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Vendor’s business booms during summer months

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January 6, 2011

By David Eck

ARCHDIOCESE — Peter Bigner doesn’t work in emergency services or the medical field, but he is a lifeline nonetheless for those who run games at parish festivals.

Bigner, owner of Ace Toys in Reading, spends most summer weekends on call ready to fix a broken gaming wheel or run prizes out to a festival that’s running low. Ace works with parish festivals across Cincinnati supplying them with games, wheels and prizes.

“It’s called being flexible,” said Bigner. “Between Memorial Day and Labor Day is our wheelhouse time. We just don’t take a day off. Somebody¹s here every day.”

This summer Bigner will open his Reading Road store on Sunday mornings to give festival operators additional access to supplies during their festival weekend. There will also be an emergency number on the business’s voice mail and on a sign on the door, Bigner said.

“We just keep a huge stock,” he said. “It got to the point where we were down here every Sunday anyway.”

He has been called out to fix a gaming wheel at 10 p.m., run Silly String to a large festival on a busy weekend and  taken pull tab cards to a booth operator. Sometimes he just drops in on some of his larger festivals to check on them.

“It’s all about service,” he said. “If somebody’s in a real jam, they can call us.”

While some festival organizers try to make their events stand out with unique foods and different bands, there are some constants in prizes. Things that make noise, hats, interactive prizes, whistles and balls are all popular, Bigner said. A big hit is Silly String, that gooey substance that kids love to spray.

“That’s the big mecca,” Bigner said. “Any parish that does do silly string makes a ton of money on it, but it’s a huge mess. When choosing festival games and prizes, Bigner said, a mix of games of chance and skill work well. The goal is simple: keep the kids happy so the families will stick around.

“All you want to do is keep the kids entertained so the adults are there to spend their money,” Bigner said. “If my kid is having fun, my wallet is open.”

Sherry Cummings, chairperson of the children’s festival booths at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Monfort Heights, contacts Bigner months ahead of her festival to see what’s in stock and what’s popular.

“If they know ahead of time what I want, they will order it in,” she said. “I go down early.”

For her, glow items, inflatable balls or animals and hats tend to be popular. She also gets plenty of prizes that appeal to either boys or girls.
“Once the kids see what prizes are at the booth, you can pull in pretty good money,” she said. “If you get the prizes for kids and they like what they’re getting, the parents will put out the money.”

David Eck can be reached at [email protected].

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