If you think no carnival is complete without sideshows, cotton candy, a Tilt-a-Whirl and that Zoltar machine from Big, you might find it a little daunting to plan a Cub Scout carnival, which is the focus of the Bears’ Grin and Bear It adventure. But one Scouter says you can run a successful carnival even if you don’t know a carny from a corndog.
Jenny Powledge, committee chair of Pack 227 of Agoura Hills, Calif., worked with her son’s Bear den last December to hold a carnival that was a highlight of the pack’s year. Here’s how she did it.
Long before the Bear den’s boys got involved, Powledge researched car-nival games online. She came up
with a dozen or so ideas, including some games that involved skill and others that were pure fun.
“I tried to mix it up so there would be lots of different activities,” she says.
For each game, Powledge created a one-page instruction sheet with a description of the game and how to play it, a photo, a list of required materials and simple step-by-step instructions for setting it up. She also ordered inexpensive prizes like bouncy balls, yo-yos, noisemakers and foam gliders.
Empowering the Boys
In November, Bear Den Leader Greg Dato met with the Bears. Each boy picked the game he would run, which was a crucial step in the process.
“The boys were really excited to choose their games,” she says. “I think having the boys decide what they wanted to do made them take a lot of ownership in it.”
The boys created posters for their games at the den meeting, but the rest of the work was left to them and their parents. Each family had about five weeks to put together its game before the December pack meeting, where the carnival was held. Powledge says delegating construction made life easier for pack leaders while giving families a fun activity to do together.
“It wasn’t like they had to follow the directions exactly as I put them forward; those were just ideas,” she says. “Some boys elaborated on them or changed them or improved them. It was really fun to see them put their own twist on them.”
Creating the Atmosphere
While the families did the heavy lifting, pack leaders still played a role. The pack provided E-Z Up shelters for the booths, which pack leaders decorated.
“When people walked in and they saw the E-Z Ups and the decorations and the balloons, it definitely felt very festive,” Powledge says. “I think it made it feel like an event that was special.”
Powledge also recruited den chiefs to run a couple of stations so the carnival would be larger. One was the sort of photo booth you might see at a wedding reception; the other was a “kissing booth,” where boys tried to guess the number of Hershey’s Kisses in a glass jar.
Since the boys made their games at home and the pack provided the shelters and decorations, Bear families had to arrive only 15 or 20 minutes early to set up for the carnival. Once the meeting started, the Tigers, Wolves and Webelos — along with siblings — received goodie bags and hit the booths to have fun and win prizes.
“I think we were pretty generous in giving out the prizes,” Powledge says. “We have a lot of Tigers in our pack, and we just wanted to make it fun for everybody.”
Months later, Powledge is confident they succeeded.
“We didn’t spend a lot of money, and we didn’t spend a lot of time,” she says. “But if we were to ask the boys in our pack what things they enjoyed this year, I think the carnival would be one of the top ones.”
Toilet Toss: Toss rolls of toilet paper into a toilet seat perched on a box.
Nerf Gun Shooting Range: Shoot pingpong balls off the tops of weighted soda bottles.
Golf: Putt golf balls into windows cut into the side of a box.
Balloon Dart Game: Pop balloons taped to a large board.
Prize Punch: Punch through one of the tissue-covered plastic cups mounted to a board to win the prize inside.
Ladder Beanbag Toss: Score points for tossing beanbags between the rungs of a stepladder; each space has a different point value.
Tattoo Booth: Get a temporary tattoo just for showing up.
Kissing Booth: Guess the number of Hershey’s Kisses in a jar; the winner takes the candy home.
Photo Booth: Grab some props and pose for a fun photo.
Pie Eating Contest: Try to find a gummy bear hidden in a “pie” (a plate of whipped cream) without using your hands; the first one to find theirs wins.