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Festivals & Events, Vendors & Entertainers

Choosing a Carnival for a Fair, Festival or Event

Food and Beverages
Choosing the right carnival is one of the most important things a concessions manager will do. The carnival is a very visible aspect of your event. People are attracted to a bright, colorful, clean-looking, well-run carnival.

A carnival with a good safety record is a must. When choosing a carnival, you should visit other festivals and fairs and talk to their boards. Ask questions about their carnival's safety record, the success of the fair while this particular carnival has been playing there, what kind of relationship exists between the carnival owner and the board, how does the carnival handle its personnel on the grounds, is the carnival clean, equipment in good repair, are the rides up-to-date? Carnival games, sometimes called hanky-panky games (high pressure games designed to prevent a person from winning), should not be a part of your carnival.

Spend time looking and watching the overall operation of a carnival before booking them into your fair or festival.

Food and Beverages
Festival-goers are difficult to categorize. Some are retired; others are still in their strollers. Some come to watch people; others are much more interested in the arts and crafts. But there's one thing that seems to hold true for nearly everyone in the crowd: an inordinate desire for food and beverages.

Like the other committees, the one handling food arrangements need to get to work promptly. An early order of business is to become thoroughly familiar with requirements issued by the Department of Health. This event booklet cannot possibly address all the points covered by the manuals but it can quickly summarize their point objective: to keep people free from disease.

The food regulations don't end with what can and cannot be served. They also cover such things as hand washing facilities, wastewater disposal, and permissible tableware. In addition, there are specific requirements concerning the construction of concession stands. Floors are to be of certain cleanable materials; walls and ceilings must keep out bugs and the weather; doors must be self-closing; and counter-service areas must be designed "to restrict the entrance of flying insects."

There's even a minimum standard for screening materials: at least 16 mesh to the inch. To make sure their food service arrangements are in order, many event organizers involve the county sanitarian department in their planning from the onset.

Beverage sales also are governed by state regulations. In addition to those of the Health Department, the Liquor Control Commission has certain rules that must be followed if "spirituous" drinks are to be sold. Nonprofi t organizations, for example, can obtain an "on-the-premises retail beer permit" if they meet certain requirements. Since the permit application takes several weeks to process, submit all the paperwork (and the fee) well in advance of the event date.

Important as they are, government regulations are but one part of the food/beverage picture. There are also several other things to consider. One concerns variety. Just as the entertainment program is improved with a mixture of performances, refreshments serve a wider and more appreciative audience if the selections are diverse. In fact, several very successful events owe a great deal of their popularity to the tempting dishes made available to a hungry public.

An earlier chapter noted that the food and beverage business can be handled either by the event organizers themselves or by concessionaires. The decision on which to go with is infl uenced by the amount of start-up funds available, food service equipment, and volunteers.

One piece of advice, however, applies to both alternatives: ask for bids. If the event promoters are selling the food, bids are a way to get the best prices on buns, hot dogs, soft drinks, and other foodstuffs. If concessionaires are to be used, solicit bids to fi nd one offering the best return (percent of gross) to the organization. And, have everything-menu, hours of operation, location, and the fi nancial arrangements-clearly spelled out in any contracts with vendors.