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Utahns enjoy extra work, income at State Fair

Published: Sunday, Sept. 8 2013 5:10 p.m. MDT

Charles Greuber of Salt Lake City has been newly hired to work as a ride attendant at the Utah State Fair in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. Here he helps Celest Valdez and Randy Miguel out of their seats on the Thunder Bolt ride.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The annual arrival of the Utah State Fair not only brings deep-fried food and carnival rides, but also a few extra job opportunities for locals.

Photography supervisor Curtis Parker is in his 16th and final year working for the State Fair. It's a job, he said, but also an "expression of art."

"It's a labor of love for sure," Parker said, adding that the hours are long. "I do love it. I love the fair."

Finance manager Holli Buxton said about 400 local employees were hired for this year's fair.

“We’ve had people that have worked 20-25 years that come back every year and look forward to come back and work,” Buxton said.

Parker said he likes to see people's reaction to the photos.

"I like talking to people," he said. "I like talking photography."

Each year, the Utah State Fair hires employees to clean the grounds, take tickets, take care of the animals and help in just about every department — including photography, Buxton said.

Some of the employees are retired but like to come work for a few days, she said. This year, the fair had about 100 new applicants join the returning crowd.

In 2011, 443 local employees were hired, and 447 were hired in 2012, Buxton said.

Besides those employed by the Utah State Fair, locals also can work for the Mighty Thomas Carnival and local vendors.

John Hanschen, director of the Mighty Thomas Carnival, said he hires locals for several jobs, such as helping people on and off rides, taking tickets and cleaning up trash.

“It’s important that we have enough qualified workers to satisfy the crowds,” he said.

Hanschen said the carnival hires about 30 to 40 people locally to add to the 160- to 180-person staff it takes to run the carnival.

Applicants go through an extensive interview and drug testing, he said, and the company screens for registered sex offenders.

“I have to be confident with people we present to you, our customer,” Hanschen said.

Charles Greuber, of Salt Lake City, said this is his third year working for the Mighty Thomas Carnival.

"I just love it," he said. "It's good money, helps me support my kids."

Greuber said working at the carnival is a good experience, and he "couldn't ask for more" from a job.

Dave Hornell, of Salt Lake City, has worked for the carnival for four years, usually in ticket sales. Hornell said the temporary work is something for him to do and keep him busy.

“It helps me out with my finances,” he said.

Hornell said he likes seeing the people who attend the fair, helping them and working with people.

“Communication is the big thing,” he said, saying for him it is motivating and builds self-confidence.

Hornell said he plans to work at the carnival again next year.

“It’s fun to be here, just be … involved in something,” he said.

Michael Steele, executive director of Utah State Fair Corp., said many of the fair's employees come to work as a secondary income — for extra money to pay bills or for the holidays. Some even take vacation days to work during at the State Fair.

“They get to change roles," Steele said. "You can go for 11 days to do something totally different. You don’t have the drudgery of your same job. It’s kind of fun and refreshing.”

Nic Dunn, spokesman for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said such temporary jobs allow business and the economy to adapt.

"We're glad to have the State Fair here," Dunn said. "Even a small number of jobs created temporarily are of economic benefit to our citizens and our state."

Email: eeagar@deseretnews.com, Twitter: EmileeEagar

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