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Carnival Time!

March 25, 2014 Comments Off on Carnival Time!

It’s that time of the year, where even adults can become kids again! Carnivals have been a part of the American tradition and a part of everyone’s childhood for the past many years. It represents happiness, and celebration and its sight will make every American nostalgic. These carnivals are made up of amusement rides, food stalls, games, animal acts and many more exciting games. It’s such a spectacular event! Have you ever wondered how it all started?


The word ‘Carnival’ comes from an ancient time when the Catholic religion of Italy started the tradition of holding a wild costume festival. Though they were started just for Catholics, the carnivals became quite popular and eventually spread out to France, Spain, and Portugal.  Another theory goes that the elderly of ancient Europe thought that the dark cold nights of winter are caused by evils. And at the first sign of spring, they celebrated to drive away these winter evils. This celebration turned into a carnival, which spread all across the globe.

Later on, as people of these countries immigrated to America, the carnivals made their way into US hearts. With this, the fabulous tradition was introduced in America. At a time when the nation was still developing and building itself, they grew and became the summer attraction. It is believed that in 1893, Chicago World’s Fair started the first ever carnival in America. By 1902, 17 new travelling carnivals were running successfully in America and 300 in 1937.

The carnivals were also called midways as the very first carnival; Chicago World’s Fair was located close to a place called Midway Plaisance. When this fair ended, the showman Otto Schmitt formed a travelling carnival called Chicago Midway Plaisance Amusement Company and took 13 acts on the road; traveling the northeastern United States. Thus, the traveling carnival was born; and the term “midway” became part of, and remains today, the carnival culture.

The Carnival Elements

Most carnivals or midways include a variety of thrill rides and games of skill or chance along with several food booths. Carnivals are a favorite of both, the young and the old. They have a lot to offer to everyone who is ready to have fun.

The Chicago World’s Fair carnival also featured the first ever Ferris Wheel. Even today some of the rides and games started at the very beginning of Carnival, are popular. The Carousal,Ferris Wheel and Chair- O- Planes (Swing Chairs) are some of the rides, which have been running since 19thcentury. Popular food booths include cotton candy, popcorn, candied or caramel apples and funnel cakes – with plenty more options added every year.

Another popular attraction, still today, is the game booth. From throwing darts to bursting balloons, these age old games are played today with the equal enthusiasm. Most popular prizes are stuffed animals (plush), basketballs, and sometimes even live goldfish!

One attraction which is no longer prevalent in modern carnivals is the sideshows.  The sideshows consisted of mostly human acts such as sword swallowing, fire eaters, or fortune tellers; and of course the “oddities” often called “freakshows” such as humans with extra limbs or deformities.


Modern Day Carnival

Carnivals along with time have incorporated several modern technological aspects for travel and entertainment.  Today’s carnival is a good mix of classic favorites and cutting edge technology.  Thrill rides have become more daring and adventurous whirling guests in every direction imaginable.  One this for sure is that the carnival will always include vibrant colorful lights, amazing (not so healthy) food, andgreat music.

So who’s excited about the carnival season! Share your favorite ride with us below!

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