Midway Attractions by Gillette Shows
Rides Included With Admission Tickets
Gillette Shows was started by brothers Art and Jules Gillette in 1947. For more than 60 years, it has strived to make the midway attractions the best and safest possible, always keeping up with new and changing safety regulations.
Through the years the show has updated and purchased new equipment and concessions. Gillette Shows now has more than thirty rides and numerous game and food concession stands.
What do you envision when you think of the Hemlock Fair: horse races, livestock, demo derbies, bands & beer, or something else? For many, the iconic image that comes to mind is the giant ferris wheel on the midway presented by Gillette Amusements of Pittsfield, MA. The glittering lights shine brightly across the midway – beckoning all fairgoers to step aboard for a ride. You can see every part of the fairgrounds from your lofty perch atop the wheel. Nearly 20 rides, and numerous games and food vendors fill up the midway, providing entertainment and refreshments. It’s easy to get lost in the magic that the lights and sounds create as you imagine you are soaring as high as the stars. But few people ever stop to consider how much work is involved in bringing the midway to the Hemlock Fair.
Gillette Shows, Inc. has provided our midway attraction since 2012. The company started from humble beginnings when brothers Jules and Arthur Gillette refurbished an old carousel and set it up in a local park in 1947. Success prompted them to purchase some smaller rides and refurbish a ferris wheel next, and soon they were moving the rides around to local towns as the Gillette Brothers Shows. The business thrives today under the direction of Betty Gillette, and her sons Jules and Jerry. Gillette Shows travels throughout the Northeast, including NY, NH, VT, ME, MA, CT, and PA. Their home base and repair shop is located in Pittsfield, MA. They currently have 35 rides, including a variety of major, family and children’s rides. Gillette Shows are billed as ‘the nicest show in the Northeast’… and rightly so!
Their season begins around May 1st with small local fairs and festivals. By July the season is in full swing and Gillette Shows travels throughout the Northeast through October. Continuity is important to maintain the efficiency of the operation. They typically keep the same route, and have contracts in place 3 – 5 years in advance. November is dedicated to cleaning, repairing and winterizing the equipment, and Christmas through March is the slow time. In April, crews are hired and major work is undertaken. In May and June, lights are replaced and rebuilds are completed. And the travel season begins again.
Beginning on Sunday afternoon, a caravan of nearly 50 trucks begins to arrive at the Hemlock fairgrounds. Trucks hauling rides, games, supplies, prizes, freezer and refrigerator trucks, food trucks, a portable shop, generators, campers and bunkhouse trailers – everything necessary to provide a complete midway of rides, games and food, and keep it operating. As soon as they arrive, trucks are jockeyed into position and set-up begins. Each ride has a team to assemble, operate and maintain it. The larger rides take as long as 10 – 12 hours to assemble, level and shore them up. The Century wheel takes approximately 6 – 8 hours to assemble. Teardown typically takes 4 hours less than assembly.
There are no days off for Gillette workers during the season. A crew of nearly 125 workers descends upon the fairgrounds, each with a particular set of tasks to perform. Everyone does their part to get the show ready for Tuesday’s opening. Work days are 10 hours or longer when the Fair is open, with shifts allowing for meal or other breaks as needed. Ride operators generally stay with the same ride throughout the season, as they can tell by sound that things are operating properly. Other laborers bounce around to help where they are needed. Gillette travels with a fully equipped shop to handle maintenance and repair issues, along with mechanics, welders and electricians. When the Fair ends on Saturday night, the Gillette crews’ work doesn’t end. They work tirelessly through the night to dismantle the entire midway and head off into the night to their next location. As they say “the show must go on”.
Next time you sit atop the Century wheel, enjoying the sights and sounds of the midway beneath you, take a moment to appreciate the hard work of Gillette Shows and all their employees. Our Hemlock ‘Little World’s’ Fair wouldn’t be the same without them.