GUNNISON, Colo. – The lights flicker, the music roars and the smell of goodies fills the air.
During Cattlemen’s Days the second full week of July, the carnival attracts hundreds of youngsters – and former youngsters – who enjoy the rides and the cotton candy and funnel cakes that come to town with Colorado-based Wright’s Amusements.
The height of the Ferris wheel and the whirl of the spinning machines make for a song that attracts throngs of people to the fun and frivolity that comes with the showcase. There’s a buzz and a feeling of euphoria that comes with it as people stand in lines to get on their favorite rides.
“When you walk through the carnival and you see the kids and how much fun they’re having and how much they enjoy the carnival, it just makes you realize you’ve got something special for the community,” said Bill Knowles, a 14-year volunteer with the Cattlemen’s Days committee who has been around the celebration all his life.
“That translates to everyone. You get to see a 5-year-old kid that is riding his first Shetland pony horse ride and is absolutely beside himself with big smiles.”
Grins and smiles and laughter are commonplace. This is an area made for enjoyment. Hills and valleys and twists accompany the celebration, which this year will be moved a little bit north of the Fred Field Western Center to a block that is surrounded by Virginia Avenue on the south, Georgia Avenue on the north, 14th on the west and Spruce on the east.
“The county is building affordable housing where the carnival used to be, so that site is no longer available,” Knowles said. “The Catholic Church owns a city block a few blocks north of the rodeo grounds, and they’re good to let us have the carnival there this year. We don’t know what’s going to happen down the road, but we’re trying to find a permanent spot for the carnival to go.”
The good news about the transition is that the carnival is completely mobile. The rides and concessions trailers are driven into town, so they can be set up just about anywhere. Wright’s Amusements has everything self-contained, from 14 multi-family trailers for their employees to the generators to make the carnival run.
Much like the rodeo, which will feature hundreds of contestants shuffling in and out throughout the competition, the carnival and its staff are much like the gypsies of old. They’ll arrive in Gunnison on Sunday, July 9, and will open the rides on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 12. The rides will run until the crowd thins down, typically near 11 p.m. Everything shuts down after all the excitement dwindles Saturday, July 15.
From start to finish, though, the purpose of the carnival is to bring fun to town and help as many people thoroughly enjoy the community celebration. It’s an extension of the rodeo, the livestock shows, the other exhibits and the junior livestock auction. It’s a piece of Gunnison and a chance for families to share special times together.
The Cattlemen’s Days carnival is a place of joy they will remember for a lifetime.