Never Will I Ever: Be A Carnie | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

May 14, 2012

Never Will I Ever: Be A Carnie

"Carnies.  Smell like cabbage. ::whispering:: Small hands." -- Austin Powers

Carnivals creep me out.

Something about how one day they eerily pop up out of nowhere, and a few days later there is no trace of their existence.  The greasy food.  The rigged games.  There is just something not right about carnivals.

Luckily, Hubby is not fond of them either.  And after a quick stop at a local carnival last night, I am proud to report that Little Chica wasn't too impressed by her first carnival visit either.

When I was little, I got just as excited as the next kid when a local fairground popped up for the week. To a kid, there is something thrilling about going to a place filled to the brim with rides, games and food.  People chatter away as you walk, and there is opportunity to win prizes around every corner.

And then you get older, wiser and more cynical.

Note: There were no clowns at this carnival. But clowns are at the circus. And circuses and carnivals are cut from the same cloth in my book. Clowns also creep me out. After watching this movie as a a child, I've never been able to look at Bozo the same way again.  Have you seen it? Tell me it's not insane.

You begin to look at carnivals a little differently. You realize how disgusting the food is.  You are rubbed the wrong way by Carnies who salaciously attempt to lure you into playing their impossible games.  Upon further inspection, you find the stuffed animal you just won has matted fur and is filled with sawdust.  You begin to question an establishment that is assembled and dismantled in the matter of hours.

Like I said. The whole system is suspect.

So to start this Monday, I thought I'd share with you the 

Top Reasons Never Will I Ever Be A Carnie 
(in no particular order):

The Temporary Skyline

I find it unsettling that everything about a Carnival is temporary.  This same exact Carnival will be someplace else next week, creeping out a completely different town.  One day, it's an empty parking lot. The next day an entire town made of metal is erected.  3 days later, it is as though the fair never existed, save for the lone funnel cake carelessly shoved into a nearby bush. The only consistency is the eccentric staff of transient nomads that run the rides and games from town to town (aka Carnies). More on this later.

Tinker Toy Rides and Death-Defying Fun

You will NEVER catch me enjoying a ride at a Carnival.  Well, for what it's worth, you won't catch me enjoying rides at an amusement park either. I hate rides.  Mainly because they make me sick. But it is completely disconcerting to me that Carnival rides are built in a day. A DAY, people.  Like some oversized Erector Set.  How safe can that be?  You really think they are double checking every bolt and screw?  How certain are you that the "Zipper" will take you up 50 feet in the air and deliver you safely back on the ground?  Yeah. I don't think so.

Now, I am all about appreciating science. And I completely understand that part of the thrill of amusement rides is the physics of it all. Gravity. Centrifugal force.  But do we really need to put ourselves in ridiculous situations to have fun?  Take this bad boy for example:

The Freak Out

A ride that seats you in "safe" baskets on the end of a long arm. The ride then throws the baskets up in the air, and while a dangerously far distance from the ground, proceeds to spin you around until your stomach resides where your brain used to.

What ever happened to simple fun? Like Scrabble. Or Gardening.


Sure, I love the occasional funnel cake. And as a kid, I though carnivals were a food-lover's paradise.  But as I grew up, learned about nutrition, and how money worked, it never fails to amaze me:

1) the disgusting food offered at carnivals (Deep fried oreos? How gross is that? Let me count the ways) 


 2) how much money some people are willing to spend on a limp hotdog or a soggy plate of nachos.  Suddenly a "fun day at the fair" rivals the cost of a classy dinner.


Need I say more?

Torture Devices Disguised as Fun

Tell me this doesn't look like a torture device. I dare you.  Like, wasn't this featured in the movie Saw? Oh, and if you have difficulty reading the fine print, it says "Riders do not experience any sickness because the spinning changes directions and keeps each rider's inner ear balanced."

You sit on a throne of LIES.

Does this need any more explanation?

Don't say you haven't been warned.

PS - who wants to go back with me later this week?


  1. Years ago when I lived in Fairmount, I walked out of my apartment to my car and passed a creepy looking van and saw a fake hand sticking out the side of the hood. I walked up to it and inspected it, eyebrow cocked, like, this is SO lame. Then I turned and saw a live clown staring back at me. I'm pretty sure all of Spring Garden St. heard me shriek right then. I took off running.


    And I even work in the performing arts!

    Carnivals are totally bizarre to me although I am more intrigued than completely creeped out. The people who work there definitely creep me out. I more or less consider their history through the years and take an anthropological look at them, their roles, the whole concept of traveling amusement and how and when and why it's so appealing.

    I bring my camera and snap away at all the permutations of abstract images that one colorful ride can offer. I am most interested in the set up and tear down, sans people.

    One of the best exhibits I've seen recently was devoted to the demise of a Lehigh Valley Amusement Park, Bushkill Park. Wow, talk about eerie images. I love when a photographer can capture a sense of time gone by - the state of disarray in the neglected and rusted rides and rotting wood but also catch that last moment of fun that was there prior to a natural disaster wiping it away - a roller skate, a ride suspended in mid-air.

    I am obsessed with the dichotomy that are carnivals and amusement parks.

  2. Oh my gosh, they freak me out! Seriously, what is the deal?! This has to be a classified phobia...

  3. I love carnivals!


Hey! Share a thought or two - I'd love to hear from you! ~ Steph

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