Introducing a new feature that explores what life is like traveling with the carnival. For some, it is a great thrill of the open road, the opportunity to see the sights and meet interesting people along the way that makes the journey worth it. By no means is it any sort of dream world filled with glitz and glamour; you are tired and dirty and hard worked pretty much every day. While I can only speak for myself, what makes doing this worth the effort is having the ability to interact with the public; seeing the expressions on their faces make it easy to forget there is anything else happening as you relish the moment and bow for thunderous applause. For me there is no better job in the world than being myself and making money from it, though that is just an added bonus to the priceless experiences that come with my lifestyle. This is just a small slice of what is is like to be an American Carny, though I hope others finder it interesting or at the very least somewhat entertaining.
GREAT AMERICAN CIRCUS SIDESHOW TOUR
In 2005, I had the opportunity to travel with one of the last remaining 10-in-1 sideshows in America. The owners had toured carnival circuits for about 15 years with a menagerie that carried a full banner line and canvas tent. For those not familiar with circus slang would know this as a ‘petting zoo’, and I might as well mention that I will be using many terms throughout this series which might have the reader feeling puzzled. Will try my best to explain them so that everyone can follow along the story, but there will likely be times I am in the moment and the language just comes out because that’s what I am used to and do not always think to offer a definition. Anyway, eventually they decided to start offering a 10-in-1 sideshow [one where you can see ten acts for a single admission] though at times had considered sticking with the menagerie for various reasons.
The articles that will be posted in this that follows was written during the several months I was a part of the Great American Circus Sideshow, slightly edited for content and grammar, as well as changing names to keep those mentioned slightly anonymous.
July 21, 2005 – Heading West
Packing is a strange thing. You have to find room for everything you want to take while making sure you will be able to remember where it is later on. Well, I managed to fit all of my clothes in two suitcases, utilizing the smallest one for my shoes. That’s right,I have an entire piece of luggage filled with shoes, for working, performing and casual wear. Also had enough space for all of those small and yet very important items. No matter what, you are always thinking of something else you need, because the last thing you want is to be far from home and realize that you forgot something. You can buy stuff on the road of course, but it is better to have something so you do not have to spend money and never know when the opportunity to go shopping will arise.
When organizing the luggage is all said and done, it is time to put it in the car. Packing a car is a fine art, tell you what. Though it can be a long process to ensure that everything fills space yet isn’t cramping the passengers or blocking the driver’s view, but when done right there is is definitely a feeling of satisfaction that comes with completion. Needless to say I managed just fine between my stuff and my partner’s; he convinced me there is no reason for both of us to drive and since his mom was kind enough to give me her kind, I will be on driving duty during the tour.Received well wishes before departing, then stopped to pick up a few provisions and gas before I hit the highway. There were many thoughts driving through my head as we left New Jersey and headed into the depths of Pennsyltucky. The main one focused on the conversation I had with Jon prior to leaving and knowing that he was on his way across the country to California. While I am not sure exactly why he feels the need to make such a trek, I know that it is just one of those things he has to do. It would have been nice to see him before departing but there was so much to do between packing and making sure the car would run well that there was just no time. Now I have too much of that as I sit here in the spook house, awake early in the morning on a carnival lot.
The drive was long and I knew this before I even got behind the wheel because I looked up the route on-line. There was not much scenery along the way aside from farms and lots woods, though that is better than nothing and at least offers a few ways to kill boredom or awkward silences Two stops were made to get out and stretch the legs, as well as to put some food in the stomach. When I finally reached the town where the fairgrounds were located, that was when things went very wrong.
Wound up driving around Bedford in circles trying to find at least a sign, as being in foreign territory late at night does not exactly make for a clear view of the landscape. Somehow I managed to discover the fairground entrance and boy was I glad to finally arrive, eager to meet everyone and get some sleep. Could tell that my boss, his wife, son and the son’s girlfriend were good people right from the introductions, though the son said he only shook people’s hands when they earned it and I really respect that. Everyone stood around to bullshit for a while and I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to listen to some funny stories about being on the road. When someone has in this business for such a long time, there is an endless vault of information and a willingness to share it with those who can appreciate it. By the way, these people are totally not the kind of Carnies one often hears about, so I am wondering where the bad reputation and negative stereotype comes from.
Certainly could have listened to them talk all night, however the need for rest was too much and they wanted to put us right to work in the morning so it was bed time. Spent the night sleeping on a mattress in the back of the spook house, as the other quarters have not been cleared out yet. It was not bad at all, just higher off the ground than what I am used to. It was really quite save for the noises of Nature, but I slept just fine and might as well go wash up since I have to walk down a hill to the bathroom and want to get that all done before going to work. For my first time being on a carnival lot, at the moment it’s not so bad.