Carnival Rides, Theme Parks and Fairs
One of the things I remember are the carnivals that perpetually showed up in our little town most every year. They helped provide distractions from the ‘every day,’ by promising fun for the townspeople. They had thrilling rides for us kids, as well as loads of experiences we’d always remember. As a child, I spent very little time worrying about why these events occurred. It was when I was older that I saw through some of the hype and the fleecing that allowed the traveling shows to pay the bills. Even so, they continued to be fun and a distraction, from my ‘dull’ daily life.
In more recent times Louisa has hosted Septemberfest, an event I have enjoyed during past seasons. I remember the booths, rides, concessions and more importantly, the accidental running into old friends and classmates. It was to be the ‘last time’ I’d see several of them. That brings me to the point of dealing with this pandemic that brings mixed feelings. For many who remember quarantines of old, it is a different point of view and very controversial as to whether crowds should be encouraged to gather. Whether to attend such events is a personal choice and an absolute right in this free nation. To others, taking a risk, whether to self or others is of equal importance. A way of taking a personal stand is deciding to exercise the right to go or stay home. This nation is wrestling on the questions of wearing a mask or getting a shot. Many of us have lost friends or family as a result of those decisions. It can be a tough call. Whether we speak of this year’s Septemberfest, or football, there are those who are fearless and those who are more cautious.
As for those who have passed before us, either with Covid-19, or by other causes, we shall remember the empty chair at dinner. They will be missed. We shall remember them and the fun we had back in the day. From the days of our early childhood, I know that many wonderful memories were made.
As a kid I was attracted first to the merry go rounds that had these great, carved wooden horses, which rode up and down on shiny steel poles. I remember the iron stirrups and the leather reins, but more than that, things such as the carousel music that magically droned from the fancy, mirrored center. I remember studying the floors and finding there were pie-shaped sections that undoubtedly folded for easy packing and travel. The carousel horses rode up and down as they traveled in the big circle. Some have told me about swinging out and grabbing a ring. If any of the ones I rode had that feature I didn’t know it. I witnessed that sometimes there were when watching movies of other merry-go-rounds. I recall that most of the carved animals were horses. Still others were hippos, lions, giraffes, and other creatures from the ‘dark continent’ across the globe. There were benches on some of them, apparently to allow older folk to ride to help steady young riders if they had trouble handing on. Parents would often stand beside the horse holding the hand of their sweet little muffin, lest they fall and be hurt.
Another early ride was the metal cars that were positioned on the end of one of several arms, so they rode in a circle. The good ones had steering wheels and horns that worked. For those a little braver, airplanes flew just off the ground. The planes rose during the ride to a dizzying ten or twelve feet.
Older kids got into the flying swings that were little more than the swings at grade school, but attached to a spinning axel. As the speed picked up the swings swung out from the middle and went higher and higher. This didn’t happen with non-motorized rides at school, so the action made it well worth the ticket price.
I was a good-sized fellow when I finally got on the scary octopus ride. The first time I was very sick at my stomach, but I soon got my ‘sea legs’ and enjoyed the ride. Another was some spinning shells that had a bench seat and a steel arm to hold you in. Those traveled up and down while spinning one direction and then the other. Riders were thrown against each other and had to hang on for dear life. When I was older, I loved that ride because it got my date really close. Likely as not, she was really bruised, too.
The Ferris wheel was a thing I had to grow to like. I never cared for heights and this ride took you to the top of the world. Usually, it found a reason to stop and keep me up there, with nothing but air between me and the hard ground below. These days it seems that every major city has a version of a Ferris wheel that offers a broad view of the city, or surroundings. Instead of small seats designed for two, whole families can ride a booth allowing a far less personable, but higher lift.
Carnivals I saw never had a real roller-coaster, especially nothing like those in the newer theme parks. When I was older, I rode the one at Camden Park when I got the chance. It helped me get past my fear of heights.
As I got older, there were the spook-houses, the house of mirrors, side shows with sword swallowers, tattooed ladies, snake handlers, and countless others. There was also the penny pitch, the baseball throw, the shooting gallery, the fishing hole, the duck pull, and dart throw (balloons), weight guessers, bell ringer (mallet), and all the loud barkers hollering out in hopes of getting their share of the money.
I remember the noises, the smell of cotton candy, and caramel dipped apples, sausages, and fries. Those were exciting days and met my needs regardless of my age. All the lights, the smoke, the yelling, and music were something. For when the party and celebrations were happening, it was absolutely magical.
I find that, today, I can go to a carnival simply by sitting back, closing my eyes, and enjoying memories of the past. It’s about the people. It’s the looks of pleasure on kid’s faces when a prize is won, or when a ride throws a scare to an innocent rider. I remember those things, even if they are mere flashes that skitter around the out-of-focus mental snapshots. If I slow life down for a time I always find that sweet memories come back. If nothing else, it’s like Deja Vu when the first sound or smell of frying sausage and peppers greets me. The memories rush to my mind to a place I’ve been before. Maybe you remember those special times, too. Best wishes and good health, my friends. firstname.lastname@example.org.