Carnival Crews

Photos | Megan Tan

On one of the summer’s hottest days, campers, counselors keep cool at annual Club event

Patrick Hosken | Staff Writer

July 21 was what some might call a “scorcher,” with temperatures approaching the 90s even before 11 a.m. That didn’t stop campers and counselors from heading down to the Boys’ and Girls’ Club annual carnival and enjoying the scene.

A quick pan of the grass near the Club waterfront revealed everything from a face-painting station to a large inflatable bounce house shaped like a barrel — appropriately called the “Bouncer of Monkeys.”

Counselors took campers’ tickets to play the classic carnival toss-a-ball-in-a-cup game. Some sat at tables selling raffle tickets. Some helped campers pick out a sucker from the Lollipop Tree. Others watched kids practicing their short game on a makeshift putting green made from a rug and some plastic cups taped down as holes.

These activities are all part of being a successful Club counselor, according to Jack Voelker, director of Recreation and Youth Services.

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“The staff does a great job of making sure they care for the kids,” Voelker said.

The carnival featured a new activity this year, one that caused a winding line of campers around the grass across from Sharpe Field — a bungee race. Two campers squared off in separate lanes of an inflatable structure, strapped in to harnesses on bungee cords, trying to stick their Velcro squares farther down on the line than the other.

On the other side of the Boys’ Club building, about seven campers stood behind a large cardboard box, painted and decorated with images of fish, seaweed and other underwater life. In this game, “Fishing 4 Candy!!” as the sign read, campers cast a fishing pole made from a boat paddle, a string and a clothespin over the box and pulled it back with a piece of candy attached.

Club program director Jennifer Flanagan sported a tall hat made of connected balloons, staying in the carnival spirit. She said Club used to hold the carnival every other year, but it became an annual event because of its popularity.

Part of that popularity, she said, comes from the Club carnival classic game called “GaGa.”

No, not Lady Gaga. Club “GaGa” involves a large group of campers scattered in the sand trying to punch the volleyball and hit another camper anywhere below the knee. If a camper gets hit, he or she is out. If a camper wins the game, he or she gets his or her two tickets back in addition to two more tickets as a prize.

While these outdoor games are fun, 90-degree heat demands shade and, more importantly, water. Luckily, Club staffers made regular announcements reminding participants — and spectators — to utilize the water fountain behind Beeson Youth Center.

Campers could catch some shade at the “SAC Shootout” inside the Boys’ Club, a hockey event. Some sat under trees, talking and getting hydrated.

The rest gathered around the Kidwash, a slip and slide on steroids. To begin, a camper sat on an inner tube and was pulled through the waterworks by a counselor, getting soaped and hosed all the way through.

Being able to change the program around to cater to extreme weather conditions, including rain as well as extreme heat, is an important lesson to learn for counselors, Voelker said.

“Counselors need to be flexible. There’s something to be said, in a value sense, to adapting to change,” Voelker said.

The carnival has been around for more than 25 years, Flanagan said. All proceeds from the carnival go to the Chautauqua Fund, which Club members will present in a ceremony on Old First Night, Aug. 2. Selling tickets at 25 cents each leads to the carnival being Club’s largest fundraiser each year, though Flanagan said there was one thing carnival participants were buying more than tickets.

“I think the biggest seller is our cold water bottles,” Flanagan said with a laugh.