How To Organize a School Carnival

Outdoor carnivals are fun in warmer seasons. Doug Menuez via Getty Images

Once you have settled on the goal and reasons behind hosting a school carnival, you need to get down to the nitty-gritty details of planning your event.

Don't Feel Overwhelmed.  You can do this. 

Start Seeking Out Other Volunteers To Help

I say "start" because you probably won't be able to just write up a couple of job descriptions and have it filled perfectly.  Rather you will find that people will step forward who can only help with a limited set of tasks.

 The trick to making this work is that you keep looking and keep asking.  Find someone who can make flyers but that is it? Great!  Just ask others to post them around the community.  

Another reason finding volunteers becomes a continuous process is that you will need a small group to plan the event, and several people the night of the carnival.  As the whole process continues on, keep looking for people - teachers, parents, students and community members - to help.

Set The Time And Place

This is critical for any school event - the right time and place.  If you plan to host the event at your local school, check in with the school administrators and office staff to see how to actually book the school.  Be aware that there may be some fees to use the school outside of normal school hours - someone has to pay to keep the lights on and for the extra janitorial staff to fine tune the cleaning after the event.


Be sure to book the location early.  You want to make sure that your venue is available and promptly reserved, and be in the know of any special responsibilities you may have for using the space.

When you are thinking about the best time and place, think back to the goals for your fundraiser.  Which nights would be the best nights to accomplish your goal?

 For example, a Halloween carnival for small children on Halloween itself might give an age-appropriate space for young children to celebrate, while hosting the Halloween carnival mid-month might make it possible to draw a bigger crowd who would spend more money at a fundraiser, since there could be less competition.  

To get this right, you have to combine your goals with the other events already taking place in your community.  Then you will be able to search out a time and place that will really help your carnival reach its intended goal.

Plan Out The Carnival Events

Plan to have a variety of activities for people to participate in when they attend the carnival.  If the carnival is meant for kids to have fun, have lots of small booths where kids can do different games.  You can have basketball or bean bag tosses, a booth where you guess how many beans are in a jar, or a booth where kids can "fish" for a prize.  If it is affordable, or you think you can get a good return on investment, look into renting a dunk tank or bounce house.  

Older kids and teens might like a maze, obstacle course, or haunted house.  Dances with DeeJays are also popular with secondary age students.  The trick is to have a variety of events so that everyone who attends in your target group will have a good time.

Get The Word Out

Make sure you generate as much publicity as you can for your event.  People need to know about the event in order to attend it.  Think of posters and flyers, using social media, and checking with local news and radio stations for free or inexpensive advertising. Make sure publicity begins early and continues until the event is held.  An extra good touch is to give public thank yous to donors and volunteers after the event.

Enjoy The Carnival Itself

If you are one of the key people who are planning the event, don't forget to have fun yourself during the event.  You have worked hard to shape a memorable time for the people and children who attend.

 Take some time to try out the games, visit with your friends who come to the event and have a good time yourself.  This may be challenging, but it is important that people who work hard to help others take time for themselves as well.

Have A Post-Carnival Meeting

Get your group together one last time after the carnival is over.  Wait at least a few days so everyone can recuperate from a night of hard work, yet meet within a few weeks after the event while everyone  still has a fresh memory of the carnival.  Ask everyone what worked and what could have been done better.  If your carnival was for a goal that occurs each year, decide if the carnival is worth doing again the following year - and come up with some preliminary plans.

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