Carnival at Concord mall signals that fair season has started, but it won’t be the same

  • The rides from Fiesta Shows for the Concord Spring Carnival at the Steeplegate Mall parking lot.

  • The clown at the top of the Striker bell at the Fiesta Shows amusements at the Concord Spring Carnival held at the Steeplegate Mall parking lot on Thursday, May 6, 2021. The carnival runs through Sunday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • One of the rides from Fiesta Shows sits in the parking lot of the Steeplegate Mall parking lot next to the former Sears building on Thursday, May 6, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • One of the rides from Fiesta Shows sits in the parking lot of the Steeplegate Mall parking lot next to the former Sears building on Thursday, May 6, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Independent contractor Mike Murray sets up his striker games for both adults and children at the Fiesta Shows at the Concord Spring Carnival at the Steepgate Mall on Thursday morning. The carnival runs through Sunday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Garrett Ready of Tara's Fried Dough sets up the stand at the Hopkinton State Fairgrounds on Tuesday, August 27, 2019. The fair runs on Thursday night for Hopkinton residents and then on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m to 11 p.m. and Monday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Addison Doyle attends the 2018 Hopkinton Fair with her father Nate. The 2020 fair was canceled and details are still being worked on for a 2021 fair. Monitor file

  • Fairgoers ride on the new ride called the Clydesdale Monster Truck at the Hopkinton State Fair on Friday, August 31. 2018. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Lily Watts, 10, from Loudon leans against Riley so she doesn’t kick passerbys at the Beef tent at the Hopkinton State Fair on Friday, August 31, 2018. “She’s a kicker,” Watts explained before heading out for a 4-H meeting with others. Riley is a Scottish Highlander from Miles Smith Farm in Loudon. GEOFF FORESTER

  • The ConVal Equestrian Team is having their first show this weekend, Saturday, April 13 at the Cheshire Fair Grounds in Keene. The following shows will be on April 27th, May 5th & May 18th. Courtesy photo

Monitor staff
Published: 5/6/2021 2:19:24 PM

The sight of a Ferris Wheel and the smell of fried dough in the Steeplegate Mall parking lot is a sure sign that fair season has arrived, although as with everything else, it has to contend with COVID-19.

“We’re limiting the capacity of the grounds to ensure adequate spacing. We still have mask-wearing for amusement rides,” said E.J. Dean, owner of Seabrook-based Fiesta Shows, regarding the Concord Spring Carnival that opened Thursday. Games, food and rides will be there as usual, although with some changes including contactless ticketing system to reduce interaction among people.

Dean said the company was rebounding from last year when the pandemic scrambled its schedule.

“It’s our third one this year. We were in Salem, then in Manchester last week,” he said.

The state’s agricultural fairs, which were all canceled last year, are also looking to rebound.

“Almost all of the fairs are planning on going forward in some form or other this year and of course it all depends on the changing pandemic guidelines. Some are trying to go with a limited format, others are planning on being as close to ‘normal’ as possible,” said Cynthia Heisler from the state Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food. She noted that each fair is a separate entity that makes decisions for itself.

The Stratham Fair in July, traditionally the first fair of the season, has been canceled due to uncertainty about how the pandemic will have played out by then. Meanwhile, the traditional last fair of the season,At the other end of the season, the Sandwich Fair held around Columbus Day, has said it will definitely take place.

Those in between, including the Hopkinton Fair in the first weekend of September, are scheduled to operate but details are still being worked out.

At Feista Shows, Dean said the pandemic has produced one problem being seen in many industries: Staffing.

“Labor is definitely tight at the moment. We’re only operating one unit and not the two that we normally do,” he said. It’s not uncommon for just one carnival to be held at a time this early in the season, but “as the summer months come it will certainly become an issue.”

Dean said about 40% of the work force is foreigners here on the H-2B visa, which allows temporary workers, but the remainder must be hired locally.

In past years the Concord Spring Carnival has previously operated at Everett Arena but something else was booked this weekend. Fortunately, the mall parking lot has plenty of room.

The carnival sells wristbands on select nights, which cover rides for a certain amount of time at one price. Those can be bought at the fair. It also sells a Megapass that covers the entire weekend, through Sunday; it can only be bought online. Prices range from $28 to $40.

Food and games are paid for separately.

For times see the website fiestashows.com.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)



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