August 7, 2019 8:03 pm
Updated: August 8, 2019 7:10 am

South African workers recruited for travelling fairs like Saskatoon Ex

WATCH ABOVE: South African workers recruited for travelling fair.

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They visit 19 fairs across North America, including the Saskatoon Exhibition.

Of the almost 450 workers operating the games, rides and food vendors with North American Midway Entertainment (NAME), 137 of them are from South Africa.

READ MORE: Saskatoon Ex kicks off Tuesday: here’s what you need to know

“I was very scared doing this at first, because I never went anywhere,” 26-year-old Chanell Retief from Mokopane said.

“I was just stuck in South Africa and actually experiencing travel and meeting so many great people — it’s fantastic.”

She, like the many others, was recruited through a program called Away2Xplore — a partnership dating back 15 years.

“Most of them are young people between 20 and 26 years old,” said NAME’s Scooter Korek.

Scooter Korek and Chanell Retief at the Saskatoon Ex.

Tyler Schroeder / Global News

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“They get to come work in rides, games and food and our ticket selling and administration departments.”

Korek has managed the midway with NAME for 43 years. He said it’s important to have a trained core staff adding their employee retention rate is up to 60 per cent.

READ MORE: Saskatoon Exhibition hosts province’s 1st BeaverTails franchise

“We train them in safety and customer service and they follow us wherever we go,” Korek explained.

“So the guy that’s running the tilt-a-whirl really knows how to run the tilt-a-whirl.”

This is Retief’s second year with the travelling amusement park working the concessions office. Back home, she worked for an insurance company.

“It is kind of hard in South Africa to find a decent job and actually get paid well enough to make a living,” she explained.

A weak South African rand means the nine-month journey abroad is an opportunity to save a fair amount of money for anything from tuition to leisure.

“Most of them are very, very good savers,” Korek said.

“Don’t have to pay for housing or anything, you live in your bunkhouse and that’s it,” Retief explained. “You save, you work.”

Chanell Retief at the Saskatoon Ex.

Tyler Schroeder / Global News

She’s saving to keep exploring the world.

“I want to do the carnival for the season and then I want to travel — like every year I want to visit a new country basically.”

In the meantime, she’s also breaking the so-called “carny” stereotype.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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