MEDINA — Life is looking good this year say the roustabouts of Bates Amusement who are setting up the Medina County Fair rides.
“This season is going much better than last season,” Dan “Red” Sexton said with a toothless smile.
The 35-person crew arrives one week before the fair starts each year to set up the carnival rides on the north side of the fairgrounds.
The crew assembles the rides that will flip, spin and drop fairgoers Monday through Aug. 3.
Red said this year’s crew is working better as team than last year.
“We are still one big family,” he said.
The Medina County Fair is the eighth stop of the year out of a six-month season. It takes the crew four days to construct the carnival, but crew leader Jeffrey “G.I.” Harmon said his crew can do it in a fraction of the time.
“We can have the entire show set up in as little as five hours,” he said.
“Yeah, but if we have a week to do it, we’ll take our time and mess around,” Red added.
G.I. said setting up the show for the Medina County Fair is always a welcome break in the crew’s busy season, where tearing down in one city and having to set up in another in less than 24 hours is common.
Those are the stressful days.
But by Thursday morning, the crew was putting the finishing touches on the carnival and spirits were high.
Red, who said he was in his 40s, crawled underneath “The Scrambler” and snapped on the yellow and blue apron while other younger workers stood around sipping pop and smoking cigarettes.
“Sure, let’s have the old guy do the young man’s work!” he said.
Red said he enjoys working hard to bring joy to faces of smiling children all over Ohio. He has been in the carnival business for 29 years.
But for others, like a man who goes by “Kentucky,” the season marks their first as a traveling carnival worker.
Kentucky worked alone Thursday, away from the rest of the crew. He worked intently, first polishing a ride’s art with WD-40 and then replacing broken light bulbs on the Merry-Go-Round.
When asked about his new life as a traveling circus hand, he said: “I love it. I could see myself doing it for a long time.”
With the lunch break approaching, the men gathered around — cigarettes hanging out the mouths of some and chewing tobacco wadded and set in the bottom lip of others — and talked about their mutual love of a hard day’s work.
“One time the owner’s (of Bate’s Amusements) 8-year-old son came up to me at a carnival,” Red remembered. “He said, “Do you like your job? Well, I suggest you do it well!”
Contact reporter Andrew Davis at (330) 721-4050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.