Carnival provides classic fun

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Grace, Savannah and Maria Diaz are whipped around the track of the Himalaya ride in the carnival area Feb. 8 at the 65th annual San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. Photo by Carlos Ferrand

The midway promotes safety and games where people win.

By Bleah B. Patterson

From the early 20th century to the present, carnivals remain a whimsical display of lights, color and amusements.

They’re also more than pretty faces; they have to be safe.

Gary Zaitshik, manager of Wade Shows International, which provides the midway for the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, prides himself in being a part of the country’s largest and safest carnival display.

Wade Shows serves more state fairs than any other carnival in the country, but this is the only rodeo the company serves.

Zaitshik said he did not know the attendance for the rodeo.

Wade Shows, based in Tampa, Fla., opened its first carnival in 1912 in Detroit.

The company serves an estimated 15 million people a year.

“We have an exceptional safety record, which is one of the reasons the rodeo hired us. We make safety a priority,” Zaitshik said.

He explained unlike amusement parks that leave rides up year-round, Wade Shows inspect the safety of rides often.

“We hire a third-party certified inspector to spend four days looking at our rides before every show. That’s how much we care about safety,” he said.

The company only allows personnel who have been trained and been working with the company for a long time to assemble the rides.

“Favorite rides are the vertigo, the Himalaya and the classic tilt-a-whirl,” Zaitshik said. “It tickles my stomach and it makes me laugh.”

It takes four days, working from dawn to dusk, for the company’s crew to set up the entire midway.

By the time the carnival opens for business, more than 20,000 stuffed toys are on the fairgrounds and will be at any given time.

“Our games are designed to create winners. We don’t want to hold on to these toys. We want people to go home with them,” Zaitshik said. “All of our games are games of skill, not chance, and many of them advertise a winner every time.”

Zaitshik says that the best part about working for a carnival is providing a place for families to create memories.

“I love seeing people eat cotton candy and come off of the rides saying ‘let’s do that again!’” Zaitshik said. “It’s satisfying when people leave happy.”

Saturday will be dollar day at the rodeo with $1 general admission 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. and $1 admission all day for anyone with a military ID.


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