Seattle School Carnivals: 2014 Planning Edition

Mechanical Tilted Swing ride at an awesome carnival!

Seattle School District’s last day of school is June 19th. Prior to releasing students for the summer, most schools choose to hold a School Carnival to celebrate the end of the year with some fun. Last year, we focused on planning carnival rentals, so this year we are going to focus more on individual options for those rentals. Seattle School District has cracked down harder on their ‘no inflatable policy’, so alternative options are more important than ever. Over the years, we have increased our selection of non-inflatable rentals specifically to provide more options for school carnivals. Let’s highlight a few of the best options;

Carnival Challenge Games

These challenging carnival games are the perfect addition or replacement to any existing rented inflatables your school might have.  Carnival game rentals can range from Classic Ring Toss to new wacky variations such as the Cow Milking Competition.  Carnival challenge games have the added benefit of rewarding participants with prizes when they accomplish the given task.  PTAs love the incredible value that carnival games offer, with rental prices typically allowing three or four games in place of one inflatable. The addition of a variety of games is guaranteed to add a great level of depth to your event and the kids will love all the different options.

Mouth-Watering Concessions

Make the Carnival Experience real by adding the sweet and salty flavors of a true big-top experience.  Concession rentals are easy enough to rent, use, and return so you don’t have to worry about the high purchase price of the machines. Kids go crazy for cotton candy and the snack will keep their spirits and energy high for the whole carnival.  If you prefer salty over sweet, rental popcorn machines are always a great healthier alternative.  The benefits of renting concession machines go beyond cost savings, there is the added ‘no-hassle’ clause that means you don’t have to clean the machine prior to returning it. The cleaning service is included in the cost of the rental. If you are looking for ways to monetize your school carnival to offset the cost or raise money, selling concessions for a few dollars each can cover the cost of the rental and then some.

Water Wizardry

No school carnival is complete without soaking your principal in the dunk tank! Unfortunately, dunk tanks fall under risk managements definition of dangerous due to the risk of drowning. Fortunately there are several awesome dunk tank alternatives. Our favorite dunk tank alternative is the Splash Blast. This highly portable unit soaks the participant almost as thoroughly as a true dunk tank. It makes an impressive noise and show of water sprays when the target is hit.  There are a few other risk-management approved water rental options that you can learn more about, but we highly recommend the Splash Blast. Of course, with Seattle’s weather, you might not even need a water attraction!

Mechanical Mayhem

True carnivals have true carnival rides. We call these spinning, moving, and swinging contraptions mechanical rides.  Surprisingly, because the ride experience is controlled and participants are strapped in, most of these options are permitted at school carnivals.  By having a large mechanical ride at your Seattle school carnival you are providing an experience that won’t be forgotten any time soon. Kid’s will remember the mechanical ride year after year and expect it to be back; so once you commit, plan on having a motorized attraction every year. The most budget conscious and popular ride is the Tubs Of Fun with it’s teacup like experience it’s not far off from the real thing.

If you need any assistance picking safe, allowable options don’t hesitate to get help planning your Seattle School Carnival.  Remember to book early as dates fill up quickly and equipment gets snatched up.  We look forward to seeing the best school carnivals ever in 2014!


Tips for Planning a School Carnival

Girl playing on an inflatable ride at her school carnival!

Your school carnival will be the talk of the town!

Schools all over Washington have been hosting carnivals for the past several decades. One of the unique features of a school carnival is that the event is organized by a different group of PTA parents every year.  This can give the Carnival a fresh look every year, but also means that the planners are starting from scratch. Often, the PTA doesn’t know where to start this daunting task, so here are a few tips when you are ready to get started.

1. Pick A Date

Pick a date for your upcoming school calendar

June 7th, 2013 is booking up fast!

Before you can do anything else, you need to decide when you will be entertaining hundreds of families. Most schools host their carnivals onsite, so make sure you communicate with your principal on what day you would like to celebrate.  Most school carnivals take place on a Friday evening starting around 5pm.  Consider picking a Monday through Thursday instead. Many equipment vendors will give you a 20% discount for not booking on a Friday through Sunday. Additionally, carnivals that have switched their date to a weekday see higher attendance as people haven’t left for weekend trips or other family activities. If you are charging to participate, more people means more money for your school.



2. Decide Whether To Charge Or Not

Budget, demographics, and previous history are all important variables to consider when making this decision. Knowing who is attending your carnival is the most important. Can the attending families afford to pay for tickets if you decide to charge?  What is your PTA budget and will you be able to eat the cost of hosting the carnival for free? Have you charged in previous years? If you have charged, how much did you charge per ticket?  We have seen successful carnivals that are free to attend and participate as well as pay-to-play events that actually generate money for the school. Make sure you take everything into consideration when making the determination.


3. Know Your District’s Risk Management Regulations

Every school district has different restrictions on what they allow at the schools. These rules and regulations are determined by ‘Risk Management Groups’ and are constantly changing. Recently, King County School District’s risk management group changed their rules on inflatables. Any inflatables that kid’s can enter and jump around in are no longer allowed. This includes obstacle courses, bouncers, and combo units. Interestingly enough, inflatable slides are still a viable option with their new rules. If you are planning a school carnival in Seattle and you have depended on traditional inflatables in the past, you will have to look at alternative entertainment options. Another common risk management rule is no standing water at the event. If your school has had a dunk tank in the past, you will have to look into dunk tank alternatives. Whatever equipment you decide on, make sure you communicate with your risk management director to avoid a potential conflict.


Pirate themed events are fun for everyone!4. Choose A Theme

Increase the excitement at you carnival by choosing a unique theme every year. While not absolutely necessary, it can make everything a lot more fun for all of the families involved. Choose from themes like Plundering Pirates, Wild West Rodeo, Hawaiian Luau, or Classic Carnival.  Pick your equipment and decorations to match. You can make most of your own decorations using construction paper and other simple craft items. Themes will help turn your event into an experience that families won’t soon forget.


5. Pick Your Entertainment Vendors

There are plenty of activities that you can host without the help of a professional vendor.  Some options are a cake walk, homemade carnival games, pizza by the slice, and field activities. If you want to bring in unique entertainment such as inflatables, performers, or mechanical rides, search for local rental companies and call them to determine pricing and availability. Before selecting your vendor make sure they are a fully insured, licensed, and inspected company and that safety is their top priority. If you have picked a theme, find out if they have inflatables or carnival games that coordinate with the event.

Once you have selected a rental company, you will need to work with them to get the equipment you want within your budget. You can often get discounts by providing volunteers to run the attractions. If you are having trouble enlisting parent volunteers, offer incentives such as free tickets or food for their children.


6. Execute Your Event

Once you have all your ducks in a row, you are ready to have a school carnival! The week of the event, touch base with your entertainment vendors and verify times, location, and equipment. Make sure you have your army of volunteers lined up to help decorate and coordinate.  Double check with the school facilities management that you have enough power to run all of your attractions. If everything is ready to go, your school carnival should go off without a hitch.

You should now have some direction if you are just starting the process of hosting a school carnival. It’s almost March, so make sure you start planning if you haven’t already. Rental companies book out early and have limited availability. If you still have questions, just ask your local rental company! They will be more than happy to assist you with planning every step of the way.