The Waldon Company, an events cleaning service for the carnival and circus industries, celebrates its tenth anniversary at the N.C. State Fair in October. Tony Waldon, President of the company, started his events cleaning business with the N.C. State Fair. "I went over to that fairgrounds to see if I could get a job to take care of the trash and I was hired on the spot. I then went to New Mexico, to Wyoming, to the Wisconsin State Fair, and to the Delaware State Fair. It started growing so fast, we didn't know how to keep up with it," he said. The Waldon Company began with a two-room house trailer on a dirt road in Sanford, NC. People often ask Waldon if he's from North Carolina and tells them, "I got here as quick as I could when I heard about it."
Waldon started working in the carnival and circus business in 1967, with Frank McDermott of the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus. In 1984, he worked with the Royal American Shows, where he began gaining the skillset to develop his cleaning service as the train crews also usually provided cleanup on the midway. Finally, he worked with The Olson Show and the American's Great Railroad Show. Waldon says he always enjoyed trains so he tried to be around them as much as he could. He's been in the carnival and circus business almost forty-six years. Ten of those years were dedicated to the cleanup business and Waldon could not be more proud of the company's growth.
"It's not just picking up a broom and dust pan. You have to have strategy in place." Waldon says.
The Waldon Company provides environmental waste and cleaning services such as pre-event cleaning and prep, during special event cleaning, cleaning of buildings and bunk houses, parking lot cleaning, patrolling and services, late night cleaning of staging after hours, special event environmental consulting, and more. The company is a 24-hour operation. "We keep the N.C. State Fair spotless. That's a big fair with a-hundred-and-some odd rides. They want it clean. We kept it clean for ten years, and we hope to be there another ten years," Waldon explains.
Employees leave on a 1,300 mile trip from Oklahoma to North Carolina and as soon as they pull in they go to work, pulling between 200-300 trash cans out, vacuuming the midways and organizing the crews. When the site closes as midnight, they have everything spotless usually by 3:30 A.M. according Waldon. At a sizeable fair, there may be 150 people on the grounds. Waldron says, "At the Delaware State Fair you have 35 people just doing the bathrooms." Waldron compares it to moving an army unit into place and each unit completing their mission.
What Tony Waldron loves most about the business is the friendships he's made. "I'm a guy who came from the back end of things and got into the trash business and met all these big fair owners you read about. I know Jerry Murphy and his brother. They're famous but they're just regular guys like anyone else. A lot of carnival owners helped us out to get where we are, and we couldn't have done it without them." Waldon says that in return he tries to hire people that are hard workers but may be down on their luck, and that Waldron Company donates to homeless shelters, blood drives, and gives as much as he can to charity. The Waldon Company is a prime example of a company that has maintained its values as it successfully grew.
There were challenges along the way. "We thought picking up trash was easy but it's not. It's like if you owned one restaurant and suddenly had 40 new ones to manage. We had to learn as we went. There was insurance, liability issues, workman's comp, permits to do business in different cities, a tax accountant, payroll, a road chief to manage each crew in different parts of the country. All were challenges as we grew."
Tony Waldon spent over thirty years in the carnival and circus industry in the railroad department, and as much as he loves trains and working in that role, he says, "I think the only thing I'm going to get remembered for is the trash. I think it's just the trash. Tony Waldon, the trash guy. They won't remember the railroad cars at the three shows I worked for, which is okay. I wouldn't be upset with that but I think that's what it's going to be.", laughs Waldon. Waldon thinks of the N.C. State Fair as his "baby." It's where the Waldon Company started, and he says he wouldn't trade those last ten years for anything.