Hildebrand Rides Now Booking Galaxy Amusement Sales
Waterloo Tent & Tarp JKJ Workforce
CHANGE SECTIONS: Carnivals & Fairs Amusement Parks




Hildebrand Rides Now Booking Galaxy Amusement Sales
Waterloo Tent & Tarp JKJ Workforce
RIDE HELP WANTED RIDE HELP WANTED NOW Berk Concession Supply Dreamland Amusements:  Help Wanted - Click Here Cole Shows- Click Here
BROWNS AMUSEMENTS - NOW HIRING Battech Rides North American Midway Entertainment Carnival Insurance
BROWNS AMUSEMENTS - NOW HIRING Battech Rides North American Midway Entertainment Now Booking Food & Games Carnival Insurance

Carnival & Fair News

Read Amusement Park News

Magic Money
Legendary Showman, Jim Conklin Passes
Rides 4U - New & Used Rides Hildebrand Rides is now booking
Jim Conklin – Carnival Owner, Innovator, Entrepreneur, Mentor, Showman, Historian, Husband, Father, and International Carnival/Midway Legend.  Born May 2nd, 1933 in Hamilton, Ontario – Died March 22nd, 2023 in Brantford, Ontario.

At the conclusion of every carnival day at any fair, in any city, in any country, the signal to close the midway is when the lights on the Ferris Wheel go dark. Today, we as a worldwide industry shut off the Ferris Wheel lights for midway legend, Jim Conklin.  Jim was with us for 89 years, yet his legacy will last forever. The story sort of goes like this...

The phone would ring at 2:00am, which was 4:00am Jim Conklin time, as time was no of consequence nor consideration to the non-stop creator. Great Jim Conklin concepts would trickle through the vast landscape of the Jim Conklin mind at all hours, and lucky were those who received those calls. More often than not, these concepts were of great importance and needed some well-deserved attention from the person answering the phone. These types of calls began as far back as 40 years ago and continued up until as recently as last month – an adventure of countless ideas. Many of them came to reality, and even more were just plain good ideas that would have been just as good if they came to fruition.

It all started some 89 years ago in a hospital in Hamilton during the height of the Great Depression. Jim was the only child born to Edith and Patty Conklin (better known through his midway moniker as the “King of the Carnival”).       

Jim plowed through his youth cutting his teeth on the carnival train and at Ridley College and McGill University.  In 1957, he married his lifetime friend and partner Norma. The two of them welcomed three children: Patricia, Frank and Melissa.

In 1970, Patty Conklin passed away and Jim took over the reins of Conklin Shows, blazing new trails with the omnipresent Conko the Clown banner held high at the front of the parade. In Jim's early years at the helm of this enterprise, he established operations at Belmont Park, Hemmingford Lion Safari, and Crystal Beach, all the while carrying on midway operations at fairs and festivals in Ontario and at the world famous Canadian National Exhibition.   

One of the many Jim Conklin masterpieces came in the summer of 1975, when the incumbent Royal American Shows that held the Western Canada “A” Circuit contract since 1932, was unable to honor their obligations and contracts for 1976 which, in turn, opened the door for Conklin Shows to bid on those fairs. During the International Fair and Exhibitions Convention in Las Vegas in late November of 1975, Jim headed a dedicated and talented team that secured a contract for the Calgary Stampede. Within days of that contract, Conklin had signed Klondike Days in Edmonton, Alberta, The Red River Exhibition in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Buffalo Days (now known as the Queen City Ex) in Regina, Saskatchewan. Upon returning back to Brantford, his hometown and home to the Conklin Shows World headquarters, he unleashed a plan that would present a World Class Carnival in a short, unprecedented timeframe of only 7 months. Friday, June 25th, 1977 will live forever in memories as Conklin Shows and Jim Conklin opened at the Red River Exhibition and the Western “A” Fair circuit for the first time ever. It was an amazing achievement. At the conclusion of the season, the highly regarded, Amusement Business Magazine (Billboard), named Conklin Shows the number one carnival company in North America. 

The following two years were a like being on a Tilt-a-Whirl set to double speed. Jim Conklin purchased two carnivals; the first in Ontario that added 25 fairs and exhibitions in that province and the second that was a USA carnival that gave Conklin Shows a strong American presence. Included in that were the contracts for The Eastern States Exposition and the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair.  Jim, not being one to stop a runaway train, also created the first large carnival to go to Puerto Rico - yet another significant industry milestone.   

Maybe one of Jim's finest moments came in the summer of 1978, where he painstakingly created a working 1920's antique midway that appeared at the Calgary Stampede and the Canadian National Exhibition. The midway featured period rides, shows and game,s including Orton and Savage English Gallopers, and period costumes - all under Edison lights and atop the nostalgic sawdust covered midways.    

In the years that followed, Jim, commanding operations from Brantford, opened operations in the CN Tower in Toronto, Maple Leaf Village Park in Niagara Falls, the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, expanded the Ontario Route, purchased new and exciting spectacular rides from around the world, and if that was not enough, purchased and operated a 27-tractor trailer Schwarzkopf Roller Coaster – “The Double Loop”.  With dedication and perseverance, Jim turned his carnival into an empire.

The fairs that Jim Conklin contracted within Canada alone would attract a tidal wave of attendees, well in excess of five million visitors annually. When you add the United States fairs and exhibitions, that number jumps close to nine million visitors. Fairs across North America greatly benefited from a Conklin Shows Midway.  

Jim Conklin, with his family, associates, management, and employees, over time became such a big part of our lives. In fact, the Conko the Clown logo became one of the top ten most recognized logos in Canada during the shows' heyday. There are countless stories from the public that attended a Jim Conklin midway from the guy that stole his very first kiss on the Scrambler,  to people that are married 50 years later who had met for the first time on the midway,  to the guy that built up enough nerve to ask his girlfriend to marry him on the Ferris Wheel, or the child that won that teddy bear at the CNE that guided them through early life and they passed onto their kids.  Or maybe you remember the first hill and the thrill of the Double Loop, the CNE Flyer or the Jumbo Jet Roller Coasters. Maybe it's the memory of spending a fun-filled day with your family in your youth. That's what Jim Conklin did, that is what Jim Conklin will be remembered for.  

I'm sure, in fact I'm positive, that today Jim and Patty are sitting in the great cookhouse in the sky, sharing laughs, big belly laughs recounting the adventures and triumphs of their storied careers. Patty should cut his conversation short and get to bed – he has a phone call at 2:00am.
Carnival Warehouse Magazine - Subscribe Today
Related Photos
1998-2022: Company | Web site developed by Matt's Web Design, Inc.