(Nov 13th, 2010)

Not quite sure when I started to miscalling “Travelling Amusement Park” the “Carnival”. 

My childhood memories of them… :

Old Singapore 1979~1985-ish. They would visit my grandma’s neighbourhood in Queenstown every couple of weeks. Her flat on the 8th floor had a clear and direct view of the grounds where the park would be built. Weekend visits would always be fun as she would bring me there to play. The rides were not very much different from what we have today, except for the ‘newer’ ones like “Starship” or the “Kamikaze”. The grounds always seemed to be muddy with plywoods as covers for walking, and the metals that were used to construct the rides always rusty. But that was part of the charm.

The game booths were something else altogether. “Hit the Cans”, “Spin the Wheel” “Pin Ball” (where a ball would fall on randomly numbers at the bottom after hitting series of nails on the way down), were popular. No “Shoot the Ducks” though. There was always the chance of someone shooting their eyes out. The prizes would be a deck of playing cards, a carton of cigarettes, plastic toys, popular electronics etc. I think stuffed animals came much later.

There was also a stage, where musical acts would be presented. I remember the dream come true of standing on one of those stages, when my high school choir was invited to perform during a Christmas season.

Yes, a visit to the amusement park always ended with cotton candies, despite a difference in diet and what may pass as carnival food over there.

By my early 20s, amusement parks became relics of the past. I think they have made a comeback recently, reincarnated as themed parks.


My last visit to a real travelling amusement park was more than 8 years ago, maybe 10, here in Houston. Curious as I had always wondered about the difference between the ones here and that of what I remembered in Singapore. Different, yes. Familiar, somewhat. But most definitely interesting. One thing I could not get used to was the quasi heckling and hustling that one receives from the game vendors. e.g ” Hit the bulls eye! $5 for 3 balls! Even if you do not win, we will still give you this stuff animal!” OK, I get it. I am no ace pitcher, but I don’t need the pity toy. Besides, how is that suppose to impress my date?

No, never felt the want to visit them since.

Well, not quite true. Hard to avoid them when one attends a festival or the Houston Rodeo. But they don’t count, as I was on assignment. Also, avoiding the game vendors became a motivation to avoid the ride areas when navigating the grounds.

So why the want to visit one now?

I was first impressed by how fast they built the rides at a recently emptied parking lot of a car auction place. Then I was intrigued by the kind of rides they were building. There was an old style and rustic feel to the rides that were presented, not quite as “sanitized” as those found at theme parks. With the city skyline as a backdrop, it created a contrast that is hard to pin point. Needless to say, all these spells picture time. Moreover, it was only a few blocks from the house.

Another great reason to go, I get to bring my 5 year old.

It was great fun. And pleasantly enough, we were not heckled. “5″ was a little disappointed that they did not have cotton candies. But that is quite OK. I suspect there will be more visits to this great tradition of the “kiddie carnival”.

For purchases: http://forestphotography.smugmug.com/Art-Folio-And-SHOP/Stand-Alone-Complex/20101113-Carnival-Americana/14690669_mX9CK