Summer carnivals take 'a lot of work'

July 28, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Volunteers, check.

Live music, check.

Amusement rides, check.

Tip jars, check.

Funnel cakes, check.

Port-o-Pots, check.

And so continues the carnival to-do list.

Tri-State area fire and rescue company carnival organizers devote months to preparing for one of their biggest fund-raisers, they said.

It's a worthwhile effort because carnivals raise thousands of dollars to help cover company operating and equipment costs, organizers said.


"The bottom line is that this is our main fund-raiser. This is what helps keep firetrucks on the go," Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co. President Glenn Fishack said.

The $18,000 profit from this year's Berkeley Springs (W.Va.) Fireman's Carnival helped cover the $22,000 annual payment on the volunteer fire company's new rescue squad vehicle, Fire Chief Dan Unger said.

Planning a carnival is "a lot of work," Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Co. President Tom Altman said, "but if the weather stays half-decent, it's a good profit."

Barring major downpours, profits from the Clear Spring Firemen's Carnival - which starts Monday and runs through Saturday - could total $35,000, according to a fire company letter sent to town residents this month.

It can take carnival organizers up to a year to arrange the events' details - volunteers, entertainment, food, rides, games, property leases, fireworks, ticket sales, parking and waste services, they said.

"I've already started planning for next year and this carnival hasn't even started yet," said Altman, who organizes Clear Spring's 63-year-old carnival with event chairman Ronnie Poole.

Carnival chairman Ed Nunemaker begins planning the Mont Alto (Pa.) Volunteer Fire Co.'s next nine-day carnival on the current carnival's opening night, he said.

Nunemaker takes note of bands that merit return invitations and fireworks that fall short of visitors' expectations, he said. He earmarks popular rides and games. He signs the following year's rides contract with Penn-Wood Amusements before the Ferris wheel is even dismantled.

"We put on the biggest event like this in the whole county. I've got to be organized," said Nunemaker, who updates his carnival plans on his computer and in a special book.

In addition to renewing the lease for the carnival grounds and negotiating entertainment and amusement contracts, Nunemaker oversees a small carnival committee that delegates food, games and signage, Bingo, traffic control and public relations duties for the mid-June event.

"It takes a long time to plan a carnival," said Fishack, who starts months in advance shopping for the best prices on food, prizes and paper products and lining up entertainment, advertising and volunteers.

Like Nunemaker, Fishack renews his contract with Penn-Wood the last night of the Smithsburg Firemen's Carnival in late June to ensure the same quality, dependable service the following year, he said.

Unger signs a three-year contract with Snyder Amusements to ensure the "good, clean act" keeps coming back to Berkeley Springs for the six-night carnival every July, he said.

Paul Brown no longer has to scramble to reserve Snyder Amusements' services for the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co.'s carnival in mid-June.

"He's been doing it so long, he just knows to come," said Brown, who has organized the carnival since 1973.

Carnival hosts said they get a percentage of the ticket cost for rides - which are about the easiest part of a carnival to plan due to steady vendors who provide their own insurance and contact state amusement ride inspectors prior to opening day.

Fire and rescue companies' general liability insurance includes event coverage, organizers said.

Aiming to please

"Entertainment, that's the hard part," Brown said. "You can't please everybody."

He starts securing entertainment in January, booking more local bands than he used to because putting big acts on the stage for six nights costs up to $30,000 - too much for a small fire company, Brown said.

"We have to do what's best for the company," he said.

In February, Unger also starts booking the regional acts he says have a strong local following.

Altman spends months booking entertainment, publicizing it and arranging lodging for out-of-town performers. The cost of the popular Nashville-based entertainers he hires for most nights is worth the crowds they draw to the carnival, Altman said.

An estimated 125,000 people will attend this year, he said.

Assistant Chief Dwayne Flook in October begins booking nine nights worth of entertainment for the Great Boonsboro Rescue Co. Carnival in late May so he's sure to avoid last-minute touring schedule conflicts, he said.

Many entertainers call about performing at the Mont Alto carnival, said Nunemaker, who began negotiating new performers' contracts for the 2002 carnival last December.

Preparing food

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