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Cole Amusements strives to stay modern, safe, and, most importantly, fun!
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After many years in the carnival industry, R.C. Cole of Cole Amusements has maintained a modern, safe, amusement company serving Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. As President of Cole Amusements, R.C. Cole “grew up in the industry” and has “been in the business since [he] was 19 years old.” Along with his management team, R.C. and Cole Amusements seek to provide a high-quality amusement experience for all those who attend their events and so far they have been very successful in doing so. They typically bring around “31 rides, 6 games, and 6 food trailers” depending on the size of the event, and they play spots both small and large.

Attracting new clientele

According to R.C., the “past two years have been great” for Cole Amusements. Their crowds and attendance numbers are back equal to pre-pandemic highs, and they are even reaching previously untapped markets. Once carnivals and fairs reopened, R.C. mentioned how he “heard people saying that they have not been to a fair in 10 or 15 years.” Since the fair industry has gone through numerous updates and changes over the past decade, there are many people who did not know what they were missing. For Cole Amusements, this meant an opportunity to “gain and win over new customers while still retaining old ones.” With this mindset, Cole Amusements will continue to update their strategies to reach a broader audience.

One way Cole Amusements is keeping their business updated is through social media and digital marketing. As the times continue to change, R.C. explained that they are using “less posters” and opting for an online approach to reach more people. Partnering with Innovative Marketing, they have updated social media accounts are now utilizing digital ads for advertising.

For rural events, with the population spread out they are able to target areas within a radius of the event, instead of buying ads on a radio or TV station many miles away.   The ads reach the demographic they are targeted and delivers them economically.  Conversely, when playing an area such as Northern Virginia, which is densely populated, they can reach their customers through email blasts and digital targeting without having to pay the high prices of a big city media station.  

In addition to their updated social media accounts and digital ads, Cole Amusements began allowing credit card sales for games and food. Cole found that “more people are using card payments, while less and less people are carrying cash,” making this change necessary to remain modern.

The carnival company also utilizes advance sales and online ticketing through Innovative Ticketing which R.C. stated is “very successful” for them. Cole can now sell tickets through his website, the guests receive a QR code for the ticket which they either print or keep on their phone and the code is then scanned at the event, reducing the time they would have had to wait in line to purchase.  Selling online, both before and during the event, also makes the guest commit to coming, having already purchased a ticket or wristband.

Although the changes may seem small, access to credit card sales and online ticketing is something that customers call for, and Cole Amusements listened.  The results and sales they have generated, have had a tremendous impact on the show's bottom line.

What's New?

The 2022 season, although great, did come with some issues. “Finding labor is the biggest issue”, R.C. explained, especially considering the “long hours and long season.” It is getting harder and harder for these carnival companies to find local employees at each event, which can, at times, limit the size of a show. With their show taking “47 loads” to move in its entirety, rising fuel costs are also a problem. Additionally, stock and ride parts are hard to come by with some things taking a year to arrive. Even with these challenges, Cole remains optimistic for the 2023 season. The past few years brought uncertainty for the future of the carnival industry, due to the pandemic, Cole Amusements stayed steadfast in their belief that they would get through it. As Cole put it, “we survived. One thing about carnival people is we are survivors.” The carnival industry is in itself a community, and most are willing to lend a helping hand when necessary.

Going into the 2023 season, Cole Amusements is looking forward to using their new rides and renovating older ones. They recently purchased a “new Vertigo from ARM and a New York, New York Funhouse” and they are “changing the lighting on [their] Cliffhanger and Funnel Force with the help of CMD” according to Cole.  Cole Amusements is also planning on “renovating some of [their] game trailers, [their] Tilt, and using [their] new popcorn and lemonade stands from last year.” The carnival company will begin its 2023 season in April and it will continue until November.

A strong support system

Many of the successes of Cole Amusements comes, in part,  to his “outstanding management team.” Cole runs his company alongside Debbie Badami and his cousin, W.D. Cole, who celebrated his 40th birthday last year justifying R.C. 's nickname for him, “WD-40.” R.C. mentioned how W.D. joined the team three years ago, and is an overall “great asset.” Badami has most of the games, runs Cole concessions, and works in the office making her an “essential part of Cole Amusements” according to Cole. With their help, Cole Amusements has grown to the company it is today and alongside his team, R.C. is “optimistic for another great year in 2023.”

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