Carnival workers talk about life on the road

NEW HAVEN — Most people go to the Addison County Fair and Field Days to relax and to enjoy the livestock, the fried fair food and — last, but certainly not least — the carnival rides. Amidst all the sounds, smells and sights that come with the fair, it’s easy to overlook the workers along the midway who keep these enormous machines running for our entertainment.
These men and women come from all parts of the country, and get to see a large part of this country while working the summer season.
They come from humble backgrounds, more often than not. Speaking with them is a reminder of how rough the job market can be in the United States.
That’s certainly true for Phillip Marquis of Newmarket, N.H. For him, the fair circuit is an important source of income.
“I was homeless for a while,” Marquis told a visitor during a break from operating the Tilt-a-Whirl last week. “I heard about one show that I had a relative on. I worked there for a while. Then I went home for a while and ended up on this show.”
Larry Joe Plants, who operated a mini basketball prize gallery at Field Days, is hearing impaired and cannot speak. This didn’t stop him from doing an interview — he immediately whipped out a little notepad and wrote down his answers with a big smile on his face.
“This is my first time in Vermont,” Plants wrote. “I seen a very nice farm countryside. I really love to work.”
He opened his wallet and excitedly pointed to his ID, which read, “CALIFORNIA.”
Like Plants, Joshua Green of Englewood, Fla., also enjoys the nomadic aspect of the fair circuit.
“(My favorite part of the job is) traveling, for sure,” Green said. “You meet all walks of life out here and experience all sorts of things and places. That’s part of the adventure of it. That’s the part I love. The unknown. Anything could happen.”
Mike Roche, who comes from the Bronx, a borough of New York City, was working at Field Days for the third time.
“Field Days is not bad. I’m comfortable with it,” Roche said.
Like most of his fellow ride operators, Roche works at the fair through a combination of happenstance and the need to find a job.
“They happened to come to the town where I stay and they needed a bunch of help,” he said. “I signed on and met them at the next spot and they kept me.”
Phillip Sola of the New York borough of Staten Island started working at fairs when he was 17 years old. He’s been on this circuit since 2006.
While Sola was soft-spoken and a bit shy with a reporter last week, it was clear that he enjoyed this line of work because of how happy the “Zipper” makes the kids who ride it.

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