County Fair Workers Tell Why They Love Their Jobs

The Los Angeles County Fair closes this Sunday after three weeks at the Pomona Fairplex. The annual event is more than a showcase for livestock, entertainment, and deep fried delights. It delivers short-term jobs to thousands of Southlanders. KPCC's Brian Watt met a few who love what they do.

[Song: Augie's Side Effect sings "Get a Job"]

Brian Watt: The a capella foursome Augie's Side Effect has performed at the L.A. County fair for 16 summers. They sing at least five concerts a day throughout the fairgrounds, without microphones, and they encourage audience members to participate. Tenor Vernon Woods.

Vernon Woods: A lot of people, you know, they get intimidated by a microphone. By us inviting people to sing with us as we are, without a microphone – it gives them a chance to really get involved without being intimidated by everything.

Watt: The rest of the year, Augie's Side Effect plays private parties, performs the National Anthem at pro sports events, and shows up in movies. But group founder Augie Johnson says the annual gig at the Fair has paid the bills during some lean times.

Augie Johnson: See, this right here is a foundation ... And it's a joy. It's a joy. The only thing I don't like about it: time passes so fast because you're enjoying yourself. Seems like just yesterday, I was 15, singing. Now, today, I'm 17, singing. (group laughter)

Watt: About 400 people work year-round at The Fairplex in Pomona. That number swells to about 10,000 during the three-week L.A. County Fair.

For four years, the workforce has included 31-year-old Michael Davis of West Covina. Normally, he works security at Hollywood movie premieres, but during the fair, he's:

Michael Davis: Chillin' with the pigs, dawg. (laughs). I'm chillin' with the pigs. I'm doing what they're doing: I'm kicking back.

Watt: Davis tends the pigs in the Big Red Barn. He earns about $500 a week after taxes. And while a pen of hefty sows "kicks back" to let some feisty piglets suckle, Davis responds to a visitor's question about one litter.

Davis: We have 16. We had four stillborn. And we had three that don't have the strength to jump on the teat. So we take them to the back and we bottle feed 'em. When they have the strength to be with the animal, we put 'em back with the four-month-old and the six-month-old. So the mother can share feeding. You know, the other mothers can help these new mommies feed.

Watt: Davis insists he's a city guy. He owns a tropical fish tank. But before this job he never considered himself much of an "animal person." Now, he says, he loves the pigs, his colleagues, and the work so much, he'd do it year-round if he could.

Davis: Well, I take my vacation in September all the time so I can work here.
Watt: Really?
Davis: Yessir. Every year.

Watt: A vacation, he calls it – even though he works five 16-hour days a week.