1) Choosing a Site for your Carnival
When choosing a site, consider these things: access, parking, weather, terrain, scale, lighting, access to electricity, safety, city regulations and insurance.
Make sure when you choose a location for your carnival, it is easily accessible by your guests. If it is held in a hard-to-find location, you may want to provide your guests with maps and driving directions.
If your guests will be driving to your carnival, pick a site that has enough parking. Also, if there are special parking fees or instructions, be sure to notify your guests accordingly.
One of the most important questions to ask yourself when choosing a site for your carnival is if it should it be inside or outside. You will have to make the decision based on the time of year and climate in your area. If you decide to have your carnival outside, make sure that your games are water resistant. If the potential is there for a real downpour, you may want to borrow, rent, or purchase some canopy tents and market umbrellas.
If your carnival is outside, be sure to pick a flat location since many games require level ground. If your site is grassy, be sure that the grass is cut short. Other terrains that work well are: cement, pavers, and gravel.
When choosing your location, consider the area necessary for your carnival. If the site is wide open, you might want to contain the area with some pennants or tents to make the space feel more contained. The perfect carnival site uses space efficiently, and is not too spread apart.
If your carnival is taking place after dark, be sure that your site has adequate lighting.
Access to Electricity
If you have concessions and/or games which require electricity, be sure that your site provides the access you need. You may also want to cover poser cords with duct tape to prevent your visitors from tripping.
Be sure to choose a site in a safe location, away from busy streets if possible. If your carnival must be located near a busy street, be sure to adequately contain the area to prevent small children from wandering into the street. You should also have a first aid kit on hand in case there is an unexpected injury, and provide sunscreen and hand sanitizer for your guests and carnival workers.
City Regulations and Insurance
Be sure that when you throw your carnival that you are adequately insured and are in full compliance with city regulations.
2) Get Organized
Being organized when throwing a carnival will ultimately determine its success. Of course, there are always going to be a few unexpected things that come up, but if you are organized to begin with, you will be able to easily handle the situations.
3) Test Your Games
After you’ve assembled the games you want to include in your carnival, be sure to test each game for usability and for age appropriateness. Many games can be modified slightly to make winning harder or easier. For example, try replacing bean bags with birdies for the bean bag toss game. Adjusting the distance from which participants play, can also affect difficulty.
4) Have Enough Game Workers
Knowing how many guests will be showing up for your carnival can help determine how many game workers you need. If the number is small you might be able to have each worker operate two games. If you think the number is large, one worker per game is best. 25 or more kids at a nine-game carnival would ideally have a worker on each game.
5) Assign Carnival Worker Badges
One of the best tips I can give someone putting on a carnival is to create worker badges which identify each worker’s job. This is particularly useful if you have kids running the carnival. When a worker needs a break, he or she finds a replacement to take over. The replacement wears the badge and works the game until the worker returns and reclaims the worker badge.
6) Explain Game Rules to Workers
Be sure that all your carnival workers know the rules for winning each game. For example, your carnival may only allow one win per game. If a misinformed worker unknowingly offers multiple wins per game, it could quickly deplete your prize supply.
7) Assign A Game Assistant
One carnival worker job that I’ve found to be very helpful is what I call the Game Assistant. This person circulates the carnival and fills in for game workers by bringing them tickets or tokens when they run out. Younger siblings of carnival workers are great for this job, and are often eager to get involved.
8) Create Signage Ahead of Time
It is very helpful to create signs for all your games, crafts, activities and concessions ahead of time. Game signs should include any necessary instructions for the game and explain what participants are awarded if they win. Craft or activity signs can be used to help explain the steps required for completing a craft or activity as well as spell out appropriate behaviors. Concession and prize table signs are necessary to itemize item costs. Don’t forget signs which point to the restroom and denote trash & recycling bins.
9) Be Prepared for Rain
If your carnival is being held outside, be sure to have a plan in the event that it rains. Games should be as water resistant as possible even if they are under cover. Signs and worker badges should be laminated or somehow covered in plastic. At minimum, concession stands, the prize table, crafts areas, as well as the face painter (if you have one) should be under some type of cover. Canopies work great for this, though market umbrellas and tarps work well too.
10) Stock Enough Prizes
Make sure that when you are buying prizes that you have enough. If you do start running low on popular prizes, consider auctioning them off to the guest waiting in line at the prize table. This will slow your losses and add to the excitement!