Seasoned carnie Dennis M. shows Kristian Ludlow

Seasoned carnie Dennis M. shows Kristian Ludlow

Smiles keep veteran carny going

Seasoned carny Dennis M. calls from his Shoot the Stars booth on Midway Boulevard at Westerner Days.

Come on in, it’s your turn to win.

Want to shoot a gun today?

Seasoned carny Dennis M. calls from his Shoot the Stars booth on Midway Boulevard at Westerner Days.

It’s early Thursday afternoon in Red Deer and people are beginning to trickle into the fairgrounds.

Early morning and afternoons tend to be quiet on weekdays with the rush usually coming in spurts.

Today Dennis is hoping to catch the attention of young families and teenagers who want to shoot a toy rifle at a star for a chance to win a large oversized stuffed animal.

“Nothing is more satisfying than seeing a kid walk away with a smile on their face and a teddy bear as big as them tucked under their arms,” said Dennis, who is originally from Wetaskiwin. He asked that his last name not be used for personal reasons.

Dennis has seen his share of faces throughout North America over the last four decades.

He travels about six months a year with the North American Midway starting each May.

He lives in motor home with his wife, Laura, who works at the Frogger, a children’s game in the Midway.

“This could be a very hard life or it can be a very comfortable life,” said Dennis, 57. “How many jobs do you get paid to travel around? I get up every morning and go sightseeing in every town I am in.”

The best part of his job is travelling to all the towns and cities across the country where he has met a lot of nice people. Over the years the carnivals have changed but one thing remains the same: “People still like to play the games,” said Dennis. “They like to ride the rides.”

Dennis said the days can be tiring because they are responsible for set up and tear down, plus there’s the time spent on their feet.

“The best part of my day is seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces,” said Dennis. “We’re here in the carnival business to help people enjoy themselves. It’s a little fun and a change from their normal world. Come on out, have fun. That’s what we are here for.”

Wednesday attendance: 12,734. (First day attendance in 2012 was 15,395.) The Brent Butt show drew 1,800.

Friday’s Picks at Westerner Days

• Down With Webster take the stage at 8:30 p.m. at the Hampton Inn & Suites Main Stage. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Entrance included with gate admission.

• Aussie Rules Dueling Pianos shows at 8 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. at the Tryson Stage

• Penn West Exploration Fireworks Spectacular at 10:45 p.m. (weather dependent)

Saturday’s Picks

• 2013 Canadian country music association award nominee Dean Brody performs at 8:30 p.m. at the Hampton Inn & Suites Main Stage. Tickets are $20 at www.ticketmaster.ca or by calling 1-855-985-5000. Tickets do not include service fees, taxes, gate admission or parking.

Sunday Promotion

• Servus Credit Union Family Day – Admission and parking is $25 for a carload of up to six people. Children 10 years old and younger ride at the midway all day for $15.

All events are listed at www.westernerdays.ca

crhyno@reddeeradvocate.com