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Amusement Association Celebrates 40 Years, Recognizes Founders

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Amusement Association Founders who were honored guests at the Dueling Pianos fundraiser are (l-to-r) Chuck Elliott, Gary Kickler, Cyndi Kickler, Maxine Howard, and Dennis Howard.

Story Photo

Amusement Association Founders who were honored guests at the Dueling Pianos fundraiser are (l-to-r) Chuck Elliott, Gary Kickler, Cyndi Kickler, Maxine Howard, and Dennis Howard.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Greeley County Amusement Association.  At the recent Dueling Pianos event, founding members were recognized for their hard work in creating, growing, and expanding the Association from a one-time dream to a full-blown carnival that entertains the community each year during fair.

The founding members of the Greeley County Amusement Association (GCAA) were Dennis and Maxine Howard, Gary and Cyndi Kickler, Chuck and Dianna Elliott, Ruby Kleymann, Joe McMillin, Delores Eaton, and Oren Donavan. Dennis and Maxine, Gary and Cindy, and Chuck attended last Saturday’s Dueling Pianos event, where they were honored guests of the current Amusement Association board.

The original board came together in 1980 and the GCAA’s first two rides were homemade.  The kiddie cars were first used during “carnival days” at the 4-way in May of 1980 to help raise funds. Only four of the eight cars were ready to be used.

In July of 1980, the R.R. Café building was purchased for $1 and moved from Horace to the carnival grounds. The main building was converted into storage and a concession stand. Volunteers helped on work days to replace the siding, remove windows, install wiring, and paint the building. Lumber from the removed kitchen was used to build booths.  Rumor has it that it was Colleen Tarman who painted clowns and monkeys on the side of the building.

The concession area was operated out of an open door with a counter that was wired up and taken down at night. Tickets were sold from a small window in the back of the building.  By fair that year, the swing ride was built and seats were borrowed from Wallace County. (This came full circle in 2019 when Wallace County borrowed the seats from Greeley County’s Ferris Wheel for their county fair.)

In 1981, the merry-go-round and the small Ferris Wheel were purchased from an antique dealership in Great Bend for $8,500. A cotton candy machine was also purchased.

In 1983, the train, big Ferris Wheel, roller coaster, some small cranes, and 10 benches were purchased in Springfield, Missouri for $27,000. The company delivered and set up all of the rides, except the train. Volunteers laid the track around the grounds. Destal Tyler and Farmco employees completely rebuilt two of the cars.

That year, the Amusement Association operated on the 4th of July. They ran the swings, merry-go-round, the little cars and two of the new rides, the roller coaster and the big Ferris Wheel.

For many years, half of the Ferris Wheel was taken down because of concerns that an ice storm might destroy it. They didn’t have enough money to buy insurance except for the days when the carnival was in operation.

Later in the 1980s, permanent booths made of pipe, a storage building and a building for the train and cars were built, ensuring the train didn’t have to be stored in different parts of the county.  The carnival generally operated during Loyalty Days, a few 4th of Julys and during Fair.

The Big Swings were added in the late 90s and in 2007, the Fair Board donated the former 4-H Pavilion to the Amusement Association.  With the help of local individuals and families who donated concrete by the yard and a Small Communities Improvement Grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce, local contractors, mechanics, the Unified Greeley County crew, and lots of other volunteers, the “new” building was completed in 2010.

The Spider was added in 2011 and in 2013, the Scrambler and the Hammer were purchased.

New laws surrounding local carnival rules and regulations took effect in 2018.

Deep appreciation goes out to the founders, the board members, the association members, the sponsors, the donors, the volunteers, and to everyone who has helped keep the carnival running for the past 40 years.  With the community’s help and support, the Greeley County Amusement Association will continue to be a fun and enjoyable part of the Greeley County Fair for decades to come.

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