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As a carnival barker, I really make a splash



Published: Sun, September 1, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Dodging frogs, getting splashed and making change. All in a day's work.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- "Three for two!" I bellow to the passers-by. "Three for two, one in wins!"

Jason Gruber says the phrase is the most important thing I need to know while working the lily pad game at the Canfield Fair. Gruber, 23, has been working fair games for two years, so I take his advice.

"Three for two, one in wins!" I shout. It's 6 p.m. on Thursday, and the fair walkways are slowly getting crowded.

Few people seem to hear my offer. Middle-age couples ignore me as they walk by. Teenagers wearing $50 jeans and Abercrombie and Fitch shirts shake their heads and say they have no money.

At last!

A mother and her 10-year-old son finally stop and stare at the assortment of brightly colored stuffed animals hanging behind my head. I pick up a floppy rubber frog and try to make them an offer they can't refuse.

"You look like a strong guy," I say to the boy, shaking the frog at him. "You can do this. It's easy!"

His mother leads him over and puts $2 in my hand.

The $2 gives the boy three chances to hurl the frog over a three-foot gap and into a cup on a plastic lily pad. Several pads mechanically rotate in a water pond. If one of the boy's frogs lands in the cup, he wins a stuffed animal shaped like a sea creature.

I place a frog on a catapult in front of the boy and tell him to go for it. He carefully raises a rubber mallet, focusing his eyes on the lever at the end of the catapult.

"Clack!"

The mallet slams down on the lever and the frog flies across the booth. Like most first-time players, the boy misjudged the amount of force needed to send the frog into the lily pad cup.

I tell him not to hit it so hard, then I put another frog down on the catapult.

"Clack!"

The boy doesn't use enough force this time, and the frog dribbles onto the ground in front of the lily pad pond. I place his last frog on the catapult.

"Clack!"

A winner

This time he gets it right, and the frog lands in the cup. The boy smiles sheepishly as he asks for the blue and green octopus hanging behind me.

I raise my hands in triumph before giving the stuffed animal to the boy. As he clutches the octopus, my attention goes back to the people walking by the booth.

"Three for two, one in wins!" I yell.

Where's chivalry?

Most of those who stop to play during the next hour and a half are children between the ages of 8 and 12. I shout at the couples who walk by, calling for the men to win prizes for their girlfriends.

Soon I'm convinced that chivalry is truly dead.

A couple eventually stops. The man gives me $4, and I encourage him to win something for the woman.

The woman glares at me from behind her sunglasses and informs me that she's playing as well. I encourage her to win something for the man.

"I'm winning something for me!" she responds.

They both walked away empty-handed.

More and more people crowd onto the fair walkways, and more children approach me to try their luck. I have my hands full making change for parents while trying to dodge flying frogs. Water from the lily pond splashes my back and legs.

At 7:30 p.m., I realize I'm not cut out for work in a game booth and decide to head back to The Vindicator tent. I count the money I collected -- $36.

Not bad

That means 18 people paid me to fling a total of 54 frogs at the lily pads. I handed out about five stuffed animals.

As I leave, I ask booth owner Skinner Sanders what he thinks of my efforts.

"You've certainly got a job here," he says.

hill@vindy.com




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