Three Mistakes First-Time Carnival Planners Should Avoid!
Stressed about planning your first upcoming carnival, and have NO idea where to begin? Carnival Savers is here to help you out! An excellent starting point in planning your first carnival event is to learn to avoid three common mistakes, listed below. Sometimes, knowing what not to do is as helpful as knowing what to do!
Mistake #1: Not Selling Pre-Sale Tickets
Planning a carnival is similar to planning a massive party. First-time carnival planners need to have a general idea of how many people are attending their carnival, the same way you have a general idea of how many folks are coming to a party you are planning.
You certainly don't want a tiny event with a massive amount of carnival-goers. Nor do you want a huge, expensive carnival venue with only a few attendees. Vastly over- or under- estimating the amount of attendees would be one of the worst mistakes that could be made.
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The easiest way to have an idea of the number of attendees is to have a pre-sale of carnival, raffle and food tickets. This is a nearly-guaranteed number of carnival attendees and is an excellent place to start "guess-timating" the amount of attendees you'll have!
Of course, many folks will be last minute walk-ups for your carnival, and that is fine - but with pre-sale tickets you at least have a starting point!
In addition, one of the best ways to ensure you have a good head count is by selling pre-sale tickets for your carnival because once someone purchases tickets to your carnival - they basically have "saved the date" and will attend your event!
Also, don't forget one of the best ways to encourage families to buy tickets early is to offer a discount or a sale!
Many schools will have before and after school ticket sales the week before their big event. Volunteers set up colorful tables where parents who pick up and drop off children can see the tickets sale table and find it easy to make a purchase. Also, sending home flyers with pre-sale information for children who ride the bus or have after school care, allows parents who do not drop off or pick up their children to have an opportunity to to buy their tickets early too!
For example, discounts many school carnivals offer are 10 tickets for $5 before the carnival and 8 tickets for $5 at the door of your festival. Or, for food discounts ideas, you can offer a free drink ticket or cookie ticket with every meal ticket bought before the day of your event.
Mistake #2: Not Choosing Some Games With Predictable Winnings
This means to have a few carnival games in which the amount of top prizes is a guaranteed number. Having a guaranteed number of your more expensive prizes like stuffed animals makes your job easier (as the carnival planner). Why? It's less expensive to purchase a set number of top prizes and know that you will not run out during your event!
How does it work? Some carnival games have a predetermined number of top prizes - see our list below.
For example, the Fishing Game where volunteers are behind a screen and randomly choose what prize to add to the clothespin at the end of the 'fishing line". See the Fishing Booth step by step instructions here.
You certainly don't want too few nor way too many carnival prizes! However, it still is better to have too many prizes than too few.
Another example of a game with a predictable amount of top prizes is our Lollipop Tree game. If you have 48 top prizes, you mark the end of 48 lollipop sticks with a bright color to signify a top winner! It's played like this: players choose one lollipop from a Lollipop Tree cut out filled with lollipops. Some winners receive an additional top prize (if they happen to choose a lollipop with the colorful dot on the end.) If you expect more players than your lollipop Tree holds, be sure to keep out some of the top prize winning suckers so you have top prizes kids can win throughout your festival! Lollipops removed from the tree by players are not replaced; this number is predetermined by the number of lollipop holes in the tree cutout. The number of winning lollipops, and therefore top prizes, are predetermined.
Mistake #3: Trying to Feed a Crowd with Homemade Food
It always sounds easy... "Sure let's have a taco bar - we will all bring our crockpots and..." Although this sounds so simple, trust us - we do not recommend first time carnival planners serve homemade food as the main course to feed a hungry crowd!
It may be difficult to get enough volunteers for your very first carnival, so don't dilute your help with the food preparation and them to spend hours cooking and cleaning when there is a much simpler, faster option! (You may even need to get permission from your local authority to serve homemade food.)
Trust us: you'll need every minute your volunteers offer, so have them working your game booths, ticket booths and maybe passing out drinks but not cooking meals for your first event.
The above image shows food being served from a food truck.
This better option is to invite food trucks (or other food professionals) to your carnival. You should be able to negotiate 15%-25% commission of their gross sales for allowing them to serve food at your event. This money will go towards your fundraising carnival. They'll handle the food purchasing and prep, employees, paper plates, napkins, utensils, and kitchen clean-up which allows you to focus on events and activities of the carnival!
Alternatively, you could have a few restaurants like a popular Mexican restaurant offer a taco bar or pizza company deliver pizzas as needed - we have seen this work well at many school carnivals!
A big PLUS is that commercial food service establishments like food trucks and restaurants are required to have licenses in order to legally serve food. These food licenses ensure the food served to your carnival-goers will be safe, clean and at the proper temperature!
Just because you hire food trucks or a few restaurants to help with the main course, doesn't mean you can't sell some easy carnival treats and drinks and keep all the profit!
For example, cold drinks are a fantastic fundraiser and fairly simple for new carnivals! Many schools borrow large coolers from the school (or from volunteers) and purchase ice bags and bulk bottled waters, sodas and Gatorade-type drinks from discount warehouses and resale at their carnival.
Don't be afraid to charge $1 (or maybe $2 depending on your area) for each water bottle even if the cost was 20 cents each. Sodas will cost more.
Remember, you had to purchase, store, organize and ice them down - folks know you are trying to make a profit for a good cause.
Some other easy food items to sell for a nice profit include popcorn (we sell popcorn bags and large popcorn cups), snow cones, cotton candy and more! We even have some adorable carnival food signs you can purchase for these food items to add a festive flare to your carnival too!
We hope that by pointing out these 3 avoidable mistakes this will be helpful to your planning! Wishing you all the best with your carnival planning! Thanks for visiting the Carnival Savers blog!
We have plenty of other posts written to help save you time and money at your next carnival, so be sure to check them out as well.