(James E. Strates Shows)
If you’ve ever strolled along the Midway of the James E. Strates Shows, no doubt you’ve taken notice of all the games there are to play.
One such game is the Gun Ball Game.
Standing in front of the game, inviting you to try your luck is – Dean.
We caught up with Dean, along the James E. Strates Midway, on the grounds of the New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York.
Q – Dean, how long have you been with the Strates Shows?
A – Four years.
Q – In that time you’ve traveled the East Coast with the Strates Shows?
A – Yes, sir.
Q – What were you doing before joining Strates?
A – I’m a carpenter, by trade.
Q – You’re from Buffalo, New York?
A – Yes, sir.
Q – How did you go from being a carpenter in Buffalo, New York to working for Strates?
A – Well, sometimes the weather doesn’t permit me to make the money I want to make. I work for these guys ‘cause they come through for the Hamburg Fair and there’s good money to be made. So, when I’m not doing so hot in my normal trade, and I know these guys are gonna be in a good spot I come out and travel with ‘em, make the money I need to make and go back home and spend time with my family.
Q – Is the Gun Ball Game, a game based on skill?
A – There is some skill involved. I have more kids win this game than anybody else. It’s the way the game is set-up. The gun is not like a normal gun. There’s no sights on it. So, you got guys that are experienced and want to aim the gun like they normally would. So, you just want to make sure the gun is level, get the ball straight into the cup and knock ‘em all down. You just got to hit it in that sweet spot.
Q – How much training did you receive before you were able to run this game?
A – Well, either you got the skills or you don’t There’s a little bit of training. There’s different techniques for approaching different people. You learn that as you go. That’s the best training you can have. It took me about a week of preparation before I really got it down and understood how to play people and how to get the most benefit for me which is the most money from them out of the situation.
Q – You probably get a salary plus a percentage?
A – A commission.
Q – With so much competition, how can all you guys make money?
A – It’s giving the people a chance, making them believe they’re getting something, which they are. I can have the person next to me give the person a shot and they come in and walk by me. I might let you lean in a little bit, you know what I’m saying? Give ‘em that extra advantage. Make them think that they’re getting a deal, which they are, or give ‘em a better deal. You get one shot for $2.00 or 3 shots for $5.00. I might get you 4 shots $5.00. I might get you that extra shot for only $1.00. It’s not something in the rules book but, I can do that.
Q – How many people does it take to set the Gun Ball Game up, and how many people travel with the game?
A – To get the initial set-up, the levelling and so forth, you need about 3 or 4 guys. Every morning we come in here. The tents you see come up are on a hydraulic system. So, I can basically do that by myself. You just got to turn on the lights, the air tank, set up the hydraulic system, open up the game, and you’re ready to go.
Q – How many people travel with the game?
A – Three people. We rotate three people. You need two people in the game at all times. It can be run by one, but, with a heavy crowd like this, you’re gonna profit more with two people dealing with a larger crowd.
Q – Does one guy own this game or does he/she own several games?
A – The Strates Shows owns it all. There are a few people who own a few of their games in here. But, regardless you pay a percentage to the owner. So, whether you own the game or not a percentage is going to the Strates personnel. It’s going straight to their office.
Q – How long of a day do you work?
A – 9-12 hours in the summer time.
Q – That’s a tough schedule isn’t it?
A – It is. It can be strenuous, but you keep it fun, you keep it interesting. You joke. You laugh at the people. You have fun; time goes by a little faster.
Q – How long does it take to tear this stand down?
A – We’ll tear this whole thing down in probably a night.
Q – And you’re on your way to the next show?
A – Yup. On the way to the next show. The only reason we might wait is, there isn’t so many drivers who can drive semi’s and the trailers. So, there’s few drivers than there are games and trailers. Those are called ride jockeys. They transport everything and set up the rides. I don’t do that. So, all the concession people will wait. We’ll go to the next spot and maybe camp out for 3 or 4 days while they’re bringing everything back and setting everything up.
Q – You don’t live on the train do you?
A – I live in a trailer.
Q – Who pulls that?
A – One of the drivers. They take turns driving games and trailers.
Q – How long do you see yourself doing this?
A – As long as the moneys there, why stop? I’m looking to go back to school. So obviously once I’m in school, so obviously I’m not going to be able to. So if it just so happens that I’m not in school and the carnival comes around and I know they’re going to be in a spot where I can make money-----I’ll go for it!
Q – What would you be studying in college?
A – Bio-chemistry.
Q – Quite a switch from this!
A – Yeah. Oh, yeah. I’m good with people. I always have been. I’m a very personable person. People in my family are like that. I got a big family. I’m not shy. So, it just so happens I’m good at both.
Q – When you started with Strates, did you have your choice of what game you would work?
A – You do rotate. Some people don’t get breaks during the day. So, you can go offer them a break. While I’m on break I could go offer to give somebody else a break and still be making money during that time-frame. Some people own their own games and you can’t work for them, but, most of the people here work for Strates. If you give them an opportunity to make money in your joint, then they’ll give you an opportunity to make money in theirs.
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