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What’s it Like to Work at The Fair?

Fair Entrance

Kids, I know that for many of us who grew up in the Sedalia area, working at the Missouri State Fair was almost a given. 

It was one of the jobs you could do easily at a young age.  Most everybody I knew who didn’t have a summer job at least worked the ten days at the fair.   It’s almost like a Sedalia rite of passage.  The Majority  of the young kids ended up working in Parking, where you’d have to stand in a certain place and direct people where to go.  I heard once, probably jokingly, from one of my supervisors that they put as many kids as they can in parking because “they run from the cars faster.”

Some people went to work in the various concession stands or restaurants, and some worked in Admissions.  Occasionally you’d see someone working janitorial or in one of the buildings, but overall most people were on the side of Parking vs. Admissions.  I worked at the fair every year from when I was 15 to the age of about 22, and most of the time I was on the Admissions side.

My first year I worked as a gate minder, on gate 6A.  This was a special gate, because it was an exit only gate.  The added stigma of this one was that it was right next to the carnival.  So there were plenty, and I mean plenty of carnival workers who wanted to go into the easier gate, 6A, as opposed to the entrance gate, gate 6.  So it was my job, at the tender age of 15, all of 5’2″ inches tall, to tell these big bad dudes they had to go around.  Many of these workers were NOT pleased that a little girl with a sunburn was telling them they couldn’t walk ten feet to their set up, but I tried my best.   It was short lived, however.  After a couple of days (and if I remember rightly, some kind of intervention from a former teacher I had) they switched me to a similar gate, at gate 10.  It was more of an Ag/Camping gate, but it was still keeping people from going in the out door.  The people were much more laid back there, and it was a lot less busy.  I was in the sun all day long listening to the radio, seeing maybe one person an hour, trying not to fall asleep.

The next year I worked at Gate 5.  Gate 5 was a sort of non-descript gate, where you had a big long entry way.  People who came in that gate were mostly interested in the handicapped parking, which was, back then, only in the middle of the grounds.  I remember also working at gate 8, but that one is somewhat lost to my memory.  Over the years I went up to working Admission at what was then the Main Gate, on 16th street.  That one was the most fun, because you were always busy and didn’t have to sit around much.

I liked to do little things to entertain myself as a ticket taker/admissions person.  I would make small talk with the people in the cars, answer questions when I could.   After a particularly demanding day, maybe I’d do a silly accent and see if I could pull it off.  I remember the first year I worked at the Main Gate it rained like cats and dogs all morning.  We were all soaked through and through, and it had gotten so crazy that we just stopped trying to keep dry.  There were lots of renditions of “Singing in the Rain” and the like.   It was hard to keep your tickets straight and your money in order when they were sticking together from the rain.

When you work at the fair, most of the time the people that work around you are teachers and highway patrolmen.  Also, a lot of Sedalia Police time their vacations during the fair so they can make some extra money.  Often, the people who are working security or handling money are police of some sort.  It was usually the same people you’d see from time to time, and you got into an easy rhythm after a couple of days.  It was often physically tiring, and you were responsible for a lot of money on good days.  It was daunting to try to make sure things were absolutely correct.  If they weren’t, you’d get a proper scolding from what could have been your 10th grade English teacher.

But for me, the coveted job was Courtesy Cart driver.  These guys got to drive a golf cart around all day, picking up people who needed rides and helping others along the way.  Not everyone who drives a golf cart around the grounds is courtesy – some are in parking, some are in admissions, some are security – but most every person who drives one who isn’t courtesy is some kind of boss.  It’s usually the head of some kind of department.

Every year I always asked around how to get that job, and every year I was thwarted.   Even now, as I’m working my real job, I see the people who get to drive around on the courtesy cart and a part of me wants to go with them.  We have a golf cart with our trailer, but the thing is so old I don’t take it out much.  It’s often more fun to let the kids pretend to drive it and take pictures.

When you’re on the grounds, you’ll see many many people who work for the fair.  Keep in mind, though, not everyone with a name tag works at the fair.  If you have a question, they may or may not know it.  Your best bet to get questions answered is to visit one of the information kiosks.  They usually have someone working there who has been there several times before and answered every question under the sun.

So, if you can, give a nice word to these kids trying to make a buck during the fair.  It’s hot, they’re making minimum wage, sometimes they get moved from job to job with little or no notice and it’s demanding.   They’ve probably been in cramped, hot booth, or standing in the same place under the sun for seven hours.  A kind word or a little patience goes a long way.  I’m sure it’ll make your day better, and those little moments will make their fair better.  After all, you’re out there for one or two days – they’re out there for eight hours, ten days straight.

Admissions 4 Lyfe,

Behka

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