Calvin Bumphus begins his workday at 5:30 a.m. He clocks in, grabs his reflective vest and flashlight, hops on a golf cart, and rides to his station at Gate 6, where he directs cars into the Indiana State Fair.
“I’m here to make sure people are safe and having fun,” Bumphus said.
Bumphus spends his day waving people in and out of the fairgrounds. Car after car, he directs people to their destinations with his bright orange flag. Occasionally he’ll have a car drive the wrong way and have to guide them to the correct lane. He does all this never breaking his smile.
Different times of the day call for different amounts of work. Around 4 p.m., traffic slows down and Bumphus experiences a lull. He prefers the busier times; the slow periods are when he starts yawning. During these lulls, Bumphus sees his coworkers swinging their flags like baseball bats, wandering in circles or zoning out. They perk right back up when a vehicle pulls in.
Aside from keeping their own minds occupied when work is slow, the State Fair parking attendants keep each other company.
“You’re constantly looking at each other, so you better get to know them,” Bumphus said.
As the temperatures rise, Bumphus removes his vest and hat to cool off for a minute. He enjoys using the mist-spraying fans in the Kiddieland Midway, near his post, but he always allows children to step ahead of him when they need a refreshing cool down.
From his post, Bumphus is constantly hearing Kiddieland’s music playing.
“It’s fair music, so you can’t be mad at it,” he said.
Bumphus smiles and laughs all day at work. He strikes up conversations with people who walk by him on their way in or out of the fair. He jokingly asks, “Is that for me, man?” as people walk by with plates of food.
On some days, Bumphus experiences the art of bad driving. He’s seen countless wrecks on Fall Creek Parkway.
“Man, some people just need to slow down,” Bumphus said as a car zoomed past him to the exit.
Even though Bumphus works on the outskirts of the fairgrounds, he still enjoys fair festivities. On his breaks he loves gorging on elephant ears and deep-fried Snickers, then washing them down with a lemon shakeup.
After working anywhere from six to 10 hours, Bumphus heads home to spend time with his wife, Rachel, and daughters, Ryligha and Morgan.
Though his workdays can be long and tiring, Bumphus loves his job. And people can tell.
“He’s one of our oldest and best,” Oscar Roddy, a parking supervisor, said of Bumphus, a five-year employee.
The state fair hires around 200 parking employees each year through a job fair. Many employees work seasonally, just for the fair. Bumphus is among those who work on the grounds yearround.
He adores being around the action in the parking lots and watching everyone walk into the fair with excitement on their faces.
“I wouldn’t prefer to do nothing else but parking,” he said.
Miller Kern is a writer for BSU Journalism at the Fair, a group of 30 students telling Indiana’s stories from a trailer somewhere between the cheese sculpture and the state’s biggest sow. This Ball State immersive-learning project works for elephant ears.