SALEM, Va. – Crews are putting the finishing touches on the 32nd annual Salem Fair, gates open Wednesday at 4 p.m. and more than 300,000 people are expected to attend. That's a huge economic impact in rides and funnel cake, but there's even more happening behind the scenes.
The City of Salem hosts the fair and Deggeller Attractions puts the fair on. Deggeller is based in South Florida, but the family-owned business considers Salem to be its second home. The company and its staff spend money on food, hotels and other little things, but that's pocket change compared to some of the checks they write.
For more than three decades, the Salem Fair has been making memories for families all over Southwest Virginia, and that includes Andy Deggeller's memories. He's a second generation operator of the company that makes the fair appear in Salem seemingly out of thin air every summer.
"As far back as I can remember, I've spent every Fourth of July of my life here," Deggeller said. "Most people think that a carnival comes into town, makes it money and moves on. What's unique about Salem is that this is our first big stop, this is where we're preparing for the rest of our summer route."
Seasonal work like this means a lot of things get winterized. Salem is where it all gets completely unpacked and assembled, all the pieces of the puzzle come together, and where maintenance is completed. From simple things like new paint and updated hoses to larger things like complete overhauls, it's all done right in Virginia's Blue Ridge.
No Salemite knows the fair better than fair manager Carey Harveycutter. If Deggeller sand his team didn't spend the $400,000 a year they do, he said we'd notice.
"They spend a tremendous amount of cash here," Harveycutter said. "The things you don't think about that are spent, one year they replaced 60 tires here, they purchase a lot of fuel."
One of Deggeller's biggest vendors is Precision Hydraulics. A spokesman with the Cloverdale Company says Deggeller provides about one percent of his company’s business. (A miscommunication led to a higher figure percentage in an earlier story.)
"Throughout the year our company utilizes the guys here in town too by sending the equipment back to these shops because we feel like they're so good at what they do," Deggeller said.
Precision Hydraulics has expanded its business since their relationship began according to Deggeller. The amusement industry is a small one and word travels fast. Deggeller said another amusement company that doesn't come to Salem has picked Precision as its vendor on multiple occasions because of the good work they do.
"The workmanship that some of these guys do is better than anywhere else that we’ve found and we’ve traveled up and down the East Coast, so we have a good relationship with a lot of these shops that do a lot of technical work for us," Deggeller said.
So in this case, you can put a sweet price tag on some of these memories. But when it comes to a second family, that's priceless.
"You ask all our kids what their favorite place is that we go to and every time it's Salem, so I think that they're really enjoying being here," Deggeller said. "And of course I've been here since I was a child so I love it too."
Deggeller Attractions also made a donation to Salem City Schools this year. The family presented a $10,000 check to Andrew Lewis Middle School to help fund a new maker space in the school for students to use.
Deggeller said if that doesn't make him a true Salemite, he's got the final missing link.
"We feel so comfortable here that my wife and I decided to have our second child at Lewis Gale Hospital, so he is a bonafide Salem baby," Deggeller said.