So last weekend, our local church conducted it's annual fundraising event by hosting the town carnival … and even if I could have gotten the kids to ignore the 450 carnival posters that were hung up around town, we had to drive past the darn thing on our way to and from school every day…. their expectant faces turned toward it as if it were a beacon of light…..
While we were able to avoid taking them to the carnival in the evening hours during the school week (hello… my kids go to bed between 7:45 and 9:00, how in the world do people fit in going to a carnival at night?), we decided that we couldn't get out of going altogether, and we had to find a way to fit it into our already over-scheduled weekend. So on Saturday, after 5 kids attended 4 separate soccer practices plus one gymnastics class thrown in for good measure, we made our way over to the festivities.
Now at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old curmudgeon, I really dreaded the idea of taking our large crew to the church carnival. Why?
It Costs Buckets of Money
While you don't pay an admission fee to enter the carnival grounds, in order to enjoy the rides, you must purchase tickets…. at the cost of $1.25 each. The “baby rides” require 2 tickets, and the “big kid” rides require 3 tickets… and usually an adult needs to accompany them on these “big kids rides”, which means another 3 tickets. That means it costs our family $30 for all 8 of us to ride one 2-minute ride. (Just as a comparison, we could spend a day at Disney for what it would cost our family to ride 20 of these carnival rides.) And I am not even counting the piles of $$ spent on food and games (more on that later….)
The Portability of The Rides Make Me Question Their Safety
Even without the dull memory of news stories featuring horrific injuries caused by carnival rides that have fallen apart mid-flight…. the mere idea of hopping on these rides that are assembled and dismantled countless times during a summer season makes me quiver. Not that my kids share my concerns…… I think for them it just makes the ride that much more exciting.
The Greasy / Sticky Food Choices
Since we would be visiting near dinner time- we knew that we would be feasting on grilled hot dogs, greasy burgers and chicken nuggets washed down by full-sugar soda and then chased by elephant ears and cotton candy. (On second thought…. this might actually be a selling point!) Maybe the real problem might be the lack of a beer tent (don't they serve wine at Mass for goodness sake?)….
My Kids Fondness to Play Games That Award Miserable Prizes
It breaks my heart to stand there and watch my kids blow $25 on one stupid carnival game that they have no chance of winning because they are rigged to make money! And why are they wasting their money and effort? In the hopes that they will get to take home a bigger-than-life-sized plush banana (yes, I said banana) that is valued at $1.25. Oh? And should they decide to go for a more worthwhile prize- they'll play that ridiculous ping pong ball bounce game where they give away goldfish. So I'll spend $14 per kid to win a goldfish that I will need to buy at $40 tank for, and $35 in annual supplies, and the damn thing will live past their high school graduation (yes, we actually do still have 2 goldfish that we won 3 years ago….)
But You Know What? It Really Wasn't So Bad….In Fact… It Was Kind of Fun!
As much as I didn't want to go to that darn carnival…. we actually ended up having a great time! Steve and I came up with the idea of telling the kids that they had $20 each to spend on either rides or games (we would buy the food), and they had to think hard about how they wanted to spend their money. Several of the older kids asked if they could add another $10 from their allowance jar, which we allowed. And for days before we left, they each talked about and weighed the merits of games vs. rides with one another. And when we arrived, the older three knew that they wanted to spend their money on games (all of it) and the younger ones knew that they wanted to go on the rides. So Steve and I split up, and I took the younger ones on the rides. Some of the rides required an adult, like the scrambler and the tornado, and some of them they were able to ride without me, and one time with a friend and the friend's Dad (I will forever be grateful that Mr. D accompanied my oldest daughter on a stomach-lurching contraption called Zero Gravity).
The kids loved what they chose to do, and were just thrilled to be at the carnival. When the money was all gone, the rides ridden, and the prizes won (and quite remarkably re-distributed to younger siblings as per their own choosing), we lined up to gorge on all of that delicious greasiness! And chased it down with the obligatory elephant ears (3 of them) and cotton candy (2 giant bags)! And as we walked back to our car carrying a larger-than-life sized plush shark and 47 other plush bears, snakes, and dogs…. listening to my kids chatter excitedly about the triumphs of the evening…. I couldn't help but wonder why I wasn't excited in the first place…..