Carnival rides draw families to City Park

PARKERSBURG – Xavier Johnson was a man on a mission Sunday at the carnival in City Park.

“I want to ride every ride,” the 6-year-old Marietta resident said, moments after exiting from his second-go-round on the spinning swings of the Angry Birds Space contraption.

Mom Shauna Hager said her son set his goal the day before when he spotted the carnival, which opened Friday and will remain in the park through Saturday. He was working his way up to the Ferris wheel, no matter what the other rides had to throw at him.

“Sometimes I feel, like, kind of dizzy on the egg roll,” he said before naming that same egg roll his favorite ride of the afternoon so far. “It’s not like my head feels dizzy; it’s my stomach.”

That’s why Parkersburg resident Morgan Smith, 9, was avoiding the rides Sunday afternoon, even as little brother Brody, 5, was eager to try some out.

“Probably not,” Morgan said when asked about the rides. “We just ate a bunch of ice cream.”

Instead, she and Brody tried their luck at tossing ping pong balls into metallic bowls on the backs of duck decoys floating in a small pool. There were some close calls, but the prize they sought – a live baby rabbit – eluded them.

The carnival in City Park is a Fourth-of-July-week tradition sponsored by American Legion Post 15 in Parkersburg. It opens at 6 p.m. today through Thursday, then starts at 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday. A fireworks display is slated for 10 p.m. Friday night, with Saturday as rain date.

This week’s carnival marked a return to the area for Buddy Strickland, managing the event for JCJ Amusements out of Gibsonton, Fla. Strickland, a Tampa-area resident, retired about five years ago, but came up to help with this one due to an illness.

“Love Parkersburg. It’s like home,” said Strickland, who said he first worked a show in the city at least 35 years ago.

Some of the local folks he hired this year to help out with rides are the children of people he hired years ago, Strickland said.

Among the area residents signing on for the week is Pamela Morgan of Parkersburg. It’s her first time working for a carnival, but, as she manned a children’s ride Sunday, she said she’s enjoying the experience.

“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “It’s fun. It’s so cool to get to do the kids’ rides and talk to all the people.”

Tennessee residents Richard and Amy Freeman hadn’t brought their games to the carnival for 15 years. A relative told them the crowds were good last year, and Richard Freeman said he’s seen attendance grow each of the first three days.

“We’re looking for a big (holiday) weekend,” he said.

Highs predicted in the low 90s to low 80s this week don’t concern Freeman much, but the 40 to 60 percent chances of precipitation through Wednesday do.

“We can do without the rain,” he said.