Photos by Kelsey Leyva | Civitas Media Andrew Ray gives a big customer change at the shark fishing game booth at the Lorain County Fair. The game booth is Ray’s living during Ohio fair season.
Following fairs, living in trailers, and working 12 to 14 hours a day is a typical work week for Johnny Ray, at least in the summer.
He considers it a sales job, but others who see him standing next to his shark fishing game would say he’s a carny.
Originally from Alliance, Ohio, Ray has been traveling with the Ray Family Concession Games team of workers for five years now.
From April to November, he goes from fair to fair across Ohio and sometimes even Pennsylvania. Ray works in construction until fair and carnival season starts up again.
His job can be stressful as times, especially when the fishing game isn’t making money. Inclement weather makes it difficult to generate a good profit.
Ray also takes care of his mother and said it can be difficult being on the road so often.
Family members Andrew Ray of Canton, Ohio, said despite the stress and constant travel, he can’t see himself doing any other job.
“I feel more at home out here,” he said.
Andrew was running a balloon-dart game. He’s been traveling from event to event with his brother’s carnival game company for 11 years and said he could tell what a person will pay from 20 feet away.
But he said he’s always honest with the customers and lets them know up front his game can be expensive.
“They won’t play if you’re sneaky,” he said. “You have to be honest.”
The workers receive commission-based pay but Andrew said it averages out to about $10 an hour. Everyone is always trying to make as much as they possibly can.
During the off-season, Andrew works other sales jobs. He’s worked at a bridal store and has also had a photography kiosk at the mall.
About 20 to 25 workers traveled together to work at the Lorain County Fair last week. They all share space in five campers.
When asked whether it’s difficult to work with the same people in such tight quarters, Andrew said no. “If we don’t all get along we won’t make it,” he said. “It takes a lot of energy to make people happy.”
Another worker, Brandon Davis, also chimed in. “You’ve got to have a good personality to have this job,” he said.
Ray said the most important part of the work they do is the people they encounter.
“We set up games to provide children with a fun and happy atmosphere,” he said. “It’s my job to make kids and families happy.”
Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.