Fred The Showman

Fred Hall Shows  5Fred Hall Shows 1

Photos courtesy of Bart Hall

Fred Hall was an iconic showman whose Southern California outdoors shows that have gone on since just after World War II continue to draw thousands of visitors. Fred’s son Bart now produces two March Fred Hall Shows in Long Beach and San Diego. Bart wrote a great and fun retrospective on his dad’s vision for exhibits and a few of the zany promotions he’s cooked up over the years. Reading Bart’s story reminded me of Bill Veeck, the longtime baseball owner and pioneer who once ordered a midget, Eddie Gaedel, to pinch-hit in a game for the St. Louis Browns. And who could forget Veeck’s “Disco Demolition Night” at Chicago’s Comiskey Park?

Here’s some of Bart’s story, which you can read in its entirety by picking up a December issue of California Sportsman:

My father never missed an opportunity to promote his events. One year it rained so hard that the underpass in front of the Great Western Exhibit Center got filled with water and several cars were stuck under water. Local TV was now a big deal, so my dad got a rowboat and put it in the water of the underpass, went over each car and put a flag on each submerged vehicle. That was free live TV. The next year he had a female skydiver land in the parking lot of the show and step out of her harness and jumpsuit wearing only a bikini.

One of the things my father taught me is that it is very important to advertise properly. It is also very important to provide interesting new things each year so the local media will want to cover the event with live TV and radio and newspapers. One of the hardest things about the shows is making them “new and fresh” each year. We are now in our 68th year of show production and are still thinking the same way.

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