Who pays whom to put on a carnival?
June 8, 2009 8:44 AM   Subscribe

How do the economics of traveling carnivals work? (I.e. does the host pay a fee to the carnival company or vice versa? Is it a straight fee or a share in the receipts? If its a share, does the host have any right to influence ticket prices?)

We went to a little carnival put on by our town this weekend. It was good times indeed but well more expensive than I expected. For example, if you didn't buy an all-day ride pass for $20/person it would have cost $20 for a family of four to take one ride on the ferris wheel, or $10 for two kids to take one ride on the carousel.

That got me thinking more generally about how these things work. Do carnivals pay towns/schools for the right to drop their rides/games and then keep all of the receipts? Does the town/school pay the carnival to put on the show and then allow them to keep the receipts, too? Is there some kind of sharing arrangement? I could see the justifications for all of the different arrangements, because the town needs the carnival company to succesfully put on a carnival but the company needs the town to successfully continue its existence.

Google has been unhelpful thus far. I thought about maybe making a FOIA request for the carnival contract to see how it works, but thought I'd reach out to the hivemind first. For what it's worth, I have no agenda but am instead just generally curious about this subject.
posted by AgentRocket to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I can give you some information that is specific to my company as we rent some of our land for carnivals and the like. I don't know how they work it in other places and I'm not saying this is true of every piece of land they rent, just the land we rent to them.

Application Fee = $600

Company must show coverage of worker's comp & liability insurance.

Company must provide security.

A $10,000 fully refundable security deposit (in the form of a cashier's check) must be provided. My source tells me that they've only had to keep a portion of the deposit a few times when they broke a fence and/or left trash around the place, but most carnival operators leave the property in very good condition.

Actual Rental is as follows and is very, very cheap as we don't take a portion of the profits, just the land rental.
Parcel A: 4.12 Acres, $758/day
Parcel B: 4.79 Acres, $881/day
So Parcel A+B = $1639/day

My source tells me that most carnivals rent both portions, one for parking and one for the carnival.
posted by trixare4kids at 9:26 AM on June 8, 2009

Best answer: Here is one carnival agreement I found. I imagine they are fairly boilerplate.

City provides empty lot, permits, porta-potties, and a dumpster.
Carnival provides rides and liability insurance.

City gets 15% of the gross receipts.
posted by smackfu at 9:27 AM on June 8, 2009

Best answer: A couple more agreements:

Lake Dallas, TX: 15% of gross for rides (not concessions) above $15k.

Bellflower, CA: 15-25% of ride gross on a sliding scale, 25% of presale tickets, $200 per food concession, and $50 per game.
posted by smackfu at 9:34 AM on June 8, 2009

When working travelling concession we generally paid the event organizers a flat fee for our spot and we had to payoff the local authority with a business licence.
posted by Mitheral at 10:43 AM on June 8, 2009

Response by poster: Excellent! This is why I love AskMe.
posted by AgentRocket at 10:51 AM on June 8, 2009

At my college the carnival did this:
Talked to the president of the college and promised scholarship money.
Proceeded to pound stakes into the brand new parking lot asphalt.
Took the money, left town, never came up with the money.
Not what you call a good experience.
posted by CodeMonkey at 10:55 AM on June 8, 2009

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