By Dwight Dana | Morning News

The Vivona brothers are at home for the 47th year with the Eastern Carolina Agricultural Fair under way through Sunday at the ECA fairgrounds.

The brothers, Morris, 89, Dominic, 77 and Phil, 74, are owners of Amusements of America (AOA), which provides the rides and everything involved with the annual fair. Dominic and Phil are graduates of Duke University with business degrees.

The family has been in the carnival business since 1940. Before that, they were in the frozen custard business.

“They didn’t have any ice cream places in those days like the Dairy Queen and Caravel’s,” Morris said. “So we had a frozen custard machine that we took to different carnivals. We made the custard in front of our customers, and they had to dip it. Today, you just put a cone there.”

The Vivonas traveled widely with carnivals until 1940, when the carnival owner told the family that he was putting in his own ice cream.

“My father said we’re going to start our own carnival,” Morris said.

There just happened to be a Ferris wheel left over from the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

“We bought the Ferris wheel,” Morris said. “We took it and the ice cream machine and we played local festivals in New Jersey. Then, we bought a merry-go-round, a swing ride, an Octopus and more equipment.”

There were six brothers when they started. Three are left.

Amusements of America’s first southern headquarters were in Sumter from 1954 to 1972. They then moved to Miami from 1972 to 2008.

The company is now headquartered in Florence.

“We love Florence,” said Dominic, who lives in Mount Pleasant with his Charleston-born and bred wife, Helena.

“When we close up here Sunday, we go to Charleston for the Coastal Carolina Fair,” Dominic said.

The brothers are married, and their wives travel from fair to fair with them. Additionally, their children are involved in different facets of the business.
How do they manage to get along so well?

“We haven’t found each other yet,” Morris said.

“No, it’s because they don’t have any guns,” Helena quipped.

“The bottom line is we have a lot of patience with each other,” Phil said. “We don’t have any problems.”

The season begins at the end of March and runs through the first week of November. The brothers are on the road 8½ months out of the year.

What do they enjoy the most?

“All of this has a certain thrill to it,” Phil said. “When the lot is full, all the rides have lines to them and everybody is having fun, you really get a jolt of excitement.”

“It’s a happy business,” Helena said. “We see happy faces all the time.”

Morris says it’s been a good life, one he would do over in a heartbeat.

“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I have a good married life,” the New Jersey native said. “I’ve got good kids, good brothers, and they have good kids.

“Our children know what to do. They know how to set the fair up, take it down, do the booking and operate it. We’re just out here to help them.”

Dominic says the most popular ride is the roller coaster followed by the Fireball.

And there’s a new ride this year called the Extreme.

“The Extreme has done very well,” Dominic said. “It goes real fast.”

Among the other new faces AOA has on tap this year are Rosaire’s Royal Racers, the magic of Lance Gifford & Co., the Fearless Flores Circus and Thrill Show and live bands playing daily.

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From the Mississippi State Fair Commission:

Lester Spell, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce and State Fair Commission Chairman, along with Mike Williams, of North American Midway Entertainment, have announced that the 150th Mississippi State Fair will be extended one extra day for Mississippi fairgoers to enjoy.

The extended day will be known as $2 MONDAY, offering fairgoers discounted prices on admission ($2), parking ($2), rides ($2), corndogs ($2), and other discounted food items offered by vendors. Due to the excessive rainfall across the State of Mississippi and in the Jackson-Metro Area, the Mississippi Fair Commission and North American Midway will extend the Fair through Monday, October 19, 2009, to allow the public one more day to enjoy the wonderful sights and sounds, exciting rides, and delicious food.

“Due to factors beyond our control with the weather this past week and favorable weather in the forecast, we decided to extend the State Fair through Monday and offer a great deal to the public for $2 MONDAY. I would like to thank the public for its overwhelming support and North American Midway for its willingness to continue for one more day of fun and excitement,” said Spell.

Billy Orr, Fair Commission Executive Director, added, “I would like to invite everyone who hasn’t made it to the Fair yet or wants to make a repeat visit, to come enjoy the good weather this weekend and our $2 MONDAY special.”

The Fair will open its gates at the regular scheduled times for Saturday and Sunday, and will open at 11:00 a.m. on Monday. For Monday, parking and admission will be free from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. After 1:00 p.m., parking, admission, rides, and all corndogs will be $2 each for $2 MONDAY.

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By Eric Gaertner | Muskegon Chronicle

FRUITLAND TOWNSHIP — About the only thing missing in Ray Genter’s creation is the sounds of happy children and the smell of cotton candy.

From Ferris wheels and bumper cars to carnival-goers and Sno-cone stands, Genter’s elaborate miniature carnival features small versions of seemingly everything that make full-size carnivals popular and fun. A carnival fanatic and stickler for details, Genter even went so far as to put miniature portable bathrooms, fake generators and replica electrical wires on each section of his mini carnival.

Fruitland Township residents Ray and Sharon Genter will be donating their miniature carnival collection, appraised at $78,000, to the International Independent Showmans Museum Corp. in Gibsonton, Fla. The miniature carnival has 15,000 people, 127 rides, 275 concession stands and 74 carnival shows.

Fruitland Township residents Ray and Sharon Genter will be donating their miniature carnival collection, appraised at $78,000, to the International Independent Showman's Museum Corp. in Gibsonton, Fla. The miniature carnival has 15,000 people, 127 rides, 275 concession stands and 74 carnival shows.

In theory, a person standing 1 or 2 millimeters tall would have a memorable and fun day on Genter’s mini-display.

The mini-carnival is 24 years in the making. Genter, who owned and operated a full-size carnival called Great Lakes Amusement in the 1980s, collected, painted and, in some cases, made the more than 15,000 miniature pieces that cover the display.

Some pieces he bought at hobby shops and painted with small, precise brushes. Others he made from scratch. Some of the miniature items took a week to make, others three to four weeks. The small figurines are measured in millimeters while the roller coaster is 3-feet long.

“Once a carny, always a carny,” Genter said, describing the enjoyment he experienced while working the ticket booth of his full-size carnival and while designing the pieces of his miniature version. “It got into my blood.”

Genter’s miniature carnival includes 127 rides, 74 shows, 275 concession stands and about 15,000 other miniature pieces, including men, women and children. The display, which had been set up in his basement, started with one 3-foot by 4-foot table and grew to cover 16 tables. He actually had additional items to cover two more tables, but he ran out of room in the basement.

Likely one of the largest miniature carnivals, Genter’s display is being donated to a carnival-preservation group in Gibsonton, Fla. Ivan Arnold, president of the International Independent Showman’s Museum Corporation, was in the area recently to pick up the miniature carnival and was impressed with the Genter’s attention to detail with side shows, trucks and little banners.

“I was amazed by it,” Arnold said of Genter’s collection. “He obviously put a lot of work into it.”

Arnold said Genter’s miniature carnival will be displayed in one of the rooms of the museum, which is under construction. Museum officials are hoping to have the museum open in 2010.

Paul Becker, president of Fun and Games Inc. in Muskegon, appraised the miniature-carnival collection at $78,575. Becker has been appraising hobby displays for 30 years.

“It’s been a lot of fun making it,” Genter said. “I want the stuff to be preserved.”

Genter, 74, admitted that he will miss the display, but he plans on making more miniature pieces for a new display.

Genter’s wife of 40 years, Sharon, has grown accustomed to her husband’s obsession with carnivals. They never miss a carnival in the area and she knows that he will check ahead on scheduled carnivals before they take out-of-town trips.

Regardless, she will miss the miniature carnival display, too.

“It’s a lot better than him being on the road,” Sharon said of her husband previously spending 22 weeks a year on the road when he operated a full-size carnival.

Ray and Sharon Genter are the owner/operators and namesakes of the three Flowers by Ray and Sharon stores. They own the floral stores in North Muskegon, Muskegon Township and Norton Shores with other family members.

Genter, who opened his first floral store 33 years ago, followed a unique career path as a carny and a florist.

Born and raised in Ludington across the street from the West Michigan fairgrounds, Genter took an early interest in the carnival business. As a young boy growing up during the Depression, he was forced to work at carnival if he wanted to attend.

His mother didn’t like the idea of Genter pursuing a career working at a carnival, so she pushed him toward the floral business when he was 16.

“I outfoxed her,” Genter said. “I did both.”

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Source: Sam Jacobson – The Daily Tar Heel

Blogs and Twitter generate interest

The N.C. State Fair is Tweeting, blogging and Facebooking its way to an unprecedented increase in ticket sales.

The fair’s social networking outreach, which began in June 2008, has helped to double ticket sales from this time last year.

With the fair less than two weeks away, more than 16,800 admission tickets have been sold without anyone leaving their homes.

The troubled economy could have helped ticket sales — local attractions become more popular when people can’t afford to travel, said Karlie Justus, state fair public information officer.

The N.C. State Fair is the first state fair to use Twitter to promote ticket sales and fair officials are also using it to encourage potential attendees to tell fair officials what attendees want to see, eat and do at the fair.

“We try to have conversations with people on Twitter so people can relate to us,” Justus said.

“People always want to hear about the new foods and the rides. It has been a really great customer service tool.”

Twitter is facilitating more than just better ticket sales. American Idol contestant and 2008 UNC alumnus Anoop Desai was able to contact the state fair’s management and book a performance — all via Twitter.

“It’s really helpful because you don’t necessarily have to go through a PR firm, you can just put it out there and it happens,” Desai said.

He announced on Twitter that he wanted to perform at the fair and the fair management contacted him after reading it.

“Honestly, he would not be performing at the fair if not for Twitter,” Justus said.

The fair will be Anoop’s first solo performance since American Idol.

“It was something that I wanted to do for people that supported me,” said Desai, a Chapel Hill native.

“I’ve only missed about three fairs in my entire life, so I’m very excited about performing there.”

The fair also is promoting a new event called the Deep Fried Triangle Tweetup, which will bring together local Twitter users at the fairgrounds.

The fair is partnering with Ourhashtag, a social networking company that has organized Tweetups throughout the Triangle area.

Jeff Cohen, social media strategist for Ourhashtag, said the fair partnered with the company in order to attract fans who have participated in Tweetups throughout the region.

“The folks at the fair are trying to reach out to people who wouldn’t necessarily go,” Cohen said. “The Tweetup is designed to make these people feel special, almost like a VIP group.”

The fair is also using a blog called “Deep Fried @ the N.C. State Fair” for publicity. The blog features frequent updates about what will be happening at the fair, a video of Anoop’s training regiment and other ticket sales updates.

A “deep-friend ambassador” was announced Monday on the blog. The winner will attend the pre-fair media lunch, sample the newest fair foods and music and blog and Tweet about the experience on her own personal blog and the official fair blog.

“We want someone to come out and blog about everything,” Justus said.

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Source: By Roslyn Anderson – WLBT.Com

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) – The Mississippi State Fairgrounds are alive with lights, rides and thousands of people.

Wednesday the ribbon was cut, and the gates opened for 11 days of fun and excitement.

Mississippians have been coming together for the annual state fair for 150 years.

Attending the first day of the fair is a tradition for most families who line up for tickets on the newest rides and crowd the midway in search of fair favorites.

“I come to the fair every year. I enjoy riding the ferris wheel and all the fun roller coasters,” said Miss Junior Mississippi State Fair Katelin McNeese of Brandon.

Families will see some price increases.

Admission and parking $5.00, the same as in 2008, but unlimited rides are now $25.00.

The price for taffy is the same as last year, nine dollars a box and five dollars per bag.

Chicken-on-a-Stick and shish kabobs are $6.00, and it’s $7.00 for a jumbo turkey leg.

The Pronto Pup is now up to $4.00.

Fair workers say times are tough all over the country.

“Traveling with the fair you use gas and stuff life that and with that going up we got to go up too or we can’t make it and would have to close our doors. So everybody’s struggling,” said Pronto Pups employee John Summers.

Marily Joyner of Brandon brought her daughter Grace opening day.

“This will probably be our only visit this year with the budget and all,” said Joyner.

Fair officials hope for continued dry weather and are optimistic about breaking attendance records.

“We’ve been told by other people at the other fairs that it’s been a pretty good year and they think it’s because people have not traveled as far away from home. Instead of going to the beach or going to the mountains they stayed home or maybe they’ve come looking for local entertainment where it won’t cost them so much,” said Fair Executive Director Billy Orr.

“It’s just a matter of your budgeting. I mean if you know it’s something yo want to do, you just have to sacrifice things that you have to do others,” said Rhonda Bass of Jackson.

Efforts are underway to keep you healthy among the crowds.

Hand sanitizers are beside the petting zoo and along the midway.

The State Health Department is also on the grounds.

There are rides galore, games and prizes as usual, and don’t forget to stop in to see the exotic animals the Jackson Zoo Keepers exhibit.

The fair continues through October 18th.

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