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Carnivals, county fairs and street festivals can make for fun family outings. The nice weather just beckons people outdoors, and weekend after weekend resourceful carnival goers can probably find a fair nearby. But revelers need to make sure their experiences are as safe as they are fun.
The Outdoor Amusement Business Association estimates 500 million guests visit carnivals, fairs and festivals each year. More than half of them participate in mobile amusement rides, among other recreational pursuits. Such pursuits can not only be fun, but they also can be dangerous, especially for young children. As a result, parents taking their kids along to enjoy this wholesome fun should consider the following precautions.
* Be prepared. Research the fair or carnival and know what to expect when you arrive. How big is it? What are the types of attractions and what vendors will be included? What is the parking situation? Are strollers allowed? Knowing what to expect can make the occasion a little less stressful. If your child is old enough to understand, explain what the fair entails and how it can be crowded and noisy.
* Dress for the weather. It is important to wear sturdy, comfortable footwear. Many carnivals are set up in fields or empty parking lots. There will be a lot of walking, and you want to be sure you are comfortable. Check the weather before going and dress for the temperature. Wear hats to shield your faces from the sun and lather on plenty of sunblock for protection. Avoid wearing any dangling clothes and jewelry. Tie back long hair to reduce your risk of accidents on rides.
* Identify security guards or a security kiosk upon entering. Let children know where safety personnel are stationed. Establish a meet-up point that is very conspicuous should anyone get separated from the group. This central location will be checked first and should be easily identifiable for young children. Instruct the child to stay there until you find him or her.
* Put your mobile phone number in your child's pocket. Put your name or "Mom/Dad" on a sheet of paper with a contact number and put it in your son or daughter's pocket. Should he or she get lost, the child can approach a security guard and give that person your phone number.
* Take a current photo of the kids. Use your smartphone or camera to snap a picture of your children when you arrive at the event. This way you will have a method of helping others identify them should they get lost.
* Observe the rides in advance. Watch rides before you get in line to try them out. Figure out if it is appropriate for a child and acclimate anyone who is nervous. Carnival rides often have a "you must be this tall to ride" sign at their entrance gates.
* Look for inspection stickers. Carnival rides often have to be inspected for safety. If the ride doesn't have a current inspection sticker, don't ride it.
* Stay hydrated. Pack plenty of bottled water for the day. Fairs make a lot of money on concession sales, and buying beverages all day can get expensive. Dehydration is common when spending hours outdoors in warm weather. It can make a person dizzy and feeling sick to their stomach. If you feel thirsty, you already are dehydrated.
* Eat light. If you will be riding a lot of rides, it's better to eat light meals beforehand. Heavy, greasy foods in your stomach coupled with motion sickness can lead to trouble. Wait until after you have gotten your fill of the rides before indulging in funnel cake.
* Stick together. It can be tempting to separate when you get to the carnival, as older children may not be interested in the same rides as their younger siblings. But separating increases the risk of someone getting lost.
* Seek shelter in a storm. Thunderstorms can roll in unexpectedly. Remember, lightning will seek the easiest method to reaching the ground. Tall rides could be strike points. Get out of the weather and move indoors or to a car if possible.