DOUGLAS — The new Wyoming State Fair leadership had drafted some changes they wanted, then COVID-19 happened so they adjusted plans to meet the latest rules or obstacle . . . but one they didn’t really count on was the long-time carnival vendor pulling out at the last minute nearly two weeks ago. That was on top of the grandstand show also cancelling for 2020.
But within 24 hours of Crabtree Amusements canceling, WSF Director Courtny Conkle had reached out to her numerous contacts in that line of work to find a replacement.
“It’s frustrating that it happened so late (in the planning stage),” Conkle said. “I can’t do a fair without a carnival.”
Despite that sudden change this year, Crabtree as a solid fixture at the Wyoming State Fair had become tenuous after several decades of coming here. Over the years, they had been frequently criticized for providing poor rides, failing to properly supervise employees and not bringing in the bigger rides which would attract more people. When fair leadership changed last year with a new board and director, one of the topics was the carnival and how it needed to change . . . but Crabtree already had the contract for another year.
Then, two weeks ago, the Texas-based carnival company officially pulled out, blaming the economy and the pandemic.
So Conkle dove deep into her bag of resources and quickly found some alternatives.
“Crabtree canceled on a Thursday evening,” Conkle remembered. “By Friday afternoon, I had five different carnival companies eager to do the state fair.”
Carnival Midway Attractions out of Winter Orange, California, will be filling up the midway with carnival games, rides and food booths. The company has more than 40 amusement rides for all ages including family and kiddie rides. Everything from the zipper to the giant 60 foot tall swing or the 65 foot Giant Century Wheel will be available for rides.
Games will be lined up on the midway for everyone to test their skills and food stands will have everything from cotton candy and caramel apples to corn dogs to pizza, she said.
Conkle and her team faced another obstacle when they received notice from the grandstand show, Reckless Kelly, that they were pulling out of the fair due to recent COVID-19 outbreaks.
“It was good timing in a way,” Conkle said. “We were notified right before tickets to their show went live on our website.”
With the main attraction canceling, Conkle reached out to PRCA officials, and they were happy to sign up for a second night of rodeo.
“It’s been a rough year to be in the rodeo industry,” Conkle said. “When Cheyenne Frontier Days was cancelled, and so many other rodeos around the state (were as well), my first thought was how can we do a two-night PRCA.”
Not having to pay for a full production and having a second rodeo night will save the fair around $40,000, according to Conkle.
“With just one show like Reckless Kelly, we have to pay the full production price, which is a lot of money, (regardless of what the gate brings in)” Conkle said. “We will still have live music throughout the fair, just not a grandstand show.”