When asked what she likes best about the carnival business, Meagan Sims responds without hesitation: “I like being with my family.”
Family is an inescapable midway fact for Sims, currently office manager for Talley Amusements and an owner of four rides that travel with this carnival company. As the daughter of Tom Talley (and stepdaughter of Mary), she's a fifth generation carnival worker; her husband C.J. Sims is a manager and primary welder for the company.
But this young mother of two holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master degree in social work and while she may have been born into the carnival business, she is very much aware that she is part of the new generation of outdoor amusement professionals now essential to the transformation the outdoor events industry is undergoing. “We millennials are very hard workers and we are much more comfortable with the computer work and programmable machinery compared to non-millennials,” she said. “We are very adaptable, which is needed, because the business is changing.”
Like many 20-somethings, Sims is adept at balancing the professional and personal sides of life as well as taking on diverse responsibilities. As office manager, she stays at the Talley headquarters in Ft. Worth, Texas, one of her prime duties is handling all Human Resources tasks, which can range from making sure all the CDL licenses are up-to-date to the many paperwork requirements for the approximately 80 H-2B workers the company employees during its season, which typically runs from January to November.
Being a jack-of-all-trades however is nothing new to midway company employees no matter what their age. Much of Sims responsibilities at the Saginaw facility was operating the company's new Vinyl Printer & Wrap machine. According to Sims, the company purchased this piece of equipment last year and during its winter break the company upped its midway appearance game by wrapping new game trailers, bunkhouses, semitrailers – nearly everything that could be wrapped, essentially – including the more than 20 self-service Magic Money stands.
“We basically filled in any bare space with the wrap,” she said. “We also printed more personalized signs, the directional signs and the height signs, as well as large banners. The designs added our mascot, Tate, to the wraps. The midway looks more uniform now.”
The expanded use of wraps was an aesthetic upgrade to the 2019 Talley Amusements brand. While her input in the designs of the wraps is minimal, Sims oversees the printing of the wraps, a “very tricky process.”
Unlike other offspring of a carnival family, Sims didn't exactly grow up on the midway, she would spend weekends with her father as well as an entire month during the summer. Her favorite fairs were two more local events in Grapevine Texas – Main Street Days in May and the Wine Festival in September – and she has fond memories of making the long drives between gigs in Oklahoma and Kansas with her two younger sisters, Cortney and Taylor watching movies on a VCR their father had rigged up to run in the car. The film “Bogus” was a particular favorite.
“I worked in games and food stands, with my grandmother and cousins,” she said. “I was always with family when I was visiting the carnival.”
During her teen years, the visits turned into a part time job and she learned the carnival business at the grassroots level with genuine hands-on experience. When she was graduated with her undergraduates degree in 2013, her father “gifted” her a kiddie Tractor Ride, the revenue of which paid for college and post-graduate degrees. From this one kiddie ride she and her husband formed M&C Rides, now a contactor with Talley Amusements, specializing in children's rides. Their compliment of equipment now includes a Kiddie Carousel, Metro Maze, and Kiddie Funhouse.
As office manager for Talley Amusements, Sims has increased her industry involvement, joining the OABA and attending recent industry tradeshows, including IAAPA and IAFE events last year. But the true test for both her and Talley Amusements will come in July for the company's inaugural midway at the Ohio State Fair. Talley Amusements won a highly competitive contract last year for one of the largest fairs in the Midwest. Sims will be at the midway office for the duration of the event.
“Everything here focused on building up to Ohio, we are very geared up as a company,” she said. “Everyone will be onsite, the whole family.”
Midway Millennials is an ongoing series profiling the new generation of fair professionals. If you know of a millennial in the amusement industry who would be a good fit for our series, please contact us.