For 35-year ride operator at fair, midway thrills soon will be gone
By Jordyn Grzelewski
Canfield Fair Sept. 2, 2017
For nearly 35 years, Bates Amusement has kept the wheels turning at the Canfield Fair.
The ferris wheels, that is.
The family-owned company began providi ng amusement rides for the fair in 1984. This year marks Bates’ last year at the fair, as the family has decided to retire after decades in the business.
The family stopped by Saturday’s fair board meeting, where the board recognized their partnership over the p ast 31/2 decades. The family also thanked the fair directors.
It was an emotional goodbye, with company president Geary Bates choking up as he said that in all the difficulties he’s faced with his business over the years, these past few weeks have been the hardest.
His daughter, Kim Bates-Bozich, who serves as secretary of the company, explained Bates Amusement’s history.
Her father and his brother were involved with the Gambill Amusements company when it started in 1965. In 1975, it became Bates Brothers Amusement. Then, in 1993, the company subdivided: There is Bates Brothers and Bates Amusement. Both have rides at the Canfield Fair. Bates Brothers will continue operating elsewhere, but Bates Amusement will be done after this season. It marks the end of a 53-year run for the family. Next year, the fair will have a different ride provider.
Bates Amusement, which focuses on the company’s Ohio operations, is comprised of Geary; his wife, Mary Kay; Kim; her brother, Drew; her sister-in-law, Karen; and Kim’s husband, Alan Bozich.
“It’s time to move to another chapter in our book,” said Bates-Bozich.
It makes this week bittersweet for them.
“A lot of the people at the Canfield Fair, some of those directors, I’ve known their fathers,” said Bates-Bozich.
The Bates family, of Wintersville, has become part of the fair family over the years, getting to know the fair officials and becoming friends with them.
“Those are the things you miss. Those are the things you cherish,” Bates-Bozich said.
The Canfield Fair has a special place in the family’s heart, she said, noting that its magnitude puts it on par with state fairs. Also making the Canfield Fair special for the Bates family is that the fair coincides with Geary and Mary Kay’s anniversary and Kim’s birthday.
The company operates about 50 rides at the fai.
Bates-Bozich said they’ve expanded over the years, especially in Kiddie Land.
Despite the family’s many years in the amusement-ride business, some things never cease to be special to them.
“Watching the kids,” said Bates-Bozich. “You go out to people screaming and yelling and having fun. That never gets old.”
George Roman III, the fair director who oversees concessions, grandstand events and special attractions, said Bates Amusement long ago earned fair officials’ trust.
“The family has been very upstanding. Very honest with the fair. They did whatever they said they would do,” he said. “They were very instrumental in changing a few things that were very positive changes for the fair. They had ideas on how they could set up their rides that would benefit us and them.”
“We’re going to miss them and we wish them all the luck in the world,” he added.