Carnivals can be a great way for your non-profit to boost its revenue as well as providing a memorable experience connected to your organization, which translates into great PR. To define what we’re talking about when we say “carnival” here, we mean the kind of event where the visitors pay at the gate and receive tokens they can use for the various rides and booths; or where patrons pay at each amusement, whether that’s a booth or a ride or something else.

How do I plan a carnival fundraiser?

Just like planning a fall party, the key is to make a schedule and stick to it as much as you can. For a carnival, you’ll want to start building local buzz long before you have all your inflatables, rides and concessions organized – but you’ll definitely need to know where and when your event is happening.

Where should I hold my carnival?

Depending on the space you have, you should think about how many people will be attending your event, and how much room you have for equipment. Inflatables and mechanical rides can have large footprints – some as large as an 80-foot diameter circle – so you’re going to need a large outside space. Inflatables, inflatable games and moonwalks usually have a smaller footprint and have the advantage that they can be used inside in the event of bad weather, though while inflatable obstacle courses are a similar width, but a lot longer – up to 70 feet, and modular courses can easily reach more than 100 feet in length. There are plenty of places you can hold your event, from schools to empty parking lots. In Georgia, there’s no statewide regulation around use of public spaces, though some parks (like Lake McIntosh Park in Fayette County) have ordinances prohibiting the use of inflatables. Check with your local city and county governments for more details about any public land you’d like to hold your event on. Since you may need to get permits or insurance certificates, be sure to make sure your venue will get the go-ahead for your event. When you know where your event is going to happen, you can turn your attention to what kind of experience you want your visitors to enjoy.

How many rides and inflatables should I plan for?

Rather than thinking about how many rides, think about how you can maximize the entertainment you’re providing. An outdoor carnival is a bigger event than a neighborhood festival, and you’ll need more amusements to entertain your visitors. You may have event-space capacity restrictions that limit the number of visitors inside your carnival at any time, so be sure to know how those safety restrictions affect your carnival. Nobody likes waiting to take a turn on a ride or inflatable game, so moving your visitors through the line and rides quickly is important – though having a line of people waiting isn’t a bad thing, either, because it can have the effect of encouraging your visitors to try rides that may be less popular but have shorter wait times. If you’re renting bounce houses and jumpers, they typically have longer dwell times – the length of time people use the ride or inflatable – while obstacle and race courses are more of a one-and-done before returning to the back of the line for another turn. Rides with multiple exit points, or at least exits that aren’t also the entrance, can help move your riders in and out of the ride more efficiently. The important thing is to provide a variety of rides with different dwell times and that will appeal to a broad group of riders. And remember, most companies will offer a discount for renting multiple rides or inflatables, so take advantage of special pricing when selecting your pieces. When selecting your inflatables and games, we offer much more than moonwalks for the young and the young at heart. Interactive games like QB Blitz, Skee Ball, Soccer Darts, Warrior Jump and Soccer Pool are just some of the games for teens and grown-ups that will attract visitors to your carnival.

Staffing my carnival

The good news is you won’t need to be an engineer. Any reputable company will be on-site to set up your amusements, and when you’re booking them they will go over power needs and make sure inflatables can be properly secured to the ground. But you’ll also need people to look after your booths and people to make sure rides aren’t overloaded. You’ll need people to take tickets, sell tickets and – unlucky for someone – people to clean up where that one kid threw up because he had too much funnel cake and cotton candy. All of this means volunteers. Our advice here is to get more volunteers than you need. Consider that most people probably won’t want to “work” more than a couple of hours and plan for 2-hour shifts. You’re also going to need T-shirts that make your volunteers easily identifiable, and we encourage you to use our friends at Stirling Promotions for those. Create a set of guidelines for your volunteers to help them respond to the most common requests they might get from visitors, and have volunteer team captains who will manage any issues or incidents so you’re not fielding calls about every single issue. Make sure you have ways for your captains to communicate with the people at each ride (and vice versa), and have at least one training and orientation session for your volunteers before the event.

What about safety and company liability?

Nothing is more important to us than your guests enjoying your carnival safely. Organizers should make sure their inflatables rental provider carries insurance, and should run that insurance information past their legal advisor to determine if they need additional liability coverage. More Than Moonwalks provide some safety guidelines for inflatables, but we can also staff your event to make sure everyone enjoying the interactive games and inflatables stays safe. Waivers and safety advice can be found on printed signs and on the equipment. As you move into planning your winter parties and gatherings, make sure to call More Than Moonwalks on (404) 626-3904 for more information about your carnival.