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Carnival & Fair News

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Murphy Brothers partners with Crabtree Amusements for Dakota route in 2019
Carnival Partnerships Increase Company Reach
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For carnival operator Jerry Murphy, partnership is a good thing – and good for business.

“We’ve been bringing in partners into our ventures, depending on the fair. One of our major partners is Crabtree Amusements. We work with Pat Crabtree on many events; he fits in well with our state fairs and county fairs. He has a big operation with fifty or sixty rides, and operates at locations such as the Louisiana State Fair and the Colorado State Fair.”

Murphy notes that he partners with others to “to have a massively larger route. Mr. Crabtree was the right one for us, because he can come into our state fairs and helped us service them.”

The pair have known each other for over 40 years, Murphy attests. “He was in the game business with us at Murphy Brothers, and so when this partnership became available, for both of us, it’s worked out to be a very good deal. I needed beautiful rides and a high-quality partner together with us, to do the big events we do.”

Murphy also works with James E. Strates, whom he terms “the only carnival operator in American left working with trains.” Historically, many carnivals transported rides and games on trains, but today, Strates is it. “He puts his whole carnival on a train, even going as far as the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, N.Y.,” Murphy explains. “He’s been doing it for 84 years now, and he’s a friend of mine too. I’ve been in this business a long time, so it’s good when you have friends and you can do things together.”

Murphy says that “We are very happy and elated to have our partners, and previously worked with another gentleman, Jimmy Reed of Reed Exposition Midways,” but notes that Reed had to look after another type of company altogether, one in the granite business. “So now it’s worked out fine for all of us.” Crabtree will now replace Reed on most of that route according to Murphy.

In 2018, Murphy’s carnival appears at “10 to 12 fairs. We did the North Dakota State Fair in Minot, the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia (with Wade Shows), and the Red River Valley fair in Fargo. Those were some of our biggest ones,” he relates.

For the coming year, Murphy says events will be a mix of locations, including some that he’s played for 50 years. “I tell people I started in the business when I was five,” he jokes.

Murphy says that the carnival business is on the upswing. “Honestly, when you get a surge in America, with the public spending more, making more money, we found it to be really helpful with the events we’ve played. Spending was very good last year at the carnivals.”

All the same, Murphy makes sure ticket prices are reasonable. “The individual charge is $1 a ticket. We also do wristbands at many events, and they go from $25 to $35 dollars, depending on the hours of the event, and the type of the event.” He adds “We want to give a deal to the public. We’re lower than some people, but we believe that keeping the ticket prices low brings in more customers. If you treat them right, they’ll come back again.”

Currently, Murphy keeps most of his fair coverage to the Midwest. “I’m a Midwest kid, so it’s a good fit for all of us,” he laughs. “We used to travel quite a bit, and went all over the country, even Puerto Rico. And I was the first one to take a major carnival to China, that was an exciting experience for sure.”

Murphy grew up in the carnival business – his parents owned a small carnival – and later, he and his brother Jim built the business into a behemoth.

Murphy attests that he has many popular rides, both old and new. “It’s amazing: they have a lot of new spectacular rides out there, but people still love the old standard rides, too. They love the Zipper, the Tilt-A-Whirl – and those have been around for fifty years, and the public still loves them.” He notes that which rides are the most visited depends on the fair where the ride is located. “Different locations mean different people ride the rides. In some areas there are more teenagers, in some there are more adults, and that affects which rides are the most popular. Kiddie rides though, they’re always popular,” he explains. “You have kids’ days and things like that. Plus, kids love carnivals.” Adding to the fun for small children, rides are brightly lit and painted, and often include characters that kids enjoy seeing.

Along with the rides, Murphy provides food and games for events. “One of the big food and drink events we do is the Cheyenne Wyoming Frontier Days event. We do everything for that.”
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