Nothing says childhood and summer like a carnival. It may be impossible to really hold a carnival in most of our backyards; however, the spirit of a carnival makes for a great party. Bringing home the food, music and sparkle of the carnival can be easier than it may seem. Many of these ideas can be done year round to bring a little taste of summer into the coldest days.
Food Ideas to Bring the Carnival Spirit to the Party
Party Food Kits- Cotton candy, snow cones and popcorn can be easily made for guests in relatively inexpensive appliances that are now widely available. These appliances can be used again and again. Repurpose the popcorn maker for family movie night or a movie themed party. Get out the cotton candy maker for a hot summer day treat. Snow cones make a great treat for all ages all summer long. An ice cream maker where guests can add their own flavors and create their perfect ice cream treat is also a good summer carnival idea.
Get Out the Grill or Rotisseries- Freshly grilled hot dogs are a hallmark of summer. Inexpensive hot dog grills that constantly turn the hot dogs will make a nice touch for a carnival party but an eager grill chef can do just as well on any grill. The idea of a carnival is to embody summer so summer foods like hot dogs, burgers and sausages make for great grill foods for a carnival party. Skip the steaks this time and save some money.
Grab Some Coolers- Ice cold beer, soda and water is how a lot of carnival vendors make their money. Be sure all the guests of the carnival party have plenty to drink.
Finger Foods Rule the Day- Foods that are easy to eat while walking through a carnival will keep with the theme. Corn dogs and almost anything that can be put on a stick will add to the ambiance.
Flavored Syrups- A few different flavors of syrups for squirting into soft drinks will add a fun touch to a carnival themed party.
Quick and Easy Funnel Cakes at Home-
You will need:
Small saucepan, unsalted butter, white sugar, salt, all-purpose flour, stand mixer, 6 eggs, piping bag, number 12 tip, spatula, deep frying pan, vegetable or canola oil, cooking thermometer, and powdered sugar
- Step 1: Add 1 cup of water, 6 tbsp. of butter, 1 tbsp. of white sugar and 1/8 tsp. of salt to a medium size saucepan.
- Step 2: Place the saucepan on the stove and turn the burner on medium to medium-high. If you are using a stainless steel pan, keep the heat closer to medium. For a non-stick pan, medium-high is often best.
- Step 3: Bring the mixture up to a boil, stirring often to blend all of the ingredients together.
- Step 4: Slowly add in 1 cup of flour to the boiling mixture, stirring quickly and thoroughly until it is all combined and a ball of dough forms in the center of the saucepan.
- Step 5: Transfer the dough to a stand mixer and let it sit for 4 to 5 minutes until it is slightly cool.
- Step 6: Turn the mixer on the slowest speed and add 4 whole eggs, one at a time, to the batter. Make sure to allow each egg to incorporate fully into the dough before adding the next.
- Step 7: Crack and separate 2 eggs, tossing the yolks. Slowly add the two remaining egg whites to the dough mixture, and mix on low until they are fully incorporated.
- Step 8: Transfer the dough to a piping bag with a number 12 tip using a spatula. The piping bag can be found at most major retailers or cooking supply stores in the baking sections.
- Step 9: Take a heavy pan and pour in 1 to 2 inches of vegetable or canola oil. Make sure there is still ample space left in the pan to make room for expansion of the oil when frying.
- Step 10: Insert a cooking thermometer into the oil, making sure the tip does not touch the sides or bottom of the pan, and heat the oil until it is 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Step 11: Pipe the dough into the hot oil, creating a lattice-like pattern. The easiest way to do this is to create parallel lines across the oil and then vertical lines, moving quickly so the funnel cake cooks together.
- Step 12: Flip the funnel cake once the bottom begins to turn brown, allowing it to cook until finished on the other side.
- Step 13: Remove the funnel cake from the oil to a paper towel lined plate or baking sheet.
- Step 14: Place a small amount of powdered sugar (often referred to as confectioners’ sugar) into a sifter and shake over the warm funnel cake
Entertainment For the Carnival Party
A big part of carnival entertainment is the rides and that probably isn’t likely to happen in most people’s backyards. For any children a moon bounce or swing set may do as well as sprinklers or a slip and slide. The games and prizes are able to be copied in nearly any venue. Design a bean bag toss game or challenge guests to knock down milk bottles. Just be sure to have lots of prizes on hand to be won by guests of all ages. Perhaps a few grand prize gift baskets or gift cards can be won as well. Face painting is fun for children of all ages as is bobbing for apples. Things like laser tag are great to play at night. Hiring a magician or animal trainer for a children’s party can add to the over the top feeling that real carnivals create. A basketball hoop can also be turned into a fun carnival game. Get creative and don’t feel limited.
The best way to plan a great carnival is really walk through a carnival for inspiration. Bright colors, shiny lights and amazing smells are what make a carnival so magical. Whatever is done, it should have an extraordinary feel to it that guests will talk about for summers to come and leave them wondering when the next backyard carnival will be.