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How To Plan The Best Carnival Ever

Updated on January 20, 2014

Intro to Carnival Fun

Planning a carnival can be a daunting task to say the least. There are important elements that if incorporated into your carnival, will create a fun and memorable event for your church, school, or business. Elements such as, visible and attractive entranceways, interactive games switching from single to multiple player, and revenue building areas with either concessions, performers, or both. Using all of the elements mentioned above will boost attendance as well as potential profits for your carnival. This article will address each of the elements mentioned above and will also include some tips on how to make your Carnival cost effective and most important of all Fun!

The Visible Entrance

One of the most important elements to any Carnival is having a visible entrance. Your patrons may be intimidated and hesitant to enter your Carnival if there is not a clear and blatantly obvious entrance. Most large scale carnivals use ticket booths with lighting to attract customers. You can achieve the same effect with some well placed banners and ticket tables. If you are not using a ticket system then it is suggested to place an attractive visual element such as balloons or flags at the entrance. Remember you want to catch the eye of your patrons and any passerby that happens to be around. You can also place performers or a pitchman to call attention to your entrance. Good performers to use are stilt walkers, balloon twisters, or fire-breathers. Arches are another way to distinguish the entrance to your Carnival. Most carnival rental companies offer some form of solid or inflatable arch. You can also build your own arch out of wood or high density foam. You can also use natural elements at your event location like trees or lamp posts.

Wooden Carnival Entrance

DIY Carnival Entrance
DIY Carnival Entrance | Source

Inflatable Arch

Inflatable Arch
Inflatable Arch

Balloon Arch

Balloon Arch
Balloon Arch


Choosing what games to have at your carnival is a difficult endeavor. It is important to keep in mind that you want to have most of your patrons playing your games at any given time during your event. Most Carnival games require a ten foot by ten foot area in order to operate safely and ensure your patrons do not crowd the player. Know what footage you have to work with in your event area. Whether it is a park, parking lot, school gym, or church basement using your space correctly will create a circular flow causing your patrons to continue to circulate around your revenue or spotlight areas. Most large carnival companies use a U or O shape when placing rides and games.

Placing your games in a straight line or in a lane configuration with have games on opposite side will create a classic midway feel and a flow in one direction. Placing your revenue areas (i.e concessions or performers) at the end of the flow will place your patrons in a prime area to spend money or tickets. If you are intending on distributing promotional information at your carnival. Placing those tables in the revenue will also increase the amount of information you can distribute which will inevitable increase buzz about your event and may increase future attendance and in some cases, immediate attendance When placing your games make sure to alternate single player and multiple player games to keep an even distribution of your crowd.

There are hundreds of different carnival games out there. If you are making the games yourself, it is suggested that you keep to easily constructed games such as a ring toss, balloon dart, or a milk bottle toss. In today's market carnival game rental companies offer a variety of packages for game rental. Some companies like Executive Events & Entertainment will include decorative fronts and prizes with each game. Everyone likes getting a prize when winning a game right? Most rental companies will deliver and even set up the games for you. Party rental companies will also have concessions equipment that may be useful in generating extra revenue at your carnival.

Ring Toss Game

Straight Carnival Midway

Straight Placement of Booths
Straight Placement of Booths

U Shaped Midway

U Shaped Placement with Spotlight Areas
U Shaped Placement with Spotlight Areas

Revenue Areas

Generating revenue at your Carnival is important to keep your coffers replenished for next year. Even if you are not charging for the games or are using any ticket system you can still make money using concessions and performers. Selling food items like popcorn, cotton candy, pretzels, nachos, or sno cones can greatly increase your profits. Each of those items have a low cost margin and can be sold at relatively small prices. For example, Sno cones can be sold for $2.00 and are still profitable (at current prices you pay roughly 25 cents per sno cone). Cotton Candy and popcorn have the same profit margin. Pretzels and Nachos are bit more expensive. At current prices you pay roughly 75 cents per pretzel and 60 cents for a Nacho tray. It is important to keep in mind that any rental company will charge you a fee for the machine along with the supplies cost. These fees can range from 50 to 100 dollars per machine.

Performers are another great way of generating revenue at your carnival. Balloon twisters and face painters can create mementos that can be sold or given away for free. You can charge admission for performers like magicians, animal shows, or clowns. Performers also offer a drawing power for your crowd. Placing your performers in revenue generating areas will draw people into those areas causing them to spend more tickets or money or pickup more of the information (i.e business cards, pamhplets, etc... ) you are trying to distribute. Performers are the best "eye candy" for your Carnival.

Balloon Twisting!

Generating Buzz for Your Carnival

Generating buzz about your carnival is a great way to draw more people into your event. There are several creative strategies you can use to achieve a high level of awareness. Word of mouth, email, mail, and social media campaigns are useful tools for generating more interest in your event. Word of mouth is useful to bring more local attention. Be sure to Tell your friends, family, and co-workers about your Carnival and any potential costs to the customer (you do not want people surprised by the costs). Email is another useful technique. Use an email service like mail chimp to create colorful email campaign ads which you can send to everyone on your email list. Mailing postcards to local business and schools are another way to get information about your carnival to your target audience. Social Media is perhaps the easiest way to generate buzz about your carnival. Social media engines like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn will allow you to create a page and promote your event. Some will even help you promote your event for a small fee. Posting and re-posting about the progress of planning your event, the success of the event, and photos of the event will keep your target audience interested in your event and may even cause some people to mark their calendars for next year!

Overwhelmed Yet?

Planning a Carnival can be an overwhelming task even if a committee is involved. Delegating tasks, building games, making floor-plans, obtaining concessions supplies, and all that has been mentioned so far in this article are pressing elements that if not done properly can severely affect the quality of your event and may even hurt your attendance. There are companies that will plan, setup, and even run your carnival for you. Pricing for these kind of services usually runs around $1500.00 plus fuel costs depending on where you are and what kind of companies are in your area. Whether you choose to plan and build your own Carnival or entrust a company to produce one for you, address the issues presented in this article and your carnival will be both memorable and fun.

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I wrote this article using my 10 years of experience in working with carnivals. I have participated in planning church, school, business, non-profit, and block party carnivals. While there are many details I did not go over in this article, my intended purpose was to highlight some of the most important elements of every carnival and to offer hints and tips that I have developed through my experiences in producing and running Carnivals.

© 2014 Andrew Kramer


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