Fair hires new carnival company
The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners declared a "carnival emergency" at its meeting Jan. 8. The decision gave fairgrounds coordinator Brian Crow permission to negotiate a contract with a new carnival business without going out for a competitive bid.
When Davis Amusement Cascadia sent a letter to Crow saying the company was closing Jan. 1, it left him scrambling to find a carnival provider for this summer's fair.
The company has been providing carnival service since 1990.
Crow told the commissioners that he immediately started calling other providers, and he only found one — Wold Amusements — that was available July 22-25.
He set up a meeting with the carnival business at the Oregon Fairs Association Annual Convention, and on Tuesday of last week, he nailed down the final details of the contract.
"I am pumped to be working with Wold Amusements for our 2020 fair," Crow said. "The owner, Jason Wold, keeps his rides meticulously clean and safe, his staff is well groomed and all wear uniforms, and he has some great rides from the classic Zipper to the thrilling Rip Cord, which stands 100 feet tall and lets riders experience free fall, with a gentle stop at the bottom.
We will still be able to offer discounted presale ride wristbands through Grocery Outlet and the price is holding firm from last year.
"This carnival is an upgrade from what we had in the past and I am confident that visitors to the fair will be impressed at what we are able to do in Jefferson County."
The Hanford, California, company also works for Klamath and Lake counties, and both gave rave reviews.
At the Jan. 8 meeting, the commissioners had to deal with proper procedures.
"Do we need to declare an emergency?" said County Administrator Jeff Rasmussen. "It's the strangest thing I've ever said in the world: carnival emergency."But county attorney Alexa Gassner assured the commissioners that an emergency declaration was required.
"Let's make that clear that this is for procurement compliance purposes that we are not able to enter into competitive bidding at this time," she said.
"It's important to the kids of our community that we solve this," Commissioner Wayne Fording said.
Crow said the fair board also weighed in.
"The fair board have all said whatever it takes to make it happen," Crow said. "Let's make sure we have a carnival this year."Fording made the motion, and Commissioners Mae Huston and Kelly Simmelink both voted for it.
Mike Davis owns Davis Amusement Cascadia with his wife, Celeste.
He said Madras was one of the company's favorite communities.
"All together our show had been on the road for exactly 80 years, since 1939 through 2019," Davis said. "It lasted through five generations of our family."
He said they closed the business because it "was no longer profitable enough to remain.
"As it is with any small business, especially family-owned business, the costs are just getting to where we're not able to cope with those anymore," he said.
The business had already stopped doing fairs in California, but it covered Oregon, Washington and parts of Canada.
When asked what caused the closure, he said, "It was just a cocktail of things."
"The $15 an hour wage movement and really the inability to secure employees at all was almost unbearable," he said.
The company brought workers in on visas from Mexico, "which is also a political football," he said.
Insurance prices were also rising. He said incidents at carnivals far away could make his prices go up because there are so few carnival insurance providers.
Trucking costs — from fuel to insurance — were also on the rise.
He's not alone. Crow said another company from Idaho also shuttered recently.
"We have to sit down at the end of each year and make sure we're remaining profitable, and we just weren't," Davis said.
The decision was hard because the family was "so emotionally attached to it," he said, but they could not continue.
He's not sure what's next.
"You never really expect to have to wonder what you're going to have to do with yourself" when you run a family business, Davis said. "All the doors are open."
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