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On The Earie by Tom Powell, OABA News Ambassador

Wed, December 11, 2019 5:54 PM | Sue Gallup (Administrator)

The 113th annual State Fair of Louisiana, Shreveport, held Oct. 20-Nov. 10, with Mondays and Tuesdays off, was a success, according to Chris Giordano, president/GM, who said attendance was 371,300.

We had three days of rain, which forced us to close on two of those,” said Giordano. “Luckily, none of the rain fell on weekends, and Crabtree Amusements posted a ride gross of $1,647,000, which was up five per cent over last year, when it was $1.5 million.

Our attendance figures don't fluctuate much from year to year,” said Giordano. Chris took over the reins after the death of his father, Sam Giordano, in May of 2006. This was his 14th year, and the first year of a new three-year midway contract for Crabtree.

Booking in with Crabtree were his daughter Melissa, and her husband, Brandon Kibby, of Paradise Amusements, with nine rides and food; Patrick Sheridan's Alamo Rides, with six kiddies; Skerbeck Entertainment, a 360, Cliffhanger, Flying Elephant, and one more. Asked about a 360, Giordano said, “It's a big ride.”

Among concessionaires were the Bill and Linda McKinney family, with food. “Bill and Linda are retired, but they were represented by their sons, Adam and Ron, and Adam's son, Alan,” said Giordano.

Also there were Larry Smith of Gold Concessions, with turkey legs and barbecue; Jim Swain, with pizza on a stick, Porky's, and many others. The fair's concession manager is Robb Brazzel, who recently graduated from the International Association of Fairs and Expositions’ Institute of Fair Management in San Antonio.

Three nights of LRCA Rodeo drew big crowds at Hirsch Memorial Coliseum. Other entertainment included Ms. Stevana's Friesian Horse Show, Serge Coronas Hollywood Racing Pigs, Circus Hollywood, horse show and camel show; Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show, Kenya Safari Acrobats, Hydro Flying Circus, Magician Bob Bohm, State Fair Zoo, Survivor Family Game Show, Dallas the Fire Guy, Flo the Clown, Nick the Escape Artist, Animal Cracker Conspiracy Stiltwalkers, and Break Dancing Show by World Stage Productions.

Promotions included a $47 Pay-One-Price unlimited ride and gate entrance armband; $35 ride armbands; free admission on weekdays until 3 p.m., and on Thursdays, $2 for gate, parking, and rides.

David Musselman's Capital International Productions of Negley, Ohio, booked what Giordano described as a Jet Pack Flying Water Circus that used the talents of The Nerveless Nocks. “This was the first fair for them to try it.” Other acts were booked inhouse.

Crabtree and his wife, Cheryl (Tink), keep their carnival, based in Staples, Texas, open year-round. They are now set up in San Marcos, Texas, for a Holiday Celebration, and have a Big Wheel and Carousel set up for the holidays at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas.

It's always fun for me to talk to Chris because my wife, Christine and I had so many good times with his parents, Sam and Gayle. I asked about Gayle and he said she was doing well.

Oddly enough, Crabtree comes into Shreveport from the Heart of Texas Fair, Waco, where Sam managed for several years. I first met Sam when he worked for T. Wilson Sparks at the Mid-South Fair, Memphis, and later when he worked several years for Rod Link.

We all lost a couple of greats with the passing of Marilyn Portemont, 95, on Dec. 8, and Jack Silar, 71, on Dec. 3. Marilyn and her late husband of 50 years, Johnny Portemont, owned Johnny's United Shows, and later, All American Shows. Silar was at one time general manager of Hershey Park in Hershey, Pa., and vice president of Sports & Entertainment. He often told me how proud he was of the fact he was the only operations person to ever hold those positions. Silar and his wife, Gretchen, owned a carnival, White Rose Amusements, based in Hummelstown, Pa., and he was one of the most noted ride inspectors in the country. Silar was chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials. I first met him through his mentor at Hershey Park, Bob Payne, who was a great friend to both of us.

Everybody knew Marilyn, with her flamboyant hats and sunglasses. She used to make banana pudding for Johnny Hobbs and me when the show played the Wilson County Fair in Lebanon, Tenn. Pat Heagerty worked in the office and Joe Royal, who always made sure my kids got plenty of stuffed toys, was concession manager. Visiting the Portemont carnival at any spot was akin to dropping in on family.

I think she attended 72 straight Indianapolis 500 races. Bill Johnson of A Fantasy Amusements, a past chair of OABA, called to say he and his wife joined her and her daughter Suzette Hooper and her husband, Scotty, at several, along with Joann and her son Tommy Davis of Davis Amusements of Colton, California.

Every time she'd come through Nashville on the way to the race, they would call me and Johnny Hobbs, and when Hobbs owned a campground, she always wanted to stay in the same space. We introduced her to Brenda Lee, Vern Gosdin, Little Jimmy Dickens, Jack Green, and numerous other country music stars. I remember Greater Tampa Association and Las Vegas banquets where the band would always play Dixie in honor of the Portemonts who were proudly from Andalusia, Alabama, though native Hoosiers.

The Portemonts used to have the best suites at the Alabama Fair Conventions, where the show's Lloyd Kelley would play the piano into the wee hours of the morning. I know, because I was usually the last to leave. Marilyn loved to party. The OABA honored her a couple of years ago with a Lifetime Achievement Award, which was well deserved and long overdue. We were sitting next to each other when we were both inducted into the Showmen's League of America's Hall of Honor, along with the late Larry Davis.

Ron Burback of Funtastic Shows, Portland, Oregon, whose Oregon Ducks will be playing the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl, called to say that the Northwestern Showmen's Club, whose president is Christine Hoss, has selected Greg Stewart as its Show Person of the Year. Stewart, an OABA director, has been general manager of the Central Washington State Fair, Yakima, for 48 years.

Stewart also oversees management of the 8,000-seat SunDome, Yakima County Stadium, and State Fair Raceway.

Fred Munoz, son-in-law to Ron and his wife, Bev, was club president last year when the club honored my wife, Christine, who received a beautiful trophy from Bobby and Wendy Hauser of West Coast Amusements when they visited us at our home in Nashville. Greg was president of the Midwest Fairs Association in 2006. A past president of IAFE, Stewart was inducted into that group's Hall of Fame in 2010. He is truly a great guy.

Cindy Henning, executive director of the Showmen's League of America said everything is set for the 72nd annual Dec. 13 Christmas party for needy children at Hanson Elementary School in Chicago. I believe Peter Kasin is still Santa Claus after Don Muret, who worked with me at Amusement Business, filled that role for several years. All children receive a toy, popcorn, and cotton candy.

Christine and I both received good news when we visited our family doctor on Monday. He said she doesn't have heart problems and she can drive, which was a big relief for her. I have a lump behind my ear, and the biopsy showed it may get worse, but now it's fine.

With the help of my daughter, Alice, and my great grandson, Hayden Stanley, we got our Christmas tree up and decorated. It looks beautiful. My son, Kevin, as he always does, set up my Lionel electric train, which was given to me at birth, 86 years ago, by my uncle Marty Hutchinson, a railroader. It still runs like new.

Please send news to tomp@oaba.org, or call 615 280-7257.

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