Where Do Carnival Workers Sleep?

December 17, 2023

Carnivals evoke images of cotton candy and smiling kids on the merry-go-round, but what lies behind the scenes is often less than charming. The lives of carnival workers, known as carnies, aren’t what you’d expect: they’re on the move year-round, living in trailers, and working long shifts for minimum wage while missing family back home. Their work is often exhausting and physically challenging, and their living arrangements can be uncomfortable.

Depending on the size of the carnival, some will offer on-site accommodations for their employees. This can include trailers or bunk beds within the carnival grounds, where people sleep as they set up rides and games or perform in shows. These on-site options may not provide the comforts of a hotel, but they are an effective way to keep the carnival workers close to their workstation and allow them to get some rest in between traveling to new fairgrounds.

Other carnivals will let employees bring their own trailer or camper to the event, as long as it complies with any guidelines from the carnival company and is kept in designated areas. This allows the workers to have a more comfortable and private space in which to sleep, as well as allowing them to be closer to their workstations during the daytime.

For the most part, though, carnival workers are dedicated to their jobs and enjoy the sense of community they find among fellow employees. Many of them are also incredibly proud of the fact that they help bring smiles to the faces of fairgoers all across America. The grittiness and lack of privacy, however, can eventually wear on a person. That’s why, when it comes time to leave the midway, some carnies choose to rent property near their next gig and spend their off-season enjoying the comforts of a real home.

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