By SARAH TUCKER
A carnival rolled into town this weekend and set up shop in the parking lot of the old Osco Drug store on South Providence Road near Broadway.
Practically empty in the afternoon, the carnival didn’t become crowded until the early evening. Between 5 and 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, more and more Columbia residents arrived. They walked from home, or drove and filled up the grassy field that acted as the carnival parking lot.
Most of the carnival-goers were families— moms and dads with strollers and small children. The lines were longest for the kiddie rides. Elephants and bumblebees carried small children around in circles while their parents watched. A carousel featuring white horses with blond manes and tails was popular, along with two fun houses complete with slides and rope bridges.
Aidan Ferrao, age 5, enjoyed the fun houses the most.
“It’s got spring things and moving steps and a conveyor belt,” his mother, April Ferrao, said. “He’s been through it like 20 times.”
Her other son, Jordan Ferrao, age 8, liked the Tilt-a-Whirl best.
The most popular ride however was “Swamp Gator,” a miniature roller coaster. It seemed that every parent stood in line for this ride at least once, and they watched as their child laughed and screamed every time the ride dipped.
Ming Wong, Columbia resident and Missouri Head Start Association’s Parent of the Year, took his family to the carnival on Sunday for family time, something he tries to do at least once a week, he said.
Jerry Wong, age 3, was too scared to ride the gator roller coaster. He preferred the bumblebee ride.
Jackie Wong, age 6, liked Swamp Gator. “It’s good,” Jackie said.
Older kids and adults preferred other, faster rides. “Spin Out” spun riders around in circles and upside down. The Tilt-a-Whirl, a carnival classic, was also a favorite. There were occasional issues with rides not working (the bumper cars on Saturday and the carousel on Sunday), but most carnival-goers didn’t seem to mind.
While people contemplated the carnival’s ride selection, carnies tried to catch their attention to play games. Whether it was throwing darts at a balloon or choosing the right rubber duck, all games won a doll. One carnie taught participants how to throw a large rubber ball into a bucket without bouncing out. Get two balls in the bucket and you could win a gigantic stuffed doll. Looking for a pet or a friend? The stuffed tiger and life-size Batman doll will do the trick.
A carnival isn’t complete without the food, and this carnival met all the requirements here as well. One booth sold corn dogs and funnel cake; another sold popcorn, caramel apples and cotton candy. If you were really hungry there were burgers and fries, and you could find the ice cream booth for dessert.
The Ferraos checked out the fair on Saturday and came back the next day to ride the rides. They enjoyed their visit on Sunday, liking it more than their recent visit to the Boone County Fair.
“I think it’s worth the money,” April said. “I think it’s a lot of fun.”