by mae yousif-bashi
Deep-fried swirls of dough covered with a few heavy rounds of powdered sugar.
Funnel cakes are a favorite for many carnivalgoers, but 14-year-old Matthew Garcia likes his with a mix of The Freak Out, a ride that’s about 80 feet tall.
“It spins and goes up and down, kinda like a Ferris wheel but goes all over the place,” said Garcia of his favorite ride at the upcoming St. Andrew Festival at St. Andrew Catholic School on Del Prado Boulevard.
“I like to eat a funnel cake before just to see what it feels like.”
Garcia and his sister Ariel, 12, are students at St. Andrew Catholic School and have been going to their school’s festival for the past four years. This year’s festival begins at 6 p.m. Thursday and runs through Sunday. Despite the slumping state of the economy, volunteers believe the 18th annual event will still draw thousands with plenty of rides, games and tasty treats for the whole family.
Parking and admission for the event is free, and wrist bands are selling for an advanced price of $55 at the school until 4 p.m. Thursday. Wrist bands give buyers unlimited access to rides throughout the four days of the festival. Otherwise, individual tickets must be purchased for games and rides.
The festival is the school’s largest fundraiser. Last year’s festival brought in $125,000 in net profits, allotting $100,000 for school operations. The extra $25,000 was divided between all families at the school to give them a break on their registration.
For the first time, parent volunteers such as Janeth Garcia, 41, will be receiving the money to use at their discretion this year.
While her son enjoys sweets and spinning, Janeth Garcia’s daughter, Ariel, saves her hunger for the festival’s french fries and Pharaoh’s Fury, a ride resembling a boat that swings from side to side.
According to carnival worker Shane Strong, foreman of The Freak Out, each ride is assembled by at least two people, a foreman and an assistant, who make sure all of the pieces, some up to 700 pieces per ride, are in good shape. State inspectors will also be checking each ride for safety before Thursday.
“We’re not allowed to run it with out it being checked,” Strong said. “If it’s not inspected, we have to take it down.”
The festival features 22 rides as well as favorite carnival snacks such as cotton candy, candy apples and hot dogs. The treats are mostly made by parent volunteers such as Crystal McCormack, who has been helping out with the festival for several years.
She, along with the rest of the parents at the school, are required to dedicate at least eight hours to the event.
“The parents put a lot of time and dedication into this,” McCormack said. “It’s a good thing and this will definitely bring the families together. I think it will be a good turnout despite the economy.”
The event will also feature performances by local groups such as Miss Kelly’s Dance Centre. A $10,000 raffle prize, raised with funds from ticket sales, ends the event Sunday night.
Scheduled local music includes a mix of Christian and children’s performances during the day with rock ‘n’ roll and country tuning in as the sun begins to set.
The Texas Hold ’em tournament is back for its third year with a free dinner for participants at 6 p.m. and games beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night. The cost to enter is $100 per person.
Prizes include a big screen HDTV, a personal lap top computer and a half-day back bay fishing charter with Captain Ken Honc, made possible by donations and a portion of the tournament proceeds, according to tournament co-chair Glenn Allen.