Fourteen years ago, Bulloch County’s Ronnie Douberly took a job he said saved his life.
It meant he would be away from his family, traveling with Amusements of America, the company that provides the midway for the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair and dozens of other fairs nationwide. Douberly started out as a bumper car operator, but now he is the maintenance supervisor.
Spending winters in his home in Mexico and traveling with the midway during “fair season,” he doesn’t get to see his Georgia family much, so coming to Statesboro every fall means family reunion time. It’s a sweet week for Douberly, but he also treasures his nomadic lifestyle with the Amusements of America family, going from town to town, bringing rides, screams, laughter and fun to folks all over the country.
Douberly still considers Bulloch County his home, and has done so for 48 years, continuing to claim Statesboro as his hometown ever since he left town in 2002.
The job opportunity wasn’t planned, he said. But it was fate.
“I was hanging with the wrong crowd, had no job, and I knew I could make extra money setting up rides at the fair,” he said. Amusements of America often hires temporary workers from cities they visit to help assemble and dismantle rides and exhibits. Sometimes the jobs last all week.
“They asked me to operate a ride that week,” he said.
Sometimes the jobs last for years.
Apparently his work ethic impressed someone, because then, “they asked to hire me – and here I am 14 years later,” he said.
Douberly worked his way up from ride operator to maintenance supervisor, and now he spends time overseeing maintenance, welding, fabricating and repairing equipment for the Vivona family, who own the company. “I started out at the bottom of the totem pole, bumper cars, and the company has been good to me,” he said. “I love traveling, and I get paid to travel and make people happy.”
Lonely? Never. Aside from coworkers, Douberly has made many friends as he traveled from town to town.
“I have friends from Miami, New York, out West, all over the country,” he said. “To me, this job has been a blessing. It kind of saved my life. I was headed for the graveyard or the jailhouse.”
Nine years ago, life changed again for Douberly. He met a lady named Xochit (pronounced zo-she) and the couple had a charmingly simple wedding ceremony at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds here in Statesboro.
“When I met her it changed the way I thought about things,” Douberly said. Soon, there were more changes to come in the form of a daughter, now five, named Victoria Isabelle. Xochit visits and travels with Douberly often, then returns home to Mexico, where Victoria attends school. “She loves school,” he said.
Through phone calls and social media, Douberly maintains family relationships, even though “It is not the same. I see my family when I come home to Statesboro and see other family in Lawrenceville when we have the fair there. At first, being by myself, it was kind of difficult but it is not as bad now that I am married.”
Visiting with family and friends makes coming home even more special. “It makes me enjoy being here in Statesboro every year even more. On Sunday afternoon we go to mama’s, and with all the cousins, aunts and uncles, it is like a family reunion.”
But come Monday, it’s on the road again, traveling to the next town where he will spend a week making other people happy.
It is a life he enjoys, he said, and being in the road with Amusements of America is like being with another kind of family, he said. “The Vivonas treat me like a son. They gave me an opportunity to grow with the company.”
Holli Del Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.