And now, on with the show!
(See Part One of the Christmas Carnival Here.)
First up, the food. Obviously, there are a whole lot of fair foods that didn't make the cut. We toyed with the idea of having funnel cakes, but in the end the logistics of getting them made and keeping them warm and having hot oil in the kitchen around a ton of kids just seemed like the makings of a horror film, so we pared it down to this:
mini corn dogs
popcorn (of course!)
Renting a popcorn machine would have been doable, but would have eaten up a HUGE chunk of our budget, so we looked for other options. One of our Presidency members remembered that her kids' had popcorn days at school where they would get free popcorn from the machine in the afternoon, so she decided to ask if she could rent it from them on the cheap. We ended up paying them $25 for the weekend (!!!) and about $14 on popcorn/oil/salt at Sam's Club (I'm sure they have it at costco, too). We got the little popcorn boxes online - we ordered 100 for around $20. I was happy we were able to do this economically, because it totally set the tone for the carnival! We had an adult volunteer handing out the popcorn so the kids wouldn't get burned or go crazy with it. The peanuts were in buckets right next to the popcorn with brown lunch bags and a sign that read "bag your own!"
I had the hardest time EVER finding cotton candy. In the end, my mom found it in a Christmas aisle at Walmart - and it came in little plastic Christmas tubs. I would have liked to use them, but I couldn't afford to buy one for each child, so I only bought about 13 and then divided the cotton candy into little plastic bags which I tied shut with a ribbon. I used turquoise and white ribbons to tie into the color scheme. Total, I spent $13 on the cotton candy since I already had the bags and ribbon, which was more than I would have liked, but not bad for 50 kids. I got mini cream puffs at Sam's club - there were 70 in a box, and although I can't remember the exact cost now, I know it was in the $5 range.
For the main part of the food, we had mini corn dogs. We decided against the sticks, thinking it might be hard to the little kids and maybe a little too messy. At Sam's, there were 80 to a box; we got two boxes and there were NONE left over with our 50 kid count. We also bought Dixie Food Trays - the paper trays you get at the fair - at Sam's. It was a 300 count box and about $8, so just as affordable as getting normal plates would have been.
Food is great, but a carnival is not a carnival without some games! Mind you, I had about 4 more games in mind, but we ixnayed them since we only had so much time (and space)! So, here's what we ended up with:
Tin Can Pitch. I gathered large cans from people who were only going to recycle them anyway... they were not all the same size, but it worked well anyway. I took all the labels off and spray painted them yellow to match the yellow/red/turquoise theme. I provided three small balls from bug's toys and for two tickets, they got three chances to knock the cans down! I decided to set them up on a table BEHIND the booth, so they would stand behind the "booth" and throw a small distance as they would at a real carnival.
Duck Pond. I borrowed a wading pool from one of the Primary Presidency members (sad that I don't have one, I know). Filling that thing up the morning of the party was quite the trick... we had several girls carrying pitchers of water through the church... I also borrowed the ducks, since I only had like two. I decided to put stickers on the bottom and the different colors meant different "sized" prizes... I didn't want to write numbers on anyone else's ducks... It worked pretty well, until halfway in when the stickers started peeling off.
We also threw in some fun activities the kids could do.
Here's the cookie decorating stand. We wanted to make it more "Christmas" themed, and decorating sugar cookies seemed like a good way to do that. They each got to decorate a cookie or two and take them home. I did NOT have to make all the cookies, and for that I am eternally thankful. Our secretary was in charge of this stand.
This is our "body art" area. (ha!) We had face painting on one side and temporary tattoos (in Christmas themes) on the other side (both provided by some of the teenaged girls at church). Here's a tip for face painting, if you ever need to do it. My sister, the artist, pointed out to us that drawing with colored pencils is a lot easier than painting on faces with brushes... and WATERCOLOR pencils wash off with water!! Hello, genius! She had a big stash of them that she let us use and provided little pencil sharpeners along with them just in case. It was so easy and NO MESS! The kids LOVED the tattoos as well. We just had a spray bottle of water and some rags handy for our "tattoo artist".
I thought our "Kissing Booth" was pretty clever, but NONE of the kids got this at all - not even the teenagers. They were all "What's a kissing booth supposed to be?" And I was all, "Dude, I'm not THAT old!" But apparently I am. Anyway, for our version, one of the Presidency members bought three bags of hershey kisses and we put them in my glass cookie jar. The kids got to guess how many and whoever got closest without going over won the whole jar of chocolate! That's MY kinda prize.
So, the decor. You've noticed by now that it was a big space and we really had to keep the decor kind of simple.
Instead of tablecloths, we used white butcher paper that a friend had on hand. We just covered and taped them on the underside of the tables. I mentioned I wanted red and white striped fabric for the tables, which didn't seem like it would happen. Fortunately my sister was able to find this big roll of striped plastic tablecloth material online. I decided to use it as table skirts. (there were also table skirts, but they cost $8.50 each, which would have been $59 for us.) We simply use double-sided tape to tape them around the tables, under the lip, "ruffling" them as we went. I was really happy with the way it looked when they were all covered. Each booth had a sign that I'd made on the computer - each letter was so big there were only one or two letters per piece of 8x10 paper, so we had a lot of cutting and taping onto white butcher paper to make each of the signs hang-able. I color coded them so the food signs were red, game signs were yellow, activities were turquoise. Each booth also had a small sign that announced how many tickets it cost.
My sister bought two small red and white paper buntings that we put up over the doors in the front of the room and three large plastic buntings that we hung in the middle of the front wall. You can see it in the second picture below. She also got balloons in our colors at Walmart - you can get them cheap there and buy bags of only the colors you need.
I made the pennant buntings myself and was pretty proud of myself. I hand cut every.single.one. of those triangles. I'm not joking. I don't have a die cut machine, so if you do, this would go a lot faster for you! I cut two different sizes out of all four colors. I just folded the heavy duty construction paper and cut and cut and cut. (This construction paper is NOT the cheap stuff you get for your kids... my sister gave me this stuff and it's not like any other construction paper I've used...) After I was done cutting the triangles out, I took some yellow scrap fabric and ripped it into strips. Then I simply laid the triangles over the strips of fabric and sewed... and sewed... and sewed... I made one very large one (hung on the ceiling in the middle of the room), one not quite as long one (hung on the wall in the back of the room) and two smaller ones (hung behind the food tables at the front of the room). I was fortunate to have a helper who was not at all afraid of heights to hand that super long one up.
Our second councilor is the bomb. She volunteered to dress up like a clown. We borrowed the suit from someone in our ward and she duct taped a hula hoop inside of it so it would stand out - so funny! I painted her face for her. We bought the wig online.
One of our teachers volunteered to dress as a sideshow freak and came as a snake charmer. It was pretty funny. She wrapped herself in snakes, carried a basket and had a rattle that she'd discreetly shake to freak the kids out.
So when the kids got to the party we had them meet in a different room to sing some Christmas songs and receive their bags of tickets. We did have some extra bags made up for the visitors. After we opened the party, they lined up at the entrance. Here they could get extra tickets by 1. Donating non-perishable food to the holiday food drive or 2. Doing something silly that the ticketmaster would either approve or not. They also got their favor boxes here so they'd have somewhere to put their prizes. (We ordered those online, too).
And since there were plenty of adults around, we let things be kind of unstructured from that point on. The kids used their tickets on all of the booths. Both the clown and the snake charmer were charged with providing extra tickets if kids ran out. The clown would make the kids do something goofy and the snake charmer made them stick their hands in her snake basket. It was a hoot!
The kids got prizes at each of the game booths. Most of the prizes came from a package on Oriental Trading Company, but some of them were handmade (and Primary related), some of them came from Seagull Book, and I got giant lollipops from Walmart. We also got clown noses from Oriental Trading for prizes, which the kids thought were a riot.
I was stuck at the photo booth the whole time, so I didn't get a ton of pictures of the party, and those that I did get are all from the same spot! But I loved the photo booth. Why? Because of them, of course:
It was a ton of work. A ton. Hours and hours. Lots of time. Lots of effort. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat for these kids. It sounds lame and cliche, but it's true. It is somewhat bittersweet for me too, as I look at these pictures, because this was the last activity that I will plan for them. I was just released from my calling in the Primary Presidency. I'd been there for almost 4 years, so I know it was time. I know the Lord has other things in mind for me now. But I will miss these kids. Most of the time I felt that they were teaching me so much more than I was teaching them. Their sweet spirits and genuinely sophisticated yet simple understanding of Heavenly Father's Plan and the gospel buoyed me. Of course I know I will still see them all at church, even if I'm not their teacher anymore!
Here are some links that may be helpful if you're planning a carnival of your own:
Popcorn Boxes - Partycheap ($1.70 for 8)
Red and White Striped Tablecloth Roll - Oriental Trading ($21 for 100 ft x 40")
Big Top Bunting - Oriental Trading ($2.50 each)
Carnival Bunting - Oriental Trading ($7.25 each)
Favor Boxes - Oriental Trading ($4.25 for 12)
Clown Noses - Oriental Trading ($5.25 for 12)
Clown Wig - Oriental Trading ($5.25 each)
Pink Tinsel Wig - Oriental Trading ($3.00 each)
Carnival Sticker Sheets - Oriental Trading ($3.00 for 12)
Medium Toy Assortment - Oriental Trading ($16.00 for 100 toys)
Noisemaker and Musical Instrument Novelty Toy Assortment - Oriental Trading ($12.50 for 50 toys)
Sam's Club - great for all things food/paper product related
Costco - ditto
DIY Carnival Game Ideas
FamilyFun Carnival Party Ideas