There’s a competition at the Appalachian Fair among some of the workers. It’s a competition for your attention, and your money.
Vendors, game operators and ride attendees hollering at those who pass by is nothing new, but the way they go about it varies from person to person. For a lot of the game operators, their pay increases with the amount of money spent at their game.
Alfred “Soul Man” Jenkins, of Fayetteville, N.C., executes a louder, more aggressive approach to getting people to spend money at his Bank-A-Ball game. He shouts something to the effect of “three balls for $5, or seven balls for $10,” to get you to spend your money.
If he can get a second look of interest of yours, he lays on the charm, gets up close and personal, maybe tells you that he calls collard greens “M-O-N-E-Y” and has great success in getting your leafy greens.
Tyler Lawson, who sells toys at a stand, operates quite differently in making sales. He boasts having a clean, organized space, even sweeping up the concrete area around his stand, and stresses treating everyone with respect.
“I like to get a kid’s attention with my bubble gun, and try to catch their eye,” Lawson said. “Once I get comfortable with them, and don’t get too loud, the kids and their parents will check out the cool stuff I have for sale.”
After watching Lawson carry out a sales interaction, and questioning the customer as to why they bought toys from his stand and not another vendors’, it was clear his plan worked exactly as he explained it.
“I feel like a lot of people here are hustlers,” Kim Harrington, of Bristol, Va., said. “They negotiate with you like a used car salesman, and (Lawson) didn’t do that.”
While some of the vendors at the fair might very well operate like used car salesmen, they haven’t drawn any complaints for their sales pitches.
The sheriff’s office, who patrols the fairgrounds, said they’ve never had any problems or complaints about overly aggressive carnival workers, and, in fact, were somewhat surprised that vendors weren’t more over the top.
“Never in 12 years of doing this have I had a complaint about them,” one deputy said. “I’m actually surprised they’re so tame in comparison to the guys at the big amusement parks.”
A great deal of the workers have the majority of the year to perfect their sales pitch. Many will work nine months out of the year, touring the Southeast with the amusement ride company only to return to their home for three winter months.
Jane Gabrielle, a face-painting artist from Roanoke, Va., works two of those winter months on cruise ships, only painting faces for three to four hours per day at sea, and has nothing negative to say about her line of work.
“I’m an artist who gets to sit in the sun and enjoy people,” Gabrielle said.
Some vendors let the prizes sell themselves. At the Prize Factory, near the main fair entrance, Cindy LeBrake, of Plattsburgh, N.Y., says their massive plush bananas always get people to play their game, but might fail in comparison with their SpongeBob SquarePants and Duck Dynasty prizes.
LeBrake and her fellow worker, Rick Perry, of Morgantown, N.C., claim the Prize Factory to have the biggest prizes at the fair, and draw in customers by shouting over their microphones, “size does matter” and “bigger is better.”
And after tonight, LeBrake, the Prize Factory, and all the salesmen will help break down the whole production and move on to the next location, where they’ll do it all over again.
More information about the fair can be found at www.appalachianfair.com.