Fort Riley welcomed in fall with its annual Fall Carnival this past weekend. What many might not know about the carnival is that it travels off post, to Oklahoma and Missouri as well. Along with it goes its carnies, and often their families.
Spouses Chris and Barbara Vaughn travel with the carnival, ran by Toby’s Carnival Company, Inc., and working for it is not a bad job according to Chris. He said he is glad he gets to travel.
“Being a carny really is the life,” Chris said.
For Chris, perks of working at the carnival include always having a place to stay and making money every day. Traveling with him and his wife, however, are three of their six children. This creates some challenges for the carny family.
“It’s not easy with children,” Barbara said.
Just like other parents, Chris and Barbara have to balance focus between their family and their work. However, their children are at work with them, which can take away from their earnings. Part of the struggle of raising kids in the carnival is that whenever they are telling their kids to behave, they are not drawing in more customers.
“When we are yelling at our kids, we aren’t making money,” Chris said.
Vaughn explained how a carny earns money based on commission, i.e. how much people spend to play the games determines how much carnies make. Whenever people go to the carnival and the carnies yell, trying to convince those walking by to play their game, they’re just are trying to make a living.
For carny Lou Carnell, working at the carnival is great. As a widow with grown kids, the Fall Carnival allows Carnell to travel and meet new people. She said her favorite part is the happy children that come to visit her game.
“I can’t help it,” Carnell said. “I’m a grandma.”
The carnival is not only fun for the carnies, but also the carnival goers. Manhattan residents April Sanders and her daughters, Syriana and Mya, went Sunday to enjoy the rides and activities, such as the burlap sack races on the slides and the tilt-a-whirl, as well as some funnel cakes.
Sanders said that though Fort Riley’s Fall Carnival may not be much different than many other carnivals, it is still fun for her and her family.
The carnival is currently closed, giving the carnies a break before they return to Fort Riley this Thursday through Sunday to help other families like Sanders’ have a good time.