'We have to figure out a way to adapt:' Amusement industry waits for guidelines, prepares safety measures

COLTON (KABC) -- For the people who stage rides for carnivals and county fairs, the pandemic has delivered a jolt that has the industry screaming for help.

"For me the message is really clear and really simple. We can't stop working. We can't wait for a vaccine. We have to figure out a way to adapt and change what we do," says Davey Helm, CEO of Helm and Sons Amusements.

Helm heads the largest amusement business on the west coast from its headquarters in Colton.

In a top to bottom inspection of procedures, Helm says the company can welcome back crowds outdoors with masks, distancing and disinfecting.

Still the industry waits on the state to define guidelines for re-opening.

Helm is reconfiguring his overhead and labor supply in order to survive and is depending on new ventures for income.

A giant trailer that was used to haul rides to the fair is now in the moving business. His drivers are hauling video games and pinball machines.

In a cavernous ware house, a hundred workers had worked on maintaining ride machinery. Now four people are refurbishing semi-trucks and equipment for other companies.

"I am going to keep plugging away until I get every one of my employees a fulltime job. That is my goal," says Helm.

He's had to sell off some equipment and he staged a drive-through event at Angel Stadium at a loss. The objective to remind people of the fun that could be around the corner, especially for lower income families.

"Not everybody can afford to go to Disneyland. Not everybody can afford to go to a lot of these high end parks that are very expensive," says Helm.

His outlook for survival ranges from one month to one year, as he looks to the public and to regulators for support.

"We just want a chance to do business," says Helm.
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