Sep 17, 2023

Carnival manager pleased with Kansas State Fair

Posted Sep 17, 2023 10:00 AM
Kansas State Fair file photo-Nick Gosnell
Kansas State Fair file photo-Nick Gosnell

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Tom Thebault with North American Midway Entertainment spoke to the Kansas State Fair Board Saturday morning and thanked them for their hospitality.

"My dad bought a carnival when I was eight years old in 1973," Thebault told the board. "As an eight-year-old kid, I'm like, wow. That was 50 years ago. This has been our 50th anniversary. We had a fundraising jamboree for the OABA the other night. That was kind of the theme. It did very well and, as always, you guys were gracious to let us use the facility. We certainly appreciate that, because it works out perfect for us. It's the Outdoor Amusement Business Association. They represent all the carnivals, mostly carnivals in the country. It's a trade organization and their focus is really the items that matter to the carnivals, as far as survival. One of them is labor."

Fair General Manager Bryan Schulz explained that the Kansas State Fair is an OABA member.

"We have written letters to our Congressional delegation in favor of issues that have come up, if it's the H-2B, which is bringing in workers, or if it's other issues," Schulz said. "It's a very important part. Not every fair is a member of OABA. A couple of years ago, we received a free membership out of a balloon drop at IAFE, so we did that and we have continued on with it, because we really think it's a great thing for our fair and the industry as a whole. We appreciate all that they do and we appreciate you doing the fundraising. That was awesome."

In Kansas, the regulations are something that Thebault has become familiar with, even as all kinds of outdoor amusements in this state received much closer scrutiny in recent years following the death of Caleb Schwab at the Schlitterbahn waterpark in 2016.

"The state doesn't have ride inspectors, per se," Thebault said. "They require us to hire a third party, typically NAARSO inspectors. They will come in and inspect our show, usually prior to us coming here. Sometimes a couple rides get done at this location. They inspect, they provide us with an affidavit that the ride is safe and this is my signature and so on and that gets submitted to the state. Then they'll give us our compliance stickers. The State of Kansas does have an auditor. Her job is to kind of come in and make sure we're compliant on the paperwork side of things."

Thebault said that as long as the weekend stays dry, he expects them to make about what they have the last few years, which is around $1.8 million. They were about halfway there as of the latest numbers the board had before the start of business Saturday.

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