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At many schools, carnivals are more than well-attended family events.They’re beloved traditions. One reason so many schools hold carnivals isthat they can be easily customized to suit a particular community, becomingas simple or as over-the-top as people want.

Pulling off a successful carnival can be a big job, but you can make theevent manageable by tackling the planning one step at a time. The rewardfor all your hard work is when you see kids, parents, and teachers having ablast. Here are the steps for a winning carnival.

1. Assemble a committee.

There is a lot to coordinate. Get help. Look for creative, enthusiastic parents who are not already bogged down with other commitments. Recruit volunteer leaders to head up food, games, and logistics. You can even call one of our expert party planners for help.

2. Decide on your goal.

Carnivals are often fundraisers, but sometimes thegoal is just to provide a fun event for the school community. Somecarnivals are offered as a safe alternative to trick-or-treating. Make sureeveryone involved in planning the carnival understands your group’s goal.

3. Talk about a theme.

Themes can add a lot to the atmosphere of yourschool carnival. Harvest festivals and Halloween are good fall themes. Inspring, think about a luau or barbecue. An international theme offeringfood and activities from a variety of cultures is a hit at many schools.Activity days to celebrate physical fitness and give awards for progresstowards goals. But don’t get so hung up on the theme it takes away fromyour carnival. Many schools are just as successful taking a traditionalapproach with attractions, cotton candy and snow cones.

4. Choose your location.

Will your event be indoors, outdoors, or both? Ifthe event is held outdoors, work out a contingency plan in case of badweather. Make creative use of space. If your carnival is held indoors,stage each game in a different hallway so that everyone isn’t crowded intothe cafeteria or gym. If your activities are outdoors, you can useplayground structures for part of a maze. Hallways can also be used to addcustomization for your event.

5. Set the date and time.

Think about weather and other commitmentsfamilies have, especially youth sports. If your community is into collegefootball, make sure your fall carnival doesn’t conflict with a big game.When you have a date in mind, check your town and school district websitesfor scheduling conflicts. Set a start and end time.

6. Apply for permits.

Check with local government offices to find outwhether any permits will be required for your carnival. Many cities requirepermits for rides or inflatables, outdoor use of electricity, and foodpreparation and sales. Liability insurance is often a requirement forobtaining a permit. Permit applications may be due 90 days or more beforean event, so it’s important to find out your community’s rules early in theplanning process.

7. Check on insurance coverage.

If your parent group is insured, find outwhether the policy covers carnivals. If your group is covered under aschool insurance policy, ask whether a binder is needed to cover thecarnival. Be sure to ask about coverage for carnival rides and inflatableslike bounce houses. Ultimate Inflatables carries a $3 million policy tohelp protect you and your organization. With a little advance notice, wecan also add your school as an additional insured on our policy, whichhelps keep all of the administrators happy.

8. Nail down your budget.

This will drive your big decisions. Many parentgroups have put on wonderful, well-attended carnivals with tight budgets.With a bigger budget, you may be able to afford better rides, moreelaborate games, and additional food options.

9. Whatever the size of your budget, look into ways to cut event costs.

Common cost-saving strategies include borrowing homemade carnival gamesfrom another school or asking parents to make and donate them. Some parentgroups defray costs with business sponsorships or donations. Ask localbusinesses to donate goods or for sponsorships. If your group gets supportfrom businesses, be sure to publicly acknowledge them with a sign or bannerposted at the carnival.

10. Staff your carnival.

You’ll need plenty of volunteers to run yourevent. Keep in mind that parents, especially those with younger kids, willwant to participate in the carnival with their children. Those parents maybe limited to helping with event setup or cleanup. Some parent groups findteachers willing to help, and others don’t want to pressure their alreadystretched-thin faculty. Older students can be a great resource at oneelementary, high school football players in their team uniforms manned thebooths, and the kids loved it! Some groups have arranged volunteerexchanges with other schools so that parents can join in the fun and gamesat their own child’s school. Other potential volunteer sources includescout troops, community organizations, and church groups.

11. Plan on food.

With many of the logistics in place, you can starttalking about everyone’s favorite subject: food. The first step is toconsult your local health department to find out what rules you’ll have tofollow to prepare and serve food. Ultimate Inflatables rents all of theequipment needed to provide carnival classics like hot dogs, popcorn andcotton candy. By letting your volunteers man these stations you can cutcosts significantly. Don’t forget to include drinks and desserts, whichlocal businesses are often willing to donate.

When deciding how much food to prepare, consider a best-case scenario forattendance and assume everyone will arrive hungry. Then prepare enough foodfor a crowd of that size plus 10 percent. Once you have a few years of datafrom previous carnivals, you’ll have a better idea of how much food to makeor buy.

12. Play games.

Interactive games are one of the hallmarks of a carnival.They can also cause anxiety among parents who fear kids will rejecthomemade games. Test-market new games on your children, and don’t besurprised if they’re just as happy throwing a ball in a hoop as playing anactive video game. Standard go-to games include a cakewalk, a ring toss,and a fishing activity. If you go to an amusement park such as Lagoon, makesure to check out their games to see what can be adapted for your school’scarnival. Contests such as a bake-off or a chili cook-off are also popular.

13. Provide an attraction.

Find something that will draw people in to yourcarnival. Inflatables are always a great addition. They are big, colorful,and they tell everyone in the neighborhood that you are having a carnival.Other ideas are pony rides, face painting, and even hayrides. Musicalperformances by students or local bands are another good way to draw acrowd.

14. Think (hard) about money.

Your goal is to have as few people handlingcash as possible to reduce the risk of mismanagement and theft. One way tokeep money in a safe, central location is to sell tickets or tokens at thedoor and have participants redeem them for food or activities. Anotherapproach is to charge a flat fee for admission and give each participant awristband that covers all food and activities.

If your goal is to raise money, tickets may be more profitable since youcan charge a higher price for more elaborate and popular activities. Ifyour community is value-minded, parents may welcome the wristband. Or youcan do both. For example, wristbands could be sold for $10 each with a $3discount for siblings, while tickets could sell for 50 cents each. Thatway, parents and children had options.

Setting prices is a challenge, especially if it’s the first year for yourevent. The delicate balance is to price your carnival high enough to coverexpenses while taking care not to price families out. The less money youspend, the less you’ll need to charge. It’s a good idea to send out surveysasking parents how much they can afford to spend at the event. For abaseline, estimate how many kids will attend and how many activities eachwill do. Determine the per-child price needed to cover expenses.

15. Reserve your equipment.

If you are bringing equipment to suplement yourevent be sure to reserve it early. Get help deciding waht you ant and need.Don’t be afraid to dram big. Equipment is less expensive than you thing.Call one of our party palnner for help requardless of you you book with.

16. Find a way to have fun.

I mean for YOU!
Inflatable Safety
All inflatables we rent incorporate numerous safety features that meet andor exceed safety guidelines. Ultimately, renting an inflatable or carnivalgame to use in your own event means you are assuming some risk so pleasefollow common sense safety practices. Always follow the specific inflatableyou purchased safety instructions as well as the warning label on theoutside of the inflatable. Please follow the general guidelines listedbelow.

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