“We had a very successful season in 2021. When we opened in Middletown, NY at the Orange County Fair July 15th, that was our first date on the route that was the right date, scheduled previously,” says Destefano. “Our entire team was creating a makeshift route up until that point and they did a fantastic job.” Filling gaps in the schedule was not the only challenge Destefano and his team faced. “We certainly had some labor issues but we were very blessed that we had an early schedule for H2B visas which we got in right around the 1st of the year. We were able to fill in our employees around those people,” says Destefano. According to Dreamland concessionaires, food supplies were limited and often expensive to attain. Destefano recalls having the same trouble with ride parts throughout the season. Perhaps the biggest challenge of 2021 was the trucking aspect of the business. “We could have all the employees and spots in the world but if you can't get there, it's no good,” says Destefano. “There was a lack of independent trucks, a lack of drivers, and a large expense when you did get them.” Although it was a relief to open, operating in 2021 came with an unexpected set of challenges.
New to the Dreamland midway in 2021 were the Kolmax Plus Jumbos ride and Himalaya which were purchased in 2020. “Both rides did a fantastic job for us. They're very flashy. The Himalaya is a light show as well as a ride; it's beautiful and unbelievably made,” says Destefano.
When asked what made his outdoor events so popular in 2021, Destefano named three things: a lack of general entertainment for the public, some extra money out in the economy, and the fact that people wanted to get out. “The American people are not a people that want to sit in the backyard for another Summer. No way anybody was going to do that again,” he says. In general, Destefano reports hearing less complaints and remembers customers being understanding of restrictions and appreciative for events to attend.
Another key to Dreamland Amusements' success is the online ticketing program Destefano uses each week for both of his units. Selling wristbands and packages online, both at a discount in advance of the event and at full price onsale, through Innovative Ticketing, Dreamland Amusements provided customers with incentives to attend while banking some money before the event even began. “People are now acclimated to purchasing things in advance and online. We saw a tremendous increase in those online sales in 2021. It's the way of the future and people take advantage of that,” says Destefano. In addition, the company captures the email addresses of purchasers, enabling the program to grow each year with repeat users.
Accompanying the online ticketing program is a diverse marketing campaign launched prior to each event. Using an extensive media mix of cable, digital, radio, social media and local signs and billboards, the Dreamland Amusements marketing team is tasked with getting the word out every way possible.
As crowds increased at events, Destefano was sure to arrange his midway layout to reflect the amount of people in attendance. “ Of course we enjoyed the large crowds but had to make sure people feel comfortable. I give all the credit to my staff for creating extra fencing and queue lines. Even with less equipment, people had a better time because the midway was easier to navigate,” says Destefano. During such a difficult time, carnivals worked together and Destefano is hoping that's not forgotten. “Whether it be loaning trucks, rides, employees, or dates, there was a spirit of camaraderie and showmanship amongst show owners in 2021. I'd like to take that experience with me into 2022.”
Dreamland Amusements added three new events to their 2022 route. “We are going to be handling the Empire State Fair at the Nassau Coliseum June 30th-July 10th. We also recently signed the Oswego Harborfest in Oswego, NY July 28th-31st,” says Destefano. Additionally, Dreamland Amusements will be the new midway provider for the Fryeburg Fair in Fryeburg, ME beginning in 2022. “The Fryeburg Fair is not the state fair but it might as well be. It's a fantastic event with about 160,000 paid attendees. We are very honored that after a long interview process of a few amusement companies, the Fryeburg Fair has chosen Dreamland Amusements to be their midway provider,” says Destefano. “The current amusement company has been there for almost 40 years and did a great job for the fair. The committee felt it was time for a change and we are honored to be that change.” Dreamland will bring about 32 rides to the Fryeburg Fair midway next year.
In 2022, the Dreamland Amusements midway will feature a newly purchased, used Pharoah's Fury which is going through the shop in Delco, NC. “Our Dreamcatcher will also get a face lift in our Gibsonton winter quarters as well as a few kiddie rides. In August we purchased a 1 year old Hampton motorcycle ride, and in September we bought a Zamperla Samba Balloon ride,” says Destefano. At upcoming industry conventions, Dreamland hopes to add a kiddie ride from Rides 4 U as well as a new piece from Technical Park.
The show has carnival dates into November and closes out 2021 with a Christmas festival scheduled in Ellenton, FL. “We are normally involved in 4 Winter events. Because of the strenuous season we've had, I'm pulling it back to 2 events to give a lot of my main staff members the month of December off,” says Destefano. He will use his own short time off to be with his 5 grandkids who have all been added to the family in less than 4 years. The newest addition, Nicholas Ryan, was born this month.
Looking ahead, Destefano feels optimistic about 2022. “I see the industry flourishing again in 2022. We'll have some of the same issues and hurdles: labor, trucking, some supplies. But, as we got through it in 2021 we will get through it again,” he says. “I predict that 2022 will be better than 2019. Maybe not as good as 2021, but better than 2019.”