Home, Sweet Covington County Fair

Published 1:21 am Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When workers for the James Gang Amusements Company head out on the road, they’re not going on vacation. They’re going to work.

The James Gang, based in Andalusia, travels across the country with its traveling carnival rides and other fair amusements. Of course, one of their contracts is with the Kiwanis Covington County Fair, which gives the staff a much-needed visit home after seven grueling months on the road.

“We’ve got 72 people that work for us,” said Jesse James, who is co-owner of the company along with his brothers Rodney and Dwayne James. “We have contracts through a variety of fairs; our route goes all the way to Indiana, then back down through Georgia, Alabama of course, Mississippi. We’ll finish up here in Andalusia and do two more weeks on the road, and then we come home for good in November.”

The carnival rides and other attractions are stored in 55 mobile barns that travel with the James Gang. The staff members travel in trailers and James said the long days on the road help the workers form good friendships with each other.

“We have good relationships with the people we do business with, and we also get along well as a group,” James said. “Some of our guys have been with us for as long as 10 to 12 years. We’ve got a good mix of workers, some are young people and others are those who have done this for a long time and really enjoy it.”

The James Gang is responsible for setting up the rides, midway games and most of the food stands at the Kiwanis Covington County Fair. The workers with the company also operate the rides, sell food and other items and work the games.

James said it takes about a full day’s work to set up the midway, and that the James Gang staff members are hard at work long before the gates open.

“Safety is very important to us and it’s an every day ordeal,” he said. “Every day before we open, rides get inspected, rides get looked at to make sure everything’s working. We look at gear boxes, pins. Everything that has to deal with safety, we’re pretty top notch.”

James said the company started 21 years ago with a total of 12 rides, most of which were kiddie type rides.

“Looking around (here at the fair), you can see that we’ve developed into a pretty big company,” he said. “Every so often we’d change out a ride or get a new one. It’s just like buying a truck; you take it and drive it for many years and then when you get the chance, you go ahead and get a new one.”

James said the company has contracts for about 40 fairs each year, beginning in March. He added that the best thing about his occupation is “the people.”

“The people we meet at the fair, the people we work with, the people who we do business with, they’re all just genuinely nice people,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to do business with them.”

The Kiwanis Covington County Fair will continue through Sun., Oct. 26. Gates open again today at 5:30 p.m.

“Y’all come out and enjoy the fair,” James added.