OABA names 2024 Hall of Fame and Pioneer Award inductees Bill Johnson, Johnny Doolan and Eugene Siefker

By | January 25, 2024

The Outdoor Amusement Business Association is pleased to announce its Hall of Fame and Pioneer Award inductees for 2024. Hall of Fame recipients are William (Bill) Johnson and Johnny Doolan; the Pioneer Award will be presented to Eugene (Gene) Siefker.  All presentations will take place at the organization’s annual meeting at the Sheraton Tampa Brandon Hotel, Friday, February 9 at 6pm. A medal reception and toast honoring the inductees will also take place at the hotel at 4:30pm, Wednesday, February 7.

Hall of Fame
Bill Johnson, Arlington Heights, Illinois, is the president and proprietor of Fantasy Amusement Company, Inc., a traveling carnival company. A determined and esteemed board member, he served as chairman of the OABA board in 2011. Bill leads multiple efforts to raise funds for OABA core efforts (education, communication, industry representation). Each year, he and his wife, Mary, produce a jamboree — a big event held after the carnival closes to celebrate life on the road and to raise money to advance OABA’s mission. Bill is well known for selling dozens of the annual OABA raffle tickets each year; he will have one for sale in his shirt pocket just about any time you encounter him. His attendance record at board meetings is near perfect, missing just one in twenty years after a motorcycle mishap just an hour prior to the meeting resulted in a broken ankle. Bill Johnson is a past president of both the Showmen’s League of America and the International Independent Showmen’s Association. Bill Johnson has served the carnival industry for almost five decades.

Johnny Doolan of Stuart, Florida, has been active in the out-of-doors entertainment industry his entire life. His companies include Doolan Amusements and Banquet in A Bun. It’s a family run enterprise, working with his wife Tina Doolan and his son, Michael. (Note:  as this release was being written, we received word that Tina Doolan had passed away. Our sincere condolences to the Doolan family.) Johnny is known to be a friend to so many in the industry. He is the embodiment of a true showman, always there with a helping hand for his colleagues. He has spent his life promoting our industry and supporting all the causes for the betterment of traveling showfolk. Johnny is one of the good guys, and many will say about Johnny that they don’t get any better.

Gene Siefker worked at a wire and cable manufacturing firm near LaPorte, Indiana, during the day. In the evenings, he sold electrical tape and wire from the back of his family’s station wagon. His market:  auto and truck repair shops. This enterprise grew and Gene left his day job and went full time traveling sales in 1966. A chance meeting at a gas station with a traveling carnival owner thrust Gene into a new market. His business transformed into Showmen Supplies, a pioneering supplier of all things electrical to carnivals—and he delivered! Carnivals had urgent needs, and even before Fedex and UPS overnight, Gene found a way to get his customers their supplies in a hurry – on a bus, a train, air freight, or on the Showmen’s truck. He introduced cam locks to carnivals—that electrical connection, the cam lock, is now the industry standard. Gene Siefker passed away in 1991, but his Showmen Supplies services continue to this day, over 50 years later!    

The OABA was founded in 1965—a United States-based trade group supporting traveling carnival enterprises and other related industries worldwide such as circuses and carnival game/food concessions and independent amusement ride operators; associate membership extends to agricultural fairs, regulators, educators, manufacturers and suppliers, and more. OABA elects a new chairperson each year. The year 2000 Chair person was Jeff Blomsness, a Midwest carnival owner with a colossal personal interest in history. He collaborated with the millennial OABA Board to start a new committee called Hall of Fame/Historical, with the goal to maintain the history of OABA member enterprise and starting a Hall of Fame. After 36 years of industry service, OABA inducted four individuals at its inaugural ceremony during the group’s annual meeting in Tampa in February of 2001. Three of the inductees were organization founders, fellows who helped bring the industry together to organize OABA, and the fourth 2001 inductee was recognized for his extraordinary efforts in advancing amusement ride safety through education and interaction with ASTM (the standard setting organization). Since then, through the 2023 annual meeting, OABA has inducted 64 individuals into its Hall of Fame, thirty-four of which are past president/chair of OABA. All are OABA members. Seven ladies and fifty-seven men have been honored; 28 are living, 36 deceased. One agricultural fair industry professional has been nominated and inducted. The Pioneer award program started in 2009 with sixteen inductees to date, including one woman.

Each year in November, the Hall of Fame-Historical Committee reviews nominations and makes a recommendation to the board. The honorees are then announced, and preparations are made for the induction ceremony in February, before family, friends and OABA members, and officers attending the annual meeting.

Full listing of past OABA Hall of Fame and Pioneer award inductees:

OABA Hall of Fame

  • 2023     Andy Schoendienst and Mary Chris Smith
  • 2022     Mike Williams and Paul Atkins
  • 2021     Sam Johnston and Jeanne McDonagh
  • 2020     Corky Powers and Frank Zaitshik
  • 2019     Michael Wood and Bill Dillard
  • 2018     Patty Sullivan and Jane Baxter Vivona
  • 2017     Al DeRusha and Wayne Pierce
  • 2016    Beverly Burback, Jimmy Drew and Butch Netterfield
  • 2015    Jean Clair and John Hanschen
  • 2014    Butch Butler and Guy Leavitt
  • 2013    Wayne McCary and Bob Johnson
  • 2012    Bingo Hauser and Wayne Kunz
  • 2011    Tom Atkins and Jeff Blomsness
  • 2010    Billy Burr and William Capell Sr.
  • 2009    Richard Janas, Ed Murphy and Ron Burback
  • 2008    Ward Hall and Bill Wilkerson
  • 2007    Buster Brown, Ray Cammack, Bob Commerford and Jackie Swika
  • 2006   John Campi, Mack Duce, Lloyd Hilligoss, Tom Powell
  • 2005   James E. Conklin, Irvin Deggeller, Carl Sedlmayr Jr., Lee Sullivan
  • 2004   Al Kunz, Father Mac, Pat Reithoffer and Paul Duke Smith
  • 2003   Harold Chance, JD Floyd, Bob Negus and Johnny Portemont
  • 2002   Wm T. Collins, E James Strates, John Vivona and Red Wood
  • 2001   Jimmy Floyd, Hub Luehrs, Bernard Thomas and W.G. Wade

OABA Pioneer Awards

  • 2023   Tas Pickett
  • 2022   Glenn Bergethon
  • 2021   Jerry Aldrich
  • 2020   Fred Pittroff
  • 2019   Stephen Swika, Jr.
  • 2018   Linda Brewer
  • 2017   Denny Bartosik
  • 2016   Joie Chitwood Sr.  
  • 2015   Jerry Barber and Dan Dudley
  • 2014   Bob Childress
  • 2013   Jack Eyerly
  • 2012   Bruce Sellner
  • 2011   Jerry Wisdom
  • 2010   Bob Cassata  
  • 2009   JC Evans