Source: By Chris Kaltenbach – The Baltimore Sun

Traveling carnivals take their midway rides on the road, delighting the kid in everyone

Karen Weber has spent some 15 years helping to run the spring carnival at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Essex. She knows what brings in the crowds — and it isn’t the food, or the goldfish toss, or even the chance to hang out with good friends while helping raise money for church and school.

Nah, what brings ’em in are the rides: the Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds and other mechanical contraptions that lift you up and spin you around, defying gravity and turning the whole world happily upside-down.

“They’re the draw-er,” she says, inventing a word appropriate to the occasion as she helps get things ready for the annual event, set this year for the weekend of April 30. “Everybody comes by, and they see the bright lights and the rides going on — it’s the first thing they want to do.”

Nothing says vacation and summer sunshine and take-it-easy better than carnivals and the rides they bring to town with them. In Baltimore, the unofficial start of the 2010 carnival season may be the annual Spring Fair at the Johns Hopkins University, which takes over the Homewood campus beginning today. Almost every weekend, straight through to Labor Day and beyond, there’ll be a carnival of some kind set up somewhere — on mall parking lots, alongside volunteer fire departments, near churches and schools. It’s like Ocean City’s boardwalk moving into the neighborhood for a few days.

“It’s very self-satisfying, that we’re in a business where the idea is to supply enjoyment to youngsters of all ages,” says Tom Gaylin, president of Rosedale Attractions and Shows, one of a handful of local businesses that spend their weekends hopping from one site to another, transforming parking lots and grassy fields into carnival midways. Last weekend, they were in Essex; Thursday, they began a 10-day stint at Colgate Park (North Point Boulevard and Baltimore Street) for the annual Colgate Carnival.

“Carnivals only come to the neighborhood one time a year,” adds Terrie Shaw, whose Severn-based Shaw & Sons is providing the rides for this weekend’s Spring Fair at Hopkins. “They’re something the kids really look forward to. That’s where the glamour is in this business, watching the kids have a good time.”

Adults get a kick out of things, too, says Brenda Davis of Annapolis-based Jolly Shows, which will be running a carnival in the parking lot of Security Square Mall from May 5-16. “It’s something they can do with the kids on the weekend, and they don’t have to go all the way to Kings Dominion or Six Flags. They can come and spend a couple of hours, and it’s not that expensive.”

For many, the carnival is a magical place, but for people like Gaylin, Shaw and Davis, it’s also a job, one that takes a lot of time and requires a good bit of muscle. Amusement companies usually spend between eight and 12 hours of hard labor setting up their carnival midways. Rosedale, which works 30 to 35 carnivals a year within a 150-mile radius of Baltimore, has some 30 rides in its collection, which it transports from place to place using 100 trucks. Shaw, which handles about 30 carnivals a year, owns 35 rides, including such crowd-pleasers as the senses-rattling Zipper, Rok N Roll and Gravitron.

After the kids have ridden themselves silly and Mom and Dad have picked up the pieces, after the parking lots are once again a place for cars and the grassy fields are waiting to be mowed, carnival operators are busy moving on to another town. “It’s really not a job, and it’s really not an occupation,” says Gaylin, whose family has been in the business since 1928. “It’s more a way of life than anything else.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Seeing people’s faces light up as they decide which ride to try next, listening to the festive music play as the bright lights shine and the delighted screams cascade down — there are worse ways to make a living.

“That’s the best part of it all,” says Davis, “watching the kids laugh and have fun.”

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Source: AOL News

What good is a roadside attraction if it can’t sit along the side of the road? That’s the problem Gibsonton, Fla. — better known as Freaktown USA — is facing.

The town that was once home to the Monkey Girl, the Alligator Skinned Man and Lobster Boy is trying to preserve the memory of its most famous giant, Al Tomaini, with a memorial featuring a replica of his colossal boot. He reportedly stood 8 feet 4 inches tall.

Carol Philips, a former circus worker and wolf trainer, is spearheading the effort as chairwoman of the Concerned Citizens of Gibsonton. The group wants the monument to be placed along Highway 41, just south of Tampa and off the Alafia River.

That’s where the giant and his wife, Jeanie the Half Girl (she measured 2 feet 6 inches), built the Giant’s Camp restaurant and fishing cabins in the 1950s. It’s also where a huge Tomaini boot sat atop a concrete slab and served as a memorial for decades, until its recent deterioration.

However, the group faces one giant problem: Hillsborough County has said the monument must be set 50 feet away from the highway because it’s been designated as an accessory structure on commercial property.

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Source:By Keith Gebers – Citizen Staff Writer

Again this year the Elk Grove Western Festival, taking place the weekend of May 1, will feature a top line carnival.

Johnston Amusements is headquartered in Elk Grove, and is the oldest operating carnival company in California.

In addition to this year’s Elk Grove appearance, Johnston Amusements has just been signed to be the featured carnival at this year’s San Joaquin County Fair. The choice was based on the firm’s outstanding safety record.

Ken Johnston, who is also General Chairman of this year’s Western Festival, owns the firm.

“Some really outstanding rides will be featured at this year’s Western Festival Carnival,” said Johnston, “One of these is the historic Hammer, which is legendary.” Variations are also known by such names as Rock-O-Plane and Loop-O-Plane. The creator of the Hammer was Eyerly Aircraft Company in Oregon, which was has been purchased by Johnston Entertainment 10 years ago.

“We provide parts for over 4,000 rides for all over the world,” Johnston said. “The two main features of any carnival are the Ferris Wheel and Merry Go Round. We feature the most attractive traveling Ferris Wheel and Merry Go Rounds in the nation.”

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Source: By Barbara Tucker -The Tonawanda News

The small white sign on the door denoting the Allan Herschell Company gives little indication that the 3,000 square-foot space inside holds the life blood of the world’s amusement parks.

Ed Janulionis, who runs the company located on Erie Avenue in North Tonawanda, not only has the history of the Allan Herschell Co. in original plans, drawings, patterns and tooling that reach back to the early 1900s, but also has a mind full of interesting details and history.

When Chance Rides Manufacturing Co. bought the Herschell Carrousel Co. from the Wendler Family in Buffalo, the company moved to Wichita, Kansas, keeping the Herschell name.

In 1997, Chance decided to auction off what was left of the Herschell Company.

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Source: By Katherine Yagle, News Editor – The Wesleyan Argus

The Coleman Brothers Carnival completed its 94th year this past Sunday, finishing its two weeks in Middletown with sunny, 70-degree weather in stark contrast to the cold rain—and flood warnings—it brought last weekend. Since 1916, the carnival has made its way to Middletown every spring, and with it, as local legend goes, comes “The Coleman Brothers Curse”—clouds, rain, and even, in 2007, snow.

Newspaper articles as far back as the ’50s document the nasty weather the carnival carried with it.

“Local prognosticators use the Coleman Bros. Carnival as their guide to predict rain for late April,” a 1952 article in the Bridgeport Sunday Herald reported. “Seems every season, just as the last tent peg is driven, the rains come.”

A Hartford Courant article in 1964 read, “It has been a local axiom the opening of the Coleman carnival means rain, but Dick Coleman [carnival owner] denies the charge.”

In 1968, the Courant reported that Dick Coleman had correctly predicted rain on the opening day of his carnival for 53 years. In 1970, according to Courant archives, rain not only greeted the opening of the carnival, but it also forced many carnival events to close.

In 1978, according to New London’s The Day, rain created so much mud that owner Robert Coleman and his employees had difficulty setting up the carnival.

“It’s a great challenge to tear down and set up in the rain,” he said. “I was born and raised in this. My dad founded this. My brother and I went into it, and now my two sons are involved.”

As the carnival departs Middletown to continue its season by traveling along the East Coast, the week ahead looks sunny and gorgeous, with highs up to 80 degrees.

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