It all begins May 20.
As spring transitions into summer and the days gradually become longer, Frederick County’s carnival season begins at Mother Seton School in Emmitsburg.
“We kind of kick it off,” said Terry Smith, an administrative assistant at the school and chairperson for the annual carnival.
Organizers have hosted the event, set for May 20 through the 25, on the school grounds for the past 37 years. It’s nearly the only one in the county that is not part of the local volunteer fire station circuit.
As of last week, another eight carnivals had been scheduled at fire stations and ambulance companies across the county, according to information from Kevin Fox, the director of the county’s Division of Volunteer Fire. A number of other fairs and festivals will also be held around Frederick and surrounding counties throughout the summer.
Smith said the Mother Seton School Carnival will feature traditional trimmings such as rides, food vendors, games and bouncy houses.
“It’s a regular carnival like the fire companies do with the ride companies and things,” she said. “We just hold it on our grounds here. A lot of people come out.”
The next carnival scheduled is Thurmont Ambulance Co.’s event, which is set for June 3-8. From there, the events continue for several weeks.
However one community is going in a different direction.
The Libertytown Volunteer Fire Department — which has hosted a carnival on the department grounds for the past roughly 55 years — is foregoing the regular carnival this year and instead holding a three-day evening community festival during the second week of August, followed by a craft beverage event that weekend.
Clarence “Chip” Jewell, the retired director of the county’s Division of Volunteer Fire who currently volunteers as an assistant chief of the Libertytown Volunteer Fire Department, said last week that the carnival was flanked by a dwindling interest in the traditional weeklong offerings.
“It is something a little different and we’re the first ones to go into something that’s different,” he said. “We will still have a community event.”
Jewell, who had a heavy hand in organizing many of the carnivals during his long tenure with the division, said a waning interest in the carnival rides, and feedback from the event vendors that they were not receiving the same return on investment that they have in years past, forced organizers to weigh all of their options this year, which included nearly scrapping the event entirely.
“We almost didn’t have anything, quite honestly,” Jewell said.
“Kind of what’s happening is the ride vendors themselves are not getting as many kids riding rides,” he explained. “We are hearing from a number of vendors that it’s not really as big and difficult for them to make a profit.”
Smith said she had also heard that the Libertytown organizers were going a different way with their event this year and understands why, but she said that she does not believe Mother Seton School was hit as hard with the lack of interest.
“With last year it seemed like it was still pretty much good for us,” she said. “We pull a lot of our families that go here. And we have people call in from Gettysburg wondering when the carnival is, who’s playing, that kind of thing.”
The Libertytown fire department will still host a tractor pull Aug. 3 and community “festival nights” Aug. 7-9, which will include food, live music and a parade. Then the following Saturday, the craft beer, wine and distilled spirits festival will commence. Jewell said the event will be the only of its kind in the county and feature libations from more than a dozen local businesses.
“We have several craft breweries and quite a few wineries just in our fire area,” he said. “In January, February, we contacted others around the county, put out feelers. We now have 16 craft beverage breweries, wineries and distilleries committed to do it. We wanted to fundraise and provide an event for the community. It’s the first time it has been done.”
The event is set from noon to 6 p.m., and although the primary attraction is alcohol-related, Jewell said it will still be family friendly.
“These events are becoming more family-oriented,” he said. “… It’s one of those things you have to look at a change of demographics and a change of community. The wine festivals have become very popular and they have become, to some degree, family oriented.