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City of Fun Carnival: A Multi-Generational Family Affair
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Carnival operator City of Fun is located in Utah, but operates throughout Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Idaho as well as in the Beehive state. The family owned and operated company operates a single 25 ride unit that includes an Eli Eagle Ferris Wheel, Vertigo, Orbiter, and Spin Out.

The carnival started in 1959 with just two rides, the Wild Mouse and the Junior Speedway. Their first merry-go-round was a Hershell-Spillman 3 abreast, for which the carousel horses arrived in crates and needed to be assembled before they were put on the ride. Today the carnival offers over 25 rides, including a new addition, the Vertigo. The A.R.M. swing ride is a new thrill ride attraction for the carnival. Recently, the carnival also added a new Slide and a kid fun house called the Kid Zoo, built by Pat Boyles, to its lineup.  The carnival has plans for a big addition in 2020.

When it comes to food items, City of Fun focuses on carnival staples, with elephant ears and corn dogs among their most popular items. Also popular are candy apples created by concession operator Teresa Bissegger. The carnival added both new funnel cakes and pizza trailers last season.

Family owned and operated, the carnival was founded by Lou and Lois Melendez. Lou Melendez passed away in 2010, but Lois still serves as CEO with their daughter Pam Zoeller the general manager and vice president. Son Brad Melendez is company president as well as running the company’s safety and maintenance program; during the off-season, he operates a maintenance facility.

The elder Melendez’ entry in the carnival business began after his graduation from Brigham Young University and searching for a job. Responding to an ad for a company needing a carnival manager, he found his calling.

Zoeller relates that she grew up in the business, and chose to continue in the carnival. She calls it a “family thing. My mother, sister, nieces, nephew, daughter, and granddaughter are all a part.”

“My daughter Shannon and her husband Jay retired from their long time jobs and bought a pizza trailer and now travel with us.   They serve wings with a special sauce and their baked potatoes are a huge hit on our route,” Zoeller added.  As with all positions on the show, they also help in other departments such as the office, customer service, and driving.

Pam’s mother, Lois is 88 years old and still works the office and drives herself from spot to spot.  ”Unfortunately, mom broke her hip several weeks ago and is at home recuperating.  She will be back out next spring,” Zoeller said.

Frank Morales is a veteran employee and has been with City of Fun for over 25 years, serving as the company’s lot man and helping with operations and maintenance.  “Frank is one of the best at layout out a midway among his other talents,” added Zoeller.  Frank’s son Frankie recently graduated with a degree in automotive with a welder certification and joined the show last spring.    

July finds the carnival not far from its home base in Pleasant Grove, Utah, in Provo, Nephi, and American Fork, among other locations. Tickets are and unlimited ride wristbands are $30. Single tickets are $1.50 each.

One exception to that pricing is traditional: the Steel Days Carnival in American Fork. In the 1960s, when the carnival was new, the Melendez family offered the city a discounted fare for rides of .15 cents rather than the regular price of .25 cents. Today, rides at this event are priced at $1.

City of Fun began their 2019 season in March at the La Paz County Fair in Parker, Ariz. The season closer in 2018 was in October, at the Navajo Nation Fair in Tuba City, Ariz. The season typically runs March through October annually. The carnival has had a successful season so far, despite hot weather at some events.

The company strives to keep rides fresh and up to date, re-theming rides as well as maintaining them. Five years ago, for example, Zoeller had Wisdom Ride’s Clatterpillar re-themed as the JaydeBug, designing the new look for the ride herself, and having the painting done on it in-house. She named it for her youngest granddaughter.

The company promotes it’s shows vigorously on Facebook.
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