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New Marketing, New Winter Quarters & Refurbished Rides Bolster Dreamland Amusement's 2019 Season
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In early July, Bob DeStefano of Dreamland Amusements was setting up for a Veterans Fair in Hempstead Long Island, the first of a three-year contract, while another unit was preparing for another date. Dreamland’s season begins in January, as a main subcontractor for the Florida State Fair, then splits into two units – Blue (27 rides) and Red (22 rides) for most of the remainder of the season. Dreamland’s route spans the eastern seaboard, including New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maryland, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Like many carnival companies, August and September are the busiest and most profitable, and sometimes a wet spring can put the pressure on the final leg of the season to sustain the bottom line, but this year has been positive so far. The spring leg of his route generally consists of still dates, usually parking lot events. “We’re having a real good season,” said DeStafano. “There were a couple of hiccups, but when we got the weekends we did well. I’m very happy with how we did, and I’m very happy with the fairs weather-wise.”

Marketing Updates
While weather is always a determining factor in the carnival business, Dreamland strengthened two key factors they could control – marketing and ride inventory.

 “We pressed the accelerator pedal down on our advertising this year,” said DeStefano. “Our online sales are skyrocketing and we are doing different promotions. The online interest has grown nicely.”

It’s the amped up Dreamland marketing that bolstered the still dates. These self-contained events are generally free-admission and mainly just the Dreamland midway of rides, games and fair food, although a few also feature a limited selection of attractions, such as a circus or other acts.  Dreamland is also responsible for the marketing, and the only way to make these events succeed is by improving the company’s marketing presence and pushing tickets sales through its website.

In a partnership with Innovative Ticketing this year, the company has rolled out online sales both in advance and during the event for almost all of their events.

 “I was a little apprehensive about putting everything on the customer’s phone,” said DeStefano. “I’m a little old school about tickets, but you don’t have to print out tickets, you just scan their phones, and we’re able to handle all of that. The system runs almost flawlessly. We are really in tune now with what technology the people are using.”

As its social media presence has proliferated with new waves of followers, Dreamland nurtured this customer niche who travel and/or return for the rides, not just the event. “We actually do have Dreamland fans,” said DeStefano. “We’ve spent a long time building up the show, creating an experience and people have responded. We see people showing up at different fairs because they like the Dreamland experience.”

Under consideration for next year is a “frequent rider card” to further nurture the following. “We are looking to come out with a Dreamland card, where you get a card once you visit, and your points build up, like Frequent Rider Miles like an airline company, that’s one of the ideas we’re working on.”

Collaborative Dreamland also partners with fairs when it comes to marketing, but to what extent differs depending on the fair. “Marketing with fairs is on a fair to fair basis,” he said. “Some fairs take care of it themselves, others we partner with the marketing. Usually what we like is to have some input, discuss things we’ve seen work and make suggestions.”

Winter Refurbishment
In addition to a more robust marketing presence, Dreamland Amusements bolstered their ride inventory with a massive refurbishment, enabled by the opening of a second winter quarters in Gibtown, Florida, augmenting its company headquarters in Delco, North Carolina. This new 5-acre facility enabled the company to upgrade several pieces of key equipment, including the Wacky Worm, Sizzler, Scrambler, Orient Express, Flying Bobs and three-abreast Carousel. “We gave everything a facelift,” he said. “We’re more than 90 percent LED now.”

The company also added new pieces for 2019, including the Tea Cups and a new Fun House.

Family and kiddie-rides are the category the company is intent on expanding. “We’re bolstering our Kiddie Land,” he said. “We are seeing more young families at the fairs we play and we want to give them a good product. We’re here for the patrons, we’re not here for ourselves. We want the families to have a fun time, that’s we provide.”

This summer, DeStefano has seen an increase in fuel costs, causing him to run more of the smaller generators, and save the bigger plants for peak hours. “We are very cognizant of overhead costs, and it’s our policy to get three quotes for everything. Fuel is a little higher this year.”

Luckily, the company was not plagued by labor shortages due to the troubled H-2B system this year. “We were very fortunate this year with our H-2B workers, we received what we asked for when we needed them. I really feel for the all the shows that didn’t get their workers or got them after their season started. It’s just wrong that the politicians can’t face this issue straight on, not letting businesses hire the people they need to.”
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