Ideas for Making Money with a Carnival Booth

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A carnival booth is a time-honored moneymaking tradition. A successful church bazaar, school picnic or other fundraiser may require a few people who can assemble booths, decorate them and perform as charismatic barkers. Decide which games you want to include in your carnival, and then build, stock and decorate your booths.

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Use 1/4-inch diameter drywall screws to attach the eight feet long two-by-fours to the back of a 4 by 8 sheet of 1/4-inch thick plywood turned on its long side, as shown in the diagram that accompanies this step. This gives you a dartboard that is eight feet wide by eight feet high.

Attach the four feet long two-by-fours to the inside of each of the eight feet long legs of the dartboard frame using the same drywall screws, as shown in the diagram in Step One. This makes your frame base.

Miter the three feet long two-by-fours to a 45 degree angle using a back saw and miter box or a table saw and miter fence. These are your frame braces.

Drill seven rows of 1/16-inch diameter pilot holes across and four rows down into a 4 by 8 sheet of plywood. Begin the first row 10 to 12 inches from the top left corner of the dartboard and end the first row 10 to 12 inches from the top right corner. Each additional row begins 10 to 12 inches below the previous row.

Attach 5-inch diameter balloons inflated with air, using push pins, tacks or cup hooks in each hole you drilled in the previous step. Place a fence or foul line six feet from the board for your players to stand behind.

Give each player three darts for a dollar. When he "busts one" he wins the small prize. He can trade three small prizes for a medium prize, three medium for a large and three large for a grand.

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Build a two feet by eight feet frame using two-by-fours. Use drywall screws to attach two four feet long upright two-by-fours to the two back corners and a pair of two feet long uprights to the front corners as shown in the image that accompanies this step. Miter each upright to a 45 degree angle. Attach the 2 by 8 sheet of plywood across the uprights.

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Secure a bushel basket to the stand. Set the fence or foul line six feet away.

Give the player three softballs to try to throw into the basket. When she gets one in, she wins a small prize. Three prizes can be traded for medium, large and grand. Just like "Bust One," the standard stock for this game is stuffed animals.

Tip

These games have been staple moneymakers for Gene Hammond Shows and C and R Shows, two carnivals based in Texas. Robin Marks, known as Manhattan to his fellow carnies, learned to assemble and operate these games for maximum profit while ensuring quality entertainment for every customer. According to Robin Marks, "Booth supplies and prizes can be purchased at dollar stores, chain discount department stores or through carnival supply companies. Carnival supply companies have bulk discounts on large quantities of things like stuffed animals and miscellaneous prizes, balloons, darts, aluminum milk jugs and other things you will need if you are expecting more than a few dozen people to attend your carnival."

Your win rate, which carnies call the stock rate, should be 25 percent of the booth's gross income. If your game costs a dollar to play, and your prize costs a dollar to buy, someone should win the game every fourth time he plays it. If your stock rate is too high or low when your volunteers test the game, adjust the game difficulty accordingly.

Warning

Have a trial run with your barkers so they get their calls down and are comfortable hamming it up in the booth. Barkers should have lighthearted, entertaining calls that make people laugh and make them want to come talk to them. You are selling personality to your customers--not a toy that they would not buy anywhere else playing a game that they might not play for free in their own backyard. It is okay to use a slight amount of innuendo, as long as the barkers keep it within the bounds of good taste.

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About the Author

Jane Smith has provided educational support, served people with multiple challenges, managed up to nine employees and 86 independent contractors at a time, rescued animals, designed and repaired household items and completed a three-year metalworking apprenticeship. Smith's book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in 2008. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995.