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Big Round Wheel Amusements holds first carnival after reopening in South Carolina

Big Round Wheel Amusements Reopens following COVID-19 Shutdown
Big Round Wheel Amusements held its first event following the coronavirus shutdowns in Blacksburg, SC as a fundraiser for the local fire department. Photo by Brandon Devault.

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Darren Janesky, owner of Big Round Wheel Amusements of Blacksburg, South Carolina, has stepped out of his comfort zone to run a community event: The Blacksburg Volunteer Fireman's Carnival,  in his hometown. With the help of a few other showmen, Janesky and his family raised much needed funds for the Blacksburg Volunteer Fire Department. For Janesky, the decision to produce this event came from necessity after all of his business March through June had been cancelled. A self-proclaimed constitutionalist, Janesky believes it's his duty to push back on government mandates, know his rights, and do what is necessary to provide for his family and keep his business afloat.

Big Round Wheel Amusements is a rental company rather than a fully operational carnival. Janesky, along with his wife and three children, rents his 6 or 7 carnival rides out for various private events, corporate parties, and other special requests. “We are a bit unique, we are a rental company and not a true carnival by any means. This event is something we've done out of opportunity,” says Janesky. First, Janesky looked for a piece of private property which he could rent in order to host the event. He then researched his rights, making sure that state officials could not shut him down. After meeting with local police and gaining their support, Janesky was assured that hosting an event on private property meant that state officials did not have authority to close him down.

Because Big Round Wheel Amusements consists of only 6 or 7 rides, Janesky knew he needed to reach out to other showmen and have more rides at the event. He contacted Tommy Hurst of TC's Amusements who bought some rides and a few food stands, Janesky's brother brought the 2 carnival rides he owns, and a local inflatable company brought in a few mechanical rides. Overall, the Blacksburg Volunteer Fireman's Carnival had about 12 rides including 2 wheels, a Rock-o-Plane, a Fun Slide, and an Eli Bridge Spidermania. Hurst's funnel cake stand, popper, and fry stand, and a local ice cream vendor gave carnival-goers plenty of food options. Throughout the event which ran May 30th-June 7th, Janesky reported receiving many compliments on the layout, employee performance, and the event in general. “We did not receive any negative feedback in person. We got lots of positive comments about the layout and have done very well here,” says Janesky.

While COVID-19 appears to be on the forefront of most peoples' minds, Janesky conducted his sanitizing and health procedures as he normally does. “Everything is business as usual; we use the same practice toward germs as we did at any other event or time of year. If customers want to wear a mask or bring their own wipes or sanitizer for extra cleanliness we certainly respect that but we are not requiring it,” says Janesky. The impact that the Blacksburg Volunteer Fireman's Carnival had on the community was extremely positive. Janesky recalls the owner of the pizza place next door to the event claiming he has never been busier thanks to carnival customers heading over to the shop after a day of family fun. Many customers, especially mothers of younger children, were grateful to be out of the house and doing something fun.

During the event, tickets for rides were sold for $1.25 for 1 ticket and $50 for 45 tickets with tax included. Janesky hired locally for ticket sellers and some ride operators; “we found some great people to work. They were professional and extremely grateful for the opportunity. Many of them were out of work for several months due to the coronavirus,” says Janesky. In order to advertise for the event, Janesky ran several online ad campaigns and distributed posters throughout the town. After achieving success with the Blacksburg Volunteer Fireman's Carnival, Janesky is considering doing another event in a neighboring county; “I've had people from towns nearby tell me they're interested in hosting an event. We want to seize these opportunities to have nice, small shows in our area,” says Janesky.

Typically, Big Round Wheel Amusements is operating through rentals 11 months out  the year; this includes international rentals, re-theming and re-wrapping rides for corporate events, private events, or any other requests. Janesky calculates he's lost about $380,000 in rentals since the COVID-19 pandemic hit; “we're starting to get some calls again for a few jobs in July or August. Things are starting to emerge but it's happening very, very slowly. We're looking at doing a couple more carnivals to help supplement our lost business,” says Janesky.

After stepping out of his comfort zone, Janesky offers some advice to his outdoor amusement business colleagues, “people need to push back. I encourage people to reach out to private property owners, make a deal, and give hosting an event in what may be a new location a try. We have to be creative. My heart goes out to all the people out there who do this for a living; I know this has been devastating,” says Janesky. Big Round Wheel Amusements will continue to share photos and videos from future events on their Facebook page.
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