“Celebrating 89 Years of Family Fun: Coleman Brothers Carnival”
From the Evening Sun, published August 6, 2004
Read by Jason Shedd
The Coleman Brothers Shows have brightened towns in the Northeast with its sparkling midway for over 89 years and will continue with this tradition in visiting the great Norwich – Chenango County Fair August 10th through the 15th. The Coleman family asks you to “Come and Unlock the Magic of Your Imagination,” “the midway where you will rediscover your imagination and where your children are sure to discover theirs.” In fact, this is the theme of the midway this year, bringing back the many memories to the many adults who have grown with the carnival throughout the years and the creation of new and exciting memories for the children of today.
The founder of the business was Richard J. Coleman, who spun a broken-down merry-go-round into a 63-year career that became a million-dollar success story. He died in 1978 at age 87. His carnival has survived into his family’s hands and its reputation as clean family entertainment is intact today. It was 1916, when Dick Coleman found this worn-out steam-powered merry-go-round. The price tag was $250. This was a time when the carnival business had a cast of characters that included “Mickey Devine,” the boxer who took on all comers. “Bill Smith” the wrestler of local yokels. “Waximo” the human pin cushion.
Dick Coleman didn’t have the money to buy the merry-go-round he just had the dream that he wanted to make real. But when he talked about the merry-go-round with Father Donovan, the pastor of St. John’s Catholic Church, “the priest saw the gleam in Dick’s eyes.” Pastor Donovan advanced the money to Dick without his having to ask him.
Dick and his brother, Thomas, took their merry-go-round to places like Deep River and Old Saybrook. But this earlier tour was a flop. That’s when Father Donovan requested putting the merry-go-round in a lot across the street from his church. Here was the first successful week for the show that one day would be fairly billed as “one of America’s biggest and brightest carnivals.” From its humble beginning, the show had grown to 45 amusement rides, but success never diluted Dick Coleman’s feeling for people, every week he set aside a day of free admission and refreshments for underprivileged children. In fact Coleman’s will bring back this tradition with weekly discount days for our soldiers serving around the world as well as their families.
The excitement of the Coleman Brothers Shows midway has remained for some five generations and still brings with it the thrills and the feeling of true family entertainment. Today the show is managed by Robert Coleman, Sr., his son Tim Coleman, his wife Arlene Coleman, daughter Mary Oakes and Son – In – Law Anthony Oakes. The Coleman’s show still remains as a family-run business for the enjoyment of your family with brothers, sisters, and grandchildren working in and around the carnival.
Tim Coleman, General Manager, who is responsible for the day in and day out operations of the business was found working on the lighted gate that welcomes each patron to the midway stated, “it’s hard work moving such a large operation, but we want to make sure this year is better than ever for the people who come and visit us,” adding “it is a job that you love to perform each and every year; making the midway a place where both children and adults may get away from life’s daily distractions and let their imagination go.”