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Staying right on the money



Published: Thu, September 2, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



When it comes to tracking cash, the best person to count on is a banker.

By MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- Moonlighting bankers are plentiful at the Canfield Fair.

Dozens of them take time off from their regular jobs as vice presidents and branch managers at financial institutions throughout three counties to man the gates selling tickets, collecting deposits and reconciling handfuls of cash to the number of tickets sold.

"We're very picky about who we hire," said Timm Schreiber, who oversees the Canfield Fair's treasurer's office and gate admissions. "We want people who have experience handling money."

Of the 100 or so workers employed by the fair's admissions and treasurer's office, Schreiber said 90 percent are bankers or retired bankers. The rest are individuals referred by bankers.

Serious business

Ticket-takers and hand-stampers aren't required to have as much experience, but everyone who handles cash must be qualified, Schreiber said.

"We're all bonded," added Bob Papa, vice president of J.P. Morgan & amp; Chase. He's been selling tickets at the gate "somewhere around 20 years," working 15 and 16 hours a day Wednesday through Sunday. "Monday I take off to come out here with my family," he explained.

Working the gate is great, Papa said. "It's really fun when [fairgoers] swarm all around you." On a slow day, he'll sell a few hundred tickets. On a busy day, he'll sell thousands.

All the tickets are numbered, with different colors for adults, children and, on senior-citizen discount day, for seniors. That way, Papa said, workers in the treasurer's office can determine exactly how much cash, based on the number of tickets sold, each seller should deposit throughout the course of a day.

Workers from the fair's treasurer's office visit each gate several times a day in Loomis-Fargo armored cars to collect deposits and make change.

"No one keeps much money on them," said Bev Couchie, a Bank One vice president and manager of the institution's Salem branch.

She and Jim Horvath, senior vice president at Sky Bank, collect the deposits. Both count every ticket seller's cash to ensure no errors are made before writing the receipts.

Couchie's been working for the treasurer's office about 25 years; Horvath's been working there 19 years.

Big bills

It seems that most fairgoers bring $20, $50 and $100 bills to the fair, Couchie said, so ticket sellers frequently need to exchange those large bills for $1 and $5 bills so they can make change.

Neither she nor Horvath would venture to estimate how much change the treasurer's office provides throughout the course of the fair.

While ticket sellers welcome the small bills, Papa said, coins are dreaded. "We don't have anyplace to put them," he said, reaching into a pocket on his apron where bills are stored.

Loops on the front of his apron hold rolls of tickets.

Overall, few fairgoers pay for admission in coins, he said, but it's not uncommon for teenagers. "When you see someone with a fist full of change, you always take him first. That way you can give his friends the change," Papa chuckled.

Quiet periods when only a few fairgoers trickle through the gates are most difficult, Papa said. The best times are when lots of fairgoers crowd around ticket sellers and the admission gates scrambling for tickets.

Seeing people

The reason bankers work the gates, Papa, Couchie and Horvath agree, is not the money. "It's the people," they all said.

"I see people out here that I haven't seen in years," said Rudy Nelson, a ticket taker the past six years. His colleagues all agreed.

Nelson, one of the few workers without banking experience, retired from General Motors Corp. before a friend who worked one of the gates at the fair suggested he apply for the job.

Now, Nelson said, "I wouldn't miss one day."

kubik@vindy.com




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