Listening to them scream: Cornucopia Days carnival worker loves his job

Brian Baker

Brian Baker

The fun starts for Brian Baker every time he operates the Zipper ride at the Funtastic carnival in Kent.

A sign warns riders that the Zipper is a “violent and high-speed turbulent ride that goes upside down and has sudden stops and jerks.”

The ride typically draws the longest lines of people.

“I give them a great time on this baby,” Baker said as he helped set up the ride Tuesday at the parking lot at West Smith Street and Lincoln Avenue.

In fact, Baker might get as many thrills out of the Zipper as the riders.

“I think I have as much fun operating it and listening to them holler and scream as they do on the ride,” said Baker, of Shelton, in his fifth year as foreman of the Zipper for Funtastic.

The Kent Cornucopia Days carnival opened Thursday and continues through Sunday. The carnival offers 15 rides, more than a dozen games and three food booths.

The Portland-based Funtastic Traveling Show hits Kent every July for Cornucopia Days.

Rick Spromberg, Funtastic carnival manager, oversees about 45 employees for the Kent show. A few people are hired locally, but most travel to each event. The majority of the workers stay in trailers on property along Willis Street near downtown Kent.

Carnival crews spent two days setting up the rides as they arrived Monday in town after a Fourth of July show at Fort Lewis. About a dozen trucks hauled in 24 trailers filled with equipment for the rides and games.

Spromberg, who lives in Portland, spends about six months a year on the road, mainly in the Pacific Northwest. The crew heads next to the King County Fair next Thursday through Saturday in Enumclaw.

“We try to keep short jumps per unit because of fuel costs,” Spromberg said.

Spromberg worked his first carnival at age 13 in his hometown of Longview. He met his wife nearly 30 years ago at a carnival and the two have worked together at events ever since.

“I like the traveling and working outdoors,” Spromberg said of his carnival career. “And I have friends in every town in the Northwest, people I’ve met over the years. It’s like a barbecue every year I come around.”

With so many years in the business, Spromberg knows what makes a successful carnival.

“If the operator is clean shaven and well dressed, the ride is painted and the ride works, it’s a good carnival,” he said.

New employees for Funtastic are paid the state of Washington minimum wage of $8.55 per hour. Shifts are limited to eight hours per day, Spromberg said.

Festival goers can ride bumper cars, tour the Haunted Mansion as well as buy pizza by the slice, hamburgers, french fries and other goodies.

Baker, of course, welcomes everyone to check out the Zipper. He said he has never seen a serious injury in his five years of running the ride.

“There’s been no broken bones, just bumps and bruises,” Baker said.

People flock to the ride at every show.

“I get slammed faster than any other ride,” Baker said.

Carnival: A Quick Look

(For full schedule, go to Kent Reporter Cornucopia Days Schedule

What: Kent Cornucopia Days Funtastic carnival

When: Runs 3 p.m. to closing Thursday, 2 p.m. to closing Friday, and noon to closing Saturday and Sunday

Where: West Smith Street and Lincoln Avenue

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