Fair People: Louis Figueroa, Vermont State Fair

09/12/05 12:00AM By Nina Keck
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(Host) Over the last week we've heard the voices from a variety of people who are part of the fabric of the fairs and field days.

Today, we have the story of Louis
Figueroa. We caught up with him at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland, where he was wearing a red plaid jacket and a big smile.

He's been a fixture at the fair for almost 50 years, enticing people to try their luck at knocking over the wooden cats with a baseball.

"Everybody's a winner here ."

"My name is Louis A. Figueroa. I was born in Brooklyn, raised in Brooklyn and I learned this business at Coney Island. I ran away from home when I was 13 and I been working this spot for 52 years. And you want to know my age? I'm 71-years-old, and nobody believes me."

"I traveled the road and ended up here in Rutland, Vermont. I also married my wife here. She used to watch me from the grandstand. One day she come down and says to me, 'Don't you ever eat?' And I said, 'No, why?' So she says, 'I'll be right back.' She went back and brought me a ham and cheese sandwich. And every week she kept feeding me. At the end of the week I said to her sister, 'I'm going to marry her.'"

(Sound of pins being knocked down.)

(Fair goer) "All right, give me another try."
(Figueroa) "All right, give me another two dollars."
(Fair goer) "Two dollars?"
(Figueroa) "Yeah, I gave you change. Come on, get the lady one anyway. It's not what you spend sir, it's what you win." (Laughs)

(Figueroa) "We were called barkers at the time, years back. If you learn the business, you'll still be called a barker. But people call like, hey -- don't even play the game, he's a crook or a thief and all that crap. Oh yeah, we've been called a lot of things here. I'm one of the best carnies that they hire here. And my nickname is Coney Island Lou."

(Reporter) "So how do you train someone to be a carnie? What are some of the skills you need to have?"

(Figueroa) "It's like you go to school. You learn the game, you watch the person work it, you learn it. You make a mistake, they'll tell you you made a mistake. So you have to learn it as you go along. You don't learn by looking all the time, you have to learn by seeing."

"A carnival is made -- people have fun, enjoy their lives. That's how I look at it."

(Host) Our story on Louis Figueroa was produced by VPR's Nina Keck.

Vermont State Fair
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