March 21, 2012 - Ortonville- There hasn't been a carnival here in more than 20 years.
Lions Club President Wayne Wills says the last carnival in the village was back in 1984. For many years, the Lions Club hosted the carnival, and the Jaycees had a beer tent, all part of a multi-day weekend event known as Country Fest which also included activities such as pig wrestling.
However, he noted that bringing a carnival to town is a lot of work, and "people get tired."
The Lions Club has revived the idea and proposed bringing a carnival to town the weekend of CreekFest, planned for June 2, to draw more visitors to the community, but the plan is in doubt due to safety concerns by some school officials.
"We have expressed concerns and the Lions Club has been very responsive," said Superintendent Lorrie McMahon. "The major concern is possible interruption of the learning atmosphere at the intermediate school."
Wills addressed safety concerns about the carnival during the March 19 school board meeting.
"We recognize there are logistical and safety issues to overcome," he said. "We are parents and grandparents also with concerns. We have a safety plan."
The Lions Club has proposed that Schmidt Amusements, a Michigan-based company, set up the carnival at the soccer fields at Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School, 300 South St., in the village. Equipment would begin arriving in the village on Tuesday, May 29 and would be parked at the old varsity football field on Varsity Drive, then set up at the school on Wednesday, May 30 and Thursday, May 31, after students are gone for the day.
Wills said recess would go on as planned and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members would keep children separate from the carnival workers. Protection would be offered all days that the carnival was in town and Oakland County Sheriff's Office deputies would conduct extra patrols during drop-off and pick-up times for students. Lions Club members would also be on site. Wills added that the soccer fields would be restored to their prior condition after the carnival was over.
"I'm very concerned about distractions to students," said School Board Trustee Debbie Schummer. "This is a week of learning near the end of the trimester."
Fellow trustee Kim Kulaga agreed that the kids would be excited, but the carnival is "something to breathe life into the community."
Wills said that carnival workers would stay on site to protect the carnival property, but drug tests and background checks would be conducted on all carnival employees.
Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School Principal Jeff Beane is opposed to the plan.
"I appreciate Wayne and the Lions Club and what they do, but the carnival would be a very large disruption," he said. "There are more possibilities for accidents and behaviors that wouldn't happen otherwise because there would be people living on campus… Move CreekFest to summer and you won't put children at risk. Teaching 11- and 12-year-olds at that time of year is a battle. I recommend we not hold it there this year."
McMahon said the Lions Club has assured school district officials there will be almost 24-hour supervision once the equipment and workers arrive if the plan goes forward. She said if CreekFest and the carnival were later in June or in July or August, the plan to use school grounds would not be a problem.
Wills said it is too late this year to change the CreekFest date, as plans for the event that celebrates the waterways in the area, including Kearsley Creek, are already underway. The carnival, he said, could be used as yet another educational opportunity, with students observing maintenance and set-up of carnival rides.
"Whether or not the carnival is there, it's tough for kids in that age bracket to focus," Wills said. "Why not channel that energy and curiosity to an educational opportunity? I think if the school district wants to be a good community partner, we'll collectively find a way to get it done together."
"It's a great idea and good for the community, so we will see what we can do," she said, adding that a decision on whether the carnival will take place on the school grounds this year will be forthcoming in the next couple weeks.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville