Several people, including board members, said the community did not seem pleased with the new carnival at the 2013 Great Northern Fair, although the fair manager said it still made respectable ticket sales.
The board ended its three-year contract with Royal West Amusements that had been putting on the carnival at the fair, and signed a contract with Brown’s Amusements, the first year that company has come to Montana.
Social media started filling with complaints about the carnival on its first day, Wednesday. Those complaints included the lack of games and food vendors and the lack of tall rides, especially the Zipper.
Fairgrounds manager Tim Solomon said the company met its contractual requirements, with the proper minimum of adult and children’s rides. The fair board had requested specific rides including the Zipper, he said.
“They were not here due to maintenance,” Solomon said.
He said that while ticket sales were not a record, they still were a respectable $102,000.
Complaints had come in about Royal West’s carnival last year, and Solomon said during previous Hill County fair board meetings that fairs Royal West served after the Great Northern Fair reported even more problems.
When Royal West lost the support of its sister company, Inland Empire Shows, to put on the carnival at the Hill County fair, it could no longer guarantee bringing enough rides and Hill County voided the contract. After several months of looking, the fair board approved signing a contract with Brown’s.
Board member Missy Boucher said one problem this year was that, with no tall rides, people in town or on U.S. Highway 2 driving by the fair could not see that rides were there.
Fairgoer Karla Vaughn had another complaint. She said she bought an all-day ride wristband for her granddaughter and didn’t find out until they went to the fair that the rides had a 36-inch height requirement. She had to sell the wristband to another fairgoer, and her granddaughter was crushed, Vaughn said.
She added that the carnival manager was rude when she tried to ask him how she could resolve the problem.
Solomon said the board was not aware of that rule when it contracted with Brown’s, and would have to work with the company to see what could be done to change or at least advertise it.
Solomon said Brown’s has another two years on its contract.
Board member Chad Murnin and Solomon each said the board needs to talk to Brown’s and see how the complaints can be resolved.
The board, at several meetings before contracting with Brown’s, talked about signing a one- or two-year contract with companies that had shown interest in working the Great Northern Fair, but Solomon said the companies would not sign less than a three-year agreement.
Solomon added Tuesday that there was less on the midway than in previous fairs, with no games and only one food booth. The lack of carnival food booths did benefit the local groups selling concessions, he added.