When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. When COVID-19 takes a carnival away, you create one. This was the genesis of the Barton County Fair’s Family Fun Nights.
When the fair’s normal carnival vendor went out of business as a result of COVID-19, it left the fair without its regular carnival this year. Barton County Fair Board President Charles Atkinson said booking a carnival provider for the fair usually has to be done two to three years in advance, so finding another carnival vendor was not an option this year.
Fair organizers, though, still wanted to provide a fun evening of family-friendly activities for fair visitors, old and young alike.
And so the concept of Family Fun Nights was born.
Atkinson said the more traditional midway-style carnival games hearken back to the early days of the fair, and he hopes families come out and enjoy a little bit more old-fashioned family fun together.
He feels like a little bit of old-fashioned fun is just the medicine people need as the fair makes its in-person return.
“(We want people to) just enjoy getting out of the house and being with people, because that’s what we missed (by not) having everyone together last year,” Atkinson said.
Even though the regular carnival will not be there this year, Barton County Fair Board Treasurer Kate Wary, who heads up the Family Fun Nights project, is happy to be able to have a family-friendly event to offer in its place. She hopes it is an event where the community can come together and have fun after a year-plus of isolation brought on by COVID-19 restrictions.
“I think the kids are going to be excited when they see the games,” Wary said.
What exactly are Family Fun Nights?
Family Fun Nights consist of more than 27 midway-style carnival skill games put together by a team of dedicated volunteers, and will run for three nights in the east side of the Expo I building.
The doors will be open from 6-9 p.m. each night, Thursday through Saturday. Visitors will enter through the south door of Expo I, where they will pay $5 admission.
For the $5, anyone wishing to participate will be given a wristband and a bingo-style card at the door with a space for each of the games listed on the card.
Wary said participants may visit each game, or as many different games as they choose. For each game a participant competes in, that person will accumulate a point value based on how they do. Once they have completed each game, participants can visit the prize room on the south side of Expo 1, where they can select a prize based on the number of points accumulated through the game-play process.
Atkinson said the prizes were furnished through donations from both local business and individual community sponsors.
Games range from midway staples such as ring tosses, balloon darts, and pluck-a-duck, dice games, skee-ball, frisbee throws, and ball-based miniature golf, basketball, and football toss games, to name a few.
While most of the games allow players to accumulate points, Wary said there are two games, including a fishing game, which have separate prizes donated by local business sponsors.
While many games are geared toward kids, Atkinson said there will be something for people of all ages.
Dedicated volunteers needed
To make the fun happen, though, is going to take a team of committed volunteers, Atkinson said.
Linn Hogg with Volunteers in Action, who is helping to coordinate the volunteer effort, said ideally, organizers are looking for two people to staff each game each night. With close to 30 games, the goal is for around 60 volunteers per night.
The total time commitment is around five hours per night, Atkinson said. Those wishing to volunteer can sign up for one, two, or all three nights. Volunteers should plan on meeting at the Expo office in Expo One at 5:30 p.m. on the night or nights they will work.
Hogg said the only real qualification is to be on time and have the desire to give of yourself and help kids have fun. Beyond that, she said, there are tasks for all ages and abilities.
“If you can only sit down – or if you like to stand up, or chase after things – it doesn’t matter what your ability is; they’ve got a job for you at the carnival games,” she said.
Atkinson said the event could not happen without those willing volunteers.
“We’re looking for a lot of help from the community,” Atkinson said. “It’s like anything you do with community involvement; we’ve all got to be involved one way or another.”
Hogg said volunteers looking to help out with Family Fun Night can sign up online at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/BCFair or visit the Volunteers In Action Facebook page.