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Posts Tagged ‘game operator’

Jerry, Ball Toss Game

Jerry, Ball Toss Game, Jones Walk. May 29, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Having grown up working behind the counter of Mom’s Balloon Dart and Dad’s Spot Game, I feel a special kinship with game operators. It’s not an easy job, especially when there’s no awning and the sun is setting in your face. If nobody plays your game, you don’t get paid. The Coney Island indie game agents whose portraits are in this photo album are survivors and jacks and jills of all trades. Jerry was a crew member on the Zipper until the ride lost its lease and was shipped to Honduras. Now he runs a ball toss game on Jones Walk and is one of the stars of Zipper, Amy Nicholson’s documentary about the rezoning and redevelopment of Coney Island.

Monica, High Striker. West 12th Street

Monica, High Striker. West 12th Street. August 28, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Monica, the High Striker Queen of Coney, has been on the road with traveling carnivals. In Coney Island, she was displaced several times due to changes in land ownership, yet she always manages to come back. When I worked a game on Jones Walk, Monica was a few doors down. Since then she’s been on the Bowery and is now located on West 12th Street. This is the spunky gal who told a Voice of America reporter last year that independent attractions like hers give Coney Island its soul. “Our spirit will live on long after we’re dead, honey. We are the blood, sweat and tears on the block,” said Monica in a feature about Coney’s amusement parks.

Skin the Wire

Janice, Skin the Wire, West 12th Street, Coney Island. March 24, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

What’s the difference between an agent and a clerk? Agents work their own game or for a percentage of the profits rather than an hourly wage. They don’t wear company shirts and hats. They know how to call people in to play and are adept at getting you to play some more. The key to their longevity is making sure everybody walks away happy. One of my favorite signs in Coney Island–now long demolished, but its operator is back– is WIN BIG! BIG! PRIZES FOR THE FAMILY!!!

Roll-A-Coaster

Carolyn, Roll-A-Coaster. West 12th Street, Coney Island. March 24, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Janice and Carolyn work the games of skill on West 12th Street next to the mechanical wonders Miss Coney Island and Coney Island Always and the Coney Island History Project. Roll-A-Coaster and other ingenious games are the creation of Benny Harrison, who should be designated the Wizard of West 12th Street.

Coney Island Arcade

Manny, Coney Island Arcade Games on the Bowery. March 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Target the Coney Island Cat and his human, Manny Cohen of Coney Island Arcade and Games, recently left Coney’s Bowery forever. Evicted by the landlord, they moved to Las Vegas. Jimmy Balloons, who operated his Balloon Dart on the Bowery was also displaced and has since reopened on Jones Walk under the Wonder Wheel’s big neon sign.

Jimmy Balloons new Balloon Dart

Jimmy Balloons new Balloon Dart under construction in Coney Island. March 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

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April 13, 2012: Photo of the Day: Catch 1 Ball Win This Prize

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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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