Memories of my First and Last Impression of Gooding's Million Dollar Midway at the Pensacola Interstate Fair

10:36 AM adrianphantom 0 Comments

After my parents moved my sister and I to Pace, I didn't realize at the time that we would no longer be going to the Greater Gulf State Fair in Mobile. When the season for fairs began in the area, the Pensacola Interstate Fair was much closer and to my parents, a carnival was just a carnival, all the same rides, food and blah blah blah...The fairs in Pensacola and Mobile either overlapped or ran at the same time and we thought the company that owned the rides was the same that brought rides to both locations and we somehow thought Mobile would get the bigger, better and flasher rides...to a kid, the grass is always greener everywhere else.
Something with the Gooding's logo. Source Unknown.
I really didn't know at the time that there were hundreds of carnival companies that crisscrossed the country, playing different fairs at the same time. In Mobile, we'd seen Al Kunz's massive Century 21 Shows which held that spot for many years until it was taken over by Conklin with additional rides booked in from Cumberland Valley Shows. When Conklin took over the fair in Mobile, it seemed to be a seamless transition because Century 21 had many of the same rides Conklin had such as the Himalaya, Skywheel, Sky Diver, Trabant, Scrambler and other classics but the only thing you really noticed in terms of different was the addition of newer more massive thrill rides, such as the Enterprise, Wave Swinger and Rainbow.

In Pensacola, we got Gooding's Million Dollar Midways. Gooding's was a MASSIVE carnival in terms of how many spots they played a year. They held contracts to MANY large fairs and supposedly had enough units with enough rides to have the capability to play over 10 large fairs simultaneously. In reality, Gooding's Million Dollar Midways didn't own many rides and rumor has it, the only equipment they actually owned were ticket booths, generators with their logos painted on, an office trailer and maybe a girly show. Their business model based on booking rides in from other carnival companies to fill a midway, which meant that you not only had rides from Gooding's, is they actually existed, you had rides from Link Shows, Royal American Shows, Cumberland Valley Shows, Reithoffer Shows and several others that had a good working relationship with Milt Kaufman, the owner of Gooding's. Essentially their fairs could have been considered to be an "Independent Midway" of sorts.

As we pulled into the parking lot, my eyes transfixed on what makes a fair, a fair for me. The Skywheel. That lot could've had no more than 2 other rides on it and I could've cared less because the Skywheel was the ride I loved the most, something that's not changed over the years. Not only was there one Skywheel, there were two...both at opposite ends of the midway. As we walked the midway, I saw many differences in comparison to what I'd seen in Mobile, many duplicates of rides throughout the midway. 2 Zippers, 3 Scrambler type rides, 2 Paratroopers, 5 Music type rides, 3 Ferris Wheels and so on and so forth. This fair WAS bigger than Mobile but only because they have multiples of the same type of rides. The Wave Swinger was only ride that I remembered from Mobile that Goodings didn't have featured on the midway though it was on the commercial. The swing ride that we got was a Chance Yo-Yo as well as a Watkins Swinger.

Pensacola's rides weren't as flashy, the color schemes didn't really match but the fair was definitely solid. 1991 was the last year Goodings held the contract for the Pensacola Interstate Fair, Reithoffer Shows took over the following year. Goodings went out with a bang that last year, the midway was FILLED to capacity with pieces booked in ranging from classics to modern rides of the time.

For those interested in ride line ups, this is what I remember featured Pensacola the last year Goodings played the fair. Keep in mind, this was 1991 and I had no clue who owned what other than the Giant Wheel owned by Link and the Wave Swinger was either Deggeller or CVS's ride.

Skywheel
Tilt A Whirl
Tilt A Whirl (#2)
Geister-Bahn
Zipper
Zipper (#2)
Fantasy Fun House
Super Sizzler
Scrambler
Sizzler
Spider
Force 10
Paratrooper
Paratrooper (#2)
Crazy Dance...Which I believe was owned by Royal American
Giant Wheel...owned by Link Shows
Wave Swinger
Magical Mirrors
Super Jets
Sunshine Speedway
Hampton Umbrellas (5 of them)
Miny Scooter
Gravitron
Gravitron (#2)
Round Up
Thriller Dark Ride
Lil Scrambler
Reverchon Himalaya (usually with 7-8 seats tied off to keep people from sitting in them)
Flying Carpet Funhouse
Pirates Den Dark Ride
Ghost Hunters Walk Thru
Amor Express The Love Machine
Music Fest
Alpine Haus Funhouse
Musik Express
Boomerang
Roll O Plane
Bumper Cars
Bumper Boats
Flume Ride
Kiddie Bumper Boats
Glasshouse
Loop O Plane
Rainbow
Slide
House of Fun Funhouse
Ghost Train
Raiders
Enterprise
Eli Hy5 Wheel
Sea Dragon
Swinger
Eli Eagle Wheel
Space Raider (Ring of Fire)
Flying Bobs
Sky Diver
Racing Coaster
Kamikaze
Matterhorn
Orbiter
Hurricane
Toboggan
Yo-Yo
Carousel
Carousel (#2)
Twister
Trabant

There was talk on the news that there were over 120 rides and attractions but realistically, I can only remember maybe 85 at the most...unless they were including pony rides, kiddie attractions, games and the side shows. Gooding's seemed to feature an obscene amount of Glass Houses, Fun Houses, Dark Rides and Walk Thrus so a good bulk of my not remembered attractions may have included those. There may have been more out there or I may have some of the lineup from the year before mixed in also but this is what I vividly remember. I really wish I'd had the foresight to have taken photos at carnivals the way I do now. I've never seen a midway packed out like I did this particular year. Back in the day, I never really thought about what was actually owned by the shows that were booked in and what wasn't. Now that I have more knowledge in regards to rides as well as carnivals, I can safely say that if Gooding's Million Dollar Midways owned ANYTHING featured at the fair, it was most certainly NOT the larger and newer rides. The following year, Reithoffer definitely came in with a bang to to top Gooding's last year and did rather well, especially since they brought in most of the Blue and Orange units as well as their Green unit which was dissolved and broke off as a separate show in the late 90's. In addition to the 3 Reithoffer units, they had also booked in much of the entire All American midway as well as a few independently owned rides such as someone's Chance Rok-N-Rol.

After my parents moved my sister and I to Pace, I didn't realize at the time that we would no longer be going to the Greater Gulf State ...

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