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Wade Shows Rethinks Routing, Learning Lessons From Pandemic
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After an unprecedented and difficult two years in the outdoor amusement business industry, Frank Zaitshik, President of Wade Shows, is rethinking his southern route, making some some changes as a result of lessons learned from the Pandemic . With a focus on preserving his staff members' energy and creating a desirable work environment, Zaitshik has been reevaluating what is most important when making business decisions. “Everybody has learned lessons in this pandemic and we're no different at Wade Shows,” he says.

Like every other carnival owner in the industry, Zaitshik is currently struggling to find employees for the show: especially skilled, managerial level people. In this job market, it's clear how valuable Zaitshik's core group of loyal staff at Wade Shows is to the success of his company. “We have our key people like a lot of companies do. And, unfortunately, they are sometimes taken for granted amid the hustle of a busy season. 2020 and 2021 underscored just how valuable those people are,” he says. Heading into the 2022 season, Zaitshik is reflecting on his company and making decisions that are conducive to creating an even better work environment than they've had in the past.

Wanting to create an improved work environment is one thing, but figuring out how best to do this amongst the challenges of traveling, playing large events, and continually striving to reach new heights of excellence, is a delicate balance Zaitshik is constantly reviewing.  

“We can improve our employees' work environment in multiple ways. We can improve tools of the job such as forklifts, cranes, and bunkhouses, making traveling and set up easier. We can also do things like make decisions that allow our people to travel more safely and have time for rest and their personal lives. We are looking at all things we can do to help improve the work environment, because without our staff, we are unable to do what we do” says Zaitshik.

With this goal in mind, Zaitshik took a look at the Wade Shows Southern route and saw areas for improvement. In 2014, Wade Shows was awarded the New York State Fair contract. Ever since this addition to the route, the Jimmy Danton-led unit has had to make some tight jumps heading south in the fall. “At the New York State Fair, we close on a Monday (Labor Day) and we open 800 miles away on a Friday in Knoxville, TN for the Tennessee Valley Fair. This has always been challenging for us,” says Zaitshik. While it's always been difficult, traveling from Syracuse to Knoxville has only become harder as fuel costs increase, good employees become harder to find and keep, and other complications associated with the pandemic such as transportation popped up. “Realistically, we had no time to get there as safely as we'd like to and it sacrifices the quality of life and happiness of my people. It's a good fair and we've had a long relationship but I had to make the difficult choice to let it go,” says Zaitshik.
The difficult moves didn't end with the Syracuse to Knoxville programming. After closing in Knoxville on a Sunday, the unit moves 300 miles to open in Muscle Shoals, Alabama for the North Alabama State Fair. Next, they make an overnight move to Lawrenceburg, TN for the Tennessee District Fair before heading on to Rome, GA. “We had lots of Sunday closings to early-week openings. Reprogramming the schedule means no more hard initial moves and it takes off some of the pressure for my team. This will save us a week,” says Zaitshik.

Reprogramming the Southern route and eliminating the detour to Knoxville means that Lawrenceburg can extend to a 10-day event which will allow more time for Wade Shows to travel on either end of the event while helping to grow the Middle Tennessee District Fair into something even greater. “If there was one date that was begging to be longer it's definitely Lawrenceburg,” says Zaitshik. “I've felt for a number of years that it could stand to be extended but we just didn't have the room to do it. By adjusting our route, we are able to provide Lawrenceburg with two weekends, which the fair really deserves, and we are able to take some of the pressure off our employees after the long, grueling hours at the New York State Fair. The move shows our commitment to a safe and pleasant work environment and at the same time, validates our strong partnership with the Middle Tennessee District Fair.”

While Zaitshik knows that switching up the route is what is best for his company, it was certainly not a simple solution. A person who sticks by his fair partners and, admittedly, has a competitive edge, it will be hard for Zaitshik to not play the Tennessee Valley Fair. “While it's the right decision for many reasons, it doesn't mean it was an easy one to make,” he added.

As the company continues to make route improvements and deal with the supply change disruptions brought by the Pandemic, Zaitshik stays focused on improving the work environment for his core employees. Additionally, he hopes that some of the changes made will help attract new workers to the team. “Most companies are looking for new people and offering great incentives. I want to be sure that I'm rewarding my loyal, current staff first, while still looking for new additions to Wade Shows.”

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