|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2011)|
|Type||Privately held company|
|Industry||Amusement - Midway|
Jim Conklin (son of founder)Frank Conklin (grandson of founder)
|Products||Amusement Ride rental/operation and fun fair management|
|Divisions||World's Finest Shows, Conklin Supershows, Carnival Group|
|Website||World's Finest Shows|
Conklin Shows was the largest traveling amusement corporation in North America. The 75-year-old company operated 'fun fairs' at various summer agricultural shows across North America and is based in Brantford, Ontario and formerly also in West Palm Beach, FL. The company has a long history in Canada, providing entertainment for generations of kids and adults. The organization used to operate the midway services for some of Canada's largest summer fairs including the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, the Calgary Stampede, and Edmonton's K-Days. In 2004, Conklin Shows International route and equipment were sold to North American Midway Entertainment.
Two of the remaining companies, World's Finest Shows and Conklin Super Shows, still are part of the Conklin Group of Carnival Companies. World's Finest Shows route includes more than 60 fairs, all in Ontario, Canada. They are both based in Ontario, Canada.
Conklin Shows as it was known in Canada and the US, now operates under N.A.M.E. The carnival provides the midway at fairs and exhibitions, including, Miami, Florida’s Miami-Dade County Fair, Edmonton, Alberta’s K-Days Calgary, Alberta's Calgary Stampede and Toronto, Ontario’s CNE, The Canadian National Exhibition.
Conklin Shows was founded by James Wesley "Patty" Conklin, (b. 1892 in Brooklyn New York and raised by adopted parents — the Conklins). He got his start as a sideshow host at Coney Island in the early 1900s. By 1915 he was running his own gambling games at various midways across the southern United States.
In 1916 Patty Conklin joined up with his adopted father and established Clark & Conklin Shows. Lasting four seasons playing at various shows around the mid west, the company folded after the death of the father.
In 1921 Patty moved the show north to play at the Winnipeg Exhibition. Due to a problems with the fair, their participation was canceled. While returning to the United States with a train car full of prize merchandise, Patty stumbled upon a show just outside of Winnipeg. They joined up with the operator of the fair, International Amusement Company and worked all of the remaining Canadian shows that year.
After working the road hosting small fairs coast to coast for 20 years, Conklin Shows bid on and won the midway contract for the 1937 Toronto Canadian National Exhibition, which the company won. The fair, one of the largest in the world, was a prized show.
Having the CNE contract helped turn it into a profitable company In the early 1950s Conklin Shows borrowed over half a million dollars and began to build permanent attractions on the CNE fairgrounds of Exhibition Place. In 1953 they constructed the Mighty Flyer, a wooden rollercoaster, that lasted until the early 1990s.
The early 1970s saw the company begin to diversify, including establishing Maple Leaf Village (now Casino Niagara) in Niagara Falls Ontario along with running a venue at the base of the CN Tower in Toronto.
In 1975 Conklin Shows biggest rival, Royal American was banned from Canada due to tax evasion. So by 1976, Conklin won all of the contracts previously held by the competitor - including the Calgary Stampede and Vancouver Pacific Exhibition.
The 80s and 90s were a time of growth for Conklin as it operated across the prairies with stops in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina and Saskatoon. It also opened up a number of smaller fairs as well as provided a schedule and route for many smaller independent shows such as Lauther Amusements and Billy Truax Amusements. These companies although bound by contracts to the larger Conklin Shows operated as separate shows.
Conklin also added many of its super spectaculars, some of which were never seen north of the border. Conklin was the first and only show in North America to have a travelling double loop roller coaster which took 28 trailers to move. This mammoth coaster named "The Doppel Looper" only made the trip as far north as Toronto and even this was not financially feasible after the late 90s. Along other rides that were one of a kind in a travelling carnival, were the Drop of Fear, the G-Force, and The Mark 1 roller coaster.
As time progressed Conklin began to show signs of financial strain that was synonymous with the entire travelling carnival industry. Favorites such as the Zipper and Octopus as well as The Kamikaze and Rainbow were phased out and sold as cost-cutting measures. Independents that had long travelled as a part of Conklin Shows were also phased out as a cost-cutting measure. Finally other rides such as the Drop of Fear and the Wildcat roller coaster were phased out as cost-cutting measures and allowed to be sold to competing companies and shelved in West Palm Beach.
Finally, Conklin Shows joined with the former Farrow Shows from Jackson Mississippi, Thebault-Blomsness (Astro Amusements and All Star Amusements), and former President and CEO of Ticketmaster Group, Frederic Rosen, to form the newly minted North American Midway Entertainment Co. or N.A.M.E. N.A.M.E. Website. This became official in Columbia South Carolina in 2004. In January 2006, N.A.M.E. also acquired Mid America Shows Press Release, and several contracts and rides from Cumberland Valley Shows.
N.A.M.E. provides rides at over 145 fairs and events yearly. Now included are Cinquo de Mayo in New Orleans as well as the Dade Co. Fair, The Illinois State Fair, the Kentucky State Fair, the Indiana State Fair, and the Big E Eastern States Exposition. New and more expensive rides have been added to its line-up but at the cost of many of the old favorites. Frank Conklin while owning part of N.A.M.E., has left the management of the combined company to others.
Conklin Group is made up of two operating units: World's Finest Shows and Conklin Supershows.
This is a list of just some of the venues they provided midway services for in the past:
- Edmonton: K-Days
- Toronto: Canadian National Exhibition
- Ottawa: Ottawa SuperEX
- Regina: Regina Exhibition Association
- Vancouver: Pacific National Exhibition
- West Palm Beach: South Florida Fair
- Miami: Miami-Dade County Fair
- Calgary: Calgary Stampede
Conklin Supershows is one of Conklin Shows' smaller sub-companies. It currently owns 19 rides.
- Gee Whizz
- High Flyer
- Kite Flyer
- Silver Streak
- Bumper cars
- Gondola Wheel
- Chilly Willy
- 911-Fire Brigade
- Super Tilt-A-Whirl
- Red Baron
- The Great Western Train
- Hot Wheels
- Fire Trucks
- Glass House
- Star Walk
- Sea Dragon
- Dragon Castle Maze
- Super Scooter (Bumper cars)
- Clown House (Fun house)
- Emergency 911
- Victory Lap Slide
- Super Space Sled
- Super Silver Streak
- Super Bumper Cars
- Jolly Roger
- The Round Up
- The Hard Rock and Roll
- The Himilaya
- The Super Loop
- The Zipper
- The Gravitron
World's Finest Shows
Main article: World's Finest Shows
One of Conklin Shows' more successful sub-companies is the World's Finest Shows, which travels throughout Ontario, Canada. The company owns more than 40 rides and concessions.
- fun fairs - About the history of travelling fairs
- Maple Leaf Village - A now defunct small amusement park in Niagara Falls Ontario.
- Canadian National Exhibition
- Exhibition Place - Toronto, site of one of the world's largest fairs
- Lake Ontario Park- Kingston
- Conklin Shows Official Web Site - Conklin Shows Official Web Site.
- CBC Archives Patty Conklin gives a tour of the CNE with CBC Radio (1958)
- CBC Archives CBC Television story about Patty Conklin (1971).
- CBC Television - Life and Times special - CBC Television special, The Life and Times of Patty Conklin.