A mixture of joy, excitement and anticipation will fill the air Thursday as new and veteran riders await their turns on one of the 10 miniature rides at the Athens Lions Club Kiddie Carnival.
The annual carnival — located across from Athens Middle School at 309 E. Forrest St. — kicks off at 6 p.m. with an opening ceremony. Rides, which open at 6:30 p.m., require just one 50-cent ticket.
The carnival will then be open from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday through Aug. 5, weather permitting.
The Kiddie Carnival has provided generations of fun for kids and their parents, grandparents and friends. Located at the same site since 1957, the carnival was a summer pastime for many who now bring their own children to enjoy it. Families from surrounding communities are also learning about this summer treasure.
One of the favorite rides is the small vintage train that circles on its own track. Riders scream and raise their arms as it goes through the dark train shed. Along with the rides, families also enjoy the concessions, including funnel cakes, popcorn, hamburgers, corn dogs, chicken sandwiches, cold drinks, snow cones and Dippin’ Dots.
As families enter the Kiddie Carnival, old vintage rocket ships circle as the ride motor hums. Kids giggle and watch the crowd as they zoom around.
Just as the riders settle into the flight, a Lion member changes the control so the rockets rise up a few feet, circle for a while in “orbit” and then drop back down again.
Other rides include small and large swings, a parachute ride that takes riders up as it circles and then comes back down, and a small-scale roller coaster. The Scrambler ride circles on its platform as kids spin in their seats, heading toward the crowd and then back to the center.
Toddlers enjoy the motorized old-fashioned pedal cars and the carousel with multicolored horses to ride as their parents stand beside. For the more adventurous riders there is a small ferris wheel that takes the riders up above the crowd where they can look over the sights and sounds of another fun night at the Kiddie Carnival.
The Kiddie Carnival is operated by Athens Lions Club members and countless other volunteers. Assistance to operate the Kiddie Carnival is provided by spouses of club members, the Leo Club, local high school sororities and other civic groups and businesses as well as individual volunteers.
“It is a wonderful experience each summer to be able to witness all the kids having such a grand time at the carnival and knowing that at the same time we are raising funds that go to help some of our less-fortunate families with expenses for correcting their visual problems,” said Athens Lions President Tim Carter.
The Lions help
Part of the money from last year’s carnival was recently used to fund scholarships for five local high school seniors who volunteered at the carnival and met other criteria.
Lions International’s key focus area is sight. The Athens Lions Club supports this by helping those who qualify in Athens with vision exams or glasses as well as by collecting used eyeglasses to be recycled. In the past year, they have supported Alabama Lions Sight Conservation Association, Camp ASCCA and Camp Seale Harris, a camp for youths with diabetes, and local causes.
The club, through manpower or funding, has provided assistance to Limestone Career Technical School Leo Club, Learn to Read Council, Hospice of Limestone County, Superhero Fun Day, Athens Grease Festival and the Athens Storytelling Festival.
The big train has been taken to numerous civic events, including riding in the Athens Christmas parade and providing rides at the Limestone Sheriff’s Special Needs Rodeo. Kiddie Carnival patronage enables these programs and allows the Lions Club to continue helping the community.
Additional information about the Kiddie Carnival, including photographs of the rides, can be found at http://e-clubhouse.org/sites/athensal/ or at Athens Lions Club Kiddie Carnival the their Facebook page.