Courier & Press staff photographer
“The job isn’t all fun and games,” John Fore of Charleston, W.Va., said while manning his booth in freezing temperatures at the annual Winter Wonderland in Owensboro, Ky.
The balloons in the dart game were so cold they wouldn’t pop when they were punctured. They just slowly deflated.
Holiday tunes filled the chilly air as the 10-year veteran carnival worker and his co-workers surrounded a 7-foot-tall propane heater next to The Prize Factory to thaw out. They told stories of working with Casey’s Rides out of Utica, Ky. Named for its owner, Norman Casey, now deceased, the carnival was started in 1952. Casey’s grandson, J.D. Green, and his wife, Debra, now run the small operation.
The visitors on this Wednesday evening, New Year’s Eve, were few and far between and had been for most of the week. The carnies debated whether it was the cold temperatures, the economy or the holiday that was keeping the customers away. Most agreed the economy was the major culprit.
“There used to be good money in this,” said Al Kelley of Houston. These days they’re lucky to break even.
The carnival rides have gone up to two bucks a ticket and the games have gone from two to three bucks a try. The best buy for the customer, which is the worst deal for the carnies, is the unlimited rides wristband for $7.50.
“Kids will ride a ride over and over and over again,” Kelley said.
This was the last booking of the season for Casey’s Rides and it wouldn’t be long before the carousel (also called “the key to the midway”), Tilt-a-Whirl and Super Slide would be disassembled and stored in multiple barns in Daviess County, Ky. But before that time came, a couple of the workers decided to brave the biting winds to take a turn on the big red, white and blue slide.
“Hey,” Kelley said. “It’s something to do. Especially when there’s nobody here.”