Wednesday, September 12, 2012

DIY Carnival Activity - 1 of 3

Part 1: The Set-up

I've been meaning to tell you more about that carnival, a few weeks ago.  The time has come!

The "Winter Carnival" was a branch activity I organised for church, inviting members of our congregation to come together with friends one Saturday for some fun and frivolity. I'm sure many of the ideas we used for our activity would serve just as well at backyard family game nights, birthday parties, family reunions, as camping games, for larger ward/stake/district activities, or in any other setting where you're after a series of carnival/fair-inspired games on a small budget.  Feel free to pick and choose from the assortment of ideas we used to create your own event on a small or large scale.

Because I scheduled our event to run towards the end of the brisk months, our carnival was set up inside a rec hall.  I assigned the older kids from the Primary I oversee (The Faith in God team of 8-11-year-olds) the task of playing vendors -- running most of the games and events set up at stalls within the space (along with some adults I'd assigned at other key points).
All soon-to-be punters were issued 20 perforated tickets from a roll at the ticket booth...
...and then they were free to roam, eat, play and socialise.  For me, a huge part of what this event was about was generating that fair feeling in a safe, contained space wherein parents could enjoy themselves whilst letting their kids run free (without having to spin on their heels with anxiety every few minutes) and where children attending could enjoy that freedom, as well as the perceived power of spending a currency however they chose.
My legendary vendors wore white shirts, striped aprons and name badges.  Here's my Faith in God leader in said garb whilst she demonstrates how to bowl:
Children weren't the only ones I was thrilled to see participate, of course!
We strung up bunting, balloons, rice paper lanterns, and draped and hung linen over tables, whiteboards on wheels, wires and strings. 
Oh, and we filled a small truck with old tyres from a tyre serving shop and then used them to frame out the ride-on area for Under-4s;
Close by, we had a cheapy bubble machine...
People tendered tickets to play games and won tickets in return -- more tickets for more skill (or luck).  Tickets could then be spent at the food stand, prize booth, or the cream pie auction (more on that, to come).  There were also a handful of pastimes that didn't require tickets -- like guessing the number of lollies in the lolly jar and the colouring competition table.

I got giddy as I watched a little human step up onto a bench below the servery counter and request a glass of lemonade and then begin carefully counting out tickets into a kind server's outstretched hand.  Also...having tickets prevented the mad rush on food I've often seen at church activities -- c'mon, it happens.  And having tickets also produced moments like this:
-- where a child offers her popcorn to an adult while she eyes up what else she can spend her hard-won tickets on at the prize booth.  Maybe it's just me, but I think seeing the tables turned like this is adorable.

Other highlights included seeing:
  • a mother and daughter with matching facepaint;
  • children conspiring together with fistfuls and o'erflowing pockets of tickets hoarded in the hopes of winning the right to cream pie one of their church leaders in the kisser;
  • how seriously my young vendors took their jobs;
  • a ridiculously low price tag pinned on the fabric I found for their aprons, along with the rolls of fabric strips I used for the apron ties (both found at good ol' Sallies);
  • Ivy marooned in a sea of balloons with tight smile-cheeks, during set-up;
  • even the very young pumping their fists and doing victory dances after winning games that in other places are nigh on impossible; and
  • having my beautiful (non-LDS) friend and her girls venture inside an LDS chapel to participate, and leave again without being subjected to any voodoo.  You should try it some time.
Thinking of running something similar?

Here's a breakdown of some of the key tasks you might consider:
  1. Get approval from anyone you need to.
  2. Set the date.
  3. Book your location/space.
  4. Order the tickets, if you plan to use them -- if you're in New Zealand, anyway.  If you're in the States, you can just walk in and grab some from WalMart, but for many abroad, having these shipped to our shores should be done early for cheaper rates. (I only found "Admit One" tickets on sale in NZ stores, online and physical, but maybe you have a wider selection in your city?)
  5. Brainstorm and then decide on the stalls/games you'll run.  At this point I also drew up a floor plan of where everything should go.  While I concede doing this with fancy software isn't necessary (ahem), I do think doing it, is -- getting your head around the logistics of the space you are using will highlight other supplies you may need (e.g. How will you stick up the balloons, on what?  Do you need to buy pins?  String?), and alert you to space issues (Who wants to get everything for a stall only to find there's nowhere to put it?), including how to keep projectiles away from unsuspecting toddlers very much focussed on what they're doing (the ride-ons, colouring table and eatery were all at the opposite end from our "Hoop Shot," and all of the throw and toss games were mapped out with allowances for foul balls etc).
  6. Start "the" spreadsheet -- the spreadsheet you will use to manage all the things.  The spreadsheet is essentially a list of stalls, with columns added to complete alongside, with what each stall will need to run; things you or others can loan for use on the day (a "borrow" column), things to buy, things to collect (a "find" column), things to make or do before the day for that stall to operate (my "do" list), and people intended to run the associated stall ("who").  In addition to listing the stalls, consider adding a row for "dress/costume" and "decorations," as these will generate a lot of things to borrow, buy, find or make as well.
  7. Use your "buy" column to create a shopping list, and your budget.  Run this by anyone you need to.  I copy and pasted the shopping list below the main area of the spreadsheet and sorted it into categories and by stores so that I could print it and check items off while I was out.  I also included the projected costs so that I could keep an eye on my spending and adjust things as necessary (e.g. Oooo, saved $5 on that, I can afford to get an extra ball here).
  8. Ask people to start collecting anything you'll need for the stalls to work (e.g. cans, soda bottles etc.)  I also used FreeCycle to put out call-outs.
  9. Print flyers and posters (or invitations).  I'm happy to email anyone who wants one an editable pse file of the flyer I made for your private, non-commerical use -- it could be your starting point.  Get the posters up and flyers out.
  10. Recruit your vendors and helpers.  Work down the "people" list on the spreadsheet, confirming availability and willingness to help, finding replacements where necessary.
  11. Enlist Primary children in making decorations...or doing something that helps them feel invested in what's to come and in turn helps build their anticipation.  For us, this was asking children to make snowflakes to decorate the hall with, and they did an amazing job!  There are a lot of possibilities here though -- including producing artwork or poetry for a display and/or competition on the day.
  12. Give vendors and helpers their assignments.  They said "yes," now it's time to give them a notice about when to turn up, what to wear, they'll be doing, etc. 
  13. Plan the finer details (such as decorations, costumes, and music).  Do any research you need to in order to help you generate ideas (pin, pin pin!) and compare prices.  Plan where things will be stored (including perishables), and how and when things will be transported. 
  14. Shop and collect!  (Groceries, prizes, stall supplies, decorations, tyres, toy library toys, balloon pump...)
  15. Schedule and run working bees with agendas of things to create (e.g. aprons, name badges, bunting, cupcake flags, cutting colouring competition sheets in half...)
  16. Get it announced, if applicable.  More flyers out.
  17. Print stall signs and instructions, and any other printing needed.  You could do this earlier, but you may find your game rules or instructions change after your purchasing and collecting is over, due to availability of supplies.
  18. Transport everything.  We stored lots of stuff in a lockable room leading up to the big day, allowing us to spread our trips out over the prior week.
  19. Physically set-up.  I did a lot of the "big stuff" the night before the activity (tables, chairs, "tents," and layout).  Then in the morning we added the trills and put out all of the little things needed -- and a lot of people helped.
  20. Make sure you enjoy it too (once it starts, join in!).
 Things I think are worth the money or trouble:
  • Hiring a balloon pump.
  • Paying for authentic look and feel tickets.
  • Collecting and arranging tyres to define and confine any ride-on area.
  • Collecting linen (and seeking out stripes) to hang as backdrops and dividers, cover tables, and add colour to the space.  When I told one place it was for a free carnival, they gave me three laundry baskets-full for free.
  • Making a mix CD of carnival music to play on loop.
  • Downloading fonts, with the theme in mind. I used Outlaw (you'll have to search UrbanFonts -- I've been asked not to link it here), Rosewood Std, and Showboat.
  • Printing some Open/Closed signs for use on the main door (we held our guests in the foyer -- stripped of its furniture -- until it was time to start), and for use on any stalls which may need to temporarily or permanently close due to faulty equipment, urgent toilet stops etc.  
  • Stationing at least two people at each game, so one from the pair could come and go while the other manned shop.  I did not want any vendors to miss out on getting around and enjoying the rest of the carnival.
  • Printing some higher currency tickets (I did a "5 tickets" stub on blue paper) that vendors could  quickly give to winners to speed up game play and transactions, all-round. 
  • Colour printing the flyers and posters, and getting stall signs printed in black and white, but at A3 size.
Tomorrow -- the food we served.
Thursday -- a full list of each stall/game we ran at our carnival, open for idea-pillaging.
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