The Avondhu - By The Fireside
FANCY DRESS TIME
“Were we all mad”? I wondered looking at people (families mostly) chatting away and looking happy enough, I should add. We had been standing in the queue in very showery weather conditions for over an hour. Most queues were about twenty minutes long but this ten minute ride, ‘The Viking Voyage’, was particularly popular.
It was our first time at Tayto Park. My husband, three children and myself had piled into the car and travelled the two and a half hours to County Meath to this sprawling amusement park and zoo, having bought tickets online in advance, allowing us access to all the rides.
I used to love the carnival as a child. Perk’s Funfair would roll into town around June. They would set up in the town park for about two weeks, depending I suppose on business and the weather. The excitement was enormous at seeing the pieces of colourfully painted metal being put together like some 3D jigsaw. As a cautious child, it used to cross my mind about the safety of these things that were often dismantled and constructed again. I would then put this enjoyment hampering thought to the back of my ten year old head and trust that the people from the carnival had everything screwed together properly. Sometimes, we had the novelty of seeing the out of place chairoplanes or bumper cars on the back of a truck being driven in the direction of the park. A sign that the good times were coming, of course it was the same sight when they were packing up and this was a sad day.
The Big Wheel was, as the name implied, a Ferris wheel and was my favourite because of the view of everything from the top and also because of its gentle pace. The Waltzers on the other hand were nothing like their name and no place for anyone with a weak stomach or nervous disposition. This was a ride that went around quickly with about five of us squashed into one of the long sofa shaped seats - held in only by a thin bar! The unlucky person at the end of the seat feeling the full weight of all the others as the ride moved. Not only did the thing itself rotate, but the sofa shaped seats also spun around, sometimes helped by the teenage boys operating the ride. They seemed to have mastered the art of staying standing on the moving ride and giving the seat a push from behind, while looking cool at the same time. This was one I rarely wasted my limited cash on. It was more of an endurance test for me than anything else, my sister on the other hand loved it.
The Helter-Skelter slide was another favourite where we would pay our twenty pence to the young fellow manning the entrance and take a canvas mat to sit on and slide down. If there were a lot of people waiting, we might go off and fish a duck to see if we could win a prize, which was close to impossible. There was no fear of getting lost either as the whole thing was probably set up on about an acre of grass, including the part where the caravans were parked (the accommodation of the people running the carnival) and anyway, we were in our own familiar town.
The highlight by far though, was the fancy dress parade Perk’s held with prizes for the winners. My sisters and I used to enter and often enjoyed success. The costumes were of course homemade, it was the ‘80s, there was nothing like that bought then. Luckily, our mother took an interest in this event and helped us dress up.
There was always a good turnout and all of us children would walk down the main street to the town park holding the placards that explained our costumes. One of the years we won, we were the characters from a popular television programme at the time ‘Little House on the Prairie’. I remember feeling so happy after winning, life couldn’t have been better if I was one of the Ingalls’ girls themselves. There was a prizegiving ceremony when we arrived at the park, where we received our cash prize, most of which stayed at the carnival following an evening of great fun!
We exited the large gift shop where Mr Tayto with his black hat and red coat seemed to be everywhere, merchandise which we just couldn’t leave without buying - two T-shirts and a biro.
After an exhausting day and a few heart stopping rides later, that made the Waltzers look very tame, I asked for their verdict. To which all except my husband replied, “Brilliant!”.