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NICK MERCER: The workers at Thomas Amusements are in it together

Under the watchful eye of Lyndon West, the Tornado swings into full action during Aug. 23 at the Corner Brook Civic Centre.
Under the watchful eye of Lyndon West, the Tornado swings into full action during Aug. 23 at the Corner Brook Civic Centre. - Nicholas Mercer

The calls start coming in early May.

People from various parts of the province start picking up their phone and start dialing the offices for Thomas Amusements.

They’re looking for work and the chance to travel the province.

From the end of May until the end of September, these travellers traverse the island with their caravan of games, rides and food trucks while making stops in 14 different communities from coast to coast.

Over those four months, the group falls into a routine of waking up, checking their rides and welcoming eager carnival goers.

They laugh and argue as any group would, but they stick together.

“It really is like a family,” said Corner Brook’s Lyndon West during the carnival’s recent stop in Corner Brook. Thomas Amusement’s has a two-week stay in the west coast city.

West
West

 

West started with the group in 1989 when they parked their rides in the parking lot of the old Humber Gardens.

At the mention of the venerable arena, the corners of West’s eyes turn upwards slightly as if remembering a fond memory of the place.

He was 23 at the time and had a house in Corner Brook at the time when his friend asked him if he’d like to go to work.

The now 52-year-old West said yes and he’s spent the majority of the last 30 years traversing the highways. He’s been with the group now for 24 years in total.

He took some time off to do other things.

Funnily enough, West didn’t have much interest in the fair prior to starting on the bumper cars as his first assignment.

It has been mostly rides from there on out.

In Conception Bay North, we always called Thomas Amusements the fair. It ran at the same time as the Trinity Conception Fall Fair at the old S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace, which probably had something to do with it.

The fair was the hottest ticket in town whenever it hit the gravel parking lot in front of the stadium.

It was the place you went on a Saturday afternoon with your friends or on Friday night with that girl you were sweet on.

As well, there was the chance you could see a few scuffles on the other side of the stadium behind the Tilt-A-Whirl when up the bay clashed with down the bay.

I was never a ride guy. I’d always gravitate towards the games and try my best to win the water gun horse race or pop a balloon with a dart.

I did get on a ride once. It was a disaster.

Against my better judgement, I got on The Zipper with a buddy of mine. For those of you who don’t know, it has rolling cages that move up and down on a vertical base.

It is basically a death trap for those with a weak stomach.

It’d be fine he said, it was just like doing somersaults in the pool.

It was nothing like that. Not even close.

From the first spin, I knew it was a bad idea. There were times we end up stuck upside down and others we just made a quick spin.

I kept it together for the 5 minutes you’re on the ride, but I’ve been told I was green afterwards.

You meet a lot of people when you’re with the carnival. There’s always familiar and new faces to see and new yarns to spin with the locals.

They come to call some of them friends and catch up every time they hit town again.

West started his tenure in Stephenville which, according to a couple of people with Thomas Amusements, has a strong interest in the carnival.

In fact, you might say they have a sickness and the only cure is Thomas Amusements.

The people of Stephenville are known to line up for hours before it opens and consistently fill the place to capacity.

“When we open there, sometimes there’s no one and you turn around and there’s 200 people,” said West over the hum of a nearby ride.

For last two months, the weather on the west coast has teetered on excruciating — for me anyway — and that includes this week as the fair has been in Corner Brook.

West and his cohorts have had to deal with that.

It’s not only that. There are times when the workers are there in rain, fog and the cold.

They put up, maintain and tear down rides in that.

It’s not easy and that’s just how West likes it.

Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at Nicholas.mercer@thewesternstar.com.

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