Published: Thursday, May 15, 2003
Carnival Business a Family Affair
By Michael Lello
The Mercury, May 15, 2003

Betty and Warren ImesThe company, which brings its rides, games and concession stands to carnivals, picnics and fairs in Philadelphia, Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties, began in the 1950s when Warren and Betty Imes operated games at local carnivals to supplement their income. The family eventually bought some equipment and grew into the operation it is today, with Betty Imes and her son Patrick Imes now at the helm of the Birdsboro-based business.

Oscar’s Amusements will be at the Birdsboro Street Fair through Saturday before moving on to the Harleysville Jaycees carnival next week as part of an April-through-September schedule that includes more than 20 events. Oscar’s Amusements works exclusively at events sponsored by nonprofit organizations, helping those organizations raise money.

Patrick Imes’ son, Nick Imes, works for Oscar’s Amusements, as does Betty Imes’ son, Joe Imes, whose sons Zack, 14, and Sam, 12, help on weekends.

Another of Betty Imes’ sons, Steven Imes, runs Pebble Beach Games and Concessions with his daughter, Hilary, and they both also work with Oscar’s Amusements.

Betty Imes’ daughter, Sue Ellen Pfeffer, and her husband, David Pfeffer, operate the Douglassville-based Tons of Fun Shows, another carnival company, along with their children Francine, Ben and Ellen.

And finally, Deline Ketcham, another daughter of Betty Imes, and her husband, Jon Ketcham, run Wade’s Shows, a nationwide amusement company. Their children, Sara, Daniel and Kate, as well as their grandson, Dylan, work with them.

"It’s funny because it’s so natural for all of them," said Kim Imes, the office manager for Oscar’s Amusements. "They all have this love and natural flow and ability with it."

While Tons of Fun travels the East Coast and Wade’s Shows is a national operation, Oscar’s Amusements chooses to stay regional.

"First of all, it’s a lifestyle choice," Kim Imes said. "I know we chose that path because we want to lead a traditional lifestyle."

Oscar’s Amusements is committed to helping nonprofit groups raise money, but that doesn’t change the fact that the general public often harbors a negative attitude toward the carnival industry. Kim Imes said there’s sometimes a perception that "we’re a traveling show that comes to town, steals from the kids and moves on."

And the misconceptions don’t end there, she said.

"Our industry is so much safer than people realize," she said.

"Each week, there’s at least one person that screams because their child isn’t tall enough to get on a ride. They’re asking me to jeopardize their child’s safety for $2."

Safety, she said, is the top priority. Every day, the company inspects its games and rides, which include a ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, a tilt-a-whirl and more modern offerings such as a Star Trooper and a Gravitron. Once a week, unannounced, the state Department of Agriculture inspects its rides.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, amusement rides constitute one of the safest forms of recreation available to the public. Bicycling, soccer, skiing, snowmobiling and numerous other recreational activities lead to hundreds of thousands more injuries and many more deaths every year than amusement rides, according to the commission.

Despite the industry’s solid safety record, insurance premiums have greatly increased, Kim Imes said. Oscar’s Amusements’ insurance costs have gone up 20 percent in the past five years, she said.

"We haven’t raised our ticket prices in over four years," she said. "Our insurance has hit us personally. We’ve all had to take a personal hit."

With the challenges, though, come rewards. By staying in the region and working only with nonprofits, Kim Imes said the effort pays off.

"We get to build relationships in communities," she said. "At the end of the week, we walk away knowing that we helped.
Oscars Amusements
OSCARS AMUSEMENTS INC.
180 Amity Park Road
Douglassville, PA  19518

Phone: 484-651-7056
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