For some at the Mo. State Fair, it's a working vacation

Sunday, August 20, 2006

SEDALIA, Mo. -- After the Missouri State Fair comes to a close tonight, it will be back to the drawing board for caricature artist Jim Dyke -- at his regular job.

An editorial cartoonist for the Jefferson City News Tribune, Dyke has used vacation days for the past 13 years to work at the fair. Like many others who do the same, he enjoys the change of pace from his regular occupation.

"It's fun," said Dyke, 38. "You get to meet people and practice caricature art. ... It's something different than the regular routine."

He sits under a white tent in front of the grandstand drawing caricatures. On a busy day, he can draw non-stop for 12 hours.

"But it's so much fun, and I get in my zone. It feels like only a couple hours," Dyke said.

Over the years, Dyke has made friends with merchants in neighboring booths and on the campground, where he stays during the fair.

"It's about the friendships and communicating with people," Dyke said. Customers "want to know where I come from, and I want to know where they come from."

Most of the fair's security workers also make time for the fair by using up vacation days from their full-time jobs.

Carolyn Starke, of Sedalia, took vacation from State Fair Community College's Career Technical Center to work as dispatch 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. at the fair's security office. This was her second year working at the fair, and she decided to do it again for the fun -- and the pay.

"I thought, 'Wow, I made it that 10 days; surely I can do it again,'" Starke said.

She will use the extra money for "school stuff," she said.

"My daughter is planning to go to Italy for school, and we're trying to make the money for the trip," Starke said.

Others from the security office guard machinery, the Boulevard shops, a large aquarium at the Conservation Building, the campgrounds, and patrol the rest of the grounds.

Kevin Garrison, 48, of St. Louis, takes a break from running his own security and investigations firm to work at the fair. This is his third year.

"I spend a lot of time on the airplane, and a lot of time in the office," Garrison said. "This gets me out."

For Sedalia police Sgt. Mike Perkins, the big draw is people-watching.

"There's so many diverse individuals that come through that gate," he said. "Any culture comes through that gate, and we get to see it all for 10 days."

Some fair workers visit family on their vacations. Christy Schumaker, 28, takes vacation from her full-time job at the John Q. Hammonds Hotel in Topeka, Kan., to work in the Missouri Wine Tent so she can get her "Sedalia fix."

"I see my friends and family and still make money," she said. "There's no point in not working when you can make money."

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