Making crowds happy and making money are the twin goals of Carnival Time Amusements. Workers began setting up 10 rides last week at the Northwood Shopping Center, 6100 Stellhorn Road.
Rides Include a Ferris wheel and a Heart Flip ride that rotates while individual cars controlled by riders spin faster.
The Sea Wray, a swinglike ride and a Silver Streak roller coaster-like ride offer other thrills. Several kiddie rides, a variety of game concessions, and food booths round out carnival attractions.
“With COVID-19 going on we had to limit everything. So, it is smaller,” Walter Ross, a game operator said. He added, “at this time with the way things are, everybody is happy to be working.”
Carnival workers mix a dose of COVID-19 reality with a dash of optimism.
“Pretty much, all the fairs were canceled this year. With things starting to open again everyone needs a little fun,” he said.
Fort Wayne area residents seem to like the idea of a carnival in their midst, despite COVID-19.
“We came out to the carnival to have fun and have a little family get-together. It’s been a long time since we had any fun due to the pandemic,” BJ Underwood said. He brought his wife and three small children.
“The kids are going to ride everything, and we (Yasmeen and I) are going to ride the Ferris wheel,” he said.
Carnival workers were ready for several days of running rides, manning game booths and serving amusement park food.
James “Pops” LaBaron, 68, owns several game concessions.
“I have been doing this (carnivals) for 68 years. I was born and raised up in this,” he said.
He found out about a month ago they were going to set up the Fort Wayne show.
“It’s a lot better than doing nothing,” he said.
“Pops” wants only one thing for carnival visitors.
“I want them to be happy,” he said.
His adult son, also named James LaBaron and a game concession owner, is happy to be working.
“It’s great to be able to work again. Working here helps me pay my bills and feed my kids,” he said.
Many carnivals, fairs and festivals have been shut down much of the year.
“Work has been off and on due to the pandemic. We usually open in February and close in January. This year we had to close down in March due to COVID-19. We worked one week in July, and this is my first week back since then,” he said.
Besides earning a living, carnival life means freedom and guaranteed travel for some workers.
“I like the freedom. It’s fun. You’re earning money while you are having fun,” Frank Salinas, a games concessionaire said.
Salinas, 44, has been with the carnival for three years. He got his start on the carnival circuit when he approached a worker at another carnival asking if they needed help. A willingness to work and a fondness for travel landed Salinas a job he still enjoys.
“I get to bring joy to people. I love seeing joy in other people’s faces,” he said.
Today, he is looking for faces in the crowds.
“I love to make people smile. I love to make them happy. I am a showman. I love to put on a show for them,” he said.
Despite welcoming enthusiastic, fun-loving customers the carnival’s future is uncertain.
“With everything going on it’s hard for a carnival to find a place to setup. We are usually in Florida this time of year, but Florida is shut down and there is no work there right now. So, we stayed up here this year,” Ross said.
“Hopefully, by February, Florida will be open and we will be in Plant City for the Strawberry Festival,” he said.