Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Photos of a midway at a fair are usually of the bright colored lights, cotton candy and starry eyed teens holding hands...waiting for a chance to be alone with each other for maybe the first time. Today however is for the workers...the traveling minstrels who bring back our traditions from year to year without fail.

I stood beside the Twister ride watching and listening. I wondered where else in this world I could watch kids boarding a ride...parents let them out for a day on their own...while hearts pumping to 200 decibels of AC/DC singing "Highway to Hell"?

I made it a point this year to talk to the Carnies...a name even they call themselves. I came to understand that theirs is a job taken for the same motivations that makes us leave for work each morning. Support of family, scrape enough together for health insurance and put food on the table. For many of them...it was a path freely chosen years ago. I spoke to 3 different workers who had been doing this gig for over 20 years and still enjoy the chance to work outside and travel the country. They told me they enjoyed the excitement on the faces of the children as they picked up that Ducky to see the word "Winner"...and walk away with a goldfish. They enjoyed the macho of the teenager trying his best to win the Jumbo Tiger for his admiring friend.

I spoke to the woman under the quilt. Her's was the last photo I took...at the end of the evening of the last day. Physically and mentally spent, her job was to clean the toilets and keep the necessities replenished in each portable privy. She remained until the last visitor left Franklin street. I asked her what her job was and she told me her story...with a sense of pride she shrugged and said "Hey, someone has to do it".

I spoke to an older woman with years of lines on her face...the result of years and years of exposure to the winds of October, the dog days of August after August and too many cigarettes. This was going to be her last year on the road. Years ago, she got her B/S in nursing. The summer after graduating, for a break she joined the traveling show. Almost 30 years later, she will end the journey...return home to Oklahoma City and begin a job a senior care center next month.

The police are always at the street festival. A few years ago, there was trouble with biker gangs...thankfully that time has passed and for the last few years...other than the occasional tussle, they saw it as a chance to connect with the public...almost a public relations role.

To all the workers...thank you so much for allowing generation after generation in Evansville to visit and enjoy the Festival. You may pack up tomorrow and move to the next venue...but part of you remains behind with us and we are forever grateful.

Tomorrow...I will post some "fun and interesting facts" about the 2nd largest street festival in the nation held in Evansville, the first week in October each year.



septembermom said...

Crank up the AC/DC! I think that would get the adrenalin going. Love your stories about these interesting encounters and observations.

The black and white of the photos definitely give an artistic feel, almost surreal.

Really cool Dan. I'm looking forward to more magic up your sleeve :)

Dan Felstead said...

Septembermom...I am sure you have been to these types of Festivals...wherever there is wild ride...you will also find music by AC/DC, Led Zeppelin or some big haired 80's rock band!


DawnTreader said...

Dan, these portraits are amazing! I'm full of admiration...

Dan Felstead said...

Dawn Treader...thanks. I love nothing more than being out in Nature and photographing a beautiful landscape but I am also drawn to connecting with people through photography as well.


Lynda Lehmann said...

Dan, I think this post is just exquisite, in both photos and narrative. Very interesting, to boot.

I think you might consider doing a BOOK on this topic! It would be SO fascinating to read these peoples' stories in detail, coupled with your outstanding treatment of the images.

An EXCELLENT post. I commend you.

Coincidentally, my husband and I just went to a county fair, which happens to be the largest one in the state of ME. (Only our second full day off in six months, except for four days when our daughter visited.)

Anyway, I hesitate to publish most of the photos I have from that day, as I didn't obtain model releases. Do you carry them with you?

Monica Manning said...

That brought back so many memories, Dan. I grew up in a small town and every year we would sit at the top of the hill and watch as the Spring Fair was erected. We practiced our flirting skills with the Carnies and were rewarded with toothless grins and free rides. Oh, to be young and foolish again.

Dan Felstead said...

Lynda...WOW...thank you! I think everyone who blogs or takes photographs always has this secret dream in the back of their mind that they would love to publish a book. But breaking though the noise and flood of books already out there plus the politics of the publishing world...makes it almost impossible without a break. Someday I hope but I don't know if I will ever get there!

Yes I do carry photo releases with me but on Saturday I did not have them. So when I got home, I printed one out and took it back with me. I can email you the one I use if you would like..it is a very simple one.

I feel like I need a photo release if I am going to try to sell or exhibit a photo. If I am posting on the blog...I am not that concerned with them.

By the way...do you have all of your remodeling finally finished?


Dan Felstead said...

Monica...it is like you were raised in Evansville! The flirting tactic is so universal. I think this Street Fair phenomenon is a part of all of us from our youth...it just plays out differently depending upon where you are from.


shabby girl said...

These are FANTASTIC!!! Your tweaking has turned a photograph into a work of art!
I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite!
I'm so impressed!

Dan Felstead said...

Shabbygirl...thanks for the comment. The Festival week is always a crazy one both for the visitors and the workers!


Cynthia L. H. said...

Absolutely stunning. What a treasure trove of character study!!!
I'm agreeing with the idea of a book on the subject!

Dan Felstead said...

Cynthia...thanks..I don't know that I will ever get around to a book but if I do...you can do a follow up interview with the lady who is moving back to her home town of Oklahoma City!