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Located in Russells Point, Ohio, Durant Amusements is helmed by J.R. and Denise Woods. The company offers 26 rides for 2024, but Denise Woods explains “We will be adding to that in 2025 with a Watkins Expo Wheel, our first Expo Wheel.”

New for this year: a Monkey Maze fun house. The back end attraction is “bigger than the fun house we have already, and while it's not new, it's being refurbished beautifully. We're excited to add it,” Woods says.

The company offers a mix of thrill, family, and kiddie rides. Among the most popular are the Ali Baba, the Typhoon, the Super Shot, and Pharoah's Fury. “Those are all good thrill rides,” Woods reports. Kiddie rides include a train, a sea-life themed Ferris Wheel, a rocking boat, and an elephant ride, among others.

Durant Amusement currently does ten fairs and 9 festivals a year, all within the state of Ohio. “We don't travel outside of the state,” Woods relates. “Our route starts in mid-May and we're busy until the end of October.”

Among the show's many favorite stops are “The Clark County Fair in Springfield, Ohio. The fairgrounds are built on an old airport landing strip, so all the rides fit beautifully, and look tremendous in that layout. We also really enjoy the Millersport Sweet Corn Festival, which is a huge event that draws over 100,000 attendees in three days. They have their own fairgrounds created especially for the festival, and are a lot of fun to work with.”



The Woods have been in the carnival business for many years. “My husband's family is fourth generation,” Woods says. “We are somewhat unique in that we got into the ride business late in our careers, in 2015.”

The couple began their carnival career in food and games. “We started off working these concessions for my husband's family, and then we bought our first food trailer in 1998. We got on with Durant Amusements, and when Durant's original owners decided they wanted to be done with the ride business, that's when we purchased many of our rides. We didn't want to worry about finding a new spot for our games and food, so we just decided to buy the show,” she laughs. “The idea of owning rides was never on our bucket list, but we've grown tremendously since we bought the rides, despite early sink or swim days.”

The duo has upgraded existing rides as well as adding new ones to their amusement quiver. “It was a relatively smaller show when we bought it, but we continue to add to the fleet of rides, upgrade our semis, and add new LED lighting. We have taken pretty much every ride we have and upgraded the lighting packages so that we have the bright lights on everything.”

Along with these upgrades, the company's labor force has also changed. “It's a lot of work maintaining and operating our rides. With food and games, we used to rely entirely on American workers, but today 95% of our ride operators are from Mexico through the H2B worker program. We have the same returning workers every year.  It's hard to find American workers,” Woods says.



What hasn't changed is the company's focus on family. “People often have misconceptions about the carnival business. We are a family operation. Our daughter worked with us for years, all through college; our managers' wives are out with us. You become very close with the people you work with in the carnival life. I don't know of any other business like this,” Woods points out.

Also unchanged: the show's route, which has not changed drastically since the couple purchased the rides. “We have added three county fairs into our route, but that's about it. It has taken us a while to build a route that didn't have a lot of layover times. Some of the shows we play are unique in that they start on a Thursday and end on a Thursday, so we work with that,” she states.

Along with rides, Durant Amusement also continues to offer food concessions and games. According to Woods, “We have a popper serving popcorn, candy apples, candied nuts, and cotton candy, of course. Our general managers have food trailers, too, one operates a tacos and gyro trailer, and the other provides corn dogs and funnel cakes.” Additionally, the company has a shaved ice concession that is not typically utilized. “We typically only use it once a year, at the Brown County Fair. If we have an extra person available here and there, we will put it up, because it is an easy concession to operate, but we don't use it all the time.”



The Brown County Fair itself is a unique location for the Woods' team. “My husband's family has provided food concessions for that fair for over 50 years, so we have continued that tradition, but we do not have our rides there. Instead, our managers take the rides to smaller locations elsewhere, while we continue at the county fair.”

In general, however, the company has moved away from food concessions because ride operation is time consuming.

As to game concessions, Durant Amusements offers a plentiful mix, with popular play including basketball, a dart game, duck pond, kiddie High Striker, a machine gun, and a “dog throws the bone game.”

But the rides are the central focus for the show. “We definitely didn't start out in the ride business, and we were already both 40 when we bought the rides. It wasn't planned, but we rolled with the times,” Woods notes. “As my husband says, ‘you have to go with the times or be left behind.”



The company's commitment to growth has paid off. “We attended the Ohio Fair Managers Convention last week (early January), and we received an award for excellence in rides from the Greater Ohio Showman's Association. We are really proud of that, especially after only 8 years in the ride business,” Woods attests.

The future looks bright, as the award-winning family enterprise plans to keep bringing smiles and growing Durant Amusements' lineup of rides to provide a top carnival experience at fairs and festivals throughout the state of Ohio.
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