People tell me things. Sometimes it’s on the record; sometimes not. In my business, when it’s off the record, you know that the information is sacrosanct unless it becomes public on its own. Of course, when you spend time with an individual long enough, you get to know them. And they tend to tell you more things. Again, some on the record, some off.

Thus, when I had the chance to break bread with Patrick Huffman, we talked. And talked.The president and coo of the Warrell Corp. and this year’s 68th Kettle Award recipient, is a great storyteller. Those of you who know him well can attest to that already.

But I’m curious whether any of Huffman’s close circle of friends knows that this scholar and gentleman once worked as a “carnie.” You know, a carnival worker. And yes, this was on the record.

But let me explain a little bit before your imagination runs wild. As our well-respected and well-loved industry colleague told me over dinner in Camp Hill, Pa., he decided to literally “join the circus” during the summer as an seventeen-year-old, a decision he didn’t reveal to his mother until the last minute.

And it proved to be a life experience he’ll never forget. Such as climbing 80 feet into the air to erect a ride… and then doing so again to take it down… and then repeating this several times over. Or the time spent in the ticket Booth, making change and occasionally winning or losing money if the count didn’t jive or someone simply forgot their change from a large bill.

Arway Confections
Editor Bernie Pacyniak and The Warrell Corp.'s mascot in front of th eheadquarters facility in Camp Hill, Pa.

Now everyone has various images of what carnies are like, some good, some bad. Huffman, from his experiences, Can tell you that it can be physically and mentally very demanding. And despite some of the stereotypes out there — carnies either being ex-cons, misfits, vagabonds and the like — most are hardworking, heart-of-gold types.

Traveling carnivals are also a great training ground to learn about human nature, about people and personalities in general, Huffman related. As one can imagine, working together as a family, going from town to town, really bonds a Troupe tightly. It also reveals the scope of human tragedies and joys.

Another important note about working in a traveling carnival; these operations actually bring smiles and joys. Several blogs, articles and books have revealed the fact that these hard-working but atypical professionals find satisfaction in seeing children and adults win prizes (it does happen occasionally), squeal with delight on a thrilling ride and or simply take in the carnival atmosphere

After enjoying his stint as a carnie, Huffman returned to a more mainstream lifestyle, going back to home and school, and eventually becoming a candy maker, which I want to add, is a profession that also brings smiles to young and old.

“When people ask me what I do and I tell them that I’m a candy maker, they immediately smile,” Huffman says. “Then someone will tell me that they were in a candy plant once and they really enjoyed it. So how can you not laugh and enjoy what you do when people smile upon hearing you make candy?”

Indeed, how can a candy maker not enjoy his work? So congrats, Pat, on being this year’s Kettle Award recipient and a 40-plus year career of putting smiles on people’s faces. Oh yea, there’s an added bonus; you don’t have to climb 80 feet into the air.