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Regional News

Running a carnival during a pandemic: revenue is up, but so are costs

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MICHAEL OKONIEWSKI
/
NYS FAIR

Wade Shows, the operation that runs the midway at the New York State Fair, has been able to meet the challenge of running a carnival in the pandemic, but it hasn’t been easy.

Owner Frank Zaitshik has been running carnivals throughout the pandemic, across the country.

“The good part is, people love what we do, and they’re coming out and revenue is actually up over 2019,” Zaitshik said.

The problem is, costs are up too. By a lot.

“We have doors that we put on the living quarters for our help,” Zaitshik said. “They used to be $175, now they’re $525."

It’s a refrain many businesses have faced during the pandemic. But running a carnival hits all the buttons. Food shortages mean popular turkey drumsticks are hard to come by. Shipping delays from China means fewer kinds of prizes at games. Parts shortages means some rides can’t be fixed that would normally be on the road. So the carnival portion of the state fair is lighter than usual.

As far as COVID-19 goes, Zaitshik says 90% of his workers are vaccinated, and he’s been monitoring those workers and cities they’ve rolled into. So far, there’s been no community spread wherever they’ve been, and they’ve had one breakthrough case of COVID-19 among Wade employees.

"What I gather, is outside it’s relatively safe,” he said. “I’m not a doctor and I can’t guarantee that. But that’s what I’ve experienced with our folks and the communities we’ve played."

Zaitshik, ever an optimist, said the carnival company has risen to the challenges. But he said ultimately, it’s up to individuals whether they want to hit the midway.

“We are giving you opportunities to socially distance, to sanitize, to wait in orderly lines, to make contactless purchases, but you have to take responsibility yourself and do what you are comfortable and safe with,” he said.