Mary and Ed Wenzel never were big fair fans. Strolling the midway, going on the rides and chowing down on the numerous food offered at the booths wasn’t their idea of a fun way to spend a summer day.
But this week, for the third straight summer, the Wenzels are fair fixtures.
The difference? They are now fair employees.
“It’s fun,” Mary said Tuesday afternoon.
They are two of about 60 workers hired to work before, during and after the fair, according to Gladys Schwab, who was working as a receptionist at the Fair Office Tuesday. Schwab is herself a temporary worker, albeit one who puts in some long hours. She said she will work from 7 a.m. to midnight most days, and on Tuesday she was fielding phone calls, offering information to workers and fairgoers and basically keeping very, very busy.
She wore a T-shirt that stated: “The Lord helps those who help themselves. I agree, do it yourself.”
The Wenzels, both 67, worked security in the past, putting in overnight hours to protect the fairgrounds and exhibits. But this year, the fair has turned to the Powell Police Department to provide that service.
That means the Wenzels are now working at gates, taking tickets. It’s a long day, starting at 7:30 a.m. and ending after 10 p.m.
“I’ve never been a fairgoer, but we enjoy this,” Mary said.
They are paid $8.50 per hour, without overtime, and are given meal tickets each day. They take breaks at separate times to grab a bite to eat while the other staffs the gate.
Because of the long hours, they don’t get much of a chance to enjoy the fair attractions, but since that’s not a major draw, it’s no problem.
Schwab said temporary fair workers are mostly behind the scenes, getting things up and running, taking tickets and making sure the five-day event runs smoothly.
Many of the workers in the privately owned and operated booths also are getting in some hours and making some money during the annual festival.
Tracy Haley of Greybull and her husband Mike own a concession stand that sells lemonade, doughnuts and other treats. They work about 12 shows each spring and summer, she said.
“We make good money, I guess,” Haley said. “This is our third year since we bought the booth.”
She said she opens most days between 8 and 9 a.m. and shuts down around 10 or 11 p.m. But when there is a big show, and the beer tent is roaring late, she will sell some items as late as 1 a.m.
Madi Edeler of Greybull was assisting her Tuesday afternoon. They offered a regular glass of lemonade for $4 and a large glass for $6, and offered refills for half-price.
Dylan Werner was on the job Tuesday morning, making and selling kettle corn and lemonade for his grandmother’s stand, Beartooth Concessions.
“I’ve been doing this for a couple years now,” said Werner, a 17-year-old from Cody.
He paused to talk while two younger cousins stood by. They all are assisting Marion Smith, who operates the stand.
Werner said he works from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and has kept that schedule during the last two fairs. That means he misses most of the fair, but he also makes some cash.
He said he likes the fair, but that’s not the sole reason he comes to Powell at the end of August.
“A little bit of both,” he said. “Mostly money.”