New Brunswick

Some residents 'horrified' a Fredericton carnival is set to open during pandemic

Temperature checks, hand sanitizer and questionnaires are not typically things you associate with spending a fun-filled day at the carnival but it’s all part of the new normal.

'I'm just worried now, we might do something that's going to start up some more cases of COVID-19'

Nathan Smithers, general manager of East Coast Amusements, said people have to be patient because lineups will be longer due to cleaning measures and reduced capacity. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

When Dawn Mockler was ordering her coffee at Tim Hortons in downtown Fredericton this week, she was shocked to see carnival rides being set up.

East Coast Amusements is setting up on the grounds of the Fredericton Exhibition and the midway is set to open on Thursday.

"I was just kind of horrified because of what's been happening, especially after how well we've been doing in New Brunswick," said the Fredericton mom. 

"I'm just worried now, we might do something that's going to start up some more cases of COVID-19."

So she expressed herself in the best way she knew how — through cartooning. 

The cartoon, which has been shared online, showcases carnival rides and children eating cotton candy made up of the COVID-19 virus.

Dawn Mockler drew this cartoon to showcase her concerns of a carnival opening in downtown Fredericton during a pandemic. (Dawn Mockler/Submitted)

"I think we're pushing our luck," said Mockler, who is also a member of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists.

Mockler said she has also had a hard time wrapping her mind around why a splash pad in Wilmot Park is closed to children just a few blocks away, but a carnival is set to open later this week. 

There won’t be the usual summer exhibitions in the province this year, but a midway in Fredericton is ready to welcome visitors with limited spots, questionnaires, temperature checks and lots of sanitizer. 1:43

And she feels bad for parents who have younger kids, begging to sample some of the rides.

"Kids probably don't understand — why they are putting those up if it's dangerous?" she said. "I think we're starting things like that a little bit too soon."

'This year it's too risky'

Tanya Paige typically takes her son, now 15, to the fair in Fredericton every fall. But this year, she's avoiding the carnival at all costs.

"I'm not going to put my family at risk for some carnival that shouldn't be here in the beginning," said the mother of two.

"This year it's too risky."

She doesn't understand why all her children's Canada Day activities were cancelled this month, but a carnival is still going ahead in New Brunswick's capital city.

She's also worried about how the company is going to properly sanitize the rides to keep everyone safe and is hoping other parents will keep their kids from the carnival too. 

"How are they going to guarantee that we're not going to get COVID from somebody that's been on the rides before our child?"

Carnival has been in the works since June

Nathan Smithers, general manager of East Coast Amusements, said the company got the go–ahead from the province at the end of June and have been planning this ever since. 

"Once that announcement was made we began preparations. Preparing the plan and then doing all the normal stuff that would go into us getting ready to resume operations," he told Information Morning Fredericton. 

On June 26 the province announced that all businesses could open provided they could ensure physical distancing and proper sanitization. This included the reopening of amusement centres. 

Upon arrival you will have your temperature checked and will be required to answer a questionnaire. All ride operators will be wearing masks. 

Rides will be sanitized between each use. (Ed Hunter/CBC )

Wayne Knorr, communications manager for the City of Fredericton, said in an email that the city has no direct involvement with the midway and was not involved in the authorization of the operation. 

He said the city has been given a copy of the operational plan to review and understands that appropriate cleaning, masking and spacing protocols are in place. 

Carnival will look a lot different this year

Smithers said it's going to look a lot different than a typical day at the fair. 

"I think people were just picturing that old traditional midway, where there are people packed up and lineups waiting for the rides, but it's just not going to be possible this year."

The rides will operate at lower capacity to ensure physical distancing can be maintained and single riders will no longer have the option to pair up. 

Smithers said the midway has half the usual number of rides so there will be more room for people to physically distance. 

There will be some carnival games, but trading up for prizes as you win more games won't be allowed. 

"Once a person leaves a booth with their prize it will have to remain there. There will be no trading because it's a contact surface that can't be shared with another group of people." 

There are still prizes to be won but unlike previous years you won't be able to trade your prize after it's been handed to you. (Ed Hunter/CBC )

All-day ride bracelets won't be offered because staff would need to touch other people to fasten the bracelets. They'll be using the ticket system and offering six rides for $20 dollars.

"At that point you won't be able to just ride all day like you used to." 

Better to be operating than not at all

He said he thinks staff is concerned that people will be impatient about having to wait in longer lines. 

"People are going to have to be patient, but I really believe we've all adapted to the new normal of waiting in line and having to be patient. Things take more time than they used to."

He said while the situation isn't ideal, it's better to be operating this way than not at all.

"The idea is to have a limited midway this year, and then by next year, hopefully things have returned to normal." 

The fair runs Thursday to Sunday this week and next.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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