Some might characterize a group of employees traveling around the country in a carnival to be like a family. But with Sonshine Amusements — a company making its Webster County Fair debut next week — that description is quite apt.
The amusement company, which pridefully states being a Christian organization, has decades of providing family-friendly entertainment under its belt. Ashley Noerper, one of Sonshine Amusements owners, is a fifth-generation member of the company, which was started 65 years ago by her great-great-grandfather.
After many years operating out of Florida, Sonshine Amusements made a move north about 20 years ago, Noerper said, and is now happily based out of Birmingham, Alabama. She said the touring schedule for the company annually runs from the start of March through the end of October. It covers a variety of events, including fairs, festivals and picnics for schools and churches in and around Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, Arkansas and Missouri.
In the Show-Me State, among locations Sonshine Amusements has held carnivals are in Richland and Lebanon. It was in those spots that Webster County Fair board members Bill Roberts and Eugene Cantrell went to scout the festivals and the company running them. Roberts said they were impressed with the professional look of the employees and their courteous nature, along with the well-maintained equipment and overall cleanliness of the carnival area.
“We try very hard to stand out from the typical carnival company,” Noerper said.
Roberts said the fair board had been scouting new carnivals for about 3-4 years, knowing that the contract with the company the fair had been utilizing would end in 2015. The board was ready for a change, and Sonshine really stood out, Roberts said. Although the company is only signed up for this year’s fair, set for July 20-23, he said a successful appearance will very likely lead to its return.
Sonshine Amusements just wrapped up last week at the Laclede County Fair, and Noerper said attendees at next week’s fair in Marshfield can count on around 14-15 rides in operation. Some of those will include a 100-foot slide, a car obstacle course, a Taladega racing-themed speedway and a “Dizzy Dragon,” which spins riders around.
“We have a good mixture for the whole family,” she said, adding plenty of games will be offered as well. “They’re games of skill, but everything is very winnable. A lot of them are a prize every time kind of thing.”
Lots of sweet treats will be part of the carnival too, with slushies, caramel apples and, of course, the always popular funnel cakes.
“We’re very excited to be coming to (the) fair, and we hope the community is excited, too,” Noerper said.