Miller Spectacular Shows

All posts tagged Miller Spectacular Shows

By Edyta B?aszczyk – Daily Egyptian

The Miller family has five generations and more than 100 years of experience in the carnival business.

It all started in 1906 when the great-grandfather, Gene Miller, of current owner Fred Miller, formed Miller Concession based out of Little Rock, Ark. The business started by providing food for fairs across the country. The little business eventually grew when Gene’s son, Burt Miller, began managing carnivals and buying equipment.

The success evolved into creating their own carnival: Miller’s Gala Exposition Show, which started in 1958. From there the named changed to Miller Brothers Spectacular in the 1970’s to Miller Spectacular Shows in 1983.

Now Fred Miller, his son and father Johnny Miller, run the business. Fred Miller does most of the planning. His business travels as far northeast as St. Joseph, Mich., and as far southwest as Albuquerque, N.M.

“It all started years ago with seven food operations,” Fred Miller said. Now he owns 55 rides.

With 41 rides, 40 games and seven food trailers in the Du Quoin State Fair alone, Fred Miller said placement becomes key. Fred Miller said there is only so much space to layout all the equipment so he usually comes to the fairgrounds a week prior to the event, looks at how much space he has, then uses computer generated layouts to place rides, concession stands, games, generators and trailers to maximize space for function. The team of subcontractors, workers and ride engineers set up and test all the machines in about four days.

“We can do it in a day if we have to,” Fred Miller said.

One of the supervisors, Heath Douglas, has been with the Miller family for nearly 15 years. Douglas passes down his knowledge of the games and rides to younger carnival employees such Dierick Gray, age 16 of Du Quoin, who started working at the carnival for a summer job. Gray calls to patrons as they pass through the carnival, reeling them to his game with the prospect of winning a stuffed animal.

With more families staying home and not going out on vacations, Miller said attendance at his fairs have generally increased.

“There’s something for all ages,” he said.

Life on the road is normal for Fred Miller. He said there is new scenery every two weeks and it never gets boring. His day starts around 9 a.m. and ends around 1:30 a.m.
But even with the long hours, Fred Miller said he has one of the best jobs around.

“We are in the business of fun,” he said.

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By Michael Prelesnik – Matt’s Carnival Warehouse

The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids was the site for the 124th annual Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions (MAFE) Annual Convention, held January 8-10, 2009. The convention featured a trade show, banquet, hospitality suites, workshops, round table discussion sessions, a Showcase, and Mega Raffle drawing night. Over 1200 fair board members and fair officials were in attendance at the convention.

Despite the tough Michigan economy, show owners and fairs were optimistic and excited to begin the Michigan Fair Season this summer. All major shows that play Michigan were represented at the MAFE Convention.

Skerbeck Brothers Shows, of Escanaba announced their recent purchase of a Mulligan Wheel from Belle City Amusements of Deltona, Florida. According to Co-Owner Bill Skerbeck, the wheel has already been transported to winter quarters in Escanaba, and new paint is planned before the wheel’s Michigan debut in April. New dates on the 2009 route the show will be playing include Laporte, Indiana as well as the Croswell Agricultural Society Fair in Croswell, Michigan. Additionally, a two year contract extension for 2010 and 2011 was finalized with the Ingham County Fair, of Mason. Joining Bill at the convention was co-show owner, Joe Skerbeck, their mother Arlene, Bill’s wife CJ, Jamie and Sonja Skerbeck, Dustin and Cindy Skerbeck, Carly Skerbeck, and Nicole Skerbeck.

Representing Elliott’s Amusements of Mason at the convention were owners Tracy and Debbie Elliott, Tracy’s Dad, Jim, their son Nick, and concession manager Nate Rowe. The Elliott’s signed two new fairs for the 2009 season, the Oceana County Fair in Hart and the Huron County Fair in Bad Axe. Other recent fairs added to their summer route included the Berlin Fair in Marne and the Cass County Fair in Cassopolis. According to Tracy, the show just acquired a Mack Himalaya from Dick Carl as well as four tractors purchased from Arnold Amusements. Late in the fall, the Elliott’s purchased a Show Me Grab from Phyllis Mercurio of Detroit. Jim reported he has sold his Lemonade trailer, and will be purchasing another one in time for the show spring opening in Lansing on April 8.

Back: Nate Rowe, Elliotts Concessionaire Manager, Jim Elliott, and Tracy Elliott. Front: Nick Elliott and Tony Anderson co-owner of Schmidt Amusements. Photo courtesy of Michael Prelesnik

Back: Nate Rowe, Elliott's Concessionaire Manager, Jim Elliott, and Tracy Elliott. Front: Nick Elliott and Tony Anderson co-owner of Schmidt Amusements. Photo courtesy of Michael Prelesnik

Despite the tough Michigan economy both the Elliott’s and Skerbecks were confident about having good attendance during the upcoming season. A general trend at the convention was to hold the line on ride specials, wristband prices and gate admission. Many show owners felt that despite the rising operation costs, this just wasn’t the season to raise midway pricing for Michigan fairgoers.

Ivan Arnold was at the convention and mentioned there is a list of ambitious projects being conducted at Winter Quarters in Florida. The Zipper, Tilt-a-Whirl, 1001 Nights, and Raiders are all being sand blasted and powder-coated for the 2009 season. The new look of the Zipper and 1001 Nights will debut at the Florida State Fair in Tampa in February. Although no new dates were added to the Arnold’s Michigan route, Ivan stated this season the show has maintained the same Michigan route as last year, and he was excited about the rides being re-built and was looking forward to a strong summer in Michigan.

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