Published in the July 29th issue of The Edmonton Sun. News
‘Carnie kid’ always returns to midway
Makyla Conklin has a Conko clown hooked up to the back of her car.
When she hands over a credit card or ID, people often do a doubletake, before asking, “Conklin? As in the Conklin fairs?”
The 18-year-old, self-described “carnie kid” is used to the recognition.
After all, her great-grandfather James Wesley “Patty” Conklin was the founder of Conklin Shows, which had been North America’s largest travelling amusement and midway group until it was bought by North American Midway Entertainment (NAME) in 2004.
Makyla grew up on the midway and, even after her family’s midway company was bought out, still works summers at the carnivals.
‘Need to get back’
“It’s definitely in my blood,” she said Wednesday, outside the elephant ears and funnel cake stand she runs at Capital EX.
“When I’m not at the fair it feels weird, it feels like I always need to get back to the fair.”
Makyla was so integrated into the midway lifestyle that she even went to school on the grounds.
“My parents decided they wanted to start a school for all of the carnival kids, so that was started in 1992 and is still running (with NAME) today,” she said.
“I was at that travelling school from when I was three years old until I was 16.”
Going to school during the day and running around the grounds with friends at night, sometimes stopping in and helping at the popcorn stands, playing her favourite carnival game — the water gun games — and travelling across North America dominated most of Makyla’s years growing up.
And although great- grandfather Patty died before Makyla was born, his history has been ingrained in her mind.
Her grandfather Jim, who still owns a smaller version of Conklin amusement called World’s Finest Shows, and dad Frank would constantly tell old carnie stories and show her old newsletters, newspaper clippings and pictures from the travelling midway that ran for nearly 80 years.
Some pictures feature carnies still working on the midway today.
“It’s like a travelling community,” Makyla said.
“It’s different now since NAME took over, but growing up, walking down the midway with my friends, you just know if anything happened, all of these people around you, everybody is looking out for you and someone is going to help you.”
Now Makyla is studying civil engineering at the University of South Florida, but spends her summers manning the fried dough stand at the fair to save money for school, and fill the craving for the carnival life she misses throughout the year.
And whenever anyone asks, “Why do you have a clown on your car?” Makyla says with pride, “Because I’m a carnie!”