PLATTEVILLE — Nearly every community festival, no matter how small the community, features a carnival — a Ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, bumper cars, popcorn and sno-cones.
For 40 years, many area carnivals featured the rides of Mound View Shows of Platteville.
Mound View Shows’ history is going away, piece by piece. Only the Moon Walk, kid swings and popcorn wagon, the latter still pulled by a 1975 GMC pickup truck, remain.
“At one time I had the Ferris wheel, the Big Swinger, Tubs of Fun, the merry-go-round,” said Mildred Faith, Mound View Shows’ owner in its 40 years of existence.
One of the more recent departures was the Ferris Wheel, whose departure was profiled on A&E’s “Shipping Wars” Sept. 18. The episode, “Wheels of Misfortune,” can be seen at www.aetv.com.
The “little baby Ferris wheel,” as one of the show’s characters put it, was 14 feet long, 7 feet 9 inches wide and 10 feet 6 inches high, and weighed 2,400 pounds on its trailer. The episode profiled its trip from Platteville to Allentown, Pa., in three days, shipped for a bid of $2,000.
Mound View Shows was always a weekend venture for Faith, who worked full-time at the former Burgess Battery factory and Eastman Cartwright Lumber. Sometimes on Thursday nights, other times on Fridays, Faith and her husband, Donovan, who worked at UW–Platteville, would pull the popcorn wagon and other equipment to that weekend’s destination, work the carnival that weekend, then take everything down Sunday night.
“When I had all the rides, I’d employ nine if I had everything up,” she said. “I had to know who they were.” Setting up took 1½ days, but “they’d go down fast because they wanted to get done.”
The Galena corn boil ended the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. That allowed Mound City Shows to take down, drive to Benton, and set up the carnival overnight for Benton’s Labor Day celebration.
Faith started in carnivals by selling ice cream sandwiches, then working in the hamburger stand of Bill Mann’s carnivals. Profits from the hamburger stand prompted the purchase of a cotton candy machine, followed by three kids’ rides from a Dubuque owner, with her first husband, Nathan Seemeyer.
“Then from there you work a little and you buy something else,” said Faith. “And then you end up with all this better stuff.”
Seemeyer died of a heart attack in 1963 at 42. Four years later, Faith married her second husband, Donovan, “and he had never done this before, but being I was in it and had done it before, he went along with it.”
Mound View Shows incorporated in 1971. The Faiths worked the Galena and Cobb corn boils, Labor Day in Benton, the Darlington Canoe Festival, the Blake’s Prairie Festival in Bloomington, and festivals in Dodgeville, and Pearl City, Warren and Elizabeth, Ill. — “all along this territory — any little celebration,” said Faith. “We’d take our popcorn stand along, and we had two or three concessions, and if someone wanted to buy in they would.”
That included Dairy Days “years ago,” in front of the old Rountree Hall on West Main Street. “They would pay us, and we would run them free for the kids,” she said.
Mound View Shows also worked the 2011 Party in the Park during the Hometown Festival.
Carnival companies lined up bookings each fall for the next season. The year used to start on Memorial Day weekend in Albany, “but we never made any money,” she said. That prompted them to start the season in Soldiers Grove Father’s Day weekend, and the season ran until the Gays Mills Apple Festival in late September, where she still takes the popcorn wagon.
Donovan Faith died of a brain tumor in 1999, but “I still kept going,” she said.
The worst injury anyone on a Mound View Rides ride suffered was the broken arm a girl suffered colliding with another Moon Walk jumper. One unusual occasional problem occurred in Gays Mills, where the Kickapoo River would occasionally require the equipment to be moved after it was set up.
The problem of competing with larger carnivals and her retirement process have resulted in the piece-by-piece dismantling of the carnival. Much of the equipment has been sold online. One Ferris wheel was purchased by a farm near Monticello, part of the man’s collection of former carnival rides. Her car ride was purchased by an Iowa buyer.
“It’s going out faster than you think,” said Faith. “They want slides; they want everything these days. Carnivals are buying bigger things, and it’s kind of pushing you out.”
Still, she said, “I’ve enjoyed every little bit of it. It’s hard to get out of it.”