Industry continues to thrive in spite of challenges

GUEST OPINION: Bob Johnson, President & CEO, OABA

The mobile amusement industry, including carnivals, circuses and concessionaires operating at fairs and festivals, keeps a keen eye on the weather. Last year in the U.S., we had record heat bookending the season, huge wildfires in the West and two major hurricanes. 


Despite these challenges, the Outdoor Amusement Business Association (OABA) had a good year! 

As I retire this month and my friend Greg Chiecko takes over as OABA’s president and CEO, the board has asked that I assist him with his transition from one of the country’s top 10 fairs, the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E), to learning more about the mobile amusement industry. I have happily begun doing so.  

I am proud and honored to have served OABA’s board and members, and to have worked with other trade associations for the betterment of all. Over the past 24 years, much has been accomplished with regard to state amusement ride safety, education and OABA’s member initiatives.  

For the last two decades, our primary concern has been the costly, over-regulated legal seasonal guest worker program administered by the Dept. of Homeland Security and the Dept. of Labor (DOL). While we are small compared to other seasonal industries, our members bring some 5,000 to 7,000 H-2B visa employees from Mexico and South Africa each season. This past year, the demand by all stakeholders exceeded 97,000 visas for only 33,000 slots, and DOL’s iCert website crashed — taking two weeks to reopen. Our members are extremely concerned about their staffing this season.

Upcoming in Tampa, our board mix will change as OABA elects new officers and nominates directors to be elected by the membership attending our 54th Annual Meeting. Larry Yaffe of ESY Financial will become OABA’s chair; his goal is to improve the OABA brand and marketing of member services.

This is a great industry, with hard-working families — many exceeding three generations of ownership. My hope is that the next generation will have the same enthusiasm their parents have for entertaining hundreds of millions of guests.