April 2003

Gibtown Carnival Trade Show

It has been a busy month here at the Stinson Organ Company. My wife and I have just returned from a trip to Florida where we were privileged to attend the 2003 version of CIRCUS SARASOTA before opening our display at the annual Gibtown Extravaganza. We arrived at the home of Mr. Skip Doyle, who has been associated closely with Stinson Band Organ as the head of our sales department for the past three years. Upon arriving there, we were informed that he was helping Circus Sarasota by placing his Stinson band organ at the front entrance of the circus and had reserved box seats for us.

Circus Sarasota is very high quality, both in appearance and performers selected for the 2003 version. While there we had the privilege of meeting many new people for the first time including Jackie LeClaire. Jackie was born into the circus in 1928; He traveled with his parents on Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey for his entire young life. He first joined their famed clown alley in 1939, and later performed with the show as an aerialist. He even doubled on the trapeze for Cornell Wilde in the film the Greatest Show on Earth. He went on to tour internationally and holds the distinction of being one of the first American clowns to ever appear in the former Soviet Union. Jackie was one of the first inductees into the International Clown Hall of Fame, and was recently inducted into the Circus Ring of Fame at St. Armand's Circle in Sarasota. Currently, Jackie serves as Circus Sarasota's official goodwill ambassador, the "Ambassador of Mirth".

After spending three days with Skip and Michiko Doyle, the time had arrived to set up displays at the Gibtown Extravaganza in Gibsonton, Florida. For the year 2003, we occupied our same location at the front gate where we could provide musical entertainment for the show attendees as they entered the show. This year, we featured the digital controlled Stinson band organ "MIGHTY AMERICANA" owned by Mr. Doyle, and a magnificent parade wagon with a Stinson model 29 band organ owned by Mr. Jess Woods of Little Rock, Arkansas. The organ was custom built for his application, and features a double facade, which could be viewed from both sides when used in a parade. It was equipped with digital control, and had a very quiet generator for electrical power installed in the unit.

The Gibtown show, as it is known by the amusement and carnival circles, is on a beautiful location and provides ample space to set up all displays from many manufacturers, which would be of benefit to the amusement industry. Full size amusement rides, concession trailers, you name it; you can find it at the outside displays or in the buildings. This is a show where much time could be spent inspecting all the interesting items on display. When arriving at the show parking lot, the transportation to the show entrance is provided by the members of the International Showmen's Shrine Club who meet at the Showman Club in Gibsonton, Florida. Membership is comprised of Shriners who are carnival showmen and associates. Donations are collected to help fund the Shriners hospitals.

I would like to add some information at this time pertaining to Shriners Hospitals for Children. Within North America there are 22 Shriners Hospitals for children (including four state of the art specialty burn centers) that offer quality care for children with orthopedic problems, spinal cord injuries, and burns, up to the Child's 18th birthday, regardless of financial status, insurance coverage, race, religion, and relationships to a Shriner, absolutely "free of any charge." Shriners Hospitals depend strictly upon contributions, donations & grants. Operating costs in 2002 exceeded $1.65 million dollars per day. It is always good to drop a donation in the can each day at the show when you know where the money is being spent, and some crippled child will benefit from it.

This year, I was surprised to see some people well known in carousel circles enter our display. Will Markey just happened to be in the area and stopped in for a visit. For many years, he transported carousels and carousel horses and many other fragile items around the country for us. Also visiting the display was George Stoiber from Put-In-Bay, South Bass Island, Ohio. George is the owner of the nice three row Allan Herschel carousel and Wurlitzer 146 organ, which operates during the summer tourist season.

We are back home now spending our time in the factory building and repairing organs and looking forward to the next show in Gibtown in 2004.

And, so it goes at the old organ shop.

Next: Band Organ Note No. 45, May 2003
Previous: Band Organ Note No. 43, March 2003

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