Why Start a Midway?

by Scott McClelland



Well, one day Nick went to see a carnival and became interested in some of the rides. He got to thinking, why not build a ride and take it on the road with the shows. The idea went into full gear in the early forties and such was the beginning of the first Ukrainian owned travelling midway. It started with a simple Aeroplane Ride and a small trailer to sell potato chips. But the main attraction was the large tent where he displayed a freak of nature, a stuffed two-headed calf and a wax reproduction of the man who shot President Lincoln.

During this time he subscribed to a midway magazine called The Billboard, and came across the Schmidgall Museum up for sale in Peoria Ill. Nick purchased all of the freaks, but the purchase caused some problems. It took a lot of elbow grease and time to set up the tent in every town. And so Nick designed and Built a 32 foot long walk through trailer. The freaks were thus permanently displayed and it eliminated unnecessary handling. This was the largest freak exhibit of its kind.

The profit earned during the summer tours was turned back, each year, into the midway. Eventually the midway consisted of 5 major rides all constructed by Nick and the Family. Nicks ability to attack an idea from every angle, helped in creating some of the most important innovations in Carnival history. Today we look at the merry-go-round and take for granted that it has always been as it is today. This is not so, back in the early 20th century the Merry-go-Round was simply wooden horses and loveseats that went in a continuous circle... but Nicks love for equestrian riding got him to thinking there was something lacking. So he created the mechanism that made the horses move up and down which was the advent of the bobbing horse merry-go-round.

All Ferris Wheels in the past were made of wood and built upright. The problem with this was travelling through the Prairie Provinces was that the wind would pick up and blow them over, splintering them into irreparable piles of rubble. Nick designed a 45-foot Ferris Wheel on a trailer base made of steel. That could be folded in half and this brought on the advent of trailer based rides.

One of Nick's most famous contributions to carnival history was the invention of the teacup ride as seen in Disneyland.


To be continued

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