Drago Amusements no longer exists. For those of us who remember this show, we will forever remember the Tip Top and hanging out near its large, painted juke box or remember the Rock-O-Plane that locals dubbed the "Monkey Cages."
Drago Amusements was born from a fascinating story within itself... A local business man took in a carousel that was left behind from a carnival limping through and going out of business. The carnival had set up in a mall parking lot and left equipment. That was a couple of generations ago. The business man fixed up the carousel and decided to start his own show using his name...Drago.
This story is close and interesting to me. Not only was it Drago Amusements that passed through my town every year: it was also the start of another carnival owner...This owner would later become my boss when I decided to travel. In addition, the show that I joined has the carousel that started it all... So the legand goes anyway...
Drago will be remembered by myself as a clean and fun midway. It wasn't too large with towering monsters nor was it a small, coin-operated midway. It had the right mix of games vs. rides vs. concessions.
Goodbye Drago Amusements.
The story does not end there... Enter Jon Luehrs
This article was published in Carousel magazine October 2000, p. 40. What used to be Drago Amusements has now become Luehrs' Spectacular Attractions
ALEXANDRIA, IND. - Sprawled across wooded Buelah Park in Alexandria, Indiana, the various rides of Luehrs' Spectacular Attractions dominated the view over the cattle barns and 4-H exhibits. Owned and operated by Jon Luehrs, the carnival's array of rides includes standards like the Tilt-A-Whirl, Merry-Go-Round, fun houses, and Hampton Umbrella rides, along with such pieces as a Chance Century Wheel and a Pharaoh's Fury.
At 53 years of age, Jon Luehrs has been in the business all of his life. "I was born into it. My father worked for Bill Gullette Shows. In 1957, he broke away and bought Ideal Rides from Paul Robertson. I was eight years old at the time."
By the age of 29, Jon had acquired his first ride: and in 1996, he purchased Drago Amusements, Inc., and formed his own company. Generally, Luehrs employes about 50 people and compliments this with 60 independent workers. The work force is used to manage and operate the 18 show-owned rides and 20 games. "Everything out here is show owned. There are no independent rides" Jon said.
The show has added a number of new pieces in the last several years includng the Chance Century Wheel and Pharaoh's Fury, a new Wisdom Himalaya, Cutting dge's Titanic slide, Climbing Wall, Bounce House and a 350k Catepillar generator. One of the favorites on the show that still manages to thrill patrons, is an older piece: the Loop-O-Plane. "That's still a good one: people like it and it's easy to move. We pull it as a double." The show continues to grow and is looking forwad to the possibility of adding a new theme ride which was designed in-house. "We're considering designing a new theme ride, but we will need more money to build it" Jon added.
Jon also has some humorous memories of the show. He related the story of an employee he had several years ago. "He was a college graduate and thought he knew everything. Once, we were making a 106 mile jump and he was driving a pickup truck with double gas tanks hauling a bunkhouse. I happen to come across him at a gas station. I asked him how much gas it had taken him to come all this way and he boasted, 'Only twenty-five cents!' Well, a 106 mile jump would eat up more than that and when I asked him which tank he filled, teh right or left, he had to think about it. 'Would that be looking at th etruck or sitting in the truck?' the kid asked. But he was so proud that it took onlly twenty-five cents to fill up!" Jon said with a laugh.
Luehrs' Spectacular Attractions was set up at the Madison County 4-H Fair in Alexandria, Indiana, an even sponsored by the local Kiwanis Club and held for the past 57 years. Drago Amusements, which was acquired by Jon Luehrs, had always played the date. This is the fourth year that Spectacular Attractions has operated the midway. Other fairs and events in Indiana that the show plays include the Decatur Central 4-H Fair in Indianapolis, The clinton County Fair in Frankfort, the Jay County 4-H Fair in Portlad and the Cass County Fair in Logansport. As the summer fair season winds down, teh show heads south towad Florida, playing a number of still dates; it remains there until spring and does the same on its return trip north. Luehrs closes his fair season workign with Cumberland Valley Shows, including participating at teh Tennessee Valley Fair in Knoxville.
Joe Rapp, a Luehrs' employee, said that he enjoys this line of work. "It just gets into your blood, I guess." Joe started with Drago Amusements 21 years ago when the show played his hometown of Pekin, Illinois. "I went up and asked them for a job. They gave me one and I worked for them every year for 18 years. When I came out in 1996, it was a different show. I didn't know Drago was going out." Joe added, "Although it was a different show, I stayed and this will be my fourth year with Luehrs." Joe works serving as the foreman of the Speedway kiddie ride.
©2000 Lori S. Maynard