GREENVILLE — Visitors to this year’s Montcalm County 4-H Fair midway can expect the “classic carnival” experience from one end to the other; from Ferris wheels to corn dogs, fair organizers anticipate a carnival at least as good as those experienced by fairgoers in the past.
According to fair board treasurer Lisa Johnson, the carnival this year will be Maple Leaf Amusements, a relatively new carnival. This represents the first time the 4-H board has contracted with Maple Leaf, but Johnson said she’s expecting good things.
“This wasn’t so much our doing,” Johnson explained. “The carnival we previously contracted with just sort of decided to call it quits. So we have a new carnival. They’re bringing in 15 rides and we’re looking forward to what they will bring.”
Though Maple Leaf Amusements, headquartered in Breckenridge is only four years old, it has grown rapidly since its inception. A family run business, the carnival is managed by the husband and wife team of Erin and John Fitzgerald, both of whom grew up in the carnival business.
“My family had an independent food concession,” Erin Fitzgerald said. “My husband’s family owned games with the carnival. We’ve both been in the business our whole lives.”
Perhaps it was fate that brought the two together at a carnival in Michigan. Not long after, they were wed.
“We were independents booking on carnivals, that’s how we met,” Erin said. “We met when we both booked in with the same carnival.”
Not long after, the couple decided to set out on their own; they purchased five modest rides. Before long, that number doubled, then tripled. At present, their carnival is on a par with most others competing in the same small town circuit.
The couple’s children, Jack, 5, and Ruby, 11, travel with the carnival and “love it.”
Erin said she feels the business has been “pretty successful” and has grown substantially in a relatively short period of time.
At Montcalm County’s 4-H Fair (the carnival opens to the public Tuesday), Maple Leaf Amusements will offer most of the traditional rides fairgoers have come to expect.
“We’re going to have all the rides, the fair food, and games for everybody,” Erin said. “We’ll have quarter games, water games like the water gun, and classic rides like the Tilt-a-Whirl and Ferris Wheel and merry-go-round.”
The carnival also will have several more “exciting” rides geared toward thrill-seeking teens, Erin added.
Crews will be busy setting up the carnival on Sunday and Monday, with rides opening to the public on Tuesday.
Erin added she hopes this year’s booking with the 4-H Fair will be the start of a long-term relationship.
“I think it will be very successful,” she said.