Carrying 6-by-6-inch blocks of wood in the searing sun while setting up the Grecian Festival on Newfield Avenue, Robby Roberts wasn’t about to let the heat get him down.
Just a year into his gypsy-like odyssey as a carnival employee — “Carny” is a fightin’ word except amongst and between the brother and sisterhood — the happily driven Long Island native was for the first time on his own erecting the 65-foot Landslide ride on the property of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.
With sweat coming off his brow, Roberts, 33, remembered the carnival saying when things looked tough.
“Rain, sleet, hail, snow we still have to set up the Dreamland show,” he said with a smile.
The day before, Roberts with 22 other Dreamland Amusement employees had just made the “jump” from a carnival on Patchouge, Long Island that ended at 5 p.m. on Monday, Memorial Day.
After bringing their semitrailers hauling 14 rides along with seven or eight fifth-wheel camping trailers to the Newfield Avenue church, they rested on Tuesday, said Bob DeStefano, who technically is the Dreamland consultant, but everybody knows him as boss.
DeStefano, between rides to the hardware or auto parts store for needed maintenance items, had just two days to get the show up for its Thursday 5 p.m. opening.
DeStefano, 49, another Long Island native, did not seem too worried on that Wednesday morning about his rapidly closing deadline, which he has faced over the past 20 years.
From New Hampshire to North Carolina, he puts on about 45 shows a year from late March through October, he said.
He says living on the road is fine. The travel trailers have electricity, water and kitchens.
“When we get out of bed, we are already at our workplace,” he said.
Making their life place to place with each other is fine with him.
“The world should be more like a carnival. If you work, you fit in. It doesn’t matter what your sexual preference is, race, color or creed. Everybody who joins the carnival and works becomes like family,” he said.
All around the parking lot, men were moving equipment, setting up the rides like the Gondola Wheel, car ride, Space Saucer and kiddie swing. All were sweating.
DeStefano said Roberts was the cheerleader of the group and if there were 22 more of him he would sleep better at night.
Up on the top of the hill next to the church and Newfield Avenue, Roberts was just about finished putting the wooden blocks under the jacks holding his gargantuan ride steady for the shrieking kids who would be taking their big slide down the tallest ride of the show.
As he talked about being able to make $20 per day “draws” from their upcoming Wednesday night paycheck on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, he played the Landslide like a violin.
A lot of people, he said, want to work a carnival when it’s all set up and the lights are flashing and people are having fun. It is glitzy, even glamorous, he said.
“But when it comes to the tear down, we lose a lot of people,” he said.
Reaching up beyond where a man of his 5-foot, 4-inch frame ought to, Roberts pushed the green button igniting the hydraulic motor, and the Landslide began to rise.
After running around the ride installing pins and locking the tower into place, he looked up and smiled.
“That is the first time I have ever done that, baby,” he yelled to a few of the crew assembled around the rig.