With Isabella Bono-Evans, Documented by Krystle Bono — It was opening weekend at the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company’s annual carnival, so we fueled up on some local eats and headed out to the grounds to enjoy the festivities. Like most kids, Isabella was super excited, so excited that she asked me once every hour if I, too, was excited to go to the carnival. We double-checked the weather before we planned which night to go, and we triple-checked it the day of, to make sure things were still looking good, due to our track record of going on stormy nights. Things were shaping into being a great night.
We arrived right at 7 p.m. Saturday night when they open, and it was already packed. Bella stopped to pose beside the rearing in memoriam statue of Surfer Dude that greets you as you enter, and then hurried us over to the ticket booth, which is located in the center of the grounds, because apparently, she needed to start riding rides stat! Tickets are $1.50 each, and most rides take 2-4, so we opted for the $15 bracelets. I like riding rides, too. (Note: there are signs posted for height limits for the rides, which will prohibit some kids from riding without an adult. Also, everything is cash only, so either make sure to bring some, or there is an ATM conveniently located by the flag pole, located by the entrance.)
Once we had our bracelets on, Bel-la quite literally dragged me to what she has now dubbed her favorite ride of the night, the octopus. She ended up riding it at least four times. Situated on the farthest end inside the building, there was no wait time yet, so we were able to hop right on. This one swings you back and forth and then loops all the way around, then reverses. By this time, most rides were up and running, and had a wait. We chose the tilt-a-whirl next, my favorite, and we ended up having two-rides wait time ahead of us. That seemed to be about what everything was through the rest of the night, giving about a 10-minute wait.
Next up, we rode the paratroopers. Nope, not doing that one again. I should have known better since there were no adults in line when we were waiting, and they instead were gathered around the fence watching and shaking their heads in a manner that should have been a foreshadow for what was to come. The bad thing is, Bella asked what we should ride next, and I picked it. I love thrill rides and will ride anything but the scrambler, which, coincidentally, makes me sick. It was all fun at first. By the last couple times around though, the spins and the jerks began giving me the same lurching feeling I got on my last not-so-pleasant ride on the scrambler. I looked at Bella and remember muttering, “okay that’s enough of this.” We got off and went for a walk over to see the pony being housed in the back carnival paddock. Bella laughed and said maybe we shouldn’t do that one again, I agreed that was probably a good idea. I evidently can’t go on certain rides at 30 the way I could when I was 20. Lesson learned. We went and got ice cream and took a break.
After ice cream, Bella played a couple of games; most cost two to five dollars. She won a stuffed unicorn and two other smaller prizes. Her grandparents came along, too, and she rode the merry-go-round with her Mimi, and the Ferris wheel with her grandad. She also rode the octopus again and the wave coaster. There were a good variety of rides for kids of all ages and sizes, and the layout is spacious, which is great considering the amount of people who were in attendance. There is a smaller balloon Ferris wheel, spinning monkeys, a slide, teacups, ponies, and more. Because the carnival is open until 11 p.m., Bella got to ride everything age-related at least once. It seemed the most popular rides were the paratroopers, tilt-a-whirl, and octopus. Food options included clam and oyster fritters, hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream, and more.
Lightning began to show up in the distance around 10:30 p.m., causing a few outdoor rides to shutdown, but we were ready to head out by that time anyway. Things seemed to really thin out around 10 p.m. Bella rode once more on the Ferris wheel and then we headed out. All-in-all, it was a successful, fun-filled evening of family time.
It was said that opening night, which was the night prior to when we went, was a record for the company’s 94 years of operation. All proceeds made also go directly to the fire company to purchase equipment and to allow the citizens of the island to not pay a fire tax. If you see members of the company, be sure to thank them for their volunteered hours of time spent putting this event together and running it while in session—it’s the best carnival experience we’ve had, and we have been to many. We hope to go back again before the end of the season and ride the trolley so we don’t have to worry about parking. Obviously, this is meant for kids of all ages, but there are plenty of options for adults, too, including bingo! Make sure to pack the family up and plan a night out to the carnival, open through the end of pony penning week (carnival dates and times can be found on page 4), you won’t be disappointed.