The Fun Is at the Fair – Seeking Staffing Solutions – Finding Workers for Fairs and Carnivals

For nearly 100 years Avery Wheelock’sfamily has been in the business of fun.

“My grandfather had a popcorn, peanut and cookhouse business in 1920s.  My Dad wanted something more exciting, so in 1946 started this business.”

This business is Wheelock Rides in Syracuse, N.Y., where they provide carnival rides, games and food for various events. While three generations work for Wheelock, they need additional employees during peak times.  How does a business built on family integrity find employees to match?  Wheelock, as well as other business owners across the country, weighed in on what it takes to find workers and quality employees at that.

Wood Entertainment Company staff members. The San Antonio, Texas-based company services fairs from Miami to Honolulu.

Wood Entertainment Company staff members. The San Antonio, Texas-based company services fairs from Miami to Honolulu.

Word Out to Workers 

In the internet age, many companies’ first step in attracting potential employees is online.

Their own company website, which in Wheelock Rides’ case, promotes the fact that they hire clean-cut and courteous employees, is one way to grab potential employees’ attention.

Wagner’s Carnival, of Aransas Pass, Texas, Co-owned by Jason Wagner, along with his father Albert Wagner, uses every online effort to attract employees.

“We use Facebook, Twitter and industry specific social media,” Wagner explained.

Wagner’s Carnival has about 35 events a year, in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, and employs about 45 people.  They also rely on traditional media, the newspaper, to attract employees.

“If our carnival is in a bigger metropolitan area we will put ads in the local paper.  We put flyers at the Texas workforce commission offices and exhaust every effort to get the word out.”

Michael Wood of Wood Entertainment Company in San Antonio, Texas, which services fairs from Miami to Honolulu that rank in the top 50 in terms of attendance, also uses online platforms to find workers.

“We use Craigslist and even the unemployment office, where we post an ad on their website.”

Good old-fashioned word of mouth and hanging up flyers works too.  At Wheelock Rides they often do what perhaps worked back in the 1920s when the company was started.

“Sometimes we’ll hang a Help Wanted sign right on our cotton candy machine.”

 

Character Counts

Integrity and professionalism are the top-two qualities owners and operators want in an employee.

“First of all, the utmost important thing we’re looking for is professionalism. Somebody who wants to be here for the job, not because it’s going to be fun, or they can’t get something else, we want people who want to be here.  Professionalism is number one for us,” Wagner said.

He also added that employees have a big job to undertake.

“We’re in the public business.  In the public eye, we’re almost like a babysitter.  A lot of parents come to carnival and drop their kids off and want a good feeling and trust that their kids are in good hands.”

Lois Melendez agreed.  Melendez, who with her family owns City of Fun in Pleasant Grove, Utah, and has been in the business for 55 years, sees integrity as willing to do what needs to be done, period.

“Potential employees have to be willing to take a drug test and they need to be able to take orders from supervisors, simply be willing to do what is asked.”

Wood sees integrity as vital. “Integrity is number one. We can give them the skill set as long as they have the right attitude, then we get what we need.”

 

Landing Loyalty

“If you want to maximize any group of people and get the output out of them that you desire, they have to feel as if you’re going to be loyal to them as well.  So if you do well, they’ll do well.  When you do poorly, you’ll stay the course and stand by them, you are not going to just abandon them.” Wood said.

Wood, who along with the other owners and operators, often uses foreign nationals or workers on a H-2B Visa, keeps the big picture in mind with employees from other countries.

“  …What they want is a piece of the American dream.  You have to give them a shot at it.  Make time to reward them for what they really want.”

Using workers from Mexico to supplement their work force has been the right move for Jason Wagner. “[It is] One of the best decisions we’ve made as a company.  Workers we get from over there have a great work ethic.”

Regardless of where employees come from, once you find them instilling a sense of accomplishment and pride, according to Wood, seems to help the process of finding and keeping quality employees. “They need to have some ownership in their job.  They need to feel they have a say in the process, or at least their voices heard.”

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