Thursday, March 27, 2008

Only in SCV: The Carnival Clarita Forgot

I finally got around to exploring the flashing lights and carousel music emanating from the back parking lot of Valencia Town Center[1]. I’ve driven past several times this week and was left with two questions: what the hell is this carnival and why is no one going to it?

Claritans contemplate entering the carnival grounds.

A friend and I decided to investigate and found a bona fide traveling carnival. We spoke to the lady working at the ticket booth, and she said that she and the rest of the crew travel around Southern California for 42 weeks of the year setting up their attractions (said friend: "it must be a colossal hassle to set up and tear down all those rides"; I concurred). They sleep in trailers parked on-site and move from town to town, spending perhaps a week in each one. I suppose this was my first time interacting with carnies, and I hope it will not be my last.

If you look carefully, you'll see at least four carnival patrons. (above)

Is there anything lonelier than a riderless Ferris Wheel? (below)

Our impromptu interview with the lady at the admission booth answered the first of my questions, but I was still left wondering about the second: why were there only 14 people inside the carnival gates? Certainly it wasn’t the admission price, which stood at a mere dollar-fifty. It wasn’t the lack of fun rides; there were plenty of classic carnival vomit-inducers. I think the poor attendance was (and is) explained by the water-hole phenomenon. If you’re a wildebeest in Africa, you’re not going to go drink out of pond or watering hole unless you see some other animals already there. A lack of other wildebeest could mean the water is foul or crawling with dangerous crocodiles. And what are Santa Claritans but a bunch of wildebeest? Indeed, we want to see our fellow Claritans taking part in an activity before we feel secure in joining in.

I can sympathize. I too am troubled by semi-abandoned carnival grounds where the rides have no riders and the music has a slightly sinister twang. Still, the three or four families inside looked like they were having a good time. And isn’t a vague sense of unease part of the fun of carnivals anyhow?

If you feel like exploring the Carnival-Clarita-Forgot, it will be around through Sunday. Admission is $1.50, rides are inexpensive ($15 for unlimited rides), and the gates open at 5:30p.m. You've seen the mall before--fight the wildebeest instinct and do something different. It's fun, cheap, and not around for too much longer.

[1]The area near Citrus Drive.

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