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From the Road: Deggeller Attractions Optimistic on 2019 Season
Improved economy resulting in more spending at fairs
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Deggeller Attractions was at the Madison County Fair during the hottest weekend of the year (so far). Temperatures hit 115 during on a Saturday, and Andy Deggeller, CEO of Deggeller Attractions convinced fair organizers that that the midway shouldn't open with the fair at noon, but at five o'clock. “They agreed, the fairs are cooperative,” he said. “About the same amount of people came out, it was just more contained. Basically you're compacting the attendance into fewer hours,  but it makes you more efficient.”

That weekend's widespread heatwave may have set records, but Deggeller stated it's been a very hot early summer in the Mid-Atlantic region – Virginia, Maryland and the D.C. metro area –  that makes up the bulk of the late spring/early summer phase of the company's route. “The heat has been a factor and mid-July seems to get the hottest, but it's been very hot this year,” said Deggeller. “It seems to be getting hotter every year, and this has been one of the hottest we've had and it's one of the bigger issues we face. It always used to be rain, but this year it's heat.”

Aside from the heat, how has the 2019 season been so far? “Very good,” he said. “We've set some records, we're having a good run. Now we are about to play some of our bigger fairs and I remain very optimistic.”

One reason he's optimistic is a noticeably improved economy. “This year, and last year too, people feel more comfortable spending money. There are more people out spending that may have not been before. People have more faith in the economy.”

“As a company we are  constantly refurbishing our equipment,” said Deggeller. “We assess our equipment, and work with a third party inspection company. Safety is our top priority, but we also undergoing cosmetic refurbishment, it's a constant.”

Another midway constant has been an expansion of beautification and customer amenities. Not only has this ongoing program included more seating, benches, tables and umbrellas, but more Portacool Fans, and air-conditioned baby changing stations. “We probably add a trailer a year of midway beautification,” said Deggeller. “This year we had at least 10 new umbrellas, and a few dozen more benches and planters. We first added charging towers and air-conditioned baby changing stations nine year ago.”

More rest areas within the midway has created layout challenges and this year's no different. Fairgrounds are generally not getting any bigger, so the carnival company has to become increasingly creative to ensure the midway contains a sufficient assortment of rides as well as the growing rest spaces. “There's never enough space, but you would be surprised how you can squeeze in more umbrellas and benches. Fairs are always willing to work with you with your space requirements. They like to work with you in fact, because the more rides and more rest areas, that's good for the whole fair.”

Towards that goal, Deggeller “Cads” each midway using CAD computer software, as well as utilizing a Drone Camera.  “Once you send the drone up, you have the pictures of what you did last year so you can compare it to the last year. You want to purposely change things year after year. There's no magic to it. You continually change and adjust, what worked last year doesn't mean that will work this year.”

 Like many carnival companies in 2019, the most significant hurdle to overcome was a workforce disruption caused by the H-2B crisis. Deggeller Attractions employees about 200 workers, with about 70 via the guest foreign labor visa program. Deggeller Attractions was one of the companies shut out of their 2019 allotment due to a computer crash at the beginning of the year, which was eventually remedied by an increase in the cap on workers. This impacted half of the H-2B workers for Deggeller Attractions, meaning the company was short about 35 employees for the spring leg of its route. In fact, those employees did not arrive for Deggeller until early July.
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