Carnival has ups and downs, and screams, thrills and chills

Posted: May 1, 2013

The Winchester Star

Front Royal residents Tori Knotts (left), 17, and Kaitlyn Ratcliffe, 20, spin on the Sizzler Tuesday at the carnival. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Carson Rutherford, 7, of Winchester, gets his money’s worth Tuesday on the Bungee Jump during opening night of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Carnival. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — It was only a few minutes after the gates opened, but cousins Madeline and Olivia Carper were already screaming their heads off in the front seat of the Wacky Worm.

The 5-year-olds were the only passengers on the large green caterpillar, which dipped and curved around a small roller coaster track.

“It was super fast,” Madeline said, smiling.

“Can we go again?” Olivia asked, barely able to stand still.

The ride was part of the 86th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival carnival — which started Tuesday and concludes Sunday — located behind Ward Plaza on Valley Avenue.

Around the same time the Carper cousins were stretching their vocal chords, 9-year-old Emilia Van Hoy, her father, Chris, and her friend Carly Wolfrey, 9, were experiencing the Alien Invasion — a ride that involves being sucked onto the interior walls of an alien aircraft as it spins around.

“It was awesome!” Carly exclaimed.

“It was kinda hard to breathe,” added Emilia. “My arms are still stiff.”

Both girls, undeterred by the rainy mist and the chill in the air, said the only thing that would have kept them from the carnival was sleet, hail or a giant volcano erupting.

“They’re brave,” Chris Van Hoy said. “They’re Girl Scouts.”

This year, the festivities include about 40 food stands and game booths and approximately 40 rides, including a few that are new to the carnival.

One of the new attractions is the Rock Star — a giant guitar. Passengers sit in what would be the body of the instrument and rotate high into the air in a circle as music is played.

Genesis, another new ride, consists of passengers sitting in a row of seats as the ride goes in a circular motion.

Michael Vickers, 12, liked the ride’s speed.

But Danielle Thompson, 15, and her friend Sarah Wert, 16, thought it was too short.

“It was fun, but it could have been longer,” Danielle said.

The two friends said they planned to stay until the 11 p.m. closing time and go on each ride three to four times — a tradition of sorts.

“I really like amusement rides,” Sarah said. “There’s no place really close to us [with rides], like a King’s Dominion (near Richmond).”

Old favorites like the Tilt-a-Whirl, the gondola wheel, Ring of Fire and Super Shot also dot the midway.

“We are always trying to make it fun for everyone,” said Marc Janas, public relations director for Powers Great American Midways, of Corfu, N.Y., which brought the carnival to Winchester. “We want people to come not only once, but to tell their friends, too.”

Adults Maggie Seal and her brother Joseph Smith summed up — in unison — their thoughts after getting off the Vortex.

“Wicked!” they both said.

Maggie went on to add that the carnival meant “food, fun, Italian sausage and lemonade in a souvenir cup.”

This year, the carnival has a new changing and nursing area and a new guest relations booth, where people can get their questions answered.

Carnival hours are 5 to 11 p.m. today and Thursday; 2 to 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

All-day admission costs $25. A sheet of 24 tickets costs $20, while a strip of four costs $5.

Discount coupons can be found at select local stores such as Sheetz.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at