As an acronym, Kayley Sas’ last name says a lot about her.
“Short And Sweet. That’s what I tell the pizza man,” the 19-year-old said as she led me through the park in her position’s signature yellow uniform.
A second-generation Cedar Point employee from Elyria, Sas works as a sweep at the best amusement park in the world.
It’s a dirty job, but she loves to do it.
“Being a sweep is fun,” Sas said. “You get to talk to the guests about where to go, when to go. It’s a really good place to work, such a pretty place to work.”
Despite the fact tens of thousands of people trash Cedar Point every operating day, it’s such a pretty place mainly because of the hard work of Sas and her about 60 fellow sweeps.
Sweeps often are discounted by the general public, but they perform a highly visible front-line job. Yes they clean the park, including the roaring dinosaurs, but there’s much more to the job than that.
Sas opens ride queues, takes coolers of water to ride hosts, hands out park maps, measures kids’ heights for ride wristbands and even sometimes helps reunite lost children with their parents, among other tasks.
Nothing she does, however, is more important to the park or means more to her than interacting with guests.
While they spend a lot of time cleaning, the title “sweep” can be a misnomer, because there’s much more to the job.
“We deal a lot with guests, giving advice about the park,” Sas said. “What shows are the best. What food to eat. What to try. What they should do.”
Such interactions are at the heart of Sas’ love of the job.
“I’m a people person,” said the University of Toledo sophomore, who’s studying social work. “I try to take their good day and make it better.”
I saw nothing in my almost 90 minutes with her June 18 to dispute that.
As we walked around, Sas stopped and asked guests who looked lost if they needed help. She pointed guests in the right direction toward attractions. She kindly enforced park rules. She encouraged guests to seek shelter and told them places they could go before the day’s big thunderstorm arrived. Then she engaged guests in conversation while we sat under cover from the torrential rain that literally flooded part of the main midway.
“It’s all about being courteous,” she said. ”Doing things like telling people rules or that they can’t take something on a ride so they don’t have to wait and not be allowed on.”
But that doesn’t mean dealing with guests is easy.
“Guests are always asking, ‘Why’s this ride down? Why’s that ride down?’” she said. “We just don’t know.
“Sometimes people are upset after they wait and the kids are too short to ride. You just try to calmly bring them down. It’s little things; a smile goes a long way.”
While her smile sometimes goes a long way in comforting guests, sometimes the table is turned and guests return the favor.
After I mentioned there being so much to do at Cedar Point, she laughed as she said, “It’s funny how the best part of the day for some people is winning a basketball.”
But the children are the most likely to make her day.
“The kids in Planet Snoopy are funny,” she said. “It’s like they scream because they think they’re supposed to scream. It’s forced.”
Part of interacting with guests is having familiarity with and expertise about the park, to be able to give them the information they need.
Sas still is more than a year from the legal drinking age, but one of the most common questions she’s asked is, “Where can I get beer?”
“I tell them Game Day Grille or Hurricane Hannah's,” she said. “If they want fish and chips, I send them to The Corral. Go to the Arcade or Game Day Grille for cover (from rain). Game Day has TVs.”
Every day before Cedar Point opens until after it closes, sweeps are busy cleaning anything and everything in the park.
“Now, with Luminosity, it’s a party all the way out of the park,” Sas said. “And we’re sweeping behind you all the way out.”
Cigarette butts, gum, wrappers, napkins, food spills — and worse. Sweeps clean up after us. And from what I’ve seen in about 75 trips to the park the past two seasons, some of us are filthy pigs. From trash discarded by humans to debris discarded by nature, if it’s in the way on a midway, it’s Sas’ job to clean it up — no matter how gross it might be.
Blood (from a nose) and vomit, separate but part of the same incident, was the worst cleaning catastrophe with which Sas has had to deal.
And when I mentioned to her my habit of trying to help keep the park clean by picking up any trash I come across, she offered this advice: “Don’t touch anything wet; let a sweep do it.”
Such work does have certain perks, because everyone likes those who do the dirty work, so they might not have to.
“Ride hosts like you because you clean things,” Sas said. “Merchandise people like you, too.”
Then there’s the winged army, which those responsible for keeping the park clean do battle with every day.
“I like baby sea gulls, but the big ones are really mean. It’s job security, though. They like to leave us presents.”
After the big storm passed and people began sticking their heads back out into the park, Sas immediately was sweeping up pieces of branches that had been blown down in front of the Park Operations Office. Her small broom probably wasn’t the best tool for this larger job, but she made do, because it needed done.
As I thanked Sas for her time and started to walk away, another worker walked up to her in an effort to find something to pick up a dead bird, possibly a casualty of the storm.
Sas picked up her broom and dustpan, smiled at me and said, “Clean dead birds. That’s what we do.”
The inner workings
Like with any job, there’s a learning curve and a level of expertise that comes with experience. While they’re looking for anything that needs picked or swept up, sweeps learn certain things typically will be in certain areas.
“In Planet Snoopy, you sweep nature, a lot of mulch,” Sas said. ”Then there’s certain areas where food is common. You know what’s going to be where.”
And if you’re going to be a sweep at Cedar Point, you’d better be able to walk the walk.
“Miles and miles and miles,” Sas said, when asked how far she walks each shift. “We’re constantly working, and there’s no sitting position for a sweep.
“I know girls who started last month and already walked out of their shoes. Walking shoes are a complete necessity.”
Last year Sas worked as a ride host on Blue Streak, Giant Wheel, Raptor, Space Spiral and Troika. (She liked Raptor the best.) This year she’s cleaning up on park accolades as a sweep.
She has earned the Golden Dustpan, a weekly traveling award. And she has earned all five cornerstone awards the park covets:Cleanliness: Cleaned vomit that took three people. Her certificate says “huge mess.” Courtesy: Carried garbage bags for Pink’s workers. Those workers didn’t know it was her, but her in-charges saw her do it. Integrity: Turned in a large sum of money she found on the midway. Safety: Called maintenance for an issue. Service: Was in charge of sweeps to make spotless the rails on Extreme Sports Stadium, where the show “All Wheels Extreme” takes place.
“I enjoy the park and how we’re treated here,” she said. “(General Manager) John Hildebrandt and (Vice President of Park Operations) Bill Spehn really care about the employees and how we interact with guests. We’re treated well. It’s nice someone’s watching.”
A few more things to note about the job:Even though there are male sweeps, most are female. It’s one day off a week. The shift typically starts at 8 a.m. and goes to about 11 p.m. (If you’re O.C., you’re working open to close.) If you work a split shift, it’s 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., then 6 p.m. to close. Sweeps’ work schedules are carefully planned for the whole day to not have overlap in areas of the park. And sweeps move around from area to area. Sweeps are not supposed to team sweep, but they can help each other clean a big mess. Each sweep decorates his or her dustpan. Yes, it shows some individuality, but it’s mainly so sweeps don’t mistakenly take another sweep’s dustpan. If a sweep finds $1 or more, it is turned in to lost and found. Change, on the other hand, goes to a charitable fund.
The listMost interesting thing you've ever found: “Medication, for birth control. We find medication a lot. Other than that, one flip-flop. Used. No foot.” Most interesting thing you've ever seen a guest do: “One time, in the picnic area, there was a group of people from all different religions, praying differently. They were getting along really well.” Most interesting thing a guest has ever asked you: “Would their hair fall off on a ride.” Her answer: “Probably not.” Favorite park ride: “Millennium Force and Woodstock Express.” Favorite park show: “‘All Wheels Extreme.’ You get to know the workers. You get to meet them at the end of the show. They’re really nice guys.” Favorite park food: “Garlic Parmesan fries. Hands down.” Worst part of being a sweep: “Cleaning cigarette ashtrays.” Biggest pet peeve: “Smoking in kids areas.”
In the end
While Sas enjoys her job, as a fan of the park it sometimes is difficult to not think about all the fun happening around her.
“I’m jittery, ready to ride, early in the season,” she said. “Then I get into work mode. It’s harder when family or co-workers are (playing) at the park. Sometimes other workers will jokingly put something on the ground and call, ‘Sweep!’ Sometimes you hear all the laughing and want to join in.”
For anyone thinking about joining the Cedar Point team as a sweep, Sas offered the following advice: “Do it. Just do it. As long as you have an open mind — but that’s with anything in life. And do it soon, so we can sweep together.”
Such enthusiasm for the job wasn’t a surprise considering just a few minutes earlier she had said the best feeling she experiences as a sweep is seeing guests later, after helping them.
She told a story about an elderly man — maybe about 75 — whom she helped and who was determined to ride Millennium Force. Later in the day she saw him again, and he remembered and thanked her.
“It made my day that it made his,” she said.
That’s Sas in a nutshell: Short And Sweet.
Tom Sherer is an award-winning graphic designer with the Sandusky Register and a Cedar Point enthusiast who visited the park 53 times in 2011. He chronicles his adventures in coasterland here at "Belaboring the Point."