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Dedicated to strengthening relationships with the Fair, Festival and Special Events Industries through effective communication, education, benefits, leadership, and solutions.

By Olivia Orme

The National Independent Concessionaires Association was only a vague idea when Larry Orme and Gene O'Brien got together at the South Florida Fair in West Palm Beach, Florida in January 1993. The two men with 79 years of concession experience between them knew the many problems facing the industry. Yet, Gene and Larry, using all their resourcefulness and knowledge, had been unable to resolve the financial and regulatory problems facing their businesses. They also knew the independent, self-reliant nature of concessionaires as a group. The two men wondered if the time might be right to attempt to organize these bright, yet autonomous, businessmen.

Were there enough problems and common concerns to bring them together?

Larry Orme offered to find out by placing an ad in the Amusement Business magazine announcing a meeting to be held in Tampa, Florida on February 10, 1993 with the express purpose of forming a concessionaires association.

Gene O'Brien arranged for the meeting place at the Florida State Fairgrounds and for the printed materials for the meeting.

In the two-week period that Larry and Gene were at the South Florida Fair the beginnings of a board of directors was formed. Because most of the real lasting hopes for the new organization were based on the future, Larry Orme selected a young and innovative concessionaire in the person of Richard Wright. Gene O'Brien and Larry jointly sought out Larry Sivori to add his youth and enthusiasm to the board.

When the Florida State Fair began in February, Gene O'Brien added Kevin McGrath and his keen mind to the now five-member board. During the next seven days of endless meetings, discussions and arguments, the board began to form a collective mind regarding many issues. During one of these sessions the five directors agreed to ask Art Pokorny to serve due to his knowledge of fair management. The board also agreed to add one more director making seven in order to prevent possible voting ties. They felt the person selected should be from an area (of the country) not already represented on the board. They would make that decision later.

NICA's initial membership drive was so successful (as shown by the fast growing numbers) due to the hard work and dedication of its membership committee headed by Shelly Patinella, Lou Pacifico and Tony Pacifico. This was the first committee formed. Their contribution was as significant as was that of the board.

The big day came and what a turn out we had for our first meeting! More than 200 people attended from all over the country. One hundred and twenty-five of these signed as members, a clear indication of the need for this organization. Those attending the meeting had the opportunity to express their concerns by completing survey forms. The results revealed a broad spectrum of issues. However, the most frequently voiced concerns were: insurance, deposits, rents, percentages, bookings, appropriately priced services, long term contracts, assignable contracts, D.O.T. regulations, and some method to ensure balanced opportunity for concessions.

Now we were ready to represent independent concessionaires. Our number had grown to 160 by the time NICA board members participated in the Florida Federation of Fairs Annual Meeting in May 1993. THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME ANYONE REPRESENTING AN INDEPENDENT CONCESSIONAIRE HAD SPOKEN ON HIS BEHALF! NICA began immediately to make plans to take an active part in the IAFE Convention in Las Vegas in November.

In June, Bill McKinney of Hughes Springs, Texas became our seventh director. Bill brought to the board many years of experience and representation for our mid-western members.

By August of 1993 plans were well under way for our first NICA Convention to be held in Tampa, Florida.

NICA had 360 members by November when a nervous, anxious NICA board of directors met in Las Vegas for its first IAFE Convention. This group of seven had been meeting by teleconference monthly since April but several had not met in person.

NICA's success from the beginning has been, in part, due to a happy circumstance not foreseen at the time of formation. The NICA board had a remarkable resource in the talented wives of its members. What a staff they became writing, typing, and organizing all the many policies, minutes, and agendas to name just a few of the jobs they carried out.

When NICA left Las Vegas in 1993 they were finally a true organization ready to speak for its membership.

The history of NICA was written by Olivia Orme in February 1998. Today NICA is an organization with over 1000 members across the United States and Canada. NICA services independent businesses that work in the mobile event industry. Our general membership includes food concessionaires, retail/commercial sales, game operators and independent entertainers and attractions. Our associate membership includes fairs, festivals and suppliers.

If you are not a member we invite you to join this organization of hard working individuals who care about our industry because as our slogan says:


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