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Kissel Entertainment Adds New Fairs & Events, Focuses on Branding
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Savannah and Madison Kissel are eager to continue their family's legacy in the carnival industry. With respect for the past, including the wisdom of their great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents, the two sisters are working on modernizing the ‘Kissel Experience' on the midway. “This has always been a family business that started in 1932 with our great grandfather. This generation is hungry to change the typical carnival atmosphere. We are very dedicated and excited to amplify the guest and employee experience,” says Kissel.

The 2022 season was a great one for the Kissel family. “Everyone was hesitant about how 2022 would shape up and how successful the turnout at events would be. It wasn't quite the same as 2021 but we are blessed and fortunate to have the outcome we did,” says Kissel. Luckily, Kissel Entertainment received all the H2B employees they were expecting which helped the show operate on all cylinders and accommodate crowds.

Madison and Savannah certainly noticed a change in consumer behavior this season from last. “Prices have increased everywhere and some families don't have as much to spend. The cost of living has gone up too. People were still coming out and spending money but maybe they split a large soda instead of each person getting one, we saw some little differences like that,” says Kissel. “We also saw an increase in the younger generation coming out and maybe not as many families this time around,” she adds.



Bolstering the Kissel Entertainment team's success are some new events. 2022 was the first time Kissel provided the midway for the Tennessee Valley Fair in Knoxville.

“We are so happy to become partners with such an outstanding team that is so dedicated to the fair,” says Kissel. “We do about 36 events a year and can really see the love and dedication from the fair board at the Tennessee Valley Fair.”

Whenever there is a change in provider at a long standing event, it can often take time for the midway provider to get used to the lay of the land and the flow of the event. The Kissel Family took the time to learn about the Tennessee Valley Fair and think about what changes they would make to allow even more success in the coming years. “We are looking forward to growing the Tennessee Valley Fair and growing along with them,” says Kissel. 

The Kentucky State Fair is another new event for the Kissel family. “This should've been our third year at the fair but it's only our second year operating due to covid,” says Kissel. After their first year of operation in 2021, the Kissels focused on adding to the midway and growing the experience this year. “Once you see the operation with your own equipment and you understand the community better you know what to expect. I think 2022 was better than 2021 at the Kentucky State Fair,” says Kissel.



The sisters believe it's important to form a partnership between the fair and carnival provider at each of their big events.

“Without both the fair board and the carnival it's impossible to accomplish the event, so why not treat it like a partnership,” questions Kissel. “Our managers are extremely hands on with the midway and that's something that our event partners are often taken aback by. We like to be involved with new ideas and promotions to try to get new people out to the fair,” she says. For the Kissel team, it's all about creating the best experience for the fairgoers.

The Kissel Experience is attained through customer amenities such as a brightly lit midway, baby changing areas, benches, and the ‘funny farm' play area for young children not tall enough to ride. Customer service stations and consistent branding across the midway is a must for the Kissel family. “We have customer service ambassadors at each of our events to help guests with whatever they may need and to answer questions. We are big on consistency in our uniforms and branding,” says Kissel. From the umbrellas shading employees running the rides, to canvas, to the wax paper sitting underneath the corn dogs from the food cafes, the Kissel name is clearly printed on all midway materials. “We are even strict about the back of house areas. People think we're crazy but we lay out a lot string for parked vehicles so everything is organized and we have all Lifetime housing facilities for team members that are wrapped in show colors,” she says.



Another big focus for the Kissel sisters and their team in 2022 was ramping up their kiddie land offerings. Madison and Savannah have three kids under four years old between them; their own families have inspired the two to invest in the best kiddie and family rides for their family business. “We have about 10 new purchases, all family rides and kiddie rides, that we added to the midway this season,” says Kissel. Some of these rides include an SBF pirate ship, a Baja buggy, a kid's drop tower, a Rumble In The Jungle fun house, a Rockin' Tug, a Sizzler and a Wisdom Tornado ride themed ‘Cyborg.' The Kissels also debuted their newly refurbished carousel at the Lexington Bluegrass Fair. In the way of thrill rides, an ARM Super Shot themed ‘Kong Tower' was introduced at the Kentucky State Fair.



Kissel Entertainment travels with about 58 pieces now. “We have grown significantly in recent years,” says Kissel. “All the credit goes to our team members and staff, because of them we are able to grow our business and our family.” Madison and Savannah are focused on increasing the quality of their operation to attract the best fairs in the country. “We are fixated on quality over quantity,” says Kissel. “For us, this is a passion and a lifestyle not just a job. We are already planning for next year. We're ready to get back on the road,” laughs the sisters.
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