Carnivals have always brought a sense of wonder and adventure to me. I marvel at the dazzling lights and flashing colours. What had once been an empty parking lot would come alive with imaginative themes. The very air would become saturated with a whimsical mood. People came to carnivals to forget. To rattle their brains of thought and spin their worries away.
It’s been this way for decades according to popular culture. Magic and mystery travel hand-in-hand with the carnival in our imaginations.
As always overnight it seemed as though the rides had risen from the dust.
And, like being there at exactly the moment the wheels of a pivot begin to turn or watching a spider complete its a web, I managed to appear at the carnival’s doorstep right as it began to build its fantastic façade.
The most amazing thing was the fact that as darkness descended these trailers would become a beacon in the night.
Here are the mechanics behind the dream. Meet some of the people laboring in the background to maintain the brilliant towers in the night.
As he carefully clipped a series of tracks together and meticulously checked each to make sure they were level Buzz Kimble told me some of his story.
Buzz is a veteran at the unit travelling through my town from West Coast Amusement Inc. He said he’s been travelling with the company for about 30 years. During off season he stays at a senior home.
He enjoys operating the rides for small children best.
“The kids are more fun than the teenagers.”
He remembers when putting kids on ponies was considered a carnival ride.
His wife Mikey travels with him but is becoming tired of the lifestyle.
“I’m 60 so yeah, I’m done,” she said.
She also said she’s seen kids running away from home to join the carnival.
“We give them the family they need,” she said. “It’s a tough life, but that’s where the elders come in.”
Most people who start young at a carnival stay for life, she told me.
Delia McLaren, the woman with the Canadian flag helmet, was helping Buzz build a ride called Hog Wild that day.
One month before my visit she had quit her job as a manager and run away with the carnival after her 15-year-old daughter convinced her to go.
“I wasn’t happy,” she said. “Now I haven’t had a frown on my face yet.”
She travels with her 15-year-old who she reports is very happy as well.
I continued to introduce myself and speak to the carnival workers. Between snatches of conversation I watched a village emerged from the trailers.
Later that very night there would be a boom in the population of the temporary village.
Trevor Dwyer a Jamaican in his fourth season with the Canadian carnival was helping build the Bumper Cars ride.
He said it’s hard at first but gets easier. Each year he has chosen to come up and work with the carnival before escaping again to Jamaica for the winter. Even in the heat of June under a full sky of sunshine he was telling me it was cold.
Carnival season runs from March to October.
There is lessons to be learned, he said. People learn tolerance, determination, patience and general knowledge in this job.
“If you don’t know how to use a screwdriver then you come out knowing every tool.”
At his side stood Phillip Jackson a Jamaican man in his first season with the carnival.
“I wanted adventure,” he said. “This is a good way to travel around western Canada.”
“The first time I saw the Bumper Cars ride I was like, whoa I’m a kid again.”
I didn’t get to see the Bumper Cars ride as it was constructed so I was amazing to see how it was dismantled and packed away.
Ryan Bourne, Oshane Palmer, Dwayne Davies and Kenroy Evans were a hearty group working on the ride called the Wacky Worm. As they polished and set pieces in place they were full of jokes and compliments for the curious girl leaning over the fence for a better shot.
Scribbling along in my notepad I could feel my face turning red. As difficult as the work was for this ride with its extended reach these guys were loving it and at ease enough to tease me.
With teamwork we make things possible,” said Kenroy Evans the second quietest in the group but a flamboyant character at heart.
Ryan Bourne likes working with fellow Jamaicans.
“We understand each other,” he said shyly hanging slightly back from the fence.
Evans and Bourne are in their first season. They told me they really enjoy exploring Canada when they can around the job.
I like to ramble and I love taking way too many photos this will have…
**************************To Be Continued************************************
Meet more individuals working behind the scenes of a carnival and see more photos in my next post!