new venues this year, two carnivals and two community festivals. Only four of its venues require the company to take their campers out; primarily the show operates as a 40 miller, short-haul operation, with a return to their home base nightly, despite early mornings and late nights.

“Our most popular rides include the Ronco Chair Jet, which is a specialty manufactured ride, the Frederickson Fun Slide, our Eli 16 Ferris Wheel, the Sizzler, and the Kite Flyer. The Kite Flyer is unique in that passengers lie on their stomachs and essentially fly like Superman,” he laughs. “It is the only Zamperla Kite Flyer in the area.” Other unique rides include a 3-abreast carousel.

New this year: “We are anticipating a brand-new Rock Star to be delivered by March,” Polakovsky reports. When delivered, the ride will be the “one and only in Western Pennsylvania.”

The show also offers kiddie rides, including three Hampton rides- a motorcycle jump, car jump, and a combo ride with a variety of Hampton vehicles from trucks to motorcycles and VW Bugs.

Additionally, C & L offers plenty of games and food concessions. Polakovsky's cousin Jason owns many of the games, while Nick's dad and mom helm the food selections. “We have everything from ice cream to French fry trailers, funnel cakes, popcorn, all the usual fun fair foods,” Polakovskysays. “Our most popular foods, no matter where we go, are the lemonade, cotton candy, funnel cakes, and on hot days, ice cream. In more rural locations, candy apples do really well, too.”

On the game front, the mix includes the popular goldfish game, Fishy Fish, break-a-bottle, and a duck pond. “Just about all our games offer prizes to every player – there's a winner every time,” he notes. “No child is going to go home crying that they didn't win something. Our goal is to send everyone home happy. The only two games we have that do not offer a prize every time are the water race and Ring the Bottle. All our games are geared toward the kids.”

C & L is committed to benefitting the community in which it's headquartered, he says. “We live in Pennsylvania, and we want the money we make to stay in our area. We winter here and use the downtime to install new light packages and perform maintenance.” He describes the company's ride maintenance as scheduled on a four- year basis. “Every four years it's time to check out and update the mechanical engineering, add new paint, and new lights. We try to do things right the first time, taking care of our rides, and always trying to have unique equipment for our area.”

The company makes a real effort to make rides look as appealing and fresh as possible, Polakovsky explains. “If there can be a flag added to a ride, I'm going to do it. I love flags,” he says. “And lights are also a big deal for us. We were the first to have color-changing lights in the area as well as marquee lights on our trailers. We think the details are important.”

Overall, he says, C & L strives to offer innovative, exciting fun for families. “We have always tried to ‘go around the corner first,' so to speak,” he asserts.

Polakovsky says that “Over the years there have been a lot of changes in the carnival business. Labor has gotten a lot tougher to find. We have turned to foreign labor since the pandemic, but we have good workers and we're glad that there's no shortage of bookings. As many have noticed though, without the free-floating money from the pandemic year, last summer was not quite as strong as the previous two seasons, but our midway is still going strong.” However, he notes that “Overall operating costs have gotten more expensive, from the cost of driving on the Pennsylvania turnpike to gas, fuel, and ride upkeep.”

Regardless, he is committed to the business and loves the carnival life. “My dad tried to keep me out of it,” he says. “He wanted it to be my choice whether I wanted to join the carnival and not that it was expected of me. I was encouraged to take my time and decide if this was really the life I wanted to live. And it is.” 

The senior Polakovsky had studied electrical work, planning a career in steel manufacturing, but when that industry began to close in the state, he pivoted to the operation of carnival games, growing his operation over the years to the 25 rides offered today along with the show's full quiver of food and games.

Throughout the company's growth, the team remains committed to “doing everything 110%,” Polakovsky attests. “We really like to perfect what we do, and we work hard at it, because we want the families who come here to make the kind of memories that will last forever.”

They also try to make those memories as reasonable to achieve as possible. “We want our show to be an affordable one for everyone. We want a family of four to come out not just for one day, but as many days as possible. And when they do come, it's our responsibility to give them a great day. Our goal is to send our guests home happy, so that they want to come back again and again.”
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