I arrived at the Woodland Elementary School PTA Carnival a few minutes before it was set to begin at 6 p.m. Jan. 19, and the halls already were packed with children.
The annual family event has been growing in size over the years, and this carnival included 30 games. Because of this, the event was moved from Woodland to the larger Lakeview Intermediate School this year, according to carnival co-organizer Dinah Henderson.
The event had just begun when I arrived, and I could not believe how careful I had to be about where I walked. Children were running past me in all directions to either play games, eat carnival concessions or redeem their winnings for prizes.
I played a few of the games while I was there, though my luck seemed to vary at each activity. After playing several games, I realized that just because they are designed for children, it does not mean they are going to be easy.
A particularly difficult game called "Roller Bowler" required me to roll a heavy ball on a curved track that had an incline in the beginning and another one at the end. The object of the game was to get the ball over the first incline without letting it roll back to the beginning of the track, but I failed miserably because the ball was heavier than I thought it would be and difficult to roll.
All of the carnival's games were creative, and a few of them tried to replicate activities normally played in a large area.
For example, I really enjoyed playing "Pin Bowling." I slid a hockey puck across a flat surface, designed to look like a bowling lane, to knock down miniature bowling pins.
Emma Nightwine, a Woodland second-grader, also shared my enthusiasm for the game.
Happily describing the entire carnival as "really fun," she said, "I haven't played [roller bowler] yet, but I'm going to try."
I played "Launch It" after Woodland sisters Olivia and Jailan Johnson recommended the activity, with Olivia describing the game as "the one with the bouncing frog."
While "Launch it" seemed like it would be one of the harder games available at the carnival, it was the only activity in which I achieved results. Using a mallet to launch a toy frog into a basket, I was happy to make the shot on my first try, because I usually have terrible aim.
Henderson said approximately 500 people attended the event, which included a number of games provided by Cuyahoga Falls business Fun Services.
Owner Jeff Kline said he enjoyed participating in the carnival, stating the planning for next year's event can begin as soon as a date is chosen.
"I think everybody had a good time," he said.
Board of Education President John Pribonic, who stopped by the carnival to donate food from the Stow Acme Fresh Market that he manages, described the event as "phenomenal."
"I've never seen a primary grade carnival that big," he said. "It was nice to have [the building] used as a community facility. That leads to a more well-rounded educational aspect."
While the carnival was sponsored by the Woodland Parent-Teacher Association, it was clear the event required help from a number of groups. Members of Stow's police and fire departments were on hand to run a few games, and students from Lakeview and Stow-Munroe Falls High School helped wherever they were needed.
High school sophomores Kaiela Bennett and Jami Gangwer passed out balloons to children that evening.
Gangwer said her favorite part of the event was "seeing all the little kids and watching them having fun playing the games."
Bennett said she is not new to volunteering at carnivals, stating she regularly helps out with the Riverview Elementary School carnival. Her brother, fourth-grader Joel Bacola, is a student at the school.
"I've been doing my brother's carnival for five years," Bennett noted as she blew up her first balloon of the night for her brother.
Henderson said she appreciated the efforts of all the event's volunteers.
"The night was for the children," she said, stating the carnival was a success.