Toni, I will not lie - this event was all consuming to plan over the summer, but was worth it in the end. Now to be honest, this was the first year to do an event like this where the PTO was in charge of EVERYTHING!!! Typically in our area, the other schools hire a carnival company to come in - they do everything and pay a percentage of the profits to the school. Sonshine amusements have been a great carnival company locally. However, we are in the south and during the summer, up until mid September, all of the carnival companies are up north for state fairs.
So, we contacted various rental companies for options. We rented a Eurobungy, several inflatables, 2 hamster balls, laser tag, sumo wrestling, 4 person U-launcher for water balloon fights, and a sticky wall (kids wear velcro suits then either jump or get thrown onto a velcro wall where they stay until somebody gets them down). We also sold vendor spaces for local businesses (Mary Kay rep, Thirty-One, Jewelry reps, etc) for $25 single table & $50 double table. For food vendors, we charged $100 - we had pizza, shaved ice, then a carnival food vendor that did corn dogs, funnel cakes, nachos, etc. Oh, and one HUGE attraction - the dunkin' booth!!! We had teachers and faculty sign up to take a seat in the booth; every 15 min. was a new person. Then we charged $1 per throw - we raised $1,000 on this booth - ALWAYS a line!!! The faculty really embraced this - some brought goggles, snorkeling masks, rubber duckies, etc. This really got our faculty involved and let our parents and students see them in a different way.
Our school also has a large field outdoors - we are a K-3 school with a student body of about 1,000. We set up 3 bouncy houses in our gym and we had each grade level set up a game in our cafeteria (duck pond, face painting, cake walk, & hair painting); all for our younger children. Each of our grade levels was responsible for setting up their game and having somebody work it. Additionally they all solicited small prizes from the parents of their classrooms. One of the rental places we used also had a race car ride - about 5 cars were attached the lead car and a driver would drive around the grounds.
Our ticket booths were set up inside the school for safety reasons. We sold bracelets for $20 each (all access to rides) and $5 (younger children - indoor bouncies & race car outdoors). We had about 28 vendors indoors, lining the hall to the cafeteria where the games were set up.
In our area, the high school students are required to do 5 hours of community service each year. That made it much easier for us to get volunteers. We contacted the high school counselor who put the word out and got us lots of students to volunteer. We took trash cans from the cafeteria and had them placed all over outside. The local fire department brought a truck out, filled up our dunk tank, and let the kids sit inside the truck. We also brought out the sound system from the gym and played music all day. Late in the day we also had karaoke.
It was a lot of work for the $3,100 we made..however, the feedback we received was AWESOME!! We had people tell us it was the single greatest event the school has ever done. This event did not start until 3 and ended at 9. When the rain came at noon and continued until about 5:30, we really panicked thinking people that may have wanted to come probably just made other plans. We also did NO marketing for the event, other than the first week of school to our students.
This year we are doing it again, only a little different and hopefully better. We changed the time to 10 - 3, moving the entire event outdoors, and we are going to offer discounts on multiple bracelets. We are also bringing in swings, jousting, angry birds launcher and a couple more different rides. The BIG thing we are doing differently is the advertising. We are offering sponsorship packages to companies to help pay for the event. Additionally, we negotiated a sponsorship with our local Kids magazine that is in every pediatrician's office, grocery store, library, etc to have an ad placed in the July and August issue. Our city does a monthly newsletter that is mailed to all residents - they work with the schools very well to print what's happening. They have also agreed to run our ad in the July and August issues.
To make our children's area run more smoothly (last year those that did not want to pay the $20, paid the $5 and wanted to play in the indoor bouncies - not so good for little ones), we are dedicating specific bouncies for those children 4 yrs and under.
We decided to move everything outdoors this year to give the event a more FULL carnival feel, as well as allow parents with children of varying ages, the opportunity to watch over young ones, while at the same time be outside with the older ones. The vendors also wanted to be among the action and feel more a part of the event. Our event is scheduled for August 25th, the first Saturday after school starts. We will have banners hung at both elementary schools in our area as well as the middle school, during registration in July, so the parents are able to plan ahead.
I hope this chopped up version of our event helps you - it really is a wonderful time if you include the teachers and faculty!!! Let me know if you need any more information or if I can help you in any way. It is a scary sell to the board, especially since it is money out of the PTO pocket, we spent $5,000. Some thoughts we considered were: it is a great way to bring the community together, it would introduce the PTO to our parents and students, it was a great way for the teachers and faculty to socialize in a non threatening manner. We even talked about the possibility of not counting on it as a fundraiser - what if we just set our goal to break even? Would that be so bad really? What a great way to start off the year and cultivate some relationships; open the door for parents to WANT to get involved in their child's school. It was worth the risk!
Good Luck to you!