When Ronald Kedrowicz was 1, his parents bought a giant octopus ride.
The next year they bought a trolley train and a kiddy Ferris wheel.
By the time Kedrowicz, who goes by “Chip,” was 7, his family had enough rides that they started their own traveling carnival.
That was the start of Rainbow Valley Rides Inc., which is in Racine this week and which Kedrowicz, now 43, has traveled with every summer for his entire life, along with his family. Now his own wife and kids and his brother’s family have also joined the summer tour, which starts in May and runs through Labor Day.
The family lives in the Stevens Point area most of the year. Then throughout the summer the Kedrowicz family and approximately 45 workers travel all around the state for church festivals, carnivals and fairs. They set up their rides, food stands and games, and they have a new home for a week.
A child’s playground
Growing up traveling every summer to new cities was a new adventure, Kedrowicz, now president of Rainbow Valley Rides, said. His friends always thought of it as his own playground for the summer.
In each new town, there were new kids for him to play with and new places to see, which he explored with his siblings.
Being the bosses’ son also “came with some perks,” he said, like free rides and free caramel apples and snow cones.
Life as the boss
Now, more than 40 years after his parents bought their octopus ride, the excitement of the carnival business is still there
“Out here I can write a book,” Kedrowicz said. “There is always something going on.”
There is the occasional Russian barbeque courtesy of some of the workers who come over for the summer from overseas, he said. There is also the weather. When there is a tornado in the area, “you are just praying, because if you lose your show you are out of business.”
A family business
The excitement is not the only perk, so is the time spent with family, Kedrowicz said.
Behind Boston Store in Regency Mall, Kedrowicz’s mother was in the carnival’s office sitting working at her desk, and his brother, Joe, stood smiling at his 6-month-old daughter in his arms. His two sisters no longer tour with the carnival in the summer, but they help out sometimes, he said.
Kedrowicz’s four children, ages 13 to 10, are in school right now, and his mother-in-law is taking care of them.
Being on tour without the kids is hard this month, said Kedrowicz’s wife, Teri, who was working in the cotton candy stand Sunday. But as soon as they get out. they join the carnival and they all move into the family’s summer home – a 45-foot RV.
Home away from home
The RV looks like a normal home inside. There is bread on the counter, a towel hanging from the stove, a table set with four placemats and a few dog toys on the floor for the family’s two dogs.
When everyone is there, two of the kids sleep in twin beds in a back room, two sleep on a pull-out in the living room and Kedrowicz and his wife sleep in the master bedroom in the front of the trailer.
Next door are the RVs for Kedrowicz’s brother and his wife, and his parents’ RV. They all love traveling together and seeing each other, but don’t want to imagine everybody living in the same RV.
“We love each other, but not that much,” said his mother, Lorraine, 70.
In the 40 years since Kedrowicz’s parents bought that first octopus, the ride is no longer with the carnival. But Kedrowicz cannot imagine doing anything else with his summers.
“I don’t know any other life. I’ve never been home in the summer,” Kedrowicz said. “It gets in your blood.”
He still has many more years in the carnival business, and he said when his kids grow up, the option to join the business will be there. But he is not pushing them. “It’s up to them,” he said.