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IAFE Convention 2023: Brown's Amusements Bolsters Ride Line-Up; Colorado State Fair Improves Grounds; Ulster Co. Fair Becomes a Family Affair
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The IAFE Convention and Trade Show was busy again Tuesday as attendees learned from classes and sessions and made purchases and plans at the Trade Show.  The trade show was split into two sessions, morning and afternoon.

The IAFE announced award recipients today in various categories.  Virgil Strickler, Manager of the Ohio State Fair as we mentioned yesterday, received the prestigious Hall of Fame Award.  Alicia Shoults, also of the Ohio State Fair, received the Rising Star Award.

State and Provincial Executive of the Year went to Nancy Pitz of the Rocky Mountain Association of Fairs.  Associate of the year went to Robert Holmes and the Coca Cola Top Recruiter Award was given to Tom Barnes of the Iowa Association of Fairs.

The Heritage Awards were given to:
  • Linda Rider, North Idaho State Fair
  • Edward Rossley, Delaware Valley Agricultural Society, NY
  • Ellen Sietmann, CFE, DuPage County Fair, IL
  • Don Merkens, Norman County Ag Society, NY
  • Roylene Crawford, CVFM, Kittitas County Fair, WA


Ulster County Fair

Gary Newkirk, manager of the Ulster County fair in New Paltz, NY has also received numerous awards during his career. He just celebrated his 40th year at the fair. He started in 1983 as a board member. An Electrical Engineer by profession, after retiring, the fair manager job opened up in May of 2004 and Newkirk decided to apply. 

Newkirk was perhaps the perfect candidate for the job. Not only did he have years of fair experience, but he also lived right next door to the fairgrounds.  He was usually the first to be called when there was an issue on the grounds anyway. 

Newkirk is proud of the buildings and grounds improvements and upgrades he has made over his career.

The Ulster County Fair is a "pay one price" fair where rides are included with the admission price. The system started with B & B Rides, the fairs's carnival provider at the time who thought that the system would help the fair stand out, sandwiched as it was between two of NY's larger fairs, the Duchess County Fair and Orange County Fair.  The pay one price system was a hit and the fair doubled in attendance that first year of implementation. The system continued with the next carnival company, Amusements of America and the current provider, Dreamland Amusements.

The fair has become a family effort for Newkirk. His daughter Tracie, who helped at the fair her whole life, took over the concession manager position when Newkirk was promoted to manager.  The Ulster County Fair has a strong concession presence because, as Newkirk explains, “with the pay one price system, people still have money in their pockets.”

Newkirk's youngest daughter, Amy, has been a fixture at the fair for 35 years, first starting high school doing ag entries and now guiding the Ag Awareness tent.

Newkirk has been President of the New York Association of Agricultural Fairs and was elected to the organization's Hall of Fame.


Brown's Amusements

Danny Brown, Brown's Amusements, visited with Mary Weber of Ticketing at the IAFE Show

One person familiar with the Salt Lake area is Danny Brown of Brown's Amusements.  He spends about 2 1/2 months a year in Salt Lake with his carnival company, from the 1st week of June through August.   He plays many county fairs and city events on both sides of I-15.  He sometimes splits the show into 2 and even 3 units to service the number of clients. 

“Its good territory,” said Brown adding, “the unemployment is low here.  If you want a job, you can work.”

Brown has added some new purchases to his show this year, including new bunkhouses from Gary Otterbacher's Lifetime Products, a new spin ride from Mike Featherstone and a swing ride from Tommy Coffing.  He is waiting on a dragon coaster from Kolmax Plus which he hopes to take delivery on this year.
New Family/Kiddie Swing to be delivered to Brown's Amusements

He also purchased a used Zierer Wave Swinger that he is currently refurbishing in his winter quarters.  He found a guy in Missouri that will be taking care of the paint and cleaning the art work on this beautiful attraction.  The ride is currently “in a million pieces” at his shop but Brown is hoping that with new air ride axles, fifth wheel and paint, the ride will be a centerpiece for the show.  He is hoping to do some rentals with the ride, possibly even get some movie gigs for it.

Brown's season opens May 1, and he says the show has plenty of work.  He charges $40 for a wristband and has a Fast Pass option at many venues for a $20 add on.  The show uses Magic Money for tickets, and they were one of the first to test the system.  Brett Enright, owner of Magic Money, lives near Brown and he helped worked out the system as it was being developed.

Brown says that with a Star Link internet system, digital ticketing has been a game changer for the show.


Scott Stoller/Colorado State Fair

Scott Stoller of the Colorado State Fair said his event had a good year.  They are in the midst of a $188 million dollar capital project, part of a 25-year plan to improve the grounds, They are currently raising money for Phase II of the project, hoping to raise a total of $40 million dollars: $15 million from private sources and $25 million from government sources. 

Phase II will include a new livestock pavilion that can be used for sporting events as well.  Stoller will be hiring a capital campaign coordinator to spearhead the drive.

Stoller has a long history with fairs.  He showed livestock a a kid and his family had a horse and stagecoach concession in a State Park.  He attended Chico State College, studying business, but a fair management course was offered.  When the professor was looking for a speaker, Stoller asked the Calaveras County Fair manager to help.  He was a member of the junior fair board and worked at a summer internship at the event.

After college, Stoller worked at various fairs doing work that was needed during the events until he landed the manager job at the Benton County (OR) fair in 2006.  He spent four fairs at Benton County before moving to the Silver Dollar Fair in CA before landing the top position at the Colorado State Fair.


2023 IAFE Convention Coverage

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