Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show


The first week at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show has been very good business. I am amazed at how well the fair promotes weekday promotions. They're doing a lot of 2 for 1 promotions, buddy night, dollar night, senior night, and more. It really makes for an outstanding fair because a lot of our weak nights are as big as our weekend nights (pun intended).

This is a great fair to start off our season as it is one of the biggest fairs in Texas with a 2 million dollar ride gross. I was a little shocked when I first setup that I had to move from the location I had for the past twelve years and then setup on a lesser location on the lineup to fill a hole for a ride that was broke down. Then to have the carnival owner tell me that we're going to have to tear down for a third time when they get a motor back from Italy. They had to send the Kamikaze's motor back to the manufacturer in Italy to have it rewound. Now if they had a winch truck, we wouldn't have to lower our tents for them to lower the Kamikaze to replace the motor. However, knowing customs brokerage as I do, I know there's no way they're getting that motor in before the end of this fair and the next time I lower my tent will be to put it in my truck.

I'm amazed I can work for a show for 37 years and then have the carnival owner tell me I don't talk to him about business, but that I have to talk with his concession manager after I have given him hundreds of thousands of dollars over many years. The attitude nowadays is not what have you done in the past, but what are you going to do for me today. The new concession manager wants you to sign a contract stating you are going to give him all the money. I refused to sign such a contract with a bannerline sideshow. You have a lot of footage, but only one ticket box to collect the money, unlike joints where you have an agent every 15 feet. I told the new concession manager I was not going to pay him more than what I was going to gross at a lesser location. He said it was a better location. Whose opinion? Mine or yours? In my 45 years of operating sideshows, it's a lesser location. He needs a hole filled and needed to tell me it was a better location. I told him you have two choices: a better rate on the rent or I would just tear it down and take it back six miles to my winter quarters. He decided to cut the rent in half. That was where the rent should have been in the first place. He told me, don't forget to give the electrician $300 for hooking us up even though my crew can plug in a twist lock and did just fine.

I think my father had the right idea: book his own show, keep the concession money and going when and where he wanted to. That's why I invested a half million in large stage illusions in the last couple of years to gear up for my own circus magic show because the fair business is turning out to be dog eat dog without camaraderie between showpeople. The POP with the carnival owners is getting all the scratch and the independents squat. And the little bit of squat they get, the carnival owners want. You have to be on top of your game these days because you can't even afford to make one minor mistake and stay in business.


John Strong Jr.

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