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Carnival Midway Attractions: On Track for a Profitable Year
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Owned and operated by Tony Guadagno Jr., Carnival Midway Attractions, based in Orange, California, provides amusement rides and attractions for all ages.

The history of the company dates back to Guadagno's grandfather, who owned and managed an amusement park at the Long Beach Pike during the 1950s and 1960s. The family went on to operate a Rotor ride throughout fairs and festivals in California and Arizona after the Pike closed in 1979, eventually starting a company called G&S shows. After graduating from college, Guadagno then went off on his own and started Carnival Midway Attractions in 1996.

The business initially began with 15 rides and now features up to 25 rides, showcasing 18-20 different attractions every week. Some of the top carnival favorites include the Pharaoh's Fury, Gravitron, Zipper, and a variety of kiddie rides such as the Surf City, Bumble Bees and Raiders.

Recent rides added to the lineup include a Starship 3000 and a Typhoon, both purchased in 2022; and a Tilt-A-Whirl and Star Fire (Ranger), purchased in 2023. The company's midway features between 10-12 games every week, with additional game opportunities being offered at larger events. There are also between one and five food concession stands available to customers.

Carnival Midway Attractions travels for 40 weeks out of the year, performing at around 30 events total, beginning the season in January and ending in late November. Additionally, in December, Carnival Midway Attractions also plays at Winter Fest in Costa Mesa, Cali.

Key players in the business include, as mentioned, owner Tony Guadagno Jr., who also managed the independent midway at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar. He oversees everything from daily operations of the company to the coordination of the midway.

There's also Shawnee Merten, who oversees the risk management department. Merten grew up with his family's show – SJM Fiesta Shows – which started in 1949. He has specialized in writing all lines of insurance in the entertainment and amusement industry, and eventually ran his family's booking department before taking on Carnival Midway Attraction's booking, contracts, marketing and promotions.

The General Manager is Dale Razor; and Tony plans to pass the torch on to his son and Director of Operations, Kyle Guadagno, who has been with the show since college. Kyle's wife, Sam, and their two young children are also involved in the business. The Director of Ticket Sales is Angela Ellinson and the office manager is Kris Kristensen.

So far this season, Merten shared that things have been looking up and on par with the company's projections. “We are cautiously optimistic this year, expecting a season a little better than last year,” he said. There is, however, a caveat: “But looking at the state of the country today, you have to be prepared to be flexible and adjust as the circumstances change.

“Our route has (also) been pretty solid,” Merten added, though he acknowledged that the business managers are always looking for events to possibly replace some of those shows that may not perform up to expectations.

One big challenge the company has encountered in recent years has been the struggle of maintaining the cost of running the operation and, like so many others in same boat in the industry, finding good and reliable employees.

Another issue, going along with the rising price of operations, has been the increasing cost of fuel and high inflation rates that continue to harm a majority of people in the country. “We work hard to keep expenses down without sacrificing the customer experience, and of course, safety,” Merten said. “We have met those challenges by working together as a team, meeting weekly to discuss that week's work schedules and expenditures.”

He adds that the business has also been able to hire 18-20 H-2B laborers to supplement the regular crew, while thankfully, the standard crew has not had a high turnover rate over the years and has remained stable. Many of the staff members have been on board and continuously involved with the show for 15 or 20 years, which has been a big relief.

Looking ahead to the future, Merten said Carnival Midway Attractions will aim to keep the show going as one of the best operations in the business. One way they plan on doing this will be by staying up-to-date with current industry trends and aware of what's popular in changing times. A social media marketing department will soon be added to the team as a way to expand on customer interactive experiences, and along with this new department, a digital ticketing system will also be put into place once a workable app is available and configured for use on customer phones.

“We are focusing our efforts to make our work force and our working environment, one of the best in the business,” Merten said. “Happy employees equal happy customers. We want to broaden the midway experience to meet our customer's needs and expectations, and we will continue to beautify the show, making the midway a complete and exciting family affair.”
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