Powers Great American Midways

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Promotional Video

Also see the book

"Behind The Colored Lights"

Melanie Heinrich is the sister of show owner Debbie Powers. This book as well as a carnival documentary of the same name was created to help show the changes that have occurred in the carnival industry over the past fifty plus years.

Corky and Debbie have worked hard to make this industry clean with a Disney like feel. They are interested in pleasing the customers and catering to families.

This book shows the progression from the early years to their present day carnival where Powers Great American Midways is featured in the last chapter.

It is why much gratitude that I dedicate this book to them and thank them with all of my heart for all of the time and energy that spent helping to make this book a reality.




"Behind The Colored Lights" a film by Melanie Heinrich

"an insider's view of the carnival"

by Melanie Heinrich

A short documentary by Melanie Heinrich

Melanie's moving video portrait of her sister, Debbie, and Debbie's husband Corky, reveals 6 generations of Carneys. Corky's great-grandfather started in the business when the first carnivals began -- during America's great depression of the 20s and 30s. At that time, small festivals were held in towns to promote an inexpensive form of fun. Often centered on farmers markets and farm animal contests. Suddenly these game and side shows popped up all over the country. Traveling from town to town was just a way to continue the concessionaires' income source.

“Some days I’d give it up for a quarter,” Corky says with a smile, but "it's in my blood." Corky remembers his childhood pet, a two-nosed dog named Sputnik, which was put on display to generate family income. In general it was this time period of shysters and trickery the film exposes that generated the negative view the public still has today about carnivals and carnival people. Joining Melanie BEHIND THE COLORED LIGHTS an audience shares her personal lens into the experience of traveling the circuit for many years. Back then she was careful to avoid the 'bally' calls of game concessions and instead worked and owned food stands. Viewers will see and hear from the actual Carneys who experienced those colorful bygone days and are now moving into the future. Their stories reveal a life that is changing dramatically from a self serving cut throat business to an extended family where all are for one and one are for all.

Current tight state agency controls and stringent weekly restrictions mean that customers are more comfortable and secure than ever in this entertainment industry. Many insiders say the carnival business is rapidly changing into a "Disney on wheels." With some shows boasting 100 rides. Corky and Debbie’s show, Powers Great American Midways, was recently awarded an industry comedy award for "the show with the most teeth." Debbie, who works constantly owns several food stands says: “Having teeth makes a good impression and looks as though you care about your hygiene." The traveling nature of the business draws a transient type of individual, and it is Debbie and Corky's leadership that helps make a difference that can be seen all the way down to the cleanliness and appearance of these “ride jocks”.

With the final click of her camera, the filmmaker lets us see for ourselves that all of these seasoned Carneys are not unlike the neighbor next door: down to earth, hard-working people, many of them just trying to get their kids through college. “I love the carnival," says the filmmaker’s mother while working in one of Debbie’s ice cream stands. "I love the people, and I love the product, as you can see," she says chuckling as she pats her stomach.

Melanie Heinrich

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