St. Joseph County Fair seeks workers ahead of opening day

NOW: St. Joseph County Fair seeks workers ahead of opening day

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - It's another industry impacted by the worker shortage. The St. Joseph County Fair is opening this Friday but there might not be all of your favorite concession stands and games.

That’s because the fair staff is finding it hard to find workers!

“We’re just like every other business in this country right now," Blake Houston, the Mid-America Shows Unit Manager said.

The St. Joseph County Fair is just around the corner and that means it’s time to... unpack, build and put the finishing touches together.

But all of this hard work can only be accomplished by a labor force – something fair officials are having a hard time getting this year.

“Concession operators, ride attendants, ticket sellers, game operators. All divisions we are looking to fill some temporary staff for the fair," Houston said.

They’re out 25 to 30 people, leaving some stands empty.

“We’ve just got less equipment, we’ve got less games," he said. "It’s hurt us in our concession department and our game department where we’ve not been able to work that equipment this year. We wish we could provide more right now but we’re limited with our staff.”

The nationwide worker shortage is one reason behind the low numbers, but what hurts most are international pandemic restrictions.

“We use the H2B visa program which is a seasonal non-agricultural visa and we’ve used this program for about 20 years. We bring in kids from South Africa and Mexico on these visas.”

80% of their workforce is on this visa program.

“South Africa, which is a big labor force for us, they have a travel restriction so we’re not able to get those kids over right now. We have a few but not very many. So primarily Hispanic workforce that are all here legally on the visa program but it’s affected getting some of our normal staff back.”

There are still 35 rides this year, luckily they were able to get the equipment out a week early which helps when there is limited staff.

Now gate admission was reduced to $5 this year, so making sure they have enough workers to handle the incoming crowds is important.

“This is the biggest thing that has gone on here in two years so we’re excited to be here and ready to put on a good event," Houston said.

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