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Carnies Against Humanity

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Only once a year the fair rolls in, and with it come promises of greasy foods and rickety rides. Overall it is a wonderful experience, but who’s behind the curtain pulling strings and frying your corn dogs? You can thank no one else but the carnies.

So who are these carnies? You might be imagining the stereotype portrayed in movies and books alike: greasy hair, a slimy, toothless smile, and at least one criminal offense in their history. However, it’s likely carnival workers are misunderstood. Just like any other job they learn through experiences, and need certain skills to be the best at their profession.

I asked around the Tennessee Valley Fair, talking to booth workers, bouncy house supervisors, and even food truck employees, some of which had only been there for two days, while others had been traveling for as long as eight years.

“I’ve been working for five years now.” Kammie Sanders, a booth worker, said, “My sons travel, and my mom works here, I have my brothers here too.”She’s not the only one who has family in the fair, nearly everyone I interviewed found the job through inside sources such as friends or relatives. This is why you probably never see ‘help wanted’ ads for this occupation–you have to know someone to even hear about it.

John, a fairly new employee, explained how he was introduced to the fair, “My uncle’s done this for a while. He does it about every year. I like it so far. It’s always very interesting.”

Shockingly enough, I found that almost all of the people I spoke to actually loved working the carnival. It is a lifestyle I couldn’t imagine many enjoying, with constant travel, an overabundance of noise, and hectic crowds I assumed this was a job you’d only work if you had to.

“I do enjoy working here, and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.” Sanders said, shortly before expressing how much she liked working with people, children especially.

“I have been working here for four years and traveling. I do like it, but I also miss home, overall I do enjoy it very much.” Kayla, part of the ‘Piña Colada’ staff said, “I like seeing all the different people and seeing how everyone is in different places.”

I, admittedly, was surprised after speaking with the Tennessee Valley Fair workforce. I had been expecting some rough around the edges characters based on what everyone told me, which I know now was an extreme exaggeration. I met real people who were simply doing what they love despite the big-top labels.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Carnies Against Humanity”

  1. Mason Not Fake name Vanderboegh on September 25th, 2017 5:22 pm

    Article was amazing, love your wording and use of imagery to really paint a picture, this belongs on an actual news site!


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Carnies Against Humanity