Less than half an hour into the job fair at the Saratoga Race Course on Friday afternoon, there was a 100-yard-long line of applicants that stretched from the Carousel to the Union Avenue gate.
The job fair, hosted by the New York Racing Association, was attempting to fill about 2,000 positions for this year’s meet, which runs from July 22 until Sept. 5.
Charles Wheeler, facilities manager of the course, said they’re looking to hire food service workers, cleaners, ushers, mutuel clerks and security guards.
“Traditionally we have about 55 percent to 60 percent returning, so that means about 900 positions will be available,” he said.
This was the first year that the job fair started on a Friday, and this resulted in a larger than usual number of interested people, according to Wheeler. The crowd for jobs peaked at about 300 people, which resulted in an intimidating line that scared some potential advocates from even applying.
NYRA is looking for summer employees for the following job titles at the Saratoga Race Course; salaries are per hour unless noted:
Customer service: $8
Food service: supervisor $13-$15, cashier $10, helper $9, cook $9-$11, porter/barback $5-$9, hostess $11-$13, bartenders/cocktail servers $4
Giveaway helper: $8
Weekend mutuel clerk: $60/day
Whitecaps: $52.50 per day plus bonus
Source: New York Racing Association
“There’s too many people,” said Carol Unter, 16, of Clifton Park, waiting with her brother, Mark, 18, and boyfriend, Nate Burrell, 18, both of Clifton Park, as they filled out preliminary paperwork.
Both of the applicants worked at the course last year as ushers, who are known as whitecaps.
“I was a lamp-and-stamp. I made sure people paid admission into the clubhouse,” Mark Unter said. “I liked it. I had a pretty religious fan base.”
Burrell was hoping for something equally fun, having worked in the grandstand. “I’m hoping to move to the clubhouse,” he said.
They agreed that the procedures this year were much more involved, due to there being many more applicants than in the past.
“When I got the job I just came in and I signed up,” Burrell said. “And they said, ‘you got the job.’ ”
The experience wasn’t as easy for first-time job seeker Eric Halek, 19, of Bethlehem, who heard about the job fair from a family friend and is hoping to be a whitecap. He said he had never heard back about other potential jobs for which he had applied.
Halek, who will be going to college in Tampa, said this job will pay for his expenses. “I need money,” he said.
This was also the case for 23-year-old Sarah of Clifton Park, who emerged upbeat from her interview for a hostess position.
“It was very friendly,” she said of the interview. “They asked me about my background in restaurant work … And they described the work hours to me and what would be expected.”
Having just earned her master’s degree in art history, she said she is now trying to pay off her education. “College loans are looming, so I need to take care of that. And I need to start saving up because I’m planning on moving to New York in about a year to start on my career path,” said Sarah, who declined to give her full name.
For now, though, she was encouraged about spending the summer at the track. “It just seems like a very personable place to work, so I’m very excited to see if I get the job,” Sarah said.
She had been less excited upon arrival. “I’m feeling quite optimistic now,” she said. “It was very scary to pull up and see the line to the gate. I almost didn’t come in … but I said forget it, we’ll see what happens.”
Wheeler said managers will make selections after they’ve met with potential candidates, but suggested that job seekers shouldn’t wait for the last day of the job fair to apply.
Interviews will continue today at the Carousel from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with additional job interviews from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 9 and 10.