RENVILLE COUNTY, Minn - At least two county fairs in Minnesota will be without carnival rides this week thanks to a shortage of workers.
Both fairs are scheduled to start later this week. Organizers of the Renville County Fair and Morrison County Fair say they each had less than a week's notice that the company they hired, Crescent City Amusements, wasn't coming.
"We got a text message from the owner last Friday afternoon," Renville County Fair President Justin Vogt says.
"That night we put together an emergency meeting to go through our options."
Those options were pretty limited due to the short notice. After making several phone calls, Vogt says they were able to find a company in South Dakota that could bring in a few inflatable games and obstacle courses to help fill the void.
"I think there will be some disappointed people," Vogt says. "But talking to fairs that have had this in the past, there's been a lot of positive things said about the inflatables."
In a text message sent out to fair organizers, the company explained why it had to back out of these two fairs. Owners blamed new federal regulations that limit the number of H2B work visas they can apply for.
The text goes on to explain how this limitation prevented the company from hiring enough foreign workers to staff multiple fairs at a time.
This explains why the company will be able to provide rides for the Nicollet County Fair this week, but not the fairs in Renville and Morrison counties.
Fair organizers in Nicollet County say the company showed up on Sunday and is now preparing the rides for later this week.
The company was also hired to set up rides at the Roseau County Fair and Stearns County Fair earlier this Summer. Organizers in both counties say the company showed up on time and provided a great service.
"They're a good group," Vogt says. "It's just unfortunate that it had to happen the way it did."
Another carnival ride company, Cody Rides, also backed out of at least five county fairs this year. However, it's unclear at this time if those cancellations had anything to do with a shortage of workers.
The company is currently being sued after a customer was allegedly injured on a ride earlier this year.
The Minnesota Federation of County Fairs says it's fairly common to have carnival ride companies back out of contracts. Federation directors say it typically happens at least once a year.
Directors say the competition for carnival rides is also quite fierce because fewer companies are providing these services.