The Jaycees' Carnival
Having a blast
by Charmie Gholson
It's hot, all right, and although I'd rather be home hanging out in the backyard, my boys have noticed the carnival and been promised a ride on the bumper cars. They don't forget.
The parking lot is full of teenagers on parade and minivans loading or unloading hordes of families. It's very festive and, I'm surprised to admit, exciting. The Ferris wheel reaches way into the sky, and my six-year-old, Sammy, eyeballs it warily. "We don't have to go on that ride, do we mommy?" No way, pal, I tell him. We're going to stay on the ground.
Through the gates we go to buy tickets and immediately load up on soda, cotton candy, and elephant ears. And snow cones. Our little two-year-old has fallen asleep and miraculously stays that way in his stroller despite the roaring music and screams. Sammy, sticky from cotton candy, takes a ride on a mini roller coaster, a supposedly gentle ride with loud 1980s hair-band music playing. My husband and I join the assembly of proud parents lined up next to the wobbly, rusty gate with our video cameras, waving as our children pass. Sam looks a bit freaked out, but he smiles and waves as he goes by.
We run into lots of other families from Sam's school, and we also see his preschool teacher from a few years ago. It's a happy but brief reunion. Sam is impatient to move on.
Next stop: the acclaimed bumper cars. The children (and adults too) who are bashing each other are having a blast. Part of the allure is that Sam actually gets to drive. And in some male-bonding way I'm excluded from, Daddy is equally as thrilled to teach him. They ride three times, waiting in line for a time that seems longer than the ride itself. While they're riding and my boy in the stroller is sleeping, I watch people go in and out of the fun house. It
does look fun they're all coming out laughing. I'm a bit annoyed by the fellas hawking the games on the midway, but that's probably because of all the sugar I've eaten. Besides, they leave me alone soon enough.
After the bumper cars, Sam really wants to go win something, anything, at the games. What catches his eye is a set of swords with glittery gold handles. The Latino barker shouts to him, "Try your luck. Come on over here, little man." All Sammy has to do is pop three balloons with little darts. Luckily my child has amazing accuracy. One, two, three: it's that easy, and the majestic plastic swords are his.
This year's carnival runs Thursday, June 30, through Monday, July 4, on the Pioneer High School grounds.
[Originally published in July, 2005.]