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Behind The Scenes: Companies At the Heart of Everyday Life

Miami, Dade County Fair, 4.5.08, 5:19 p.m.
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Water Game

Bob's Space Racers of Daytona Beach, Florida, makes these trailer-mounted group games, in which players shoot streams of water at targets. Most trailers include a 100-gallon water tank for the game; some are customized with bedrooms and showers for the owners. In 1970, Bob Cassata, a carpenter, founded the company with his niece's high school boyfriend, Jack Mendes. They built the first games together. Cassata still owns the 125-person company, and Mendes is president. Bob's Space Racers also makes arcade games, like Whac-A-Mole.

Ferris wheel

This 90-foot-tall ride weighs more than 100 tons and sells for about $1.3 million, and it took Chance Rides Manufacturing close to six months to build. In 1961, founder Harold Chance started out making miniature trains for a small carnival in the Midwest. Today, his son, Richard, and grandsons, Michael and John, co-own the Wichita, Kansas, company. Its 125 employees manufacture carousels, train rides, and roller coasters for amusement parks, malls, zoos, and a few individuals. (Michael Jackson bought five Chance rides for the Neverland Ranch). North American Midway Entertainment, which organizes about 130 fairs and carnivals, including this one in Miami, owns more than 25 Chance rides.

Concession stand

Whether they're whipping up elephant ears, cotton candy, or pizza, vendors need to make the most of small spaces, because they often rent plots from the fairground by the foot. Century Industries of Sellersburg, Indiana, designed this 20-foot trailer to be compact. It fits up to eight employees. Trailers cost from $50,000 to $150,000, including the food-prep equipment. Brothers John and Bob Uhl started Century Industries in 1978 to make hot dog stands for parks. The company now employs 45 workers.

Stuffed Animals

Win here, and you'll get a prize from Toy Factory of San Antonio. The company makes more than 1,000 types of stuffed animals for amusement parks and arcades. The toys -- including puppies, monkeys, and bears as well as licensed Spider-Man and Batman dolls -- come in several sizes, from 7 to 54 inches tall. Most are manufactured in China, but the larger ones typically are stuffed in the U.S. Four co-workers who left another, now defunct, novelty toy company founded Toy Factory in 1999. Toy Factory now has 25 employees.




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