This weekend; I checked out a little local carnival that comes to town near my school each year. It had all the classic rides, games, and features that you probably think of when you imagine a carnival.
Ferris Wheel (check)
Fried Dough (check)
Racing game using water guns (check)
Game operators that con you out of funds (check)
Fear that you might die on every ride you go on (CHECK)
I don’t want you to think I didn’t enjoy myself; I did. But really, I’m surprised we don’t have more carnival related injuries each year. Seriously. My favorite ride, the Gravitron…you know that UFO looking thing that spins as you stand against the wall and feel the G-forces pushing you back… is probably the worst ride to go on when you have a headache. Really people, learn from my mistakes. Its not a good idea.
Most of the rides look like they were made sometime in 1965 and haven’t ever been updated or replaced. Every once in a while they change a light bulb or repaint the sign to keep it fresh, but that’s about it. It’s because of all this that I wondered…are we nearing the end of carnivals as we know them?
This thought occurred to me as I sat stuck at the top of a very unbalanced and very nefarious looking Ferris Wheel hoping that the strange squeaking sound I heard coming from the engine operating the ride was “normal”. All this while clinging desperately to the bar in-front of me while the bucket seat I was in teetered back and forth threatening to flip. Again, I hoped this was just standard operating procedure. The guys on the ground running the ride didn’t look worried, so I guess it was. Either that or they didn’t care…I wasn’t entirely sure.
But getting back to my question. Is the carnival doomed?
As much as it pains me to say so; I think it may be. These traveling carnivals that show up once or maybe twice a year in a place aren’t exactly brand new. The rides and booths are all old and don’t look like they have been well kept. They’ve been around so long and aren’t being replaced that eventually when they go, they’ll be gone for good. There aren’t influxes of new Ferris Wheels and rides to take the places of the old stalwarts. Even large amusement parks like Six Flags are having trouble surviving. If those places are having issues…what does that mean for your local carnival?
These are the unintended and unforseen consequences of the passage of time and economic uncertainty. These events and things that have always been part of our lives get caught in the middle and disappear. I had always grown up in a world where I just assumed everyone knew what a “carnival” was and had been to one. A few years from now, I’m not so sure that world will still exist.
But hey, at least I made it off the ferris wheel in one piece.