The carnival is gone almost before you know it was here. Every year, it rolls into town at the beginning of the week like a band of gypsies in the night. By the next evening, the rides and games are set up, and the flashing neon lights beckon. As you get closer, the pop music acts as a siren’s song, an audio preview of the prizes, food and fun. The carnival always means one of two things: Summer is finally here, or it’s on its way out.
This summer’s end is being heralded by Mississippi Delta Shows’ back-to-school carnival, which is in full force behind Leigh Mall through Saturday. On Thursday, however, fair-goes overcame a few early evening sprinkles to enjoy the atmosphere.
“That was awesome!” said Daniel Skelton, 7, as he got off the Octopus, an eight-armed twirling ride. “The spinning took my stomach away!”
Daniel and his sisters, Daphne, 8, and Gabby, 11, are from North Carolina and were visiting their father, Rob Skelton, who works as an instructor pilot at Columbus Air Force Base.
“It’s a nice end to the summer before school starts for them,” Skelton said. “We’re giving Mom a break.”
One of the main attractions at any fun-fair is the carousel, which Steve Young calls the “key to the midway.”
“If you go to a carnival, and there’s no carousel, it’s not a real carnival,” he said.
A carny’s life
Young, 30, joined the show four months ago as a way to get out of his hometown, Sikeston, Mo.
“I’m from the Show Me State,” he said. “Show me the way out.”
After a few weeks working the carousel, Young’s coworkers started calling him Pony Boy.
“It stuck with me ever since,” Pony boy said.
When you’re a carnival worker, real names aren’t that important. There’s Pappy, Gypsy, Red Dog, Stony and about five Michaels: Big M, Big Mike, Mikey, Mike Mike and Snowball. Then there are those who haven’t been around long enough to be known by anything other than, “Hey, you.”