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North American Midway Entertainment Gets Creative to Reopen during Pandemic
Updated: Indianapolis Fairgrounds Event Cancelled

NAME is preparing to open in Indiana this July
The show will open at the Marion County Fair, followed by an event produced by NAME at the Indiana State Fairgrounds through Labor Day Weekend. Another unit is already open in Mobile, Alabama.

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The North American Midway Entertainment (NAME) management team is getting creative this Summer in order to keep their employees working and their equipment in use. After receiving disappointing news about several fair cancellations throughout the Spring and Summer, NAME staff are looking forward to hitting the road in Indiana for the 2020 Marion County Fair in Indianapolis and a new event of their own creation: the Fairgrounds Fun Park at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. “We're happy to get back on the road again and get people working. We're ready to put our best foot forward and communicate that to our customers,” says Scooter Korek, Vice President of Client Services.

Normally, the Marion County Fair runs in the middle of June, but fair staff were able to push the dates to July 11th-19th  and secure the “go ahead” from the Governor to host the annual event. NAME management and Marion County Fair staff have been in constant conversations to set guidelines for the 2020 fair which prioritizes customer and employee safety while still allowing for a fun atmosphere. “We worked in partnership with the Marion County Fair and local officials to make a more than adequate customer safety plan. We are prepared and ready to go,” says Korek. According to the fair's website, efforts taken by staff to maintain a healthy environment include things like extra hand sanitizing and hand washing stations placed throughout the fairgrounds, daily health screenings for fair staff and training on the recognition of flu-like illness as well as proper use of PPE, and encouraging the use of face coverings when attending the fair.

With all new guidelines comes the need for increased carnival staff training: a challenge for which Korek is confident NAME management is prepared. “Our staff training is going to be heightened. We want to make sure everyone understands the safety plan and that we're all on the same page. Every one of our units has a safety officer and they are going to have a larger role at this event: the safety officer is the key guy in ensuring our plan goes well,” says Korek. As NAME continues to organize employees and set up 26 rides, food stands, and games for the midway of the 2020 Marion County Fair, their team remains thankful that fair staff have committed to holding the event and look forward to bringing safe, family fun to the Indianapolis area.

In total, NAME has 5 units worth of rides, food, games and employees which are normally spread out around the US and Canada in the thick of “fair season” during the Summer. As the reality that COVID-19 would affect the outdoor amusement business industry hit show owners, Danny Houston, founder of NAME, and his management team, began thinking about how to best utilize their immense array of resources. Later, a comprehensive pandemic safety plan and two traveling fair food festivals were created. “We set our sights on safely getting mobilized and getting everyone working. We've drawn on resources from all of our units to make this possible,” says Korek. So far, the traveling food festivals have been on the road for six weeks now, each consisting of 5 food stands and traveling in Indiana and down south, respectively. Recently, the two separate units were in Carmel, Indiana and South Haven, Mississippi, both doing well. “There's a big appetite out there for the food festivals, customers are happy and grateful to have something to do and to get a taste of the fair,” says Korek.

Perhaps the most ambitious Summer plan NAME created was the Fairgrounds Fun Park, an event planned to take place at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The event was scheduled to run July 31st though Labor Day. Guests visiting the Fairgrounds Fun Park would have had access to a great combination of 50 rides, food stands, games, and entertainment throughout the 5 weeks. According to Korek, the idea with this event was to create an “amusement park-like” atmosphere that supports the health and safety of customers. “We want to draw lots of people from all over Indiana but we want to try to spread out the crowd and make it easier to maintain social distancing,” he says. The NAME team had been in conversations with the Indiana State Fairgrounds staff over a couple of weeks in order to organize this endeavor. Although the Fairgrounds Fun Park takes place on the state fairgrounds, NAME has leased the land and is producing it.

Update 7/9/20:  Unfortunately, after publishing this article, the Fairgrounds Fun Park event has been cancelled following a meeting between NAME and Indiana State health officials.  Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box cited an uptick in the positivity rate of covid-19 cases in the state as a reason for the cancellation.

The planned advertising plan for the Fairgrounds Fun Park consisted of a healthy mix of both traditional and digital advertising. NAME sent out a press release on June 29th announcing the new event and Korek is happy to report that initial reactions were positive. “This is a new experience and a new formula for us. It's a new way to look at the outdoor amusement business and the fair business,” he says.

As the opening day of the 2020 Marion County Fair draws closer, Korek is encouraged that it will be a success and a good opportunity to create a foundation for other 2020 events both for NAME and other carnivals and fairs. “Some of our Fall fairs are still on for now and we're hoping the Marion County Fair will instill security in local groups and other fairs. We might be able to help pave the way for reopening in our industry,” he says. A few days after receiving devastating news about The Big E canceling, Korek remains positive about NAME's momentum for the 2020 season; “I'm disappointed that The Big E was canceled. It's hard to speculate about the future and everything I predicted would happen this season in March has not come true but I feel great about our upcoming plans,” he says.

The NAME team looks forward to sharing their journey and successes with colleagues in the industry and hopes that fellow showmen will come out and see them in Indiana.
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