Rain holds off for VFW carnival
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Tue., May. 17, 2011
The weekend rain held off just long enough for city residents to enjoy some old-fashioned carnival fun last Thursday through Saturday on Chelsea Parade.
Carnival-goers, especially the many children, got the chance to ride a Ferris wheel, ring a bell with a giant mallet, or get their fingers sticky with wads of cotton candy.
Margaret Buell of Norwich snapped cell phone pictures and waved energetically to her 22-month-old son, Jack, who sat in a miniature fire truck on one of the rides with his 14-month-old friend Nathaniel.
“This is their first ride ever,” said Buell. Judging from the boys’ enthusiastic facial expressions, it wouldn’t be their last.
Sherrie Testa of Thomaston, who works for Northeast Midways of Coventry, R.I., enjoyed watching the fun from her post at the carnival’s balloon water race game. A longtime carnival worker, she started out at age 14 working for family friends.
“I started doing snow cones and cotton candy,” she said. Later she graduated to set-up and tear-down. “Back then it was more of a competition – all us girls wanted to beat the guys,” she said.
Testa said she’s worked at bigger carnivals over the years, “but it’s not the same, it’s not family. This is more like family.” Sometimes she would bring her daughter to work, she said. “When you work out here and you have kids, they feel like princesses. They can go on anything.”
Like most of the Northeast Midways employees, Testa said she has another job - in her case, working in therapy with autistic children. She said she’s volunteered to work the carnival on special days for disabled kids. “We take them to the carnival and they get their rides, they get their cotton candy,” she said.
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars R.E. Hourigan Post 594 of Norwich sponsored the three-day carnival as part of their year-long fund-raising efforts to support their programs. Post Commander Richard DeLorge said that the post has won a fund-raising award from the national VFW organization two years in a row, cited from among 8,900 posts nationwide. The money goes toward community service projects, youth safety programs, visits to hospitalized vets, and to support a military unit serving in Afghanistan, he said.
VFW Ladies’ Auxiliary President Gloria Lafferty and member Sharon Kenyon staffed the bake sale table. “Business is not too bad,” said Lafferty. “We’ve got a lot of competition with the carnival food, but it’s great to see the kids laugh and have fun.” The VFW also sold chowder, hot dogs and soda at its own tent, as well as tickets for a bicycle raffle.
The VFW also offered a more permanent carnival memento: commemorative POW-MIA t-shirts. Member Morris Bodine, who serves on the Vietnam Veterans’ Day committee, said funds from the sale of the shirts would go toward the post’s annual Vietnam Veterans Day event, held at the end of April.
This is the VFW’s second year hosting the carnival, which last year was held at the Ace Hardware parking lot. DeLorge said that this year’s event was much better attended, with about 5,000 people passing through the gate over the three days. “Hopefully next year it will get even bigger,” he said.