The Port Arthur News
Boston Street in downtown Nederland was bustling with activity Monday while carnival workers and food booth vendors prepared for this week’s Heritage Festival actvities.
For Courtney Slaughter the week not only marked a milestone, but also provided a chance for the former Beaumont resident to reunite with her family and friends after a year on the road as a carnival worker.
“They’ve all been calling me a gypsy, so it will be fun for them to come and see what I do,” she said.
Slaughter, 30, and her beau, Justin Stansbury, 40, of Fort Worth, celebrated their first year anniversary as a couple Sunday, after meeting a year ago when he was in town working the South Texas State Fair in Beaumont.
The couple first became acquainted at the hotel where they had adjacent rooms.
“Rooms 222 and 223. We opened the doors at the same time and the rest is history,” Slaughter, 31, of Beamont said.
The chance meeting brought her both a boyfriend and a job, she said.
For the past year, Slaughter has enjoyed the life of a carival worker with all the travelling that goes with it, and the chance to watch children’s faces light up every time they win a prize in the Fishy Fish game that she runs.
Stansbury is a veteran carival worker with 16 years in the business. During that time he’s logged thousands of travel miles of road while working at festivals and fairs in far-flung cities across the nation.
Slaughter’s life on the road thus far has been exciting, but it was hard to break the news that she intended to pull up stakes a year ago when she told her family she was going with the carnival.
“At first it was an adjustment for my family when I told them my plans, but they warmed up to it,” she said. “I am real excited to everyone to come to Nederland so they can actually see what I do.”
What the couple does is work the games: her the Fishy Fish game for children which promises a prize for everyone playing. His game, Bank-a-Ball, requires more skill to win one of the big prizes.
During his time on the road, Stansbury has perfected a pitch to attract potential players.
Walking by his booth, the lanky Texan will ask festival-goers to come and have a look, before adding something like, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to play, I just want to show you something.”
Anything more might scare away a potential customer, he said.
“I’m not as aggressive as some,” he said. “My game takes skill, but there are big prizes to win.”
After this week’s time in Nederland, the pair will pack up and head to New Orleans.
“I love the travel, meeting new people, and the money’s good,” Stansbury said.
Texas heads the list of favorite places for the couple because its home, but other cities have their own charm.
“I loved New Mexico, been to Roswell, Minnesota was awesome and South Dakota too,” Slaughter said.
Nederland’s Heritage Festival kicks off Tuesday. Gates open from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. There will be two armband days — Thursday and Sunday— during which festival goers can pay $25 for unlimited rides.
“We are up and ready; its going to be awesome,” Wanda Hollier, manager of the Nederland Heritage Festival, said. “Crowds are already building up. We’ve had a lot of phone calls from people out of town who want to know how to get here. Local kids are all excited; they’ve been walking around the grounds looking all day.”
Even a forecast of rain tomorrow should not deter festival goers, Hollier said.
“We are on hard ground, so the moment it stops raining, we are up and running again,” Hollier said.