REGINA – They’re young, ambitious, and typically not what we associate with being a so-called “carny.”
Of the more than four hundred workers operating the rides, games, and food stands for North American Midway Entertainment (NAME) at the Queen City Ex, 130 of them are from South Africa.
“The general perception of carnies is not what you see here,” said 23-year-old Amanda Uys from Cape Town. She works at the guest services booth. “Me and my boyfriend wanted to travel and we came across this program (Away2Xplore) a company in South Africa, and we decided to go for it.”
NAME began recruiting from South Africa nine years ago and over that time more than a thousand workers have come over to travel with the carnival.
“The employees that we get from there are exceptional people with very good education and strong moral upbringing,” said Scooter Korek with North American Midway Entertainment. “We play in places such as Regina with a low unemployment rate, so it’s very hard for us to retain local workers.”
The Canadian dollar is faring well against the South African rand, so the nine month journey abroad can be a way to save money: “I want to start my business at home and then maybe buy a house,” said Uys.
“I actually want to get my helicopter pilot’s license back home so I can get a job anywhere in the world,” said 23-year-old Bruce Linford from Johannesburg. This is his second stint working for the traveling amusement park as an operator for the Mega Drop ride.
However, in the meantime Linford is breaking stereotypes: “South Africans, we dress well, we’re well educated. Some of the people aren’t used to expecting that when they go to the fair.”
The show continues throughout Canada and the US before the South Africans head home in November.