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Carnival & Fair News

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Carnivals in New England: Tradition Triumphs
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The New England area is home to a number of carnival operators, each family owned and steeped in tradition. Perhaps it’s the cold New England winters that brings out the quest for carnival fun spring through fall. 

Fiesta Shows is one of the oldest and largest of the area’s carnival operators. The company enjoys a fifty-year partnership providing the carnival midway to the Topsfield, Mass. Fair, one of the biggest venues in the state. Some of the carnival’s employees have been working for the company almost as long as the partnership with Topsfield has existed: some have been with the company 20, 25, and even 50 years. 

Fiesta operates over 100 rides, and spends its off-season refurbishing on an on-going basis. This year, the carnival has been busy in its updating of rides such as the Pharaohs Fury, which is receiving new LED lighting and paint. The company has added new attractions continually, and company representatives say that in a five-year period, the carnival invested more than four million dollars in new rides such as the Expo Gondola Wheel and the Big Splash Flume Ride. The free-fall Seven Seas ride is a newer addition to the midway. In 2018, the carnival premiered their newest ride, Top Gun. The single arm Kamikaze ride is a thrill ride manufactured by A.R.M.

The operating season for Fiesta starts in March. Fiesta Shows travels to over 60 different New England communities over the course of their season. Along with the Topsfield Fair, which drew over 486,000 visitors in 2018 and is a Top 50 Fair on the Carnivalwarehouse Top 50 Fairs list, other big venues for the carnival include the Hopkinton State Fair and the Woodstock Fair.

Among the show’s most popular rides are the Mack-manufactured Arctic Blast, a  high speed bobsled ride, and of course the Expo Wheel. There’s a bevy of popular concessions, too, from the Fry Trailer’s mozzarella sticks to the Apple Cinnamon from the fried dough trailer, adding a bit of New England flavor to a traditional favorite. 

As vice president of the fair’s operations, EJ Dean oversees all on-site daily management, and handles marketing, planning, and development, and says he loves working with the communities the carnival appears in. He has the carnival in his blood. In 1935, Dean’s grandfather, Eugene Dean, and Jack Flynn teamed up in Salisbury Beach, Mass. to provide amusements, signing their initial contract with the Topsfield Fair in 1950. The duo purchased Fiesta Shows in 1967 and carried the name.  Today, the privately held company is still a family affair, but seasonally keeps a minimum of 50 employees. Their route takes them throughout Massachusetts to Bangor, Maine, running from March to October.

The carnival operator has a robust Instagram and also uses Facebook to promote ticket specials and fair appearances. 

Also located in New Hampshire and operating a New England route, is the Fanelli family. The Fanelli’s helm two separate companies: Mark Fanelli’s Traveling Amusement Park and Fanelli Amusements. Like Fiesta, it’s a long-time family affair. The Fanelli family’s carnival attractions had their beginning in 1956, when Mark Fanelli’s father, John, bought his first ride. Fanelli Amusements continues to thrive on its own; Mark Fanelli started his own company, the Traveling Amusement Park, while his brother helms Fanelli Amusements. Both brothers frequently work together. With a full range of carnival rides for kids and adults, a bevy of traditional fair food concessions, and a midway full of games, Mark Fanelli continues to add to his attractions. Last year, a Looping Street Fighter named the Hyper Loop was added. The spinning claw ride is made by Technical Park and sold through Ital International. 
New England is also host to Rockwell Amusements, which operates in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. It too is a family-owned business, run by Harold Fera. Established in 1969, the North Scituate, R.I. company specializes in creating specific midway configurations for every event it operates, whether a school carnival, church, or fair. Outside of the New England area, the company closed its 2018 season with Santa’s Enchanted Forest in Miami, Fla. The holiday theme park event is one of Rockwell’s largest, along with the Durham Fair in Durham, Conn. Their New England operating season runs from the end of March through the end of September; and in 2018, the route included more than 60 stops. Serving venues from seafood festivals to county fairs, Rockwell offers among its most popular rides the Zipper and Mulligan Giant Wheel. Rockwell has a robust presence on Facebook to promote events and offer specials. 

Also in New England is Tufano Amusements, family owned and operated by Deb and Anthony Tufano. Relatively speaking, the company is a newcomer to the traveling amusement scene in the area, and was established in 1989. The company is located in Cheshire, Conn., and operates at fairs, churches, schools, and at events for charitable organizations such as The United Way of West Central, Conn. The Riverton, Conn. County Fair closed Tufano’s season in October. Among their most popular rides are the Expo Wheel and the Avalanche, a Wisdom build bench ride; the Tufanos also offer a wide range of show owned games and food concessions. The company uses Facebook and Twitter to promote events and specials. One of the operator’s larger events of 2018 was the Bridgewater County Fair, where attendance topped 25,000.

As winter ends, it’s almost spring time in New England, which marks the start of a busy carnival season for these family-run carnivals.
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