Fried food, rides and games return as summer carnival opens at Paris fairgrounds

The summer carnival at the fairgrounds in Paris, Ont. opened its gates on Friday, welcoming back eager patrons amid COVID-19 safety protocols.

Deep-fried food, games and rides all made their triumphant return on a smaller midway for the first time in nearly two years.

"We are very limited with the number of rides we have," said Stewart Bell, manager of Campbell Amusements. "We have three food booths, we have three game booths and eight rides. But again, the attendance is going to be limited as well, we're limited at this time to 400 people."

Campbell Amusements operates the midway that is usually featured during the Paris fair.

"This is just a test run, a dry run trying to experiment how to do this in the COVID environment safely," Bell said.

Several healthy and safety protocols are in place, including mandatory masks and screening upon entry.

Staff are being tested for COVID-19 every morning with a rapid testing kit.

"We have a team that will be going around cleaning constantly," Bell said. "The rides will only be run at a fraction of their capacity."

Bell said the pandemic has had a major impact on the Brantford-based amusement company, with most large events, fairs and carnivals axed last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We've got a pretty sizeable debt that's going to take a few years to work off, but we've been in business for 50 years," he said.

The Paris Agricultural Society says the Paris Fair will go ahead this year with in-person activities. The midway will be part of the fair on Labour Day weekend.

"We have a plan for as things stand now and we have a plan that's ready to go as soon as we hear about the Step 3 regulations," said the agricultural society's manager, Cheryl Muir.

For those who have missed the summertime staple, getting back on the rides was a welcome sign of more normalcy to come.

"It feels like things are kind of going back to normal," said a guest at the fairgrounds.