Club Carnival brings droves to the waterfront

For a Friday at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, North Lake Drive appeared to be very quiet. Bikes rested on racks, and the pavement was absent of children running to their next planned activity of the day, though a muffled voice and echoes of yelling from Sharpe Field speakers proved otherwise.

The sounds originated from behind Beeson Youth Center, which was a different scene completely: Hundreds — Club Program Director Jennifer Flanagan estimated near 500 people — were in attendance for the annual Club Carnival, one of Club’s biggest fundraisers of the season that ususally raising around $1,200, for the Chautauqua Fund.

Games and activities, which ranged from Group 4 boys’ dodgeball throw to Group 7 girls’ nail salon, were arranged by counselors and campers.

“Groups think of what has been done in the past, and they make and paint signs from the crafts department, run out to Walmart to get supplies — we reimburse them for that — and then we talk with the kids to save their quarters,” Flanagan said. “It all comes together. We have 18 groups, and they’re all doing something different, but it all magically comes together the morning of the Carnival.”

Children weaved in and out of lines for different games throughout the morning, grasping 25-cent game tickets and loose dollar bills for the opportunity to have their nails painted, send a candy gram, or play the Club-favorite game Ga-Ga.

Face painting by arts and crafts counselors created wacky guises for kids, some donning painted mustaches and glasses, bumble bees, a German flag, and Minions from the popular “Despicable Me” movie franchise. Those who wanted to cool off from the beating sun were able to stop by Group 3 girls’ lemonade stand or take shade and play either Group 4 boys’ cornhole or Group 8 boys’ mini golf.

Long lines gathered for the gladiator arena, where children wore boxing headgear and attempted to push their friends off an inflatable platform, a bounce house that ran adjacent to Group 5 boys’ soccer penalty shots area, and the longest running game at Carnival, the Kid Carwash.

“Our waterfront director, Chuck Bauer — his staff came up with [Kid Carwash] the first year of the Carnival and it was so novel and brings smiles to everyone’s face. They just kept doing it,” Flanagan said. “I know by the end of the morning, some of our water staff have sore muscles pulling these kids through, but it’s well worth it.”

The homemade slip-and-slide is divided into three parts by plastic drapes that hang over a long sheet of plastic. Those who paid the two-ticket entry lie stomach-flat on a life preserver and are doused with a soapy mixture.

They are then pulled through slowly by a counselor, rinsed with a spray hose, and quickly yanked off the track and onto the grass to “dry-off” — a process that is better in theory than in practice. Dozens of kids were covered in a mix of grass and water, and several young children put on their shoes as they continued to drip onto the next activity.

Behind the Boys’ Club, kids were able to use their tickets as ballots to vote for Club King and Queen, an annual honor presented to Club counselors. Far from a democratic voting process, campers have the ability to stuff the ballot boxes depending on how many tickets they decide to use. Vince Muffitt and Maddie Haughton were crowned king and queen, respectively.

Ryland Logan, a Club counselor and a participant in Club since he was eligible,  said he looks forward to the Carnival every year.

“Club Carnival is another word for ‘Chautauqua’ when it comes to Club. This is one of the events I look forward to, that the kids look forward to, and those who are here for a week look forward to,” Logan said. “It makes memories and it makes me want to come back to Chautauqua.”