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Fun At Frontier Days: What Happened To Carnival Games Since We Were Kids? [OPINION]

Reese Kutzler/Townsquare Media

I haven’t played a carnival game since I was a kid. But even in 20 years, I can still remember the rush of trying to win, handing over cash to try again, and walking around whatever carnival grounds clutching a cheap stuffed animal in my arms. 

At Cheyenne Frontier Days this year, I was drawn to the megaphones screaming I’d have a great time. So I walked over to give a game a shot.

I approached a ball toss game and looked at what I’d have to do. Dozens of balloons were wedged in-between pieces of wood. Apparently you’d have the option to toss 1 or 3 balls at the balloons. If you popped one, you’d get a “small” toy. If you popped all 3, you’d get a “large” toy.

Seemed easy enough. I grabbed my wallet and looked to see how much it cost. And then I nearly had a heart attack.


Apparently the vendor caught on to my dismay because he waddled over to me and said, “For $10, you get 3 chances! It’s a great deal!”

Yeah. ‘Cause spending more money for a cheap toy seems like an even better idea.

When did carnival games get to be so expensive? Can kids even afford this these days? I remember playing my favorite game as a kid–the one where you sit on a stool and squirt water into a clown’s mouth. That one cost $3 for one squirt. But even the other ones that involved rings or balls, we’d get a handful of balls for $3 or $4.

Apparently inflation has caused vendors to not be able to afford offering up more than a single chance for $5. I’m disappointed in carnival games. All kids should be able to experience winning a prize, carrying it around, playing games—-without going broke.

Have carnivals changed so much that they’re no longer fun? Do they still offer the same experience? What other fun things have gotten so pricey that nowadays kids just won’t get the same experience?

When I tried to pop a balloon with a single ball, I missed. I actually hit the wooden bar in-between the balloons (that takes skill, right?). So the vendor took pity on me and let me throw again. This time I popped the balloon. The enthusiasm at winning is real; the excitement over winning a 5-inch whale by cheating isn’t.

26 seconds for $5. Oh well.

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