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Wood Entertainment Follows Family Tradition and Offers Big Rides
Wood eyes a second Giant Wheel in the future
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Michael Wood is following family tradition with his leadership of Wood Entertainment. Wood took over the business from his late father, F.G. “Red” Wood, and has been adding rides and expanding his company's presence ever since.

But it is a partnership that he recently formed that is perhaps the most traditional aspect of his leadership, as well as an extremely successful one for both companies.

“In 2017, we partnered with Frank Zaitshik from Wade Shows on adding our 150-foot-tall Ferris Wheel, the Midway Sky Eye,” Wood says. “The first event for the ride was at the Florida State Fair.” The ride features 36 fully enclosed, colorful gondolas that each holds six riders; one even offers accessible seating. The wheel spins happy riders for a full ten minutes, and costs $5 per person. 

It was a big decision for a big ride: 400,000 pounds and 15 stories high, the wheel is strung with eye-catching, vibrant, energy-saving LED lights, some 528,000 of them.  The lighting package was designed and installed by Denny's Electronics.

And this is where the tradition comes in. “There is real history behind the collaboration with Wade Shows,” Wood reports. “At one time, Red Wood and Glen Wade were partners, right up until 1980, when Zaitshik and another partner bought Wade Shows.” So, it made sense for Wood to partner up with the company again to purchase the wheel. 

“We both share the wheel,” Wood explains. “We primarily operate it at three Wade Show events a year, and in 2018 that was the South Florida Fair in West Palm Beach, the Florida State Fair, and the Oklahoma State Fair. The rest of the time it is contracted independently with the fairs from us. We used it at eight locations in 2018, including Minnesota and Texas.”  Starting off 2019, the wheel played the Florida State Fair and the Central Florida Fair in Orlando.  Due to a short week inbetween the South Florida Fair and the Florida State Fair, the wheel was unable to play the South Florida Fair in 2019.

Wood describes the wheel as extremely successful. “It doesn't sit on the carnival midway itself. Instead, it is set aside at a different location, usually at the other end of a fair from the midway, and is offered for a separate ticket. The only exception to that is at the Florida State Fair, where the wheel is adjacent to the midway itself.” 

Over the past year, the WonderFair Wheel was also leased to an amusement park in Coney Island, Wood attests. 

Looking ahead to 2019, he is exploring the idea of a second jumbo Ferris wheel as well. Rides, after all, are his thing. 

“We are only in the ride business. We do not offer games or food. That's been the case for the last 20 years,” Wood relates. “We did own a small carnival called the LM Amusement Company that we sold back in 1996 to our then-concession manager, but we are now rides-only. That is how we approach the business now.”
 
Among the most popular adult rides are the WonderFair Wheel, the Techno Power, and the Magnum. Wood describes the Magnum as a “one of a kind” thrill ride that would cost over $1.6 million at today's prices. Manufactured by Mondial Rides of the Netherlands, it is another behemoth, requiring four semi-trailers to transport it, and a crane for assembly. It weighs over 200,000 pounds, and a large portion of the ride has to be assembled by crane, making it an enormous undertaking in all senses of the word. Wood owns just one of two Mondial Shake (Magnum) rides located within the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

“In the kiddie ride category, the Magic Maze Glasshouse, Safari Train, Kiddie Swing, and the Daytona are what we offer, and the Magic Maze is the most popular,” Wood adds.

Pricing on the rides varies by type of ride. “On the kiddie rides, its $2.25 to $3.00. For the adult and teen rides, the price is $4.00 to $6.00,” he says. Wood adds “Wristbands are offered at most events and range by location from $20 to $40. At the Minnesota State Fair, the State Fair of Texas, and the 50th State Fair in Honolulu, however, they don't offer wristbands at all.”

Of all the events where Wood offers rides, he calls the most popular the Minnesota State Fair. “They have 2.1 million attendees in just 12 days. But I would say the most successful for us is the State Fair of Texas definitely,” in terms of revenue.

Wood is building on a heritage that began in 1946 when his grandfather Cecil L. Wood began the family's career in the carnival business, leaving a tire shop to go on the road with a Penny Arcade and food concession with Central State Shows. Cecil Wood's sons, Red and Bill continued the business along with their mother; with Red venturing into the ride business as an owner, while the others continued the arcade. 1961 was the year that marked the original pairing of Wade Shows and Wood Entertainment, when Red Wood operated his own ride with Wade Shows and handled maintenance on others. Two years later, Wade and Wood purchased what was then one of the first truly spectacular rides in the U.S., the Allen Hershel Company's Skywheel, for use at the Michigan State Fair.

The current partnership is, as Michael Wood attests, a part of a long-standing tradition, and one that undoubtedly his father would've loved. 

Wood takes his rides as far west as California, and as far east as Florida, and the WonderFair Wheel has changed the scope and reach of his company's entertainment picture.
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