from Carnival WarehouseBy: Timothy Herrick
Monday, February 17, 2020
Fiesta Shows: Committed to the Customer Experience
Show officials look for a fix to H-2B guest worker program
Last year, Fiesta Shows was one of the lucky carnival companies. Like most in the industry, the company relies on H2B workers and in 2019, a computer crash meant that many carnival companies could not file for workers in time and had to wait for an increase in the cap that did not go into effect until weeks later. Unlike many competitors, Fiesta Shows foreign workers arrived by April, not late May or Early June.
“We were very fortunate,” said E.J. Dean, vice president of operations, Fiesta Shows. “We were able to get our H2B workers, but I know a lot of my competitors in New England were forced to cancel events or drastically cut back their footprint and that not only affected those companies, but those nonprofit entities, were really affected. Those Lions Clubs and other organization that help out schools and their communities. Their carnivals are a huge fundraising mechanism.”
Fiesta shows in one of the largest –and longest established – carnival companies in New England. The company roots were planted in the Great Depression, Eugene Dean (E.J.'s father, and Jack Flynn formed Dean & Flynn and by 1967, the duo purchased Fiesta Shows. While the company's highest profile gig may be the Topsfield Fair, the company is well acquainted to the importance of the annual celebration of community fairs embody, and the devastating potential of the workforce issues threatening that tradition.
While he is “optimistic” he will get his needed workers in the time, “the system needs to be fixed. Right now, they are inundated with petitions, demand is very high.”
The labor force crisis overshadows all the other issues carnival companies face.
In addition to problems of securing employees, labor costs are a major concern in 2020. “Our route goes through many states where the minimum wage is going up,” said Dean. “That's not just a problem for us or for the fairs we play, but it drives up expenses all across the board, from a pack of gum to gas.”He added, the “the rules and regulations for labor are forever stricter. They are certainly workable, but they increase costs. Labor is more and more challenging for carnival companies.”
But the fairs themselves, with their well-earned place in the entertainment landscape, the outlook is upbeat. Last year, “was very positive, the economy is very strong, people are spending. Employment is high, there's more construction going on, communities are strong.”
The Fiesta Shows seasons begins in early April and runs through October. Last year, the finish was marred by a rainy New England autumn. “October was very wet, we lost a few fairs. Overall we were down slightly.”
Nonetheless, as he prepared for the upcoming season, he remains committed to the fair experience. “It's very hard for a video game or virtual reality glasses to present the product that we do,” he said. “That thrill and sense of fun, of letting go, that is truly something unique and something people still love.”
For 2020, the Fiesta Shows has refurbished its Thunderbolt and Vertigo as well as completed cosmetic upgrades to 15 other rides. In addition, its ride inventory – the website boasts more than 100 amusement rides in its inventory – is outfitted with LED lighting packages.
The company will introduce a new, 26-meter, two-trailer Ferris Wheel, featuring 18 gondolas, dubbed the Spider Wheel. The new giant wheel was built in Mexico and made its debut this month at the San Antonio Livestock Show booked in through Wade Shows. The company upgraded its Kiddie section with new Mini-Excavators, coin operated amusements for the young ones. “We have a custom built trailer for these rides, it was really popular last year and we added new ones,” he said. “There's a market for these smaller children, they can enjoy these rides while their older brothers and sisters can ride the other rides. Then the family can stay longer at the event, have a more enjoyable time, and of we course we make more revenue.”
The company will also add more light towers. “We have some with solar energy applications. We tested them last year to see its durability, and it did very well. It's the idea of reducing power consumption and lowering energy costs. But if you can use one less cable, one less wire that allows you to be more versatile.”
The company will also expand its social media outreach, growing its own following and becoming a stronger marketing partner with its clients. Fiesta Shows is active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat and has more than 60,000 followers. Timothy Dean, E.J.'s son, oversees the social media marketing and at times has acted as video spokesperson on the platforms. “It's relatively low expense, but it's been going great for the past three or four years. But it enables you to reach masses of people, and market to them directly. You reap the awards.”
What Dean will continue to do in 2020 is focus the midway on fairgoer, ensuring a family-friendly atmosphere filled with fun and excitement. “The overall mindset is a commitment to the customer experience, that's why we have the amenities like the Light Towers and phone chargers, the mini excavators. It's comfortable for the entire family, from the children to the grandparents.”
Dean grew up on the midway, it's his family's midway that makes up his earliest memories. It's the experience that he has made a tradition for generations of New England fairgoers, which only further enhances his perspective. “It's always all about the customer experience. We see patrons over the course of the decades, we see them grow up and they bring their children. It gives you a wider vision about what we do.”