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Updated 30.10.00


My real name is Lauri Vartiainen, but my friends and enemies call me Lawrie. I was born in 1965 in a little town called Lievestuori, in central Finland. My first carnival experience took place nearby in Jyvaskyla city, when I was five years old. My first ride was on a Chair-O-Plane on this very same fair.

My first amusement park trip happened in 1972, when my family visited Linnanmaki amusement park, in Helsinki. My favourite attraction was a funhouse, which is still in the park. I was too scared to ride the Ferris Wheel since my brother had told me horror stories about collapsing wheels. That park trip was an unforgettable experience, and I guess I got the incurable amusement park bug on that day.

My next visit to Linnanmaki took place in 1975. I was already a big boy then, so I remember riding more rides, like roller coaster, Hurricane and Enterprise. The Enterprise was a fleftening experience, since I didn't know anything about the centrifugal forces and I thought that I would be thrown away from the car. It took 15 years until I finally tried it again. It turned out to be one of my favourite rides, and when the ride operated in Linnanmaki for the last time, I was the very last customer ever to rode it!


Your most humble servant

For some strange reason I started photographing the parks and collecting information of them in the early nineties. I got intrigued by who manufacturers the rides, how much do they cost, who owns the parks and so on. One day I just took a pen and some paper, went to an amusement park, and started to note things down. I interviewed all the carnival operators who toured southern Finland. I also started to buy litterature on the amusement park field.

As a part time job I have my own little company that designs electronics and sells tin signs. We opened a website in May 1998. Since my company owned a domain, there was no stopping me hosting my own amusement park website. I still don't believe how many friends I have found through the net. Lots of people have send me encouraging feedback, information, or even pictures.

I also got great feedback from the Finnish showmen, since most of the carnivals in Finland did not have their own websites. I even got an opportunity to host the official site of one Finnish carnival operator. What could be better than getting paid for your hobby?

My own Funfair


My own funfair

This is my very own funfair, including the bouncy castle, a tent for the games and a Toyota Hiace Van. My goal is to buy one more children's ride per each season.

I have always wanted to own an amusement park ride. In summer of 1998 I was once again photographing a funfair and chat with the staff. I talked with a guy who was operating the kiddie rides. It turned out that we shared the same dream. He wanted to open his own travelling funfair too. We soon realised that it would be a good idea to join forces. He would operate the fair, I would take care of the business side. At first we calculated that we needed at least £50.000 for the rides and vehicles. There was no way to get that amount of money so we figured out some alternative plans. Each new plan was more realistic than the others, and we finally decided to opt for the smaller fairs, open air markets and fetes with just one ride (a bouncy castle) and a games stall. I would buy the castle and acquire the prizes, my partner would build the games and supply the van.

The wheels started to roll in january, 1999. Our budget was no more than £6000. I contacted a wholesale dealer in Sweden called Ring*Bingo, who sold carnival prizes. I got their catalog, selected the prizes and finally placed an order for some soft toys. It was unbelievable, how inexpensive these prizes were. You pay less than one pound for the same toy that costs at least 4 pounds in the shops. Toyshops are making huge profits. After two weeks a cargo truck backed up to the backyard of my work place and unpacked a huge pile of boxes full of stuffed animals. This was the point of no return. I thought that if our funfair failed, at least I would have birthday and christmas presents for my folks for the next 100 years.

some of our prizes

Some of our prizes

The best prizes we had were jumbo size animals. Only a few customers won these, but their faces were worth seeing when the prize was given.

After the toys it was a time to order the bouncy castle. I was a subscriber of the newspaper for the UK showmen, The World's Fair. The paper has an excellent classified section, so I just selected some companies and asked for their catalogs and inquired the prices. The maximum size for my castle was 4 x 4 metres, since that is the standard open-air-market site in Finland. A bigger castle would had meant more fees for the site. Finally I selected a model from the company called Funtime Leisure, and placed another order. The castle cost £1400 including the tranportation from UK to Finland. The truck came after four weeks, and unloaded the castle. My lifelong dream was finally realised even though it was not actually a ride. It felt fantastic to inflate it for the first time and let the kids from the neighbourhood to test it.

Meanwhile my partner was not waisting time and built some games from the stratch. These included a fortune wheel, a ball toss game and a coin flip game. In the spring everything was ready for our first "fair" that took place in the open air market. We had booked this a month earlier. In the open air market you pay a fixed amount of money for each market site that you occupy. In our case it meant that we had to have at least 30 customers to break even for each stall. Our games and tickets for the bouncy castle cost 10 Finnish marks, which is slightly more than one UK pound.

A week before the season's opening my partner phoned me and broke the bad news. He was not able to get the van after all. I started immediately hunt the suitable van with a price tag as low as possible. Three days later I bought a 1985 Toyota Hiace. It was a rotten wreck, but at least the engine and the gearbox worked fine. Even more bad news followed. I had to buy the tent for the games too. Since I also had lend money to build the games, I practically paid all the expenses of our enterprise. I was broke.


Our first games

A fortune wheel, a ball toss game and a coin flip game were the first games in our funfair.

Our first fair was on April. The night before the opening we built up the whole funfair for the first time ever. Unfortunately the following day was cold and rainy. There was no point to set up the bouncy castle, so we just kept the games open. Nevertheless, we got more than 100 customers and broke even. That was not a bad way to start my funfair career after all. More good news followed. Three weeks later we doubled our incomes, and it was not even summer yet. Things were looking really good and we already started planning how to spend our huge profits. Little did we know that this was the most profitable fair of the whole season.

bouncy castle

Bouncy castle packed up

The castle requires a very small space when packed up.

May was totally a silent month. No customers. Things got little better when the holiday season started. However, we never got enough customers to make any good business during the whole summer. We tried to improve and bought some new games but nothing helped. Sometimes we even made losses, and my partner started to call the whole thing off.

So, what happened? We got 5000 customers during the season, 1500 of them for the bouncy castle. We managed to make a small operational profit, but not much really. The high travelling expenses and the site fees ate all our profits. The wins of the games were not a problem. About 25% of the players won prizes which is a good ratio in my opinion. You got to let the players win in order to have repeat customers. Basically we made just one mistake: Our travelling was poorly planned. We should had made tours instead of the random gigs to minimize the travelling costs. Furthermore, I believe that our games were not appealing enough from the customer's point of view. We also should had have one proper ride to increase our business.

Well, it was just a hobby. I had fun, we did not lose money and I learned a lot of the amusement business. Next season I'm on my own but I already know how to make things better. My next goal is to purchase one more kiddie ride. If anybody knows a small train ride or a very small toyset carousel for sale for the reasonable price, please send me mail!

Season 2000


Season 1999 was not very profitable but I decided not to give up. First, I bought a new ride: An electric car. It's not very big as you can see from the image, but it was a real bargain, 100 pounds only. Actually I'm just testing the idea. I'm going to buy a much larger electric car if this "ride" catches on.

Second, our games and stands needed some attention. I got a great help from my old work mate who is a talented carpenter. We rebuilt all the games and the stands from the scratch. It gives a whole new appearance for the funfair.

new games

New games tent

The tent is the same, but everything else has been rebuilt. On left there is a fortune wheel and on left our new darts game.

electric car

Electric car

No major rides this season, but at least we got something. This tiny electric car is intended for the small children, up to 7 years. The trouble is, that small kids do not realize to press the gas pedal. We placed a rewinding power cord from the old vacuum cleaner under the car and a push-button switch at the end of the cord, connected in parallel with the pedal. The parents can walk along the children and accelerate the car.

The first fair of the season took place on sunday, on April the 31'st. The weather was fine and our new games tent sure looked good. We got 150 customers and made a good profit. Some kids even drove our electric car and the parent-extension-cord-idea worked perfectly. The best news was, that one fellow booked our bouncy castle for the party he will have in August.

Two days later I suddenly received a phonecall: A school for the handicapped children wanted to rent our castle too. How could I refuse, so I dropped my castle there yesterday morning and got it back afternoon. Just five minutes ago, when I was writing this very same text that you are now reading, I received another phonecall: Once again someone wants to rent our bouncy castle. She heard of us from our previous customer. It seems that the business is going fine at the moment. It's time to contact Intamin and order a gigantic portable roller coaster!


Season 2000 ended too soon. I was too busy at my work, too busy with my own company and too busy upkeeping these pages so I had time to attend just a handful of fairs. The good news was that the season was profitable. I made good business renting out my bouncy castle. However, the last rent-a-castle assignment was a real nightmare. One household estate was having a party on their parking lot. I was supposed to drop the castle, just inflate it and collect it back a few hours later. The trouble was that there were almost 100 kids around and they all wanted to go into the castle at the same time. I should had had a machine gun to control this crowd, but I did not even have a damn fence to block the rush and create a queuing system. I had to stay and watch the kids all the time, otherwise my castle would had been in bits and pieces when I collected it.

Electric motor-bike

Electric motor-bike

Yet another "major" ride purchase this season! This motor-bike contains much more powerful electric motor than the electric car and much older children can ride it. Unfortunately the season eneded before we could tested the popularity of this ride.

That's the season 2000 wrapped up. We desperately need a proper carousel for the next season. I haven't found any for the reasonable price, so I guess that we have to build it by ourselves from the scratch. I shall report this project too if it will be realized.

The hunt for the hidden treasure

jolly roger

The treasure chest and the jolly roger

I filled the treasure chest with the stuffed animals and the chocolate coins.

My father turned 60 years in autumn 1999. We have a big family so there were lots of relatives coming for the celebration. Some of them had kids, so I decided to take my bouncy castle along and some toy animals from the huge pile that I still had. My plan was to organise some entertainment for the kids and turn a boring family reunion into live action. I figured out that kids might love an old fashioned treasure hunt. Some carefull planning was needed the week before the celebration.

treasure in our backyard

Treasure in our backyard

I beried the treasure in our backyard. I dug a hole on the ground and covered the chest by sand.

There is a lake close to my parent's house. The plot was as follows: A bottle will float on shore containing the pirates' map of the treasure. For some strange reason the treasure was hidden on our backyard. The kids would search the location (marked by a flag and a rubber-skull), dig the chest up and found the treasure. Sounds like a plot from the one-penny movie, but they swallowed it completely!

the beach

On the beach

Treasure hunters have just noticed a bottle in the water containing the map of the hidden treasure.

Digging up the treasure

Digging up the treasure

I think that we have found something...

The treasure is uncovered

The treasure is uncovered

There it is...

Dicision of the spoils

Division of the spoils

The loot is being divided after the succesful hunt. The treasure was beried behing the shack in the background.

Bounce castle

My dad in the bounce castle

In case you are wondering, no, I'm not a Liverpool fan like my dad. I support Enfield who plays in the Isthmian league. My brother supports Arsenal, so occasionally our reunions turn into verbal bloodbaths.

My other hobbies include

coin games

Coin-operated games...

I have been into coin-op games as long as into amusement parks. I got pinball machines, jukeboxes, fruit machines, allwins, soda automats, gumball machines, pachinkos, etc. I love anything that works with the coins, but old mechanical games are my favourites. Most of the games are stored in my workplace. I'm sure our customers will remember our negotiation room!

In this picture you'll find gumball machines and parking meters on the shelf. There is an allwin, a reaction tester, a Japanise pachinko game, and a jukebox on the floor. Click here, if you would like to see more of my games.



This is the prototype jukebox that my company is building. Our friend, a talented designer, has built the frame. I have designed the control electronics inside. It contains a carousel for 100 CD's. I hope that we can sell some of these babies one day. My ultimate dream is to make a living out of jukeboxes and funfairs.



Specially the cheerleaders. I enjoy watching the cheerleader competitions. You don't know what you are missing if you don't visit these happenings. There may be literally hundreds of stunning looking girls in mini skirts performing just for you...


Exploring the abandoned places... this old deserted railway tunnel. It's 1200 metres long, and I walked through it alone with a flashlight that went off from time to time.



I'm a lousy player, but I have written some decent tunes. It would be nice to record them one day if time permits.



No more room for videos. It's time to buy a DVD player.

Drive-In theatres

Drive-In theatres

These are genuine speakers from the Drive-In theatre located in the States. My yet another project is to build a miniature Drive-In theatre with portable equipment and show 16mm movies on cruising nights. I still need to find a suitable B/W Sci-fi movie to show.