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Notes and Thanks

<< Conclusion

1. James H. Gray, A Brand of Its Own: The 100 Year History of the Calgary Stampede and Exhibition (Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1985).

2. It is salient to point out that the evolution of a phenomenon that defies societal definitions of respectability towards legitimacy may, in fact, be the consequence of more sophisticated illusions of proper conduct: what the general public is meant to perceive. It is also important to point out that, although the focus of this chapter is the Calgary Stampede, the history of carnivals at the Stampede is representative of and, indeed, embedded in a broader Albertan and western Canadian sociocultural context. Therefore, the Stampede’s carnival history cannot be singled out as unique or extraordinary.

Rather, the dynamics that have shaped the evolution of the midway or carnival component of the Stampede are those that informed the entire carnival and agricultural fair industry in the West over the past century.

3. It is difficult to define a carnival precisely because carnivals vary tremendously in size and components and have altered in meaning over time. The word “carnival” originates in fifteenth-century celebrations of pre-Lenten meateating, but developed a broader meaning in “the commonplace American sense of gaudy and somewhat disreputable pleasure.” See Samuel Kinser, Carnival, American Style: Mardi Gras at New Orleans and Mobile (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 3–4.

4. Kinser, Carnival, 3.

5. Joe McKennon, A Pictorial History of the American Carnival (Sarasota: Carnival Publishers of Sarasota, vol. 1, 1972), 11.

6. It is important to point out that carnivals have existed in many forms for hundreds of years in other countries and societies. While most European carnivals have roots in religious ceremonies, most North American carnivals have had one purpose: the procurement of revenue through the provision of entertainment.

7. David C. Jones, Midways, Judges, and Smooth-Tongued Fakirs: The Illustrated Story of Country Fairs in the Prairie West (Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1983), 52. See also Judith Adams, The American Amusement Park Industry: A History of Technology and Thrills (Boston: Twayne, 1991), 28; and H.W. Waters, History of Fairs and Expositions: Their Classifications, Functions and Values (London, ON: Reid Bros., 1939), 128. Waters spells the term “The Midway Pleasaunce.”

8. Jones, Midways, Judges, 52.

9. Waters, History of Fairs, 128.

10. Adams, American Amusement Park Industry, 28.

11. Waters, History of Fairs, 128.

12. Guy Scott, Country Fairs in Canada (Markham, ON: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2006), 65. Scott states that the musicians frequently wandered around the fairgrounds, playing between the performances on stage, as well as during inclement weather in order to sooth the nerves of agitated livestock.

13. Ibid., 62.

14. Ibid., 127.

15. Gregg Korek, vice-president, Canadian Midway Company, personal communication with author, July 2006. In the earlier years, the carnival shows and sideshows set up rather arbitrarily on the Stampede and Exhibition grounds. There is little historical record of where the earlier carnivals were located. However, Gray refers to the midway in a photograph taken in 1912, describing it as “a ramshackle affair in which the carnival games and ‘grease joints’ [food concessions] were located in the middle of Indian Village by the main entrance,” which supports Korek’s statement (Gray, Brand of Its Own, 39). As carnival companies grew, much more planning was needed to find the right location and adequate space for the rides and games. Currently, the arrangement is that the Stampede asks Conklin Shows to submit a preliminary lot layout for the rides before April 1. The Stampede may suggest changes or sanction the initial submission, so, in essence, the Stampede and Conklin Shows negotiate to come to a mutual agreement on the placement of the carnival rides and games. Alfie Phillips, interview with author, 13 July 2005.

16. Scott, Country Fairs, 77. The term “fakir” comes from the Arabic meaning “beggar” and refers to a religious mendicant; “how this term was transferred to a carnival con man defies explanation.” See also Jones, who refers to “bean-in-the-nutshell operators, known collectively as fakirs or fakers” in Midways, Judges, 4.

17. Ibid., 81–82.

18. Ibid., 72.

19. Ibid., 74.

20. bid., 74.

21. For example, in 1905, there was enormous opposition to gambling on the midway at the Calgary Exhibition, although the same carnival company had provided gambling games in Edmonton. The carnival company paid the Calgary Exhibition Association $500 for the “privilege” of setting up the games for three days. After some young boys were observed near the gambling games, a citizens’ group headed by Reverend G.W. Kerby complained. Rev. Kerby enlisted the help of the mayor and other citizens. They told the chief of police that they would charge the mayor with impeachment unless the game operators were arrested and punished. However, the usual outcome of such moral outrage was that judges told the offenders to leave town, and the situation would then repeat itself the following year. See Faye Reinberg Holt, Awed, Amused, and Alarmed (Calgary: Detselig Enterprises, 2003), 179–80.

22. Jones, Midways, Judges, 54.

23. Gray, Brand of Its Own, 19.

24. Gray states that, in 1920, “one of the continuing problems of the Calgary Exhibition” was with the midways. “The rides were a super attraction, and along with the rides were the so-called games of chance. All were capable of being rigged to ensure that the ‘marks’ left their money with the operators. Floating along the midways from town to town were a motley gang of sneak thieves, pickpockets, and hustlers.” Gray, Brand of Its Own, 100.

25. “In the Name of Agriculture,” Review (6 September 1915): 499, in Jones, Midways, Judges, 51–52.

26. Gray, Brand of Its Own, 31.

27. The C.W. Parker Carnival was typical of the travelling carnivals of the early twentieth century that played in both the U.S. and Canada. Charles W. Parker, the carnival owner, entered the carnival business initially by manufacturing amusement devices, including making improvements on existing models such as merry-go-rounds. He is also the originator of the “High Striker,” still found in most carnivals. He formed a carnival company in Kansas in 1902 under the name of C.W. Parker Amusement Company, which grew into the Great (and later, “Greater”) Parker Shows. A website covering the history of Charles W. Parker reproduces the following item from William E. Connelley, A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1918): “At the present time Mr. Parker is the largest private owner of amusement cars in the United States, His factory at Leavenworth is the largest in the world devoted exclusively to the manufacture of amusement devices.” http://skyways.lib. ks.us/genweb/archives/1918ks/biop/parkercw.html (accessed 28 January, 2006).

28. Gray, Brand of Its Own, 31.

29. Gray, Brand of Its Own, 100. The date of 1934 for Royal American Shows conflicts with that given by Gray, who states that “over the years, Calgary and the other western fairs tried several midways before settling in 1936 for the Royal American Shows which seemed, at that time, to be a cut above most of its competition.”

30. Jim Conklin via e-mail message from Ron Getty to author, 4 February 2005.

31. The writer uses the male pronoun deliberately. Almost all carnival owners over the past one hundred years have been male.

32. The original circuit system consisted of three circuits: A, B, and C. The A Circuit was considered to be the largest and most profitable carnival route, consisting mostly of large annual exhibitions. The B Circuit comprised smaller exhibitions and agricultural fairs, often in relatively remote small towns. Little is known about the C Circuit, but one can assume that this route included even smaller towns and fairs with less profitable opportunities. The A Circuit still exists today in western Canada (the Calgary Stampede being considered the largest spot). The B Circuit also still exists, albeit on a much smaller level than in the twentieth century. The C Circuit no longer exists. The evolution of the various circuits can be explained by the evolving demographic changes in western Canada, as the populations in cities grew, often at the expense of the near-depletion of many of the once-thriving smaller rural towns that formed the basis of the B Circuit. Interestingly, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) held in Toronto was often part of a package acquired by the successful A Circuit bidder. Ontario has always had far more carnival companies, as it has had the population base to support companies that often did not have to travel out of the province in order to survive economically. However, it is probably the case that none of these carnivals were large enough to play at the CNE, which is probably why the CNE contracts were seen as an entity separate from the other Ontario locations for carnivals.

33. Gray, Brand of Its Own, 33. Changes over the years with regard to cities in the A Circuit reflect changes in these cities’ exhibitions. For example, by 1918 Winnipeg and Brandon were added to the A Circuit, and Prince Albert was excluded (Jim Conklin via e-mail message from Ron Getty to author, 4 February 2005). The same cities remained in the circuit for the next few years. However, of note is the absence of Calgary in the 1922 A Circuit (Jim Conklin via e-mail message from Ron Getty to author, 4 February 2005), for which there is no extant explanation. In 1923 the Western Canada Association of Exhibitions was formed, with the A Circuit consisting of the same cities, including Calgary.

34. The process of bidding by carnival companies for contracts has varied over time. In western Canada, there does not seem to have been a bidding process per se until about the middle of the twentieth century. Agricultural fairs did not have much from which to select and tended to choose the largest, most spectacular carnival company available, which was usually American until Conklin Shows grew in size and scope. Although bidding itself was virtually non-existent until relatively recently, contracts were drawn up with the selected carnival. There appears to be no historical record of the contracts between some of the earlier carnivals, such as the Johnny J. Jones Exposition, with the Calgary Stampede (Ron Getty, Stampede Archives, e-mail correspondence 3 February 2006). However, Gregg Korek recalls that in 1946, Royal American Shows returned to the Calgary Stampede and the other western fairs with agreements based on five-year terms with a two-year extension (Gregg Korek, e-mail message to author, 2 February 2006). According to Jim Hobart, midway and exhibits manager at the Calgary Stampede, the standard term length for Stampede contracts currently is three to five years. Hobart, e-mail message to author, 26 January 2006.

35. It is important to point out that much of the alleged legitimacy was merely a camouflage for continued illegal activities.

36. Gray, Brand of Its Own, 33.

37. Jones, Midways, Judges, 52. See also Donald G. Wetherell and Irene Kmet, Useful Pleasures: The Shaping of Leisure in Alberta, 1896–1945 (Edmonton: Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, 1990), 321.

38. Wetherell and Kmet, Useful Pleasures, 321.

39. This is the corporate name of Conklin Shows’ Canadian operations.

40. Gregg “Scooter” Korek, e-mail message to author, 2 February 2006.

41. McCain Library and Archives, University of Southern Mississippi, www.lib.usm.edu/~archives/m329.htm (accessed 14 January 2006).

42. Korek, e-mail message to author, 2 February 2006.

43. There is very little recorded history of the show, and most of the information on it is found on a website created by a former employee of the show, Carl LeMay, who cites as his source Joe McKennon’s A Pictorial History of the American Carnival (Sarasota: Carnival Publishers of Sarasota, vol. 1, 1972; vol. 2, 1972; vol. 3, 1981). See LeMay, Royal American Shows: The Worlds [sic] Largest and Most Brilliantly Illuminated Midway, accessible at http://home.tampabay.rr.com/lemay/royal.htm (accessed 7 September 2005). As a young man, Sedlmayr obtained a job as a sideshow talker at an amusement park in Chicago. To repay a debt owed to him, the owner of Siegrist-Silbon Shows (a circus) granted Sedlmayr ownership of the circus in 1921. Sedlmayr chose a new name for his show, Royal American Shows, in order to appeal to both Canadians and Americans. In 1923 he sold brothers Elmer and Curtis Velare an interest in a partnership that continued until the early 1940s. By the 1930s Sedlmayr and the Velare brothers had created an impressive carnival “dedicated to the principle of carrying clean, high-class entertainment to the public.” Sedlmayr then took on a new partner named Sam Soloman, and Sedlmayr and Soloman bought and ran the Rubin & Cherry Show for two years. (This conflicts somewhat with LeMay’s historical account implying that Royal American Shows remained in its original format as a travelling carnival throughout its tenure.) However, it was very common for carnivals throughout most of the twentieth century to change names or to change ownership while retaining the same name. It could very well be the case, consequently, that the Rubin & Cherry show carried the Royal American banner during that time period. It was not until after the Second World War that Sedlmayr ran Royal American Shows as the sole owner. Circus, Minstrel and Travelling Show Collection, M329, McCain Library and Archives, University of Southern Mississippi, www.lib.usm.edu/~archives/m329.htm (accessed 14 January 2006).

44. This was typical of larger carnivals in North America, which travelled long distances with massive amounts of equipment and a large number of workers.

45. Korek, e-mail message to author, 2 February 2006.

46. LeMay (accessed 7 September 2005).

47. Ibid.

48. Ibid.

49. Alberta, Royal Commission of Inquiry into Royal American Shows, Royal American Shows Inc. and Its Activities in Alberta: Report of A Public Inquiry / James H. Laycraft, Commissioner (Edmonton, 1978) (hereafter cited as Laycraft, Royal American Shows).

50. Evidence of the length of the inquiry can be seen in the following comments from Laycraft: “I spent one year of my life on this Royal Commission. On days that were otherwise somewhat dull it made the front pages of all Alberta newspapers” (Laycraft, e-mail message to author, 24 January 2006).

51. Laycraft, Royal American Shows, A-1.

52. For example, in 1974 James Breen flew out of Saskatoon “carrying a satchel containing $25,000.00, Benjamin Mayers of Vancouver traveled from Winnipeg to Vancouver carrying approximately $100,000.00, [and] on another occasion, Mayers and Breen left Edmonton carrying approximately $200,000.00.” Laycraft, Royal American Shows, B-2.

53. It is also important to point out it was not unusual for senior carnival employees to be carrying large amounts of cash. Carnival companies rarely used banks through much of the twentieth century. Based on a cash economy, carnivals traditionally paid their employees directly with cash, and made purchases in a similar fashion. Travelling from location to location in a semi-autonomous fashion also created a practical need to have ready cash on hand, rather than conducting transactions or making deposits at banking institutions. Carnival owners were also very well aware that banks did not particularly trust them and, given the often tumultuous and unpredictable economics of the carnival business, banks were usually loathe to extend loans to carnivals. This practice of avoiding banks continued until well into the 1980s for many of the smaller carnivals in Canada (and, one can speculate, in the United States). Fiona Angus, “Key to the Midway: Masculinity at Work in a Western Canadian Carnival” (Ph.D. thesis, University of British Columbia, 2000), 111.

54. Police had always been highly suspicious of all carnivals since the turn of the century. However, they often turned a blind eye to the illegal activities, safe in the knowledge that the “grifters” would soon be leaving town. It was only when carnival companies grew larger and their presence far more visible that provincial and federal authorities became more vigilant.

55. Laycraft, Royal American Shows, B-5.

56. Ibid., B-7.

57. Ibid., B-11.

58. Ibid., B-11.

59. Ibid., B-11–12. In a telephone conversation with the author in February 2006, Gregg Korek said that he had been told anecdotally that the Edmonton Exhibition had been selected for the raid because the Calgary Stampede area was considered too close to the U.S. border for any potential escapees, and that Edmonton’s relative isolation was seen as being less likely to provide an easy exit for alleged carnival criminals. The overall impression given in Laycraft’s report is that the surveillance in Winnipeg and Calgary was motivated by the need for concrete evidence of illegal practices by Royal American Shows. For example, the report states that after the Task Force left Winnipeg for Calgary on June 26, 1975, a “confidential source [supplied]... the location of the R.A.S. records.” One can surmise, therefore, that had sufficient evidence been collected prior to their arrival in Calgary, the Task Force might have decided to conduct its raid of Royal American Shows at the Calgary Stampede, rather than at the Edmonton Exhibition.

60. Laycraft, Royal American Shows, B-11.

61. Ibid., B-12.

62. Ibid., B-13–14. Another event that occurred in Calgary during the Stampede also resulted in charges being laid later: “On July 11 [1975], two persons, William Goggin and James Breen, who had been described in criminal intelligence reports of the previous year as ‘bagmen’, arrived from Saskatoon. On July 12, they went to the Calgary Airport with $70,000.00. They presented this money to the R.C.M.P. Airport Detachment for a private inspection for flight clearance. The Airport Detachment noted the license number of a rented car being used by the two men and passed the information on to the Task Force.” This incident became very significant in the subsequent raid at Klondike Days in Edmonton, as the rented vehicle was tracked and found in the parking lot of the Edmonton Plaza Hotel, leading the Task Force towards the eventual uncovering of a highly complex set of transactions involving several individuals connected with moving the money from the various exhibitions to points south of the border, and out of the jurisdiction of Canada’s Department of National Revenue.

63. The entire endeavour, however, was not without numerous and complex problems. Even before the Task Force began its work of monitoring Royal American Shows, it was beset by internal conflicts and disagreements among the various Task Force members with regard to jurisdictional issues and other legal aspects. After the Task Force exposed the alleged illegalities in Royal American Shows in Edmonton, ongoing difficulties arose with regard to loss of continuity of documentation, largely because of the aforementioned tension among the Task Force parties. Further evidence of the distrust that appears to have existed among the various Task Force members (particularly between the RCMP and local police departments) is “The Northstar Incident,” in which the RCMP was accused by Edmonton City police officers of spying on their activities at the Northstar Inn in Edmonton in December 1975, during the ongoing legal proceedings following the July 1975 investigation of Royal American Shows’ activities at Klondike Days. This was not an insignificant issue, as it led directly to the alleged tainting of documentation and information that effectively ruled out court admissibility. In fact, the issue of court admissibility in the form of both “loss of continuity” and “non-disclosure of documentation” is cited in Laycraft’s report as the reason why charges stemming from evidence of criminal activities against Albert Anderson, the general manager of the Edmonton Exhibition, were stayed. Charges against Anderson arose after the Task Force’s seizure of the “black book” containing information written by Peter D. Andrews, Royal American Shows concessions manager, between 1973 and 1975. In essence, the book contained records of bribes in the form of money and gifts given to various people of significance, some of whom were named, while others were indicated by an office only. Laycraft states the following in his report: “In the case of some cities in the United States substantial sums of money were shown as having been given to various named or designated individuals. In Canada, the book showed sums of money ranging from $50.00 to $300.00 as having been given to a number of named Calgary policemen. Three other Canadians are shown as having received money. Two are not identified by name. The other person named was Albert J. Anderson, then General Manager of the E.X.A. [Edmonton Exhibition Association].” Ibid., B-22–67. Anderson was charged with “unlawfully and corruptly accepting awards, advantages, or benefits of goods and money from Sedlmayr, Andrews, and Demay as a consideration for showing favour to Royal American Shows Inc.,” charges which, as mentioned above, were stayed due to allegations of improprieties with regard to the continuity of documentation. Ibid., B-24.

64. The raids by the Task Force on Royal American Shows continued in Regina after Royal American left Edmonton.

65. Korek, e-mail message to author, 2 February 2006.

66. Minstrel and Travelling Show Collection, M329, McCain Library and Archives, University of Southern Mississippi.

67. Unless otherwise noted, most of the historical data on Conklin Shows is derived from the extensive history of the show compiled by Gregg Korek, Jim Conklin, and John Thurston (www.conklinshows.com/history.htm). Korek states that Thurston, from Ottawa, is currently writing a book on the history of the Conklin Shows. Korek, e-mail message to author, 23 February 2006.

68. The writer was unable to locate any information on this particular show, but its name reflects the tendency of carnival owners in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to select grandiose names for quite small carnival operations.

69. Economic downturns are particularly difficult periods for carnivals, and many carnival companies disappeared during the Great Depression. Carnival companies, then as now, depend on an often unpredictable number of customers to survive. Poor economic conditions as well as inclement weather have a significant impact on any carnival’s seasonal revenue and, often, its chances of survival.

70. Jim Conklin retired in 1996, which is when Frank took over the American operations. However, Jim remains actively involved in the Ontario operations of Conklin Shows, which are known as The World’s Finest Shows (Phillips, interview with author, 13 July 2005).

71. Korek, e-mail message to author, 2 February 2006.

72. Ibid.

73. After the raids in Edmonton and Regina, the western fairs assumed that Royal American Shows would return (albeit in a sanitized form) for the upcoming season.

74. Korek, e-mail message to author, 2 February 2006.

75. Ibid.

76. Ibid.

77. Ibid.

78. Korek stated that there were proposals from other midway companies in the fall of 1975. One proposal was from Jerry Murphy’s United States Shows, which appear to have attempted to meet the Canadian carnival criterion by creating a Canadian midway called “Canadian Carnivals.” There were also proposals from Heinz Oldeck’s company and Bingo Hauser’s West Coast Amusements. Korek states, “I believe in total that there were twelve submissions that were presented by carnival operators.” Korek, e-mail message to author, 2 February 2006.

79. Alfie Phillips, interview with author, 13 July 2005.

80. A stark example of the alleged “skimming” by Royal American Shows is found in Gray’s statement that in 1975 the midway revenue was $208,933 (the amount declared by Royal American Shows) yet, one year later, in 1976 (when Conklin Shows had the midway contract), the midway revenue was $502,000, “an indication surely that something more than mere tax juggling had been taking place in the Royal American Shows’ counting house.” Gray, Brand of Its Own, 169.

81. Phillips, interview with author, 13 July 2005. Historically, carnival companies have used a variety of ways to pay fair boards their portion of the revenue. Often the agreements were very informal, with somewhat arbitrary percentage commissions being placed on the carnival ride components and the games (the general “rule of thumb” was that the more lucrative the carnival component, the larger the commission demanded by the fair board). Alfie Phillips states that one arrangement is for carnival companies to deposit the ride money (money from ride tickets) into the fair board’s bank account, and then the carnival company keeps the concession (games) money. Under this arrangement, payment is not made on a percentage (commission) basis, but on a flat basis where “you rent 100 feet and you pay so much money to the office for 100 feet.” “Sullivan Amusements” (pseudonym), the carnival I researched in 1996, used a percentage system between the carnival company and the fair boards, and also between the independent carnival operators and the show itself. During the research, I asked how a financial figure was arrived at in order to compute the agreed-upon percentage at the end of each spot, given that Sullivan Amusements was a strictly cash-run operation. The office employee at Sullivan Amusements told me that, in both sets of circumstances, a check with the previous year’s figures provided the carnival with a kind of benchmark figure to go by, while also considering any mitigating factors such as weather that might affect the revenue. The employee advised me that there was an unspoken acknowledgment between the carnival and its contractees that the figure was never completely accurate, but close enough to the previous year so that disputes could not develop. The arrangements for the more itinerant independents were even more loose and informal: handshake agreements with the owner of Sullivan Amusements to give a percentage (known as “points”) of their day’s take, called “the nut.” (The word “nut” has an interesting derivation. The Sullivan Amusements worker told me that “years age, when circuses came into town, the mayor of the town would get upset when circuses would head out without paying, so he would take one nut off of every wheel of every trailer and when the circus trainer brought his money in, his rent, the mayor would give him his nuts back.”) Percentages/points varied tremendously from 20 percent to 45 percent depending on how well-known and well-liked the independent contractors were by the carnival owner. Angus, “Key to the Midway,” 95.

82. In the past ten years, Conklin Shows has added other features, such as machines that dispense hand lotion and the sale of bottled water. Alfie Phillips commented, “Patty Conklin would roll over in his grave if he knew we were selling bottled water! Roll over in his grave! Three dollars for a bottle of water!” Phillips, interview with author, 13 July 2005.

83. The carnival business, in general, has struggled over the past fifty years to survive, with so many other entities competing for entertainment dollars (e.g., television and other electronic technological advancements and, increasingly, casinos and gaming in general). Jeff Blomsness, chair of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, stated in 2000 that the Cypress Group carnival company merger was a very positive step towards the survival of the carnivals involved. Blomsness said, “We’re hurting. Two-thirds of the ride manufacturers are out of business, and some that did 60% or 90% of their business with carnivals are now doing 10%, or even less. The whole industry is hurting, and it will trickle down to fairs.” Tom Powell, “Farrow, Conklin, Thebault-Blomsness to consolidate,” Amusement Business, 15 October 2004, www.amusementbusiness.com/amusementbusiness/industrynews/article_display.jsp (accessed 22 January 2006).

84. The Conklin Shows website states that “the cost of moving rides, from fair to fair, even before the increase in gas has become almost prohibitive. Last year [2003], to move the show the 20,000 miles from Florida to the Calgary Stampede and back cost in excess of $5,000,000.” Conklin Shows, www.conklinshows.com/rides_secrets.htm (accessed January 12, 2005).

85. Alfie Phillips characterized this as “government interference,” stating that “in some provinces, it’s excessive. For example, in Manitoba, they come and visit our office, about seventeen regulatory bodies, and in Toronto, it’s twenty-two, such a wide span…that we touch on all these different areas of government regulations [such as] the fire marshall, health department, police department, health and safety people, people auditing us. It’s just a myriad of regulatory bodies that descend upon us.” Phillips, interview with author, 13 July 2005.

86. Ibid.

87. Gray makes frequent references to the reliance of the Stampede over the years on both casual and volunteer workers.

88. Gray, Brand of Its Own, 90.

89. Phillips, interview with author, 13 July 2005.

90. Ibid.

91. Ibid.

92. The company used by Conklin Shows is “Away 2 Xplore,” which offers “international staffing solutions” and recruits “a large portion of [its] candidates from South Africa’s middle class working families” (www.away2xplore.org, accessed 5 August 2005). The South African workers fly into the southern U.S. initially, usually in January, work on ride maintenance and restoration for Conklin Shows at West Palm Beach, and then begin the carnival company’s season by working in spots in Miami, eventually making their way north to the Calgary Stampede in July and continuing on the show’s route for the remainder of the season. The South African workers then fly back to South Africa in November. The workers are brought in under employer-sponsored seasonal worker visas (known as H-2Bs), which are given to workers employed by companies that claim they are unable to find suitable or available workers domestically.

93. Another sign of the evolution of Conklin Shows into a more corporatized entity is its merger with North American Midway Entertainment in January 2005. North American Midway Entertainment comprises Conklin Holdings, Farrow Amusement Company (of Jackson, Mississippi), and Thebault-Blomsness Inc. (of Crystal Lake, Illinois), and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Stone Canyon Entertainment Corp., a company formed by former Ticketmaster Group chairperson and CEO Fred Rosen and The Cypress Group, a New York-based equity firm. North American Midway held contracts, as of October 15, 2004, for 142 annual fairs and exhibitions in seventeen U.S. states and four Canadian provinces. Powell, “Farrow, Conklin.” Jim Hobart, midway and exhibits manager for the Calgary Stampede, states that “Conklin Shows’ last contract with the Stampede was for five years (2000–2004). With Conklin Shows being an integral part of the merger brought together by North American Midway Entertainment, the Calgary Stampede entered into a one-year contract for the 2005 Stampede with The Canadian Midway Company (Conklin Shows) and North American Midway Company to bridge the gap. The Calgary Stampede and [The Canadian Midway Company] are currently in negotiations to go forward with a new contract. The length of the contract is one of the terms to be determined.” Jim Hobart, e-mail message to author, 24 February 2006. In a press release dated October 15, 2004, The Cypress Group states, “Conklin is the largest midway operator in North America with a large presence on the East Coast and throughout Canada, operating rides and concessions at 17 shows with attendance of approximately 8.4 million.” The Cypress Group/Private Equity Investing, www.cypressgp.com/pr_2004_10_15.htm (accessed 22 January 2006). Conklin Shows played for the first time as The Canadian Midway Company, the northern unit of North American Midway Entertainment, in the summer of 2005, although its public banner continues to be Conklin Shows.

94. Waters, History of Fairs, 129.

95. Jones, Midways, Judges, 54.

96. Angus, “Key to the Midway.”

97. William Lin, “Carnival Staff Walk Out Over Poor Conditions,” Edmonton Journal, 31 July 2005.

98. Trish Audette, “Midway Operator’s Violations ‘Minor,’” Edmonton Journal, 3 August 2005.

99. Elise Stolte, “Long Hours Leave Midway Workers Barking,” Edmonton Journal, 15 August 2006. Stolte states, “Employment Standards officers started working with the company earlier this month when they set up at the Calgary Stampede. When provincial officials looked at records ending July 14 [2006], they found midway employees had not been paid Alberta’s $7-perhour minimum wage or overtime pay, a minimum one and a half times the regular pay. On July 21, that was corrected and employees got back pay for their time in Alberta … Officials will prosecute if the travelling company does not limit a worker’s day top twelve hours.” Interestingly, the Calgary Herald had no coverage of this issue from 2005 to 2007.

100. Brad Linn, “Overseas Workers Perk Up the Midway,” Calgary Herald, 16 July 2006.

Special thanks from the author to Gregg “Scooter” Korek, Alfie Phillips, and the Honourable James H. Laycraft, Q.C., LL.D, for their valuable information and contributions to this chapter.

 

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