Skinner's Amusements: as old as Roscoe Fall Festival itself


The dragon from the Orient Express ride, ready to be set up in Roscoe's Leland Park

Skinner's Amusements is once again providing midway rides and refreshments at the Roscoe Fall Festival

The midway will be open Friday from 5:00 - 10:00 p.m., Saturday from 12:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m., and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. 

Special discount rates for children are scheduled on Saturday – Kids Day. For $20, kids can have a wristband good for four hours on all rides, from noon to 4:00 p.m. Wristbands go on sale at 11:30 p.m. The midway will remain open until 10:00 p.m.

Carnival discount rides are also available from 12:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday

The 111-year-old business, now into the fifth generation of the Skinner family, is operated by Patricia and Doug Skinner. Says Patricia Skinner, "We are what is called 'forty-milers' in our industry." Based in Marengo, most locations are close enough that employees can go home each night, though they also provide bunkhouses. Patricia wasn't raised in a carnival family, but you could say Skinner's Amusements changed her life. According to a 2020 story by Mary Weber in CarnivalWarehouse, Patricia met her husband when he was running the Ferris wheel.

The company was founded in 1910 - the first year of the Roscoe Fall Festival - by George Skinner, Doug's grandfather. George was a farmer near Crystal Lake, IL who had lost an arm in a machine and had to find another way to support his family. He had seen a steam-powered merry-go-round, says Patricia, and "it sparked his interest. He bought one and his farmer friends helped move it. He would go to sites for two, three weeks." Many were 19th century "picnic groves."

A few of the attractions that will be at the Roscoe Fall Festival include the Cliff Hanger, the Lolly Swing, the Power Slide, Scooter, Tea Cups, and the Tornado. The Orient Express is led by a Chinese dragon. The surfer murals on Beach Party include signs for Redondo Beach, Waikiki, Goat Rock, and Bali. Skinners Amusements have about 35 rides, plus food stands and games, some of which are managed by Patricia's daughter-in-law Renata and her grandson Jered.  Other vendors have their own games and food booths, apart from Skinners Amusements, though many of the businesses work the same events. Skinners Amusements usually sets up at least 2o rides a week, and usually buys a new one about every year.

Subscribe for free to Rockton-Roscoe News by the end of Fall Festival on September 12 for a chance to win a $50 restaurant gift certificate, or $50 in free advertising in Rockton-Roscoe News. 

Besides rides and games, the Skinners will also be serving hand-dipped corn dogs, funnel cakes, cherry limeade, and more.

All the locations they serve are in Illinois: three county fairs and many festivals, many of which have been on their route for over 40 years, including Roscoe's. Patricia remembers meeting at the Wagon Wheel (which closed in 1989) to sign her first booking with the Roscoe Lions Club.

All employees receive drug tests and background checks, and all rides are state-inspected several times a year. Says Patricia: "New tags are on each piece." The State of Illinois even used Skinner's practices to help establish state guidelines for equipment set up and tear down. With COVID-19, they are following extra safety measures. "The patrons are very understanding and this year, events have been well attended." Their season begins May 1 and ends next month back in their home town, with Settlers Days Marengo, October 8-10, a 50 year tradition.

The Skinners remind their riders to please keep the following general safety rules in mind:

  • READ and follow all posted rules, height and age restrictions.
  • EXPLAIN why children should not stand up, unlock or loosen restraints or exit a ride while it is in motion.
  • DON'T pressure friends and children into going on a ride if they are afraid.
  • LISTEN to the ride operator's instructions.
  • USE the safety equipment provided like seat belts, lap bars and shoulder harnesses.
  • KEEP hands, arms, legs, feet and head inside the ride at all times and hold onto the handles provided.
  • STAY seated until the ride comes to a full and complete stop.
  • LOOK for the ride or attraction's current permit to operate sticker issued by the Illinois Department of Labor.

Click on the picture below to view a gallery of images.

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