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Carnival returns after COVID absence

Placed on top of the hill at Needham High, the Ferris wheel provided great photo opportunities.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

After being shut down due to COVID-19 last year, on last Thursday night, the annual Rotary Club Carnival returned to Needham High School. While the clouds consistently threatened rain, Needhamites must not have feared either a turn in the weather or returning to being in large crowds; the event remained packed with families looking to go on the rides, play the games, and try the unique food.

Although there were myriad issues that made planning the carnival especially difficult this year, advancements to the ticketing system helped make the event run smoothly, while the Rotary Club will make sure the money raised goes to some very worthy causes.  

Ted Shaughnessey noted that nobody expressed any hesitancy to attend the carnival, which was evidenced by the large crowds and lively atmosphere on Thursday night.

Ted Shaughnessey, the member of the Rotary Club in charge of running the carnival, explained that it had to be cancelled last year due to COVID - but considering the strict COVID restrictions in place at this time last year, he didn’t receive any pushback from the community.

However, while the Rotary was allowed to bring the carnival back this year, both Shaughnessey and the carnival company ran into some problems.

“This was much tougher to plan than two years ago. In fact, we had to change the date three times. The first date was out in August because that was when the governor said on August 1, things would open up. But then he opened things up earlier and the carnival company was having trouble with the August date, so we had to move that. Then something else happened and we had to move it again.”

A pair of kids races down the slide.

The carnival company’s issues mostly stem from struggling to get permits for out-of-country, seasonal workers. As a result, they had to cut two rides and two food booths, with Shaughnessey also noting things may run a bit slower.

But one of the things that made up for their lack of workers was an advancement in the ticketing system. While two years ago the carnival operated on paper tickets, this year, it was updated to a “magic money” system, wherein visitors could get what was essentially a debit card and load money onto it. Doing so was as easy as scanning the QR code on the side of the machine - without standing in line.

The new ticketing system included QR codes that let you skip the line, which is helpful as the carnival deals with a labor shortage.

And while two rides were cut this year, Shaughnessy pointed to the Ferris wheel as the attraction he was most excited about, both for its placement on top of Memorial Hill - which offered panoramic views of the town - and because at the time it was purchased in Italy, it was one of only three of its kind in the country.

The sun sets on the Needham carnival, which just means it’s time to turn on the carnival lights.

Whether they were looking to support a good cause or just looking for something to do, visitors to the carnival could be sure their reveling was for a purpose. The funds will help the Rotary Club, the extensive amount of work it does, and the charities it supports, ranging from the Needham Community Council Food Pantry and its annual Thanksgiving dinner to its work with the Tynan School and Rise Against Hunger.

But while Shaughnessey was very pleased to have the carnival return this year, he did mention the carnival company was going to buy some new rides in the near future.

The long and short of it? There should be even more excitement next year.

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