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Fanelli Amusements Puts the Family-Run in Family-Fun
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Since 1956, Fanelli Amusements has been the go-to amusement company for safe, clean, family events in New England. Current owner and operator, Joe Fanelli, along with his brother John, are third generation carnival owners, and they intend on bringing a young and fresh perspective to the amusement industry.

History of Fanelli Amusements

Before starting the company, Joe's grandfather and his great uncle entered the industry selling concessions on pushcarts in Massachusetts. After this, according to Joe, his grandfather “purchased an old kiddy ride, fixed it up, and operated it” and he was hooked ever since. With the help of his three sons, Mark, Jimmy, and Jack, Fanelli Amusements grew to its peak in 1997. Following their peak, Jack and Jimmy purchased their father's company and continued to play events throughout the 2000s.

Joe Fanelli's entrance to the carnival and fair industry was inevitable. As a third generation carnival owner, Joe helped his father with events from the time he was seven years old. Along with his older brother John, Joe continued working with his dad into his teens. At around age 14, Joe recalls his “father asking [him] and [his] brother if they wanted to take over the business.” Considering most 14 year olds are not thinking too hard about the future, Joe and John “both said no” to their father's offer. Jack Fanelli continued playing events for a while, but Joe recalls that eventually, “out of his 30 or 35 rides, [his] father sold 90% of them and sold his route to his brother, Mark Fanelli, but continued to play smaller events with around 10 rides.”

Return to the Industry

Even though he initially declined his father's offer to take over his carnival company, Joe's uncle Mark offered him a job traveling with him, working on a machine gun trailer. Joe accepted and at the age of 22, “Mark asked [him] if [he] wanted to work with him on the operations side.” Learning this part of the business from his uncle Mark gave Joe priceless knowledge about running a carnival, and he even planned on purchasing the company from his uncle eventually. When Mark Fanelli passed away on January 1st, 2021, Joe found himself acquiring the company quicker than he expected, but it was a challenge that he and his brother dealt with together and overcame. With his familiarity of contracts, events, and the route itself, Joe was able to buy his father and his uncle Mark's show and with the help of his brother, John, they continue to run Fanelli Amusements.

A New Perspective

John and Joe Fanelli seen at the 2022 IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando

Now that Joe and John have successfully completed a season as the new owners of Fanelli Amusements, they plan on bringing a boost of energy to the carnival industry. The first season that Joe and John experienced as owners was the 2021 season. With the restrictions due to Covid-19, they were “unable to start [the season] until the fourth of July” cutting the season in half, according to Joe. Even though it was a half season, every event from fundraisers to festivals to rentals “exceeded [their] expectations.” When recalling their 2022 season, Joe mentioned that they “did very well, every event was up and the weather was good, [they] did not get rained out much at all.” For an industry that relies heavily on outdoor events, weather can make or break a season, so hopefully the 2023 season will bring similarly great weather. Although the season was overall very successful, there were some issues acquiring H2B employees and local help for the carnivals. As many carnival owners have discussed, obtaining employees for their events is getting increasingly more difficult, and it is an obstacle that no one has found an answer for yet.

Moving forward and looking ahead to the 2023 season, Joe emphasized that they are “in the process of growing.” Although they would like to remain local within the New England area, Joe is always looking for ways to better their show and expand. As for their online presence, Joe excitedly announced that they are getting a new website to replace their old one. Although they already have “between 25 and 30 rides,” Joe mentioned that they are looking to get a new big ride and other attractions to add to their collection. With their older rides, they plan to upgrade the rides with LED lights and renovate them when they can.

Importance and Involvement of Family

At its core, Fanelli Amusements is all about family. Although Joe and John own the carnival company, their younger siblings remain involved with the show as well. Joe explained how his “younger brother Jeff runs the fried dough trailer, and [his] younger sister Jill runs the popcorn trailer.” Even though their father, Jack Fanelli, has stepped back from the carnival industry, he is always “there for advice” and will even help out by fixing any rides that break or need renovations throughout the season. This involvement and focus on family is extremely important to Fanelli Amusements, and they strive to make themselves accessible to every committee and event coordinator that they encounter. The brothers work full time throughout both the season and off-season and ensure that they “are there every single day, seven days a week.” With Fanelli Amusements, the owners will always be available for questions or concerns, and it is important to them to remain as hands on as possible.

The emphasis on family for Fanelli Amusements extends beyond their relatives, to their carnival family as well. Joe commented on how much he “appreciated the help and advice from fellow carnival owners such as Cushing Amusements, Rockwell Amusements, and Scott Miller of Miller Amusements.” Friends within the business willing to lend a helping hand are invaluable, especially to Joe and John as they navigate owning a carnival company for the first time. With the help of their friends and family, Joe is ready to grow and expand their operation, and he is “looking forward to a safe and successful 2023 season.”
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