By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)
Fairfield, CT – The whir of generators, ring of bells, excited shouts and screams of kids, rat-a-tat of toy guns and smell of cotton candy and popcorn. It could only mean one thing: the carnival was back in town.
Not just any carnival mind you, but the McKinley Elementary School Carnival, an annual affair facilitated by the school’s PTA in partnership with Stewart Amusement. Set up in the parking lot area of Jennings Beach, the four-day event opened Thursday night April 14.
Keeping watch over operations early Friday evening, Jennifer Chrysadakis, McKinley School PTA President, said the carnival was first held in 1997, on school grounds. “It became so large that it was moved to Jennings Beach around 2003,” she said. “It’s the biggest fundraiser for the school. Last year we raised $14,000. The take is dependent on the weather. We had two days of rain last year. Hopefully it will hold off this year.”
Standing nearby, Carnival Chairperson Domingo Thomas said, “The event marks the beginning of spring in the region and is really the first major happening in town. This year, we’re featuring 16 rides including Zero Gravity, which is the most popular, the Ali Baba, the Tornado, the Scrambler, the Freefall, bumper cars, a ferris wheel, Super Slide, Hang Glider and a whole bunch of kiddie rides. We’re also featuring standard carnival attractions like a shooting gallery, water guns, a baseball toss and, of course food, this year catered by The Shack. The Student Council is on hand, too, selling spirit wear, while the 5th grade is offering candy.”
Grace Bentley, 13, of Fairfield, attending with friends Isabella Giannicchi, 14, and Courtney Mettler, 13, had just hopped off the Scrambler. “This is super fun,” said Bentley. “We come every year. Our favorite ride is the Ali Baba. We’re freezing right now, but it’s still fun… once you get through that numb stage.”
Bryan Dougherty, 16, of Fairfield, gingerly stepped down from the death-defying Zero Gravity ride. “That was unbelievable,” he remarked to friends. “A lot of head spinning. It’s great to go to a carnival that features extreme rides you would expect from an amusement park.”
Page Jones and her friends Jake Mazza and Megan Bernstein, all 13, looked shaken as they walked away from the Rip Cord ride, which takes passengers up a vertical tower and then drops them like rocks. “I freaked,” said Jones. “I don’t like heights, but it was alright. I’ll probably do it again.”
Pals Maddy O’Brien, 15, and Zondra Shirley, 16, had a great time on the Ali Baba attraction, which offers a platform that swings back and forth and then goes all the way up and around. “That was super duper fun,” said Shirley. “We go on this ride every year. It used to be scary but now it’s just fun.”
Swooshing down the Super Slide luge was Greg Wolf of Fairfield, with his three-year-old son Chris. “We come every year,” he said. “Our kids love it… the whole neighborhood comes. It’s a little colder than usual, especially up there.”
Mark Jacobsen, 32, of Stratford, was blasting away with a pellet rifle in Machine Gun Alley, trying his best to obliterate a red star on a small card. “I grew up in Fairfield and used to come to this as a kid,” he said. “This is the game I used to play back then. It’s nostalgic to be here. Nothing seems to have changed, which is the charm of it.”
James Baker, 6, and his sister Kate, 4, looked determined to hammer a few rodents over at the Whac-A-Mole game. Said father Jeff, “We’ve been coming here the last four years. Despite the cold, it’s been a great time.” James added, “I liked the Bouncer, the Slide and the fun house.”
Maria Giribaldo of Fairfield looked on as her daughter Melanie, 4, and her cousin Karen Velez, 8, climbed into a Dinosaur kiddie ride. “We’re having a great time,” she said. “There are so many people. It’s great to have a carnival here. The kids have so much fun.”