IMPERIAL — In many ways it is the people behind the scenes who make all the fun of the Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta come alive with selfless dedication to a job lacking glamour that pays off in other ways.
For some fair patrons the attractions provided by Helm
& Sons on the midway is the Fair. Some of the best memories result
from the effort of devoted carnival workers.
It may be hard to believe in a day and age where the
profit motive takes precedence, but the Balloonarama Midway game guarantees a
prize no matter what the skill level of the player, explained Kim Martinez, the
game concessionaire, on March 4.
“The concept is to make it easier to win a
prize,” said Martinez. “You still get a prize even if you miss the
target. It’s a ‘build up’ game, but every player no matter how good starts out
with a small prize.”
Balloonarama requires the player to break a balloon by tossing
a small bean bag from several feet away. Prizes go from a small stuffed
starfish to a gigantic bear, unicorn, penguin or turtle for those who prevail
through several rounds.
“Those are very popular with the girls,” said
Martinez. “so we keep a wide selection available. That way there’s
something for everyone.”
For fun or demonstrations Martinez will try her own game.
Yet she denies there is any trick to winning. The game is as popular with girls
as boys and the girls win about as often as the boys who she sad seem to rely
on brute strength to pop the balloons.
“In all honesty, I’ve had a two-year old boy toss
the hacky sacks underhand and broke all the balloons,” said Martinez.
“It’s more about aim than power.”
Martinez, from the Ontario area, recalled she got
recruited to carny work by a family member who asked for a little help six
years ago and since it was fun she decided to stick with the job. She travels
the length of California with Helm & Sons. Some locations the troupe spends
a long weekend while others can be a two-week layover. She contends there has
never been a town she does not like but if she picked one especially appealing
it would be Monterey.
“If we get there early, we hit the beach soak up
sun, swim or picnic,” said Martinez. “I believe I’ll stay with
carnival work. People here, we’ve become very close among each other, even the
customers. We (carnival workers) pretty much travel together. We’re like one
Carnival Food is Niche Dining
As much as Midway games and rides appeal, no carnival
would be complete without specialty foods. Cameron Cuisinier manages the Sugar
Bear Treats wagon. Similar to Martinez, he was enticed to try carny work by a
family member. Cuisinier noted he expected to stay no more than a couple of
years but has now worked for seven.
“We also have a wagon near the entrance by the kiddie
rides, a fry wagon and there’s the lemonade wagon,” he said. “I kind
of bounce around. It’s a friendly competition among the wagons.”
One of the best-loved items is found at Sugar Bear Treats,
a handmade Unicorn Apple with crafted ornaments on top of a garnished apple.
“The one thing unique about this wagon are our
gourmet apples,” he said. “We also do Unicorn Churros and Unicorn
Cotton Candy. We do a lot of fruity petals and rainbow sprinkles, very
Other Fair staples sold at Cuisinier’s concession are
funnel cakes, papas bravas nachos and potato twists. Despite being the brother
of the Helm & Sons owner’s wife, Cuisinier insists it is a great
“Number one: I love this job. It’s a great company,”
he said. “Mostly, it’s about safety and sanitation. We strive to make
quality products because of the prices we need to charge. I can say one thing,
you won’t come to any of our stands and get a cold corn dog.”