Carnival Day at Camp

Bud Jacobi, The Leader, May 1983

     A Carnival Day special event theme adds novelty and excitement to the regular routine at Cub or Scout camp. You might invite parents or another troop or pack to join the festivities.
     With just a little preparation and expense, Scouters can spice up the program and enrich it with customary carnival activities like special events and challenges; a parade; "games-of-skill" concessions; rides; a "House of Horrors" and a fortune teller. Adapt the suggested activities to your particular circumstances and needs.
      Take the required materials to camp ahead of time and tell the boys to bring suitable costumes. Preparing for the big day is part of the fun.

     The day before the event, set various tent-groups to work on the concessions. This means staking out areas with posts and string or rope, setting up the activities, and arranging duty rosters so that the boys in each group take turns operating their concession.
     Some boys make posters, streamers and tickets. Based on good turns, which include cleaning up the campsite, give each boy a certain number of tickets to use at the concessions. Keep tickets circulating by using them as prizes on that day.

     Special Events:
     Possible special events include a grand opening during which a VIP cuts the ribbon; a beauty contest to choose "Miss Carnival" and a judged costume parade. Use inexpensive party favors from novelty stores as prizes.
     Some boys may like to form a wandering clown band, complete with crazy hats, crazy faces and "pots and pans" instruments.
     A water-filled balloon fight between two teams of campers lined up in rows opposite each other is a lot of fun, and a good cooler.

     Challenge Events:
     Challenges can take the form of "camper records". Time boys as they knock a nail into a board with a hammer or mallet; saw through a board or chop through a log; run up and down a nearby hill or climb a pole or tree. If water is handy, time boys in speed swimming or canoe racing.
     Build an obstacle course from fences, tree trunks, tables, tires, ropes and a large canvas, and have teams race through it.
     Other ideas are: Who can drink the most water in a given time? Who can stay on stilts the longest? Who can blow up the largest balloon without bursting it? Who can turn the largest number of somersaults or spin hula hoops the longest?
     You might hold a tug o' war where the loser ends up in the creek. Mounted (piggy back) wrestling; hand, arm and leg wrestling; and rooster fights are also good challenge events.

     Simulate carnival rides. Boys swing across a creek or another safe area on ropes attached to trees; balance on a rolling barrel or on a barrel slung on ropes between two trees (bucking bronco); swing from a rope around a pole (a merry-go-round); bounce on a teeter-totter. Scouts might put pioneering skills to work to rig up a runway or a boson's chair.

     There are a number of popular games of skill possible for the concessions. You can give tickets, smarties, suckers or wrapped caramels for prizes.

Sponge Toss

Set up a large piece of cardboard on which is painted head and body. Leave a hole for the face. A boy stands behind the cardboard and pokes his head through the hole as a target. You can use a decorated balloon instead, but it isn't as much fun. Players toss wet sponges at the target; three tosses per ticket.


Boys toss darts to burst balloons mounted on a board. Observe safety rules.

Penny Toss

Players try to toss coins into cereal bowls floating in a tub (or dishpan) of water.

Knock 'Em Over

Place large juice cans or milk cartons in a cluster. Campers have three shots per ticket to upset them with a tennis or rubber ball tossed from a distance.

Douse the Candle

Players squirt water from a water pistol, or through a drinking straw, in an attempt to put out the flame of a safely mounted candle.

Fish Pond

Fill a large box or barrel with paper fish onto which are attached large safety pins. Campers try to hook fish with a fishing pole. Not all fish are worth a prize. Print the value of prize winners on them.

Guess How Many

Campers write their estimates of the number of beans in a jar on a slip of paper and include their names. Award prizes to winners at the end of the day.

Fortune Teller

A female leader or a member of the kitchen staff will make an ideal "Fatima -- the fabulous fortune teller". Station her in a booth or behind some trees surrounded by blankets. Illuminate the crystal ball on the table in front of her with a candle.

Fatima "reads" boys' palms and gazes into the crystal ball to predict weird and wonderful things. Avoid dire predictions of frightening things because some of the campers may be very impressionable. Stick to standbys like, "I see you holding a report card filled with "A's"! It's your next report card!; You will become rich and famous; You will marry a beautiful girl; You will have seven children (that's not frightening?); You will travel around the world; You will travel into outer space on a rocket and meet E.T."

House of Horrors

Set older boys to work on a Haunted House or Ghostwalk, which is always the most popular event. It can be any small building; a shed, shack, barn or garage. If there isn't a building available, use part of the dining hall or a large tent.

Hang blankets over the windows to darken the room and hang a sheet or blanket just inside the doorway to keep things secret from the boys lined up outside. You can use flashlights or lanterns to light up parts of the room, but avoid candles because they are a fire hazard.

Have campers strip to swim trunks (no shirts or shoes), blindfold them, and let them enter one at a time.

Doubtless, the boys who prepare the "house" will have lots of gruesome ideas, but here are a few to set imaginations rolling.

Hang a web made from string and cotton batten from the ceiling. As "victims" pass through it, the older boys in charge add scary sound effects by banging on pots and pans, drums or gongs; giving loud yells, whistles, shrieks and moans; playing a record of eerie music; blowing along the top of a pop bottle; or shaking and rattling a large sheet of tin. To add further to the terror, flash lights on and off.

Hang water-filled balloons from the ceiling, just high enough that they will touch the victims' faces as they pass by.

Force each victim to stand on a large board, door or plank while two strong boys or leaders lift it. The blindfolded victim puts his arms on the shoulders of the lifters. Although the lifters only raise the board about a foot from the ground, they wiggle it and lower themselves as they do, so that they give the victim the sensation of being lifted high. Then they order him to jump off. To avoid possible bruises, you can place a gym mat or mattress under the board.

Keep cubes of ice in a freezer and use as needed. "Brand" blindfolded victims with "hot coals" by rubbing ice across their backs and chest. Have victims crawl through overturned chairs or barrels, over mattresses, bedsprings or sponge-rubber mats, and finally step into a pan of ice water.

You may "force" blindfolded victims to touch a "vampire" constructed from articles like a kitchen mop (hair), onions (eyes), chalk pieces (teeth), and feathers (body). Have them walk through hanging plastic bats or spiders and plunge hands into a "pail of worms" (cooked spaghetti and porridge in a bucket).

Later, remove the victim's blindfold. Shine a flashlight into the mouth of a leader dressed in a white sheet who utters moans and ghostly laughs and serves a "magic brew" of fruit drink mixed with baking soda.

Just before he exits, the victim watches a "guillotine blade" chop a paper mashie head off a hanging skeleton. Then, douse the victim with water and swear him to secrecy so that he won't reveal anything to those who still wait. If possible, have him leave by a back door.

End a busy day with a "monk's meal" during which anyone who talks or laughs loses one utensil. Those who break the silence too often will find themselves on their knees, eating with no hands from a plate on the ground. Mushy meals like sloppy joes, spaghetti and meatballs, or pork and beans are excellent for this purpose. Watermelon makes a good dessert and gives everyone ammunition for the grand finale--the watermelon yell!

You can expect silence to descend over the tents very shortly after clean-up and lights out!




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