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Carnival & Fair News

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California Carnival Company Reports Record 2018 Season; Attests Success to Affordability and H-2B Program
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California Carnival Company's president and CEO, Kevin Tate says in his Northern California operating region, the carnival does “a little bit of everything. Big events, small events, and medium events, which is probably what we do more of than anything else.” Most recently, the company has provided the rides, food, and games for the Mariposa County Fair, Redwood Empire Fair, and the Humboldt County Fair, to name a few events. 

The company began in 1981, with a philosophy that focuses on attention to detail, and providing communities, fairs and festivals with a total entertainment experience that's focused on family fun, and providing a safe, inexpensive entertainment venue. 

Most of the carnival's rides allow all ages to ride – if a child isn't big enough to ride on their own, they can have a relative or friend accompany them. Allowing all ages to participate on most of the rides is one way the carnival supports the idea of “family first.”

Another way is through reasonable pricing. 

Tate keeps ticket prices at the low end, in order to reach the broadest audience. “Our pricing is $1.25 a ticket, 30 tickets for $30 dollars, or 60 tickets for $50,” he relates. “We also do wristbands, which vary in price by the number of rides we offer at an event. If we have 16 or more rides, they're $35, if we're offering under 16 rides, wristbands are $25 dollars.”

Although he terms all the rides he offers as popular, he notes that this year, among the rides that did the best for the company were “the big wheel, the carousel, the fun house, and this year Pharoah's Fury did amazingly well; so did the Wave Swinger.” Both are family rides, so young riders can join in the fun when accompanied by an older companion. Pharoah's Fury provides a weightless feeling with an Egyptian ship-themed pendulum ride; while Wave Swinger, new to the carnival in 2017 and crafted in Italy by Bertazzon, it swings riders over the crowd with the smooth motion of a wave. “They both have great lighting and are just really fun rides,” Tate asserts.

Having added the Wave Swinger in 2017, Tate did not add any more new rides in 2018. However, he added a new funnel cake stand, expanding his food stands that also include traditional fair food choices such as corn dogs, candied and caramel apples, cotton candy, deep fried Oreos and Twinkies. 

And, to his midway games, Tate added a new Roller Ball Derby game. 

“The Roller Ball game is doing well, but games over all are somewhat of a dying industry,” he relates. “It's really because too many people in our business don't operate the games properly, making guests game-shy.” To Tate, it's more important to make a living from games year to year than to burn out guests. “Some people unfortunately try to make a killing in one spot, and then they burn out the players. People don't want to play them because they don't have enough perceived value. It's sad to me that there are still carnival operators out there in 2019 that allow their game operators to do that to people.”

At California Carnival Company, Tate keeps the games easy to win. “Most of our games are winner-every-time,” he explains, noting that with that in mind there is a stronger value for guests. “We do have a couple that are harder to win, but people just like to play them – basketball, machine gun, people just love to play those.”

Further enhancing the carnival experience, Tate provides shaded seating areas, ticket boxes with clear signage, and safety signage on all rides. At larger events, he can also offer landscaping such as potted plants and even flower beds.  

Carnival lighting has been upgraded to bright, attractive, and energy efficient LED systems.

To promote the carnival, Tate relies primarily on a “strong social media presence. On Facebook and Instagram, we have 14,000 followers,” he notes. He updates the sites regularly, and includes plenty of attractive carnival photographs. “We enjoy it greatly of course if our partners in the fairs and festivals also have a great social media presence, but in some cases, that's just coming down the line.”

He believes carnival attendance was “better than ever” overall in 2018. “It's hard to judge exactly,” he allows. “I haven't completely evaluated the numbers. But last year we were able to get into the H-2B program, and so we had better help, and could book more spots.”

Tate adds that “I would say overall the carnival is up about 25% but not necessarily at each spot. At each individual location, it's in the 8 to 10% range. In 2017 we didn't have as many spots as we did in 2018, simply because didn't have the crew to move the carnival. But this year, we did.” 

He laughs that his philosophy is to “Do the best you can, and if you come out of the season and your bills are paid, you've done pretty good.” And given carnival guests a very good time.
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