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Archive for February, 2012

If you’re one of those skeptics who thinks a sword swallower’s sword folds up into the handle or employs some kind of special effect, February 25th’s big swallow should set you straight.

Today, in celebration of the 6th annual World Sword Swallowers Day, more than 30 performers are expected to “drop swords” at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditoriums in New York, London, San Francisco, Hollywood, and Orlando, among other places. Los Angeles sword swallower Brett Loudermilk made these videos three years ago on International Sword Swallowers Day in New York City. One of 10 featured sword swallowers at Ripley’s in Times Square in 2009, this year Loudermilk will be at Ripley’s Hollywood.

In New York, today’s free show at Ripley’s begins at 1:30 pm and ends with the big swallow at 2:25 pm. Keith Nelson of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and the Lady Aye will be among the Kings and Queens of Swords.

“A lot of it is just showmanship. You really have to get the audience with you feeling that it’s real, and then kind of hold them at that edge,” Nelson tells ATZ. In an attempt to convince skeptics in the audience that, as he says, “what I’m shoving down my throat is real,” the Bindlestiff’s charmingly subversive Mr. Pennygaff has also swallowed oversize scissors, sabers, corkscrews, door springs, coat hangers and, in a tribute to good ol’ vaudeville, a rod upon which he has set a spinning plate!

The February 25th celebration was started by the Sword Swallowers Association International to promote this ancient art, honor veteran performers, and raise awareness of the medical contributions sword swallowers have made in the fields of medicine and science, according to SSAI founder and multiple Guinness World Record holder Dan Meyer.

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February 4, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Banner

August 6, 2012: Art of the Day: Madame Twisto by Marie Roberts

April 18, 2012: Rare & Vintage: A Neon Sword Swallower’s Sideshow Banner

November 4, 2011: Up for Auction: Ringling Bros Circus Side Show Poster

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Employees at Luna Park Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

UPDATE: See post for 2015 season here: “Coney Island Amusement Park Jobs from Entry Level to Managerial Up for Grabs,” February 22, 2015

Running away with the carnival is easy but sticking with it through the end of the season is hard work. Once upon a time it was a rite of passage for American kids who wanted to see the world beyond their hometowns. Nowadays, the amusement industry still recruits high-school grads and college students, as well as retirees and others with merry-go-round memories and itchy feet. If you’d like to work in Coney Island or travel across the country with a carnival, now is the time of year to apply for a job.

Next week, Central Amusement International, operator of Coney Island’s Luna Park and Scream Zone, and Nathan’s Famous, together with the Coney Island Development Corporation, will begin recruiting for seasonal positions. “This is a unique opportunity to become a part of ‘The One and Only Coney’ by joining the team of dedicated employees that make Coney Island an entertainment destination worldwide,” says the CIDC event flyer for the upcoming screenings. (Update: If you are viewing this post in 2014, check out this season’s job information at “A Head Start on Summer Jobs in Coney Island”

The job screenings are February 28, March 1, April 24 and April 26, 2012 from 12 noon till 6 pm at the Brooklyn Cyclones’ MCU Park, 1904 Surf Avenue in Coney Island. In past years, nearly a thousand people have shown up on a single day, so we recommend getting there early. Qualified candidates, who must be 18 years of age or older, will be referred for an interview. Seasonal jobs include Ride and Game Operators, Food and Beverage Service, Park Service, Customer Service/Retail Sales and Ticket Sales Associates/Cashiers.

Lunatic Dance Team, Luna Park Coney Island. July 15, 2011. Photo © Jim McDonnell. All Rights Reserved.

If you’re reading this after the screening events have taken place or can’t make it, visit the Career Opportunities pages at Nathan’s Famous and Luna Park and also check Craigslist. Luna Park currently has an ad on Craigslist for dancers and performers for the Lunatic Promotion Team, which pays $10 per hour. According to the ad, “the team will attend offsite promotions to inform new guests about the park and all the amazing things Coney Island has to offer. The second task will be to handle on-site events, promotions, photo opportunities and guests experience surveys.” Performers, including singers, dancers and DJs, will take part in the Cyclone roller coaster’s 85th birthday celebration and Coney Island’s first end of the summer concert.

Game operator

Game operator with North American Midway Entertainment. Via Facebook.com/Namidway

A dozen years ago, homesick for the midways of my carnival childhood, I went on the road with S & S Amusements, touring the Pennsylvania fairs. Since then, I’ve worked as a game agent with Wade Shows at New York City’s “Big A” Fair, the Delaware State Fair, the Michigan State Fair and the Central Florida Fair, and on Coney Island’s Jones Walk. One advantage to working in Coney is being able to sleep in my apartment at night, though when I got home from being on the road all summer it took a bit of getting used to having townhouses across the way instead of a Tilt-A-Whirl.

“The carnival business, which supports America’s state and sounty fairs, festivals and community events, needs seasonal workers who are willing to travel, work nights, weekends and Holidays,” Bob Johnson, President of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association tells ATZ. A look at the websites of OABA member carnivals shows that these carnivals are hiring ride operators and attendants, food and game agents, maintenance, electricians and welders. “Weekly pay is based on State and Federal minimum wage rates, and other State regulations, such as overtime pay,” notes Johnson “Over 5 million seasonal workers support this industry and many come back year after year as they love to travel and entertain over 300 million patrons who visit the carnival midways.”

North American Midway Entertainment

Ride operators with North American Midway Entertainment. Via Facebook.com/Namidway

If the idea of traveling to 20 states and 4 Canadian provinces, including 10 of the top 50 fairs in North America is appealing, then you may want to check out North American Midway Entertainment’s Careers page.

ATZ talked with Ed Dame, Director of Operations for NAME, “the world’s largest traveling outdoor amusement park,” about opportunities with his company. “Eighty percent of our employees are locals,” he said. “We advertise in newspapers and state workforce agencies.” The carnival company has an Employee Appreciation Program, which rewards workers with gift certificates, iPads and computers.

Group activities include day trips to Major League baseball games, Banff, Niagara Falls and New York City, as well as BBQs, bowling nights and jamborees. Among the fairs played by NAME are The Eastern States Exposition in Massachusetts, Toronto’s CNE, the Calgary Stampede, Miami-Dade County Fair & Expo and State Fairs in Mississippi, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

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January 10, 2014: A Head Start on Summer Jobs in Coney Island

February 2, 2010: Traveler: North American Midway’s Giant Vertical Swing at Super Bowl!

August 16, 2009: Coney Island Carnival Games: My Photo Album

January 26, 2010: Scoop: Zamperla’s $24M Coney Island Park to be Named Luna Park!

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Bumper Car Wind-Up Toy

1930's Tin Litho Bumper Car Wind-Up Toy. Courtesy of eBay Seller Toy Claus

ATZ came across this delightful 1930s tin bumper car wind-up toy with two lithographed riders on eBay. At the moment, nine bidders are vying for it! The high bid is $71 in an auction that ends on Saturday, February 25th.

Earlier this month, a similar toy sold for $156 on eBay. In that auction the unsigned toy was said to have been made by New York’s Buffalo Toy Company. In the current auction, seller toyclaus ascribes it to the Wyandotte Toy Company. Either way, good luck to everyone who jumps in with a bid.

If vintage toys are beyond your budget but you want your very own fleet of bumper cars to play with at work, check out xUmp.com’s Never-Fall Bumper Car Wind-Ups. The plastic toy retails for $3.00-$4.99 and is engineered not to fall off the edge of your desk. In this video xUmp founder and physicist Anton Skorucak gives a demo and explains the science behind his toy bumper cars…

UPDATE March 1, 2012:

The vintage bumper car toy sold for $182.38 with the winning bid placed in the last few seconds of the auction!

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December 7, 2011: Jones Walk’s “Miss Coney Island” Shimmies Over to 12th St

November 11, 2011: Up for Auction: Rack of Vintage Carnival Knockdown Dolls

December 19, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Original Coney Island Motordrome Bike

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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