• TODAY: The Almond Blossom Festival carnival opens today with special $1 tickets and 1 ticket rides from 5 to 10 p.m. Advanced ticket books and all-day wristbands can be purchased until 4 p.m. today at the Ripon Chamber of Commerce, located at 929 W. Main Street. For more information call (209) 599-5719.
• TONIGHT: Lions’ Club Spaghetti Dinner at 4:30 p.m. at the Ripon Community Center; Almond Blossom Queen crowning at 7 p.m. at Ripon Community Center
Micheal Tate wears a hardhat on Wednesdays.
That’s when he and the traveling crew that comprise the California Carnival Co. – the Sacramento-based outfit that has long held the contract to provide the rides and entertainment for the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival – do all of the heavy lifting.
Okay, there isn’t quite as much heavy lifting in the job as there once was. But at 19-years-old, Tate, the son of carnival owner Kevin Tate, doesn’t really remember the days before hydraulics handled all of the grunt work.
Tate spent Wednesday working with a crew to set up the carnival at Mistlin Sports Park on River Road. It opens tonight from 5 to 10 p.m. with $1 rides. Carnival hours are 3 to 11 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday,
But the younger Tate does have one thing going for him when he goes to work in the morning – he grew up in his chosen industry. His entire life has been spent around the carnival business. And every job he has ever formally held has had something to do with the company that he’ll eventually work his way into running for the six-month long season up and down the coast.
He poured sodas in the snack bar. He ran games. He helped guide the setup and takedown of the entire operation.
And most of all – he learned. He learned the ropes from his father. He learned from guys that had spent large portions of their lives in an industry that isn’t well known for maintaining longevity in the people that it employs.
Having those mentors speaks volumes about the organization that his father has put together since taking over the reins of the company. The fact that he’s grooming the next generation to take over already only further solidifies that fact. But Micheal Tate isn’t the guy that rides his Dad’s coattails.
No. In fact, he’s already kind of outgrown the waiting-in-the-wings designation that somebody might want to bestow upon him.
That’s because in any given week you’re more likely to find Micheal chasing around his 2-year-old son Peytyn than you are to see Micheal trailing behind his own father. The youngest Tate has already stepped into a role within the family business – he’s the “fun meter” according to his father – and he’s spending as much time around the rides and the smiles and the laughs as his dad did when he was growing up.
It’s all about family. And it makes sense because in the line of work that the Tate’s are in, it’s all about families.
“People come down here for the day and for an afternoon you get to be a part of making their lives a little bit better,” Micheal said of why he loves his job. “You see the kids smiling the adults laughing and everybody having a good time and you know that you were a part of making that happen. There’s something about that.”
Micheal Tate might wear a hardhat on Wednesdays, but come Thursday afternoon he’s as buttoned up as everybody else at the California Carnival Co. Collared shirts are something that Kevin Tate implemented across the board – along with pre-employment Megan’s Law background checks and periodic drug screening – to help maintain the family atmosphere communities like Ripon demand.
Over the course of a given weekend, Tate knows that he’ll likely spend 12 to 14 hours on his feet on Saturday alone and spend at least half of day Sunday tearing down the rides and getting ready to move on to the next town. Mondays are spent traveling and making arrangements. The next two days of the week are spent polishing everything before doing it all over again.
The hours are long. The work can be brutal. And it could go on like this for as long as six months depending on when winter decides it wants to go away at the start of the year and show up at the end.
But it’s his job – and his namesake – and there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing.
“I get to be out here with my wife and my son,” Tate said. “How much better can it get?”