County Fair sights and sounds

By TaTeona Hughes
The Upstart

Working at a carnival is, in Reggie Martinez’s words, “a thankless job.”
From his basketball toss kiosk, he sees everything from red-faced toddlers with sticky stuffed animals to their slumping, exhausted parents dripping with sweat. He stands by his booth in a blue uniform polo, holding a basketball, smelling the sweet cinnamon elephant ears and watching the lights on the rides flash incessantly.
Kids and parents occasionally stop to play his game, and he’s never even heard a single thank you from any of his customers.
Martinez’s basketball toss was one of the many games at the annual Ingham County Fair, sponsored by The Skerbeck Bros. Carnival Company. The family-owned company has been serving Michigan, Ohio and Illinois for a total of 153 years.
The Skerbeck Bros. Carnival travels all around the Midwest region of the United States. The company begins their tour during the beginning of April and ends in October.
Martinez began working at Skerbeck Bros. this year but has been working the carnival scene for three months.
Beyond the rubber-ducky kiosk, past the Hustler ride lies the 15-foot rock wall that 18-year-old, bleach blonde Cynthia Toppel is in charge of.
She’d tried once before to work at the Skerbeck Company, but she wasn’t old enough yet.
“You can’t travel when you’re 17 because of liability reasons,” she said.
Although she enjoys the sights and sounds of the Ingham County Fair, Toppel had already seen some disgusting things that one of her close friend was never thanked for.
“Someone puked on the Gravitron,” she said. “It was a little 8-year-old boy. One of my good friends had to help clean it up.”
The fair serves up deep-fried Oreos, so the little boy’s stomach spew is not unusual.
But Euro-Bungee supervisor L.J. said during his first four months, he saw a fair visitor do something he’d never seen anywhere.
“I had a one and a half year old jump to the top of the bars,” L.J. said. “These bars are at least 25 feet high.”
At the end of the day, fairs are all in fun – but sometimes all the employees want is a little recognition.
“I always hear ‘Have a good day’ or ‘See ya’ around’,” Martinez said. “I never hear a ‘Thank you’.”

For more information about the Skerbeck Bros. Carnival Company, you can visit their website at

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