The State Fair of Texas in Dallas runs for 24 days and is the largest state fair in the United States. A newbie showman in games, I somehow surpassed my whole crew and maybe all crews for sales that year by making up my own routines and sticking to my shtick.
The Texas State Fair is in full swing right now and it brings back thoughts of my amazing year in carnivals. I ran games and rides at 10 traveling carnivals, in 10 states, hitchhiked 36 states between jobs and crossed Canada and Mexico along the way.
When I reached the biggest of the big time in Dallas, I was working with the West Crew, headed by Adam “Batman” West and a veteran group of showmen (carnival workers who run games don’t like to be called carnies).
I began on the “short-range,” a basketball game with a cantaloupe-sized basketball and a lower hoop. The hoop had two inner rims but the ball went through and there were winners. As is true of all the games, you could win but it was far harder than you think. I juggled the basketballs. I told every male walking by, “You are a basketball man, show us what you got.” I did well but I changed my game and my routine and the money started flowing in.
I threatened to quit and Batman sent me to the “tubs.” They are plastic tubs the size of fruit baskets. People throw softballs into the tilted tubs, if the balls stay in, the customer wins. On practice tries a ‘cop’ ball is left in to deaden the bounce. On the money throws, the ‘cop’ ball is palmed and the ball almost never stays in the basket.
I told every customer that I was going to hypnotize them into winning by using “Mike’s Rainbow,” an arc throw. When it worked. I told them they were hypnotized and they should play.
I never changed the routine for the hundreds of thousands of people who passed by my booth. I out-earned everyone, every day after that. At the end of the three weeks, after about half of them spent treading water at the ‘short ball,’ I earned more than $3,000. All by sticking to the routine that worked.
I used the money to take a bus down to Mexico to see the “new face of the American carny.” In bigger carnivals, Mexicans are the majority of the crew.
At the end of my amazing year in carnivals, I worked in California, New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Alaska, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia and Florida, where I worked in a freak show. I racked up more than 15,000 miles hitchhiking, which might have made me the #1 hitchhiker in North America for 2013-14.
I kept a blog at www.EyesLikeCarnivals.com and on Huffington Post. I wrote a couple magazine pieces and now I am attempting to find a publisher for the book, which I finished earlier this year.
You can help me find a publisher for my unpublished book “Eyes Like Carnivals” by hitting “LIKE” on my book page https://www.facebook.com/eyeslikecarnivals