SKOWHEGAN — Amanda Hazard was 16 when she first joined the carnival circuit, helping her mother in a booth at the Windsor Fair.

That was 22 years ago, and the Cony High School student immediately was hooked on the sights, sounds and smells of country fairs and the people she meets traveling from town to town in a Montana High Country RV trailer.

She’s been a carny ever since, she said Thursday on the opening day of the 200th annual Skowhegan State Fair, the nation’s oldest continually running agricultural fair.

It’s in her blood.

“It’s a little crazy. I miss home, but it’s all right,” she said from chairs outside the RV. “You see a lot of different people. It’s fun because you get to see different places. Sometimes it’s a little hectic. I would like to do this forever. I’d like to buy us a ride or some food concessions.”

The couple — Amanda is office manager for Fiesta Shows, the midway operator; and Ed, the staff manager, is responsible for ride safety — also run their own games now at the fair, including a duck pond, a dragon fish game and a balloon-popping booth.

Amanda, an Augusta native, now of Spring Hill, Florida, who turns 38 on Friday, met her husband, Ed, on the fair circuit when she was 20 and fell in love with both.

Ed Hazard, 50, who said he grew up hard in gritty Somerville, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, said it was life on the road with traveling carnivals that saved him from what could have been a much different fate.

People on the fair circuit, he said, are like family to him.

“I got started in the carnival business, I want to say, 25, 26 years ago,” he said. “It was Scituate, Massachusetts. It was a little festival on the harbor. My sister happened to be working at a sausage stand there. I’ve been on the fairs ever since then.

“The carnival kind of saved me a little bit. I was adopted — foster homes, type of thing. Got in with some random people when I was younger, and then kind of got away from the city life and all that craziness and came out here focused and busy.”

Ed Hazard said he worked his way up from the lowest level on the midway, setting up and working the rides to manager of the midway.

“I like to think it’s family,” he said.

So what is a carny, and are Ed and Amanda carnies?

“To me, my definition of a carny is a very hardworking, determined individual that maybe has been down on his luck sometimes, here or there, and comes out here for another shot at something,” he said. “I like to give everybody a fair shot. I was given a shot and it helped me out. I’d like to pay that back.”

Ed Hazard said Fiesta Shows has a crew of about 35 workers, depending on the site, some of whom are employed under the federal H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers Law through a company in Mexico. Some midway workers also hail from South Africa, he said. He said Maine-based Smokey’s Greater Shows also contributes workers and some of the midway rides.

The couple moved to Florida in 2013, where they continue to reside when they’re not on the road with the fair. They travel with their two dogs, a pug named Spanky and a loud Yorkie named Snickers, who Amanda said both love to ride from place to place in the RV.

The RV trailer will sit tucked away just opposite the 54-foot-high Pharaoh’s Fury ride on the Skowhegan midway for the entire 10-day run of the fair, which continues Friday and runs through Aug. 18.

The Hazards said life on the carnival trail can be difficult when it comes to raising a family. They have two children, 11 and 14, who sometimes travel with them during school vacations.

“It’s not easy,” Ed Hazard said. “I don’t recommend it. It’s very hard, not so much on me, but it’s hard on the kids, I think, and my wife. Sometimes it’s like a long-distance relationship, almost.”

Ed Hazard said he is on the road eight months of the year, while his wife is traveling about six months of the year. He said he stays with Fiesta Shows in the New England area for fair season.

“To me, it’s my whole life. Traveling is in my blood. I love it,” Ed Hazard said. “You see new places, new people. I’ve made a lot of good friends out here from different places with different backgrounds. I love it.

“My whole thing is — why do I like the carnival? I guess I’m not the type of guy that can go to a building with four walls, see the same four walls, the same people. It’s not for me. I’m a carny through and through. I aways have been. Proud of it.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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