April 07, 2020

Fair’s midway operator to get another ride

BANGOR – Despite a competing offer that sounded more lucrative, a majority of city councilors meeting Monday as the finance committee opted to back the company that has been operating the Bangor State Fair midway for the past 12 years.

The midway contract is expiring and the city is contemplating a five-year agreement. A request for proposals yielded offers from two operators.

After hearing dueling presentations from Eugene Dean of Fiesta Shows, which has operated the fair’s midway since 1994, and Lawrence Carr of Carr Expositions, which ran the midway here in the 1970s and a summer fair at Speedway 95 in Hermon in 1999 and 2000, the five councilors serving on the finance panel voted 3-2 to stay with Fiesta.

Voting to support the staff recommendation to stay with Fiesta were Councilors Gerry Palmer, Frank Farrington and Susan Hawes.

Councilors Geoffrey Gratwick and Richard Stone, who chairs the five-member panel, wanted to delay a recommendation so they could take a closer look at which operator’s offer would generate more income for Bass Park, which the city has subsidized for many years but which draws thousands to the area in any given year.

Gratwick said he saw as among the council’s obligations “to have Bass Park pay for itself more.”

The final decision is the full council’s to make. That is slated to occur during its Oct. 23 meeting.

In the end, it boiled down to Fiesta Shows’ track record with the city versus Carr Expositions problems this year with getting rides up and running at the Northern Maine State Fair in Presque Isle and the Skowhegan State Fair.

According to published reports, another of Carr’s companies, Lawrence Carr Leasing Inc., had its state license yanked in July.

Organizers of the Presque Isle Fair learned about the problem the night before the fair opened, the same time they learned that trucks carrying 25 rides were stuck in impound lots. Most of the rides arrived several days into the event.

Similar problems cropped up in Skowhegan, where the rides showed up late, and electrical and generator problems delayed the construction and inspection of dozens of rides. Worse problems were averted after seven local truckers stepped up to haul rides to the fairgrounds.

Carr since has lost the Skowhegan contract to Fiesta. He also lost the midway job at the Piscataquis State Fair to Smokey’s Greater Shows after organizers learned that state fire marshal’s inspectors found several violations. This year, the company was cited for more than 100 traffic safety violations.

During the meeting, Carr blamed the impound problems on the southern Maine lawyer he hired to make sure he was in good standing to operate in Maine. He said the lawyer found $8,600 in unpaid fines but missed about $300.

Though Carr offered $80,000 a year in ground rent to Fiesta’s $69,067, and a greater chunk of ride revenues – 11 percent more than Fiesta’s 30 percent for the first $300,000 and 40 percent of any income beyond that – Dyer recommended staying with the current operator.

“From the staff’s point of view, we’re more concerned about service delivery,” he said, adding that the dollar difference between the two proposals was “not enough of a difference to warrant a change of operators.”

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