Hiring A Dodgem For Your Event

Possibly the most popular ride at any event is the Dodgems, or Bumper Cars as they are quite often referred to. I think the public use the latter description based on their idea that they should be crashing headlong into each other, and the ride owners the former based on their desire to see their ride remain intact as long as possible.

When hiring this type of ride for your event there are a few things to keep in mind.

First off they are quite expensive, we receive a steady stream of enquiries along the lines of “A bouncy castle can be hired for twenty five quid, so I guess dodgems must be about a hundred?”, sorry, to travel any distance with a couple of vehicles averaging 6-7 M.P.G. the fuel bill alone can easily mount up to the hundreds, if you want dodgems budget at least £1700 up over.

Now there are some rides out there that are super cheap compared to the industry average, if you are pricing around and someone is offering to undercut everyone else by 30% then you need to start asking questions, begin with “How many actual cars will be on the ride”. One operator we know used to offer dodgems for £1000, when they turned up they came with 4 cars, when you complained,  it would be explained to you, that is the reason it was so cheap, and if you wanted extra cars the price would rise.

The same ride came with no lighting, music or even a top rain cover, they were all optional extras, time you specced up a standard dodgem to match the other quotes you had received you would find that the ride was more expensive than anyone else.

Another good sales pitch we have seen was dodgems starting at £129. When you read the small print, that was for a single car, and the minimum order was 16 cars, so the price was pretty much standard, but it did catch your eye.

There are two main types of dodgems you can hire, traditional and continental. They both give exactly the same experience, the main difference is in appearance, the traditional ride is more of a vintage look that you would remember from being a kid, the continental type is the new super decorated whizz bang lighting effects type of thing. Like I say, the rides the same, just one looks flashier than the other.

The traditional type does have one big advantage, it is supplied entirely dismantled, and can be carried into position, we have operated them on second floors of buildings, even in a raised marquee. The continental type are supplied on a trailer, probably 50ft long weighing perhaps 25 tonnes, and need to be driven into position, so this does limit where they can be used.

Always ask for an image of the actual ride, and ask about lighting, music, cars etc, and you should be able to compare quotes on an even basis.

Remember, “The sweetness of low price, fades long before the bitterness of poor service”

Image of a traditional dodgem track
A traditional English style dodgem track
Image of a modern dodgem ride
Modern Continental Type Dodgem Ride

Educated Idiots

You assume, well we do at least, that when some one reaches a position such as the Dean of a major Oxford university, that they are reasonably intelligent people. Unfortunately a couple of incidents swiftly disabused us of that impression.

The first was a few years back when a close friend was installing a Ferris Wheel ride at an Oxford college. The way these particular rides are erected, is to build up what resembles 2 spoked wheels and then add the seats between the spokes.

On this particular occasion I received a call from said friend telling me that the dean was outraged at the obvious unsafe ride I had sent him and he wanted it removing immediately. I asked my friend to let the Dean cool down and then go and inquire as to the problem. When he came back on the phone he could barely talk for laughing. Seems upon inquiring as to the nature of the problem, the Dean had exploded, stating look at the height of the ride, there is no where to sit, if my students have to cling to the poles as the ride goes round and fall of near the top they could be killed!!!

Luckily my friend managed not to burst out laughing as he explained that the seats were in a pile on the floor and were due to be fitted once the rest of the structure was in place.


BUT, this one pales into insignificance by our next tale of stupidity. We used to run a previous blog a number of years ago. One day we purchased some rubber gremlins and goblins and zombies to decorate a horror themed event. As a joke we took a picture of one of the 6 inch high green goblins and posted it online announcing that as we were having trouble getting reliable staff, we had decided to clone our own and this was the first attempt.

A couple of weeks later we received a call from a headmistress to cancel the candy floss cart she had booked, I inquired as to the reason, and was told;

“Yes, we are a primary school with small children, looking at the new staff you have cloned, I don’t want to be disrespectful but they will frighten our children”

Good grief, I explained that first off it was a joke, secondly cloning humans wasnt possible with current level of technology, and even if it had been it was doubtful if a small business would have the financial resources to do so and that she would receive normal human beings on her job.

The frightening thing is these people are in charge of educating our youngsters.

Corporate Branding Funfair Attractions

With the modern media driven society, corporate branding is more popular than ever, giant companies such as Coca Cola can be found adorning everything from a pencil to the side of a jumbo jet.

It isn’t however a modern thing, pictured below is one of the earliest corporate branding jobs we carried out, a steam wagon painted up in the colours and logo of Thorne’s Toffees of Leeds, once a premier confectionary supplier. This one was carried out in 1926 !

image of a steam wagon painted up by Thornes Toffee of Leeds
Corporate Branded Transport

Yarm Gala 2015

This years Yarm gala is on 21st June, and once again we are supplying a funfair to support the rest of the days events.

We have been supplying the gala since 2008, but Yarm gala has a much longer history than that.

The original Gala was promoted by the The Oddfellows, an influential friendly society organisation of local tradesmen and dates back to before 1884, when at one time it was attended by some 26,000 people!

The popular annual event, was held within the grounds of The Friarage on Whit-Monday and Tuesday each year. The Meynell family, who were the Lords of the Manor, owned The Friarage and the land around it and who generously allowed the use of their land every year.

Eventually it fizzled out, and was revived for a short time in the 1920’s until disappearing once again.

Eventually a new town council decided to re launch the event, and we have been involved since the new gala came into being. Yarm is always a busy town, and usually when we attend Yarm fair in October it was always one of our best events, the gala proved similarly to be quite a well attended do.

The year of the Queens jubilee it was moved to a slightly earlier time in the year, which had us worried but in the event it proved to be even more popular that year.

We shall have a selection of family friendly rides and games there again, if its the latest white knuckle experience you are after then apologies, that’s not what the original brief from the council was, it was to be strictly aimed at families.


Helping You Plan An Event

Planning a successful event is a major challenge, and can involve dealing with multiple suppliers, council departments, the police, fire brigade, press and many other organisations. Even a small company funday can involve weeks of planning and for someone not used to it, prove incredibly stressful.

Our advice is wherever possible use a professional event planner, the money they cost may well be saved by the deals they can negotiate with suppliers, and just imagine your event opening its doors, only to find the Police waiting to close it down because you haven’t applied for the relevant licence!

However, its quite possible that your planning a smaller event and feel confident you can do it, or even relish the challenge, or perhaps your company director has decided to hold a funday for the staff and given you the job, what next.

No amount of tips will ever replace the experience that a professional will bring to the table, but a little bit of research and some methodical planning can give you a fighting chance at delivering a successful event and hopefully help you avoid some of the pitfalls along the way. There are a few pages explaining the basics, then a resource page at the end with information that can be downloaded and links to more in depth resources.

Getting Started

There are 6 basic questions you need answering before you can proceed with planning these are;

  • How many people is it for
  • What will the age groups be
  • What sort of entertainment is required
  • Will catering be required
  • Where will it be held
  • Who Needs To Be Informed

How Many People Is It For

This question is the most important as it will  dictate the answers to many of  the others. The number of guests is the first thing you need to find out. There is little point booking a local pub to try and house 500 members of staff. Similarly a major exhibition centre is overkill if you have 20 members of staff coming for a little party (although many exhibition centres will have a number of smaller rooms that can be hired for smaller events).

The guest numbers will also dictate how much entertainment you need (booking a funfair ride that will carry 4 people is little use if your event lasts 2 hours and you have 500 people there). Similarly you don’t want to order a hog roast for 100 guests and expect to spread it between 500, many guests will ask for seconds so really you should be ordering more than you need, we usually try to stock up for an additional 10% or so.

What will the age group be

Any entertainment, and to a lesser extent catering, will need tailoring to the age of the guests. Booking a selection of high speed thrill rides will be great for the bulk of people, but won’t impress a gang of 5 year olds, or their mothers!

Similarly a hot young contemporary comedian might go down a storm with the 30 somethings but upset the older generation, and if your company directors come into this bracket it might not be a good idea to upset them.

We would normally work the guests into catogeries;

  • Young Kids
  • Teenagers
  • Pensioners
  • Everybody else

What Sort Of Entertainment Is Required

You are lucky nowadays, with the advent of the Internet there is an unbelievable choice of entertainment for your event. From bands to team-building to funfair’s and much more besides.

With the information you have selected, you will be able to prepare a plan of what you are going to need. Make sure there is something for everybody, any group left out is going to complain. Obviously if there is only going to be 2 children there then you can’t really justify 4 or 5 children’s entertainers (unless they happen to be the owners kids), similarly if there are only a small number of older people in the mix you may well get away with booking a risque comedian, you could always explain that it is someone the majority of the people like and explain why they might find him offensive, you might be surprised, we’ve been to many events where the liveliest group are the older generation.

Some choices such as funfair games (hey we are a funfair company so we are going to tell you about our stuff), works equally well for all ages, kids love games such as the coconut shie, whilst the grown ups will be competitive and want to beat their mates (or impress their girlfriend/boyfriend/partner).

Your entertainment choice might be dictated by the choice of venue, if you are having an indoor event then there is no point thinking about something like a ferris wheel, there are few venues that it will fit inside. Equally a crooning singer might not like the idea of working outdoors. You need to draw up your entertainment list and then review it after you have sorted the venue out.

Is Catering Required

I can think of very few events we have attended where catering hasn’t been provided, people basically need to eat and drink, and the catering can easily make or break the event. A small number of guests at an intimate party might be better served by a sit down meal, though we regularly see 4-500 sit down guests being served a 3 course dinner, for that you will probably be better using the venues caterer as the logistics involved in laying out 500 places in a tent in the middle of a field are complex, and you would need to be sure an outside caterer was up to the task.

If you are having some outdoor entertainment, then hog roast, burger van, buffet type food is probably the way to go, the guests can mix and mingle, listen to the entertainment/use the attractions and feed when they feel like it. An ice cream cart or candy floss cart or other fun food will make a nice addition and usually keep going throughout the event.

Don’t forget to take into account any special dietary requirements, such as vegetarians or someone that can only eat Halal or Kosher.

Where Will It Be Held

Again this ties in with the number of guests you have and the type of event. If its a large family funday you are going to need enough space for the rides, games and catering attractions, and just as importantly suitable access, there is no point booking a 30 acre field for a full scale funfair, if the only access road is 6ft wide (believe me we have had this happen), any reputable supplier would arrange a site visit to check access fro large vehicles, though you may either have to pay for it, or be patient so they can arrange to carry it out when they are in the area.

Indoor venues are licensed for a set number of people, so they will be able to tell you exactly how many guests you can have. A popular range of venues are football stadiums, they tend to have enough seating indoors and catering expertise for a large sit down meal, and plenty of room outside if you want a large outdoor event to go with it, racecourses are pretty similar.

If its a small intimate function, then usually a local bar or bistro would tick all the boxes for you.

But don’t be afraid to use unusual venues, we provided catering for an event in what used to be the cells of Clarkenwell prison, spooky and damp but really fun nonetheless.

Who Needs To Be Informed

At a small gathering in a local bistro, its probably a good idea to inform your guests of the event, otherwise it could be a little quiet, but there aren’t usually any statutory bodies that you are required to talk to.

Larger events depend on what you are going to be doing, alcohol usually requires a temporary event notice if you are charging for it, if it is being given away then it doesn’t fall under the retail sale of alcohol regulations so you don’t need to apply for one, if you need one remember to do it in good time, applications that are late will be refused.

A peculiarity of the act (at least we think so) is that the T.E.N. act doesn’t just cover alcohol, the full list of activities are;

  • selling alcohol
  • serving alcohol to members of a private club
  • providing entertainment (eg music, dancing or indoor sporting events, but funfairs are exempt)
  • serving hot food or drink between 11pm and 5am

So be careful, if you are having a live band or a late night event you could come under the terms of this. Normally you have to apply for a license 21 days before the event, but this has now been relaxed and you are allowed to apply for 10 Late TENS a year, these need putting in 5 days before.

A major event will also require first aid cover, and its probably a good idea to inform both the police and fire service.


Yee Haa Ride Em Cowboys

Themed Side Stalls For Hire

One of the upgrades we are making this season to our games units is to carry the theming to a new level. Pictured here are our new Wild West sidestalls and Wild West themed Photo Booth built into a full sized stagecoach.

These are available for events throughout the UK and Europe and are ideal for hoe downs and other Western themed events.