ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – If you’re heading to the New Mexico State Fair, chances are, you’ll also go on a ride or two and see the Reithoffer Shows logo. What you won’t see is the history behind it. Richard Reithoffer comes from a long line of businessmen.
“I’m the fifth generation in my family, along with my brother and some cousins, to go into the business,” said Reithoffer. “The company started in 1896 when my great-great grandfather bought a steam-driven carousel that you had to shovel coal into, as a side business. They were from Duryea, Pennsylvania, where they owned a little general/confectionary store. They bought the carousel so they could make money in the summertime.”
He says the business blossomed from there. It was the perfect summertime job for family members.
“Then, several generations of my family were school teachers, so they would teach school in the wintertime and do the carnival in the summer,” said Reithoffer. “My grandfather went and fought in World War II as a B24 bomber pilot and when he came back from the war, he really started building the company and expanding it into the larger carnival it is today.”
His passion started early. Family members tell him he made quite the impression during his kindergarten graduation.
“People were getting up and, ‘I want to be a fireman,’ or, ‘I want to be a doctor,’ this or that, and I got up in front of the audience and said, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a carny,’ and they said the whole place broke out laughing,” recalled Reithoffer.
The preferred term is ‘showman’ now, and Reithoffer says he’s proud to continue the family business. Though Reithoffer shows is based in Florida, he travels all over the country for fairs and carnivals, but the yearly visits to New Mexico for the state fair hold a special place in his family.
“My wife had always wanted to do a hot air balloon ride, so when we came out in 2015, I took her on a hot air balloon ride and that’s how I proposed,” said Reithoffer, who says this year’s trip now honors their next big adventure. “We’re expecting our first child in about seven weeks, so we just took maternity photos up there with the mountain in the backdrop, so it’s a special place for us.”
While you won’t ride a steam-driven carousel at the New Mexico State Fair, Reithoffer shows says they’re still putting on the safe and fun events they’ve been doing to for the past 123 years and plan to continue for generations to come. There’s still time to check out the State Fair. Events wrap up on Sunday.
***Photos used in story were obtained from the Duryea, Penn. Historical Homepage, with permission by the Reithoffer family.