Morgantown has not seen a local carnival since the years of the Fire Company Carnival - fortunately that will soon change.
On September 6-8, the Morgantown Community Church (MCC) will host the Morgantown Area Carnival at its church grounds located at 4221 Main Street in Elverson. The hours for the carnival are Thursday and Friday, September 6 and 7, from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m., and Saturday September 8, from 3 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Event organizers Theresa Crow and Sandy Bressler have been quite busy finalizing their carnival plans for the past weeks.
'This is the first (year for our carnival),' said Crow, 'so we are keeping it basic but making sure that it will be lots of fun for all those who attend.'
'For me as a kid, going to the carnival was a lot to look forward to,' said Bressler, 'There hasn't been a carnival for some time so we are excited to host (this event).'
Jim Houghton Enterprises, the same company which provides rides, food, and the midway (the sideshows, games, and other amusements) for the Reading Fair and the New Holland Farmers Fair, have committed to providing their exhibition services to the Morgantown Area Carnival. The expectations are that 10-15 rides will be provided by Houghton (the company does not commit to the presence of specific rides, however, as they do not want to disappoint should mechanical issues interfere).
An individual wristband for a night of unlimited rides at the carnival cost $20 (all ages), with discount coupons available in area stores and at the church (open to the public Wednesday evenings and Sundays). Printable online coupons are available at www.jimhoughtonenterprises.com. The cost of food and games are not included with a wristband purchase.
MCC Pastor Bill Wright said that the church has wanted to have a big community event for a few years, but that it had lacked the leadership and organizational experience needed to facilitate something of the carnival's scale. When Crow and Bressler recently raised it again as a possibility, with the support of congregation member Rob Lewis (who has ties to Houghton Enterprises) there was a general consensus that now was indeed the time to make it happen.
'We ran the idea by the church elders. Everyone was very gung-ho about it,' said Crow.
The members of the church were also very supportive, and so word of the carnival spread quickly.
Youth Pastor DJ Grick, who manages the online communication efforts for the church, has been very impressed with the amount of buzz the carnival in generating.
'The carnival has definitely created the most activity our Facebook page has seen. Before we announced the carnival I had posted 'feelers' out in the online community (suggesting that) there be more stuff to do in Morgantown. One post generated more than 40 'likes', so I knew that we would get a good reaction. When we created the carnival announcement on the MCC Facebook page there were over 400 people invited within eight hours. That was before I even began inviting everyone from our own (contact list).'
The number of online invitations continued to balloon, as made evident by an MCC Facebook post on August 3 which read, 'We have 3415 people who have been invited to the carnival through Facebook. Posters and flyers will be coming out into the community soon.'
Church volunteers have distributed 100 of those posters and 2500 of those flyers throughout the community to help with advertising for the carnival. Bressler's son even directed an online video, a spoof TV news segment, promoting the carnival.
'It is a dream come true to see that (Bressler and Crow) are the ones leading this,' said Grick. 'Sandy does a great job organizing our annual Chicken BBQ and Flea Market, so when she and Theresa have a hand in something you know it is going to be the best it can be.'
Proceeds raised from the Morgantown Area Carnival will be used to fund an expansion to the church. According to Pastor Wright, this expansion will add 8000 square feet to the existing 9600 square foot main building, and will be built out towards Main Street. This expansion will become the new sanctuary, allowing for a much-needed doubling of seating, and the former sanctuary will be transformed into spaces such as offices and classrooms.
'In Sept of 2008 we had 46 people in attendance,' said Grick, 'at last count we have close to 300 who come consistently.'
'We have grown by 600 percent in the past three years,' Pastor Wright confirmed. 'I believe that our church is attractive because we go out of our way to be a church for people who may not be comfortable with other churches without compromising the Word. Also, our members show an authentic combination of being excited and welcoming, and love everyone 'where they are' in their lives.'
'A carnival just works really well for us as a way to fundraise for (the church expansion),' said Crow. 'Since there is not (a carnival) close by it was a no-brainer. It isn't just about the money. It is also about having a great time.'
In addition to the services of Houghton, church members will be running a MCC fundraising food stand that will sell hot dogs, hamburgers, and other food to help the fundraising effort. Other MCC volunteers will be selling tickets, staffing an information booth, and mingling with carnival-goers.
'Look for the folks in the t-shirts that say 'We are THAT church' on the back if you have any questions,' said Crow. 'If they can't help you they will find someone who can.'
'Something which we try to make part of our DNA at MCC is that we are not just in the community, we are a part of the community, and we are hoping that this will become a huge community event,' Grick explained. 'To accomplish this we need word of mouth to spread. We want everyone to invite their friends and to talk about the carnival. This carnival is going to be just what you would expect – a real carnival – there is no 'bait and switch'.'
'Everyone is welcome and we look forward to seeing you for what is sure to be a great event,' said Pastor Wright.
As the date draws ever-closer, Crow and Bressler can see the finish line, but they waive away any flattery which others direct at them for their dedication. Instead they offer thanks and accolades to Jim Houghton Enterprises and Lewis, Grick, Pastor Wright, and all of the church members who have volunteered and supported the idea of the carnival.
'The church itself gets a lot of recognition for making it happen,' Crow said, 'We also want to thank all of the businesses who were kind enough to let us post advertisements for the carnival in their businesses.'
'(It will be) rewarding when we get to see the church expand. This is not a personal reward,' Bressler added. 'It is a new experience for us, so we are taking it as it goes and praying for the best – especially for good weather!'
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