by Andrew Crisp
Here come the clowns. A group of state and county fairs from nine states and two provinces of Canada are at the Riverside Hotel through Saturday, Nov. 10, for the four-day Rocky Mountain Association of Fairs' 87th annual convention.
Between 100 and 150 fair officials are attending seminars on subjects including booking entertainers, conflicts with animals and marketing strategies.
All along the hotel's walls were fliers advertising entertainers, a few of which paid for their own showcase in front of the convention crowd. Over lunch, Sacramento, Calif., comedian and magician Kenn Serrano performed for a crowd of hundreds.
"I paid $275 for that 20-minute slot," said Serrano.
Serrano spent 20 years performing in Maui, Hawaii, at resorts, but said business slowed down after 9/11. He said it's worth it to perform as part of the showcase—booking a show could amount to as much as $10,000.
Marcus Wilson, a comedy juggling performer, visited from Salt Lake City, Utah. He wasn't featured in a showcase—not every performer can have one each year—but he was hoping to network.
"I've got essentially a booth," he said. "They do a hospitality suite in your hotel room."
The flier, including those for Pippi the Clown, Adam the Great, and performers like Gwen Sebastian and Maddie Wilson, included the talent's room number so that fair organizers could see their shows in action.
"We try to get something for little kids," said Jerry Arnold, from Glasgow, Mont., board member of the East Montana Fair.
Arnold said the fair draws around 3,000 visitors. He was looking to find and book three or four performers at this year's conference, he said. In the past, his fair has booked hypnotist Chris Mayberry and Pippi the Clown.
"I like strolling acts, folks who walk around and do balloons and stuff," Arnold said.