Tuesday, October 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Meet some of the Solano County Fair ‘carnies’

3 county fair carnies 1

Lavetta Stokes runs the water gun game at the Solano County Fair in Vallejo, Wednesday. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

By
From page C1 | August 03, 2014 |

FAIRFIELD — Sandy Lawley calls herself “The Fish Whisperer.”

The Porterville resident travels the county fair circuit with Butler Amusements and operates the goldfish game. Hopefuls take a shot at winning the freshwater fish by tossing ping-pong-size plastic balls into a small glass bowl.

Lawley got her first job with the carnival when she was 19. When she had her first child, she stayed closer to home. She hit the road again about three years ago.

She’s at the Solano County Fair through Sunday.

“I talk to the fish every day,” she said.

She also cleans the little glass bowls of colored water daily. Lawley calls it a “workhorse of  a game,” but doesn’t see herself working any other carnival job.

At each stop Butler Amusement makes, Lawley tends to between 1,200 and 2,000 goldfish. It’s her job to keep them alive, she said.

“The last thing I want is to have someone come back and tell me their fish died,” Lawley said.

If the winner still has more fair fun ahead, she gives them a ticket to return and pick up their new pet as they exit.

She loves to hear stories from the adults, recalling how they won a goldfish at a fair. Some of their tales date back 10 and 25 years, she said.

Lawley decorated her booth. She often sets it up with little or no help.

“This is my baby,” she said. “I get a lot of compliments on the decoration.”

She believes some people still see carnival workers as scam artists.

“Not all of the public sees us that way,” she said. “But I still have family that stereotypes us as people who use drugs and can’t get real jobs.”

The mother of four carries a wooden back scratcher that she tucks into the back of her shirt.

When asked about it, her answer may vary from the humorous, “Secretly, I’m a ninja,” to the real explanation, it serves as an extended hand to reach things in the middle of her game display.

Lawley’s niece, Lavetta Stokes, worked the water-gun game on opening day of the Solano County Fair.

She was raised in the carnival, she said. Her parents, as well as her aunts and uncles, have been “carnies.”

When school was in session, Stokes stayed home with her mother. In the summer, she went on the carnival circuit with her mother and father.

“The carnival raised me,” she said.

It also saved her. Stokes dealt with a methamphetamine addiction that she helped kick thanks to caring carnival co-workers.

Stokes, 27, is the mother of a 3-year-old daughter. There are times she feels likes she’s 40, she said.

She’s moving to Oregon soon to have more time with her daughter. The carnival life will become part of her past. A home-based business is the future.

“It’s going to be hard to say goodbye,” she said. “It’s like my family here. You know everyone on the lot.”

Antonio Sandoval calls San Bernardino home when he’s not on the road with Butler Amusements, handing out darts to those hoping to pop a balloon and win a stuffed animal.

A friend talked him into joining the carnival seven years ago. That friend left the business four years ago.

“It’s fun,” Sandoval said of the job. “You get to meet people.”

He has a cousin and uncle who work for a different carnival.

Sandoval has a 7-year-old son. When he gets older, Sandoval said he wouldn’t discourage the boy from giving the carnival a try.

He plans to work in the carnival a few more years. He might look for other employment after that, he said.

He may have mastered Lawley’s goldfish game by then.

“It’s hard to win,” Sandoval said. “But I see a lot of kids do it.”

All three praised Butler Amusements, which is based in Fairfield. Each said the company really cares about, and for, its employees. Lawley said she can’t see herself working for anyone but Butler.

 Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or amaginnis@dailyrepublic.net. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Crime key topic again at Fairfield candidates night

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1, 30 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Dixon corn maze breaks own world record

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A2, 1 Comment | Gallery

PAL center seeks volunteers

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
.

US / World

Police say they might have spotted ambush suspect

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta dies at 82

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Yosemite proposes raising entrance, camping fees

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2, 3 Comments

 
CDC releases revised Ebola gear guidelines

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Clinton: Midterm elections should motivate women

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
Surfer fends off shark attack with fist, board

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

WWII airman to be buried in Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2, 1 Comment

 
Brown: California needs long-term vision on water

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2, 4 Comments

Colorado proposes edible pot ban, then retreats

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2, 2 Comments

 
Submarine hunt sends Cold War chill across Baltic

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Oscar Pistorius to finally learn his sentence

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Youths, tech workers duel over San Francisco field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Suspect in Va. abduction charged in DC area rape

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Warming Earth heading for hottest year on record

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2, 3 Comments

Lacking a plan, Abbas opts for rhetoric

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Police: Indiana suspect hints at more killings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Turkey says it helps Kurdish fighters enter Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Nigeria declared Ebola-free; ‘spectacular success’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Urgent-care clinics ill-equipped to treat Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
British royal couples’ 2nd child due in April

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Opinion

Spering kept youth league going

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 10 Comments

 
Day, Blankenchip good for respective cities

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

‘Misleading’ mailer sent to residents

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Oct. 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page:

 
.

Entertainment

Yearwood, Santana to perform at World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Standing ovation at Met Opera despite protest

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

Still the Same: Bob Seger launching tour, album

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
San Francisco radio stations ban hit song ‘Royals’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Pitbull to host American Music Awards on Nov. 23

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ actor arrested in Idaho

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

NBC’s Snyderman faces credibility issues

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
Not so fast cordcutters – cable’s not going anywhere

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

TVGrid Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
.

Sports

Local Report: Armijo boys soccer team falls to Vintage

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Steelers rally past stunned Texans 30-23

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Bumgarner against Shields in World Series opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Raiders plagued by 3rd-down defensive woes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Champion drag racer Raymond Beadle dies at 70

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Stiviano lawsuit against Shelly Sterling dismissed

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

With TD mark in bag, Manning can set more records

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
49ers lose center Daniel Kilgore, needs surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Giants-Royals: A capsule look at World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Belichick, Brady praise Manning on TD record

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Penn State board to meet on disputed Freeh Report

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
McIlroy to skip 2 events to focus on lawsuit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Column: Keselowski marches to his own beat

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Wanted: Cities interested in hosting 2024 Olympics

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Giants rely on core of 4 relievers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Royals, fans bond over improbable postseason run

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Voynov suspended on domestic violence suspicion

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Business

Facebook sues law firms, claims fraud

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Apple reports record 39.3 million iPhone sales

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5, 1 Comment

US regulator: Fannie, Freddie in deal with banks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Sears plans to raise more cash via rights offering

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Survey: Pay raises rarer despite strong US hiring

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

 
US agency warns car owners to get air bags fixed

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Pickles Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Bridge Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Sudoku Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Baby Blues Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sally Forth Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Wizard of Id Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C. Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Crossword Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Frank and Ernest Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Word Sleuth Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Garfield Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Beetle Bailey Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6