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Posts Tagged ‘State Fair Meadowlands’

Bonanza Shooting Gallery

Bonanza Shooting Gallery, State Fair Meadowlands, New Jersey. June 23, 2013. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

When we came across this wonderful, old-timey Bonanza Shooting Gallery on the midway at the June 17-July 7 NJ State Fair Meadowlands, our first question was — can we photograph it without triggering all the targets? Vintage Bonanza galleries used photocell sensors activated by a bright light source, usually from the rifles. That’s why there were multiple signs saying “No Photography” at the one in Coney Island’s Astroland, which is by the way up for sale. The attendant at the Bonanza Shooting Gallery at the Meadowlands Fair said, “Take all the pictures you want.” Since their rifles got a redo, they no longer have a problem with the targets going off when folks snap photos.

“The rifle shoots an infrared beam of light instead of flashing light,” Bonanza Gallery owner Matt Gallapoo said in an interview with ATZ. “It feels like a shotgun, but the sound is digital.” The Ohioan, whose family has been in the amusement business since the early 20th century, brings the Bonanza Shooting Gallery to the Orange County Fair in Middletown, NY (July 12-July 28, 2013), Erie County Fair in Hamburg, NY (August 7-18, 2013), New York State Fair (August 22- September 2, 2013), Florida State Fair (February 6-17, 2014) and other big fairs.

Bonanza Shooting Gallery

Bonanza Shooting Gallery, State Fair Meadowlands, New Jersey. June 23, 2013. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Manufactured by Taylor Engineering, Bonanza Shooting Galleries first debuted in 1958 and this one was built for his father in 1976. Gallapoo had the family heirloom refurbished in 2010 after acquiring it at a sheriff’s auction where it ended up after having been neglected by an ex-brother-in-law. The largest traveling shooting gallery of its kind has approximately 26 guns and 100 original interactive targets including a piano player and cigar store Indian. The gallery is housed in a 60-foot wide by 32-foot deep tent.

“My mother was born into the business. She was one of the original Otterbacher kids,” says Gallapoo whose family takes credit for pioneering such carnival games as the bottle-up and the softball in the milkcan and giving away live rabbits as prizes in the 1980s. He still has food concessions at some of the spots on their route including the August 23-25 Wine and Walleye Fest in Ashtabula, Ohio, where they will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most portions of fish and chips sold.

Bonanza shooting Gallery

Bonanza Shooting Gallery, State Fair Meadowlands, New Jersey. June 23, 2013. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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Midway at State Fair Meadowlands

Rides and Funhouse Showfront on the Midway at State Fair Meadowlands, NJ. June 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The midway at New Jersey’s State Fair Meadowlands, which runs through July 7, is alive with eye-popping painted showfronts for funhouses, entrancing sideshow banners, and flashy signage hawking fair food. We’ve been going to the fair in East Rutherford since 1996, when Johnny Meah’s eighteen-foot-high, 104-foot-wide showfront for Hall & Christ’s Weirdest Women in the World first lured us there, on assignment from Raw Vision to write about the art of the sideshow banner. It’s the front of the show that gets the dough, and it’s the front of the show that continues to attract our interest.

Girl to Gorilla Show

Girl to Gorilla Show, 4 C Productions, State Fair Meadowlands, New Jersey. June 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

This year, the fair has a Girl to Gorilla show, which hasn’t been on the road since 1996, and four other sideshows owned and operated by Lindsey Constantine. She learned the business, including how to talk on the bally stage, from her dad Jack Constantine, who started Four C Productions in 1972 and is now semi-retired.

“Beauty or Beast? SEE the only LIVING woman with this Mysterious and Unknown Ability…Alive…The Ape Girl.” This awesome set of Girl to Gorilla banners was painted by the late Lew Stamm, whose showfronts are highly regarded in the business. He also did projects for amusement parks such as Gold Rush Junction, Silver Dollar City, Dollywood and Dixie Stampede. “They were done for my father in 1991. My dad traded his car for them,” said Lindsey.

Girl to Gorilla Show

Girl to Gorilla Show, 4 C Productions, State Fair Meadowlands, New Jersey. June 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Across the midway is the World’s Smallest Woman, whose delightful advertisement has her sitting in a giant chair dwarfed by a “normal-sized” dog. The showfront trumpets her as being only 29 tiny inches small with hands 2 inches wide. This particular “World’s Smallest Woman” is named Gloria. For nearly 30 years, she has supported her family as one of Four C Production’s five “World’s Smallest Women” who travel the U.S. carnival and fair circuit.

World's Smallest Woman

World’s Smallest Woman, 4 C Productions, State Fair Meadowlands, New Jersey. June 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Four C’s World’s Smallest Horse, Snake Illusion and Oddity Museum featuring such attractions as a Giant Nuclear Radiation Beetle and a Fiji Island Mermaid are also on the midway at the New Jersey fair.

World's Smallest Horse

World’s Smallest Horse, State Fair Meadowlands, New Jersey. June 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The hot, humid weather is perfect for Drown the Clown, the great Joey Liberti, who has been working the dunk tank since he was a kid. The ballgame/show was a fixture at Little Italy’s San Gennaro Festival until last year, when a group of swank boutiques and new residents of Mulberry Street in the neighborhood now called NoLita lobbied the community board to shorten the festival. Although they were unsuccessful, Drown the Clown was one of the casualties of the gentrifiers’ efforts to take the carnival out of the street fair and make it culturally and politically correct by their standards. Ironically, century-old photos of street fairs in New York City and elsewhere in the U.S. show an array of ball games, as well as sideshows and Ferris wheels.

Drown the Clown

Drown the Clown, State Fair Meadowlands, NJ. June 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

There used to be a dunk tank in Coney Island –no more! You have to go to Jersey to be properly entertained and insulted by the dunk tank king. As the sign on the stand says, “CLOWN JOKES MAY OFFEND SOME PEOPLE. IF YOU DON’T HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR YOU SHOULD NOT STAY.”

Deep Fried Buckeyes

Deep Fried Buckeyes, State Fair Meadowlands, New Jersey. June 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Deep-fried Buckeyes, in case you’re not familiar with fair food, are an irresistible confection made of peanut butter and chocolate. The masterful showfront for this food concession is ablaze with advertisements for deep-fried treats: Oreos, Snickers, S’Mores, Twinkies. There’s even a Deep-fried Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich and a Deep-fried Grilled Cheese. The most over-the-top food at the Meadowlands Fair is the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Burger, which is breakfast, lunch and dinner rolled into one, and is on the menu at Little Richard’s Cafe.

Doughnut Burger

Doughnut Burger. State Fair Meadowlands, New Jersey. June 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Our vote for the most unique showfronts at the Meadowlands Fair goes to the restrooms. When you gotta go, you have a choice of Royal Flush at the Buckingham Loo…

Restroom with Showfront

Restroom with Showfront at State Fair Meadowlands, NJ. June 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Or Toon Town’s Tinkle Run. The clean and attractive portable restrooms are staffed by attendants.

State Fair Meadowlands runs from June 21 through July 7 and also features an array of rides and free shows including Circus Maximus, Rosaire’s Royal Racing Pigs, Fireworks, and the last Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Qualifier before the July 4th contest in Coney Island. We took NJ Transit from Penn Station to Secaucus Junction and then hopped on a free shuttle bus to the fair. Trip time: 25 minutes.

Restroom with Showfront

Restroom with Showfront at State Fair Meadowlands, NJ. June 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Girl to Gorilla Show

Detail of Girl to Gorilla Showfront by Lew Stamm for 4C Productions Coming to State Fair Meadowlands

“Beauty or Beast? SEE the only LIVING woman with this Mysterious and Unknown Ability…Alive…The Ape Girl.” Jack Constantine’s Girl to Gorilla Show is coming to New Jersey’s State Fair Meadowlands, which opens on June 21 for a 17-day run. It’s the first time since 1996 that his Four C Productions is bringing it out. Just a couple of months ago, we wrote in a post about this classic midway illusion: Sadly, there are few if any working today. If you know of one, let us know.

This awesome set of Girl to Gorilla banners was painted by the late great Lew Stamm, whose showfronts are highly regarded in the business. “They were done for my father in 1991. My dad traded his car for them,” said Lindsey Constantine, who is co-owner of the sideshow company. The rest of the set including the ticketbooth is currently being painted prior to its appearance at the fair. It’s the front of the show that gets the dough!

The Constantines are also bringing their popular World’s Smallest Woman, World’s Smallest Horse, Snake Illusion and Oddity Museum to the New Jersey fair.

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February 4, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Banner

August 6, 2012: Art of the Day: Madame Twisto by Marie Roberts

April 18, 2012: Rare & Vintage: A Neon Sword Swallower’s Sideshow Banner

November 4, 2011: Up for Auction: Ringling Bros Circus Side Show Poster

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