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Carnivals Totally Freak Me Out – Here’s Why

Photo by Danny Avila via Unsplash

Ah, the sweetness of summertime. The Fourth of July is creeping up on us by the day. I can practically smell the funnel cakes and kettle corn that typically, any day now, pop up in parks and town squares. ‘Tis the season for ornate displays of patriotism and capitalism, showcased via the way we know best – the carnival.

For many Americans, this might conjure up images of Ferris wheels, flying swings, and harrowing Tilt-A-Whirls. You might think of smiling children under clear blue skies skipping along to the beat of cheery music. What comes to my mind, however, is drastically different.

I’m not going to lie to you – these carnivals totally freak me out. Seriously. How in the world is it safe to get on a ride that can be fully assembled and fully deconstructed in the span of just a few days? Something about that makes my stomach start doing backflips. This conclusion, however, is not unfounded. A look into the past five years alone reveals several extremely disturbing incidents, including passengers falling from upwards of 30 feet and even deaths. Carnival ride regulations are not standardized on a national level, so different states have different mechanisms in place to verify whether or not these structures are safe to ride. 

Beyond these more serious safety worries lies a more microscopic one – germs. Is anyone sanitizing these rides after carnival goers grip the handholds and sweat on the seats? At amusement parks, seat belts are among the most unclean surfaces. (This is not to say that you shouldn’t fasten your seat belt next time you’re on one of those pirate ship rides – please do!) Experts at Universal Parks have recently tossed around the idea of cleaning systems within rides themselves, using ultraviolet light or cleaning liquids to get the job done. Could traveling carnival rides one day be equipped with these same technologies? This may be something to keep your eye on for the future. For now, though, I’ll be rolling up to the carnival with several bottles of hand sanitizer.

My concerns about safety aren’t my only gripes, however. For real, what’s the deal with those notorious carnival games? I’m not sure why it makes sense to spend $10 worth of tickets for a small chance at winning a stuffed animal that would cost $5 elsewhere. Not to mention, is winning even possible? While New Jersey maintains that participants must be able to win carnival games in order for them to remain at events, operators elsewhere might go out of their way to make the games incredibly difficult to beat. To me, pouring money into a hopeless venture sounds like no fun. 

I will concede that carnivals do tend to have some pretty delicious dessert offerings. I once had some coffee Oreo ice cream at a fair that I’ll probably never forget. Regardless, I’m doubtful that these small joys can outweigh the dreads I’ve outlined here.

How do you feel about carnivals? Let us know in the poll below!

Photo by Danny Avila via Unsplash

  • What are your thoughts on carnivals?

    • the best time of the year, hands down
    • I’m only in it for the food
    • they’re the absolute worst

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Written by Megan Pontin

Enthusiastic word-collector, avid pancake-consumer, and experienced hammock-lounger. Student at Cornell University.

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