Way of the world according to Skip
You know you live in a small town when the hottest topic around town all week is whether or not the carnival at the county fair is going to show up or not.
On Tuesday, the first day of the fair, there wasn’t a carnival in place.
Fair Board president Daryl Murray was getting a lot of calls. Heck, we were getting calls at the Register office.
Everywhere I went on Tuesday people had the same question.
“Are they coming?”
No one was sure.
Murray says he talked to the carnival owner numerous times and even the owner wasn’t sure, first saying they were not able to be here, then that they were.
Stay tuned, Daryl said Tuesday. You’ll know when we know, and we won’t know until they are actually here, he added. He called it a work in progress.
By Wednesday there were a couple of little rides and a couple of concession stands but nothing was open.
On Thursday, there were a couple more rides, even some larger ones, but again nothing was open and running until later Thursday evening.
Thursday night was my night to cover the fair for the Register. So I tracked down Skip, the carnival owner, to find out the ‘real story.’
What I got was a version of the way the world works, according to Skip.
It was a labor problem that kept him from getting to Blue Earth and setting up for the fair, he explained.
No one these days wants to work, Skip says. Especially not when they can live well without working.
Granted, carnivals are notorious for hiring people who are, shall we say, not the most reliable of employees. They have a habit of coming and going quickly.
But now, according to Skip, even those types of people, who are unemployed but still willing to work, are hard if not impossible to find.
They get unemployment, disability and welfare checks, free food, donated clothing and don’t have to do any work to get it, Skip explains. His ferris wheel operator told him that he would rather live off the government than work for a living.
Yes, Skip owns a ferris wheel. Actually he owns 14 rides. You will see only half of those show up in Blue Earth.
That, Skip says, is because he is the only one driving them here.
He spent Tuesday and Wednesday making double trips to the Twin Cities to drive the rides down to Blue Earth. He planned to make two more trips there during the night on Thursday night.
He should have two more rides in place for Friday night, he said, and maybe as many as five more in place if he gets the time to bring them here.
Then he says he needs the Fair Board’s help in finding someone to help him run them. On Thursday night, he said he was down to three actual employees himself, his 17-year-old grandson and a guy named Frank.
Everyone else working at the carnival were local folks he had hired and trained on Thursday.
Skip himself was running the Bullet ride Thursday night, because he is the only one who knows how to do it. It takes some skill, as it is much more than just an on-off switch.
As he worked the brake on the Bullet I could see he still had a bandage on his hand from the IV.
You see, Thursday afternoon Skip took a little ride in the Blue Earth ambulance to the UHD hospital. There, the doctor said he had suffered a minor heart attack.
They wanted to keep him three days. But, Skip skipped out after three hours.
He checked himself out and was back getting the carnival rides set up and running.
Skip told the doctors he would love three days off, but he had a busy three days coming up running the carnival at the fair.
I’m getting too old for this, he told me Thursday night at the Bullet. I think it is time to sell out, he added.
But, who wants to buy a carnival? And, more importantly, who wants to run one?
Well, he has two daughters who are off running their own carnivals which they own. One daughter was in Kasson Thursday night at their fair.
However, they, too, have a problem with keeping carnie workers on staff, he says.
Good help, it seems, is hard to find.
Skip has a smile on his face when he tells a young teenage girl to take her cell phone out of her pocket or it will fall out and hit someone. She screams when the ride takes off.
When she gets out of the Bullet and calls it the best ride ever, Skip has another big smile.
It’s still fun to see the kids having a good time at the fair.
Maybe that makes all the hard work and a heart attack worthwhile.