10/12/09 — It's called 'barking:' Running the water gun races at the fair seemed easy, but it really take personality, patience and business savy

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It's called 'barking:' Running the water gun races at the fair seemed easy, but it really take personality, patience and business savy

By Laura Collins
Published in News on October 12, 2009 1:54 PM

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Laura Collins hands 8-year-old Emmie Swindell the stuffed toy she won at a water gun booth at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair.

The Company: Powers Great American Midways

The Job: Fair games worker

The Location: Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair

Drawing people to the water gun game at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair was a little trickier than I expected.

"Hey man, you gotta win your girl something at the fair," I beckoned.

"That's not my girl, that's my sister!"

Oops. Awkward.

My instructor and fellow game worker, Albert Balliet, 24, told me it happens all the time and then proved it later on.

"Hey sir, you want to win a prize for your daughter?" Balliet asked a passerby, holding hands with a girl.

"That's not my daughter," he responded.

"OK, that girl is entirely too young for him," he said to me, as the guy kept walking.

While at the fair I worked four of the water gun games. It was $3 to play, and the job required convincing people to play our game rather than the many others the fair had to offer.

Watching Balliet work was kind of like watching an improv show. Depending on the people who walked by, he would switch from goofy to funny to polite to grab their attention. He stuck with some key sound effects and phrases like, "Don't be cheesy, it's easy," and "That stuffed animal isn't Nemo, it's Primo, his bootleg cousin."

Occasionally he will thow in some song lyrics or make up nicknames for people as they walk by. And if you're unlucky enough to be wearing animal print in Balliet's vacinity, expect to hear him make zoo references.

Balliet, who calls Syracuse, N.Y., home, began working at fairs during the summers while he was in school. He soon realized he had a knack for engaging people and now works eight to 12 months a year at fairs all along the East Coast. He finds amusement in the interaction he has with people on a daily basis.

"In here you can be anything you want to be. In normal life I wouldn't be hoopin' and hollerin', but in here you have to be goofy," he said.

He also said a lot of the job is reading people, figuring out how to talk to them and making them want to approach you and play the game. I thought his skill at reading people was interesting until he turned it on me.

"Did you know you talk in a different voice when you're asking questions as a reporter than when you're just talking," he said.

That shut me up for a while as I contemplated the root of my multiple voice personalities.

As the night wore on, I noticed a lot of the job involved getting turned down over and over, but since the workers keep about 15 percent of the money they bring in, the key is to never get aggravated.

Balliet has some witty responses stored up to help him bounce back, and used one on a girl who wouldn't let her boyfriend play our game.

"Hey man, she's a keeper: pretty and cheap," he said, which brought out a laugh from both the guy and his girlfriend.

Many of the people enjoyed his antics, though some people were downright rude. After I accidentally delayed the start of the game between a lady and her young son, the lady said that next time she would rather him work the game instead of me. Thanks lady, but is it really that serious? You're at the fair.

Balliet said they have to put up with crabby people all the time. And that's when I got to thinking, Balliet and his co-workers are from out of state, but for at least 10 days a year, they spend time in Wayne County, they spend money at our businesses and they make sure we have a smooth-running fair to attend. It's imporant to not leave them with a bad image of Wayne County. So, next year, if you're at the fair, lighten up, get involved in a little banter with a game worker, and maybe even say thanks for another successful fair.