Sometimes the city will surprise you.
It was just a couple years ago, it seems, back about the time we were building our house and for a few years after that: they couldn’t build new homes fast enough and selling them didn’t seem to be much of a problem. In fact, I think that might nearly be the very definition of a housing boom. Too many home buyers, not enough houses.
It would have been a rare… nay, odd… thing for a bunch of home builders to put on a carnival to attract the hoards over to check out a whole bunch of new show homes. Or, at least I’d never heard of that happening around here before.
But I was out running this morning, and as one does when one is out running for multi-hour stretches of time, we were talking. And good old Len, who always seems to have the inside track on free stuff to do in this City, started telling us that he was going to be taking his kids down to the free carnival this afternoon.
“Uh… go on?”
Long-story-short: a whole stack of new show homes in the neighborhood recently built waaaaaaaaaay South of us (no, really… WAY South!) was apparently cause enough to throw a humble-but-impressive street carnival.
We parked and, first-things-first, got in the line-up for a free hot dog. I mean, who can turn down a free hot dog… particularly when it’s a Fat Frank hot dog, the same company that has the street vendor carts downtown and has become the definitive Edmonton hot dog vendor.
And this — and, oh, we can’t forget the free sno-cones in a rainbow of flavours — alone would probably have been enough to have us trot on down to this out-of-the-way little neighborhood waaaaaay South of us on a Sunday afternoon. But of course, it was not alone.
A few minutes later — after a couple bags of steaming hot (and free) mini-doughnuts — we found ourselves standing in line for the Ferris Wheel. That’s right: this little street carnival had it’s very own, carnival-sized Ferris Wheel.
I bowed out of line to let the kids get in there. I mean, I don’t need to take a whole seat on my own or anything. But Karin and Claire got in there, and a few minutes of (generously long ride-time) waiting later, had boarded the thing and were wheeling around and up into the wonderful sights of… well, it was a construction zone, let’s be honest here.
But my daughter is a Ferris Wheel fiend, and she claimed she could see all the way downtown from the crest of the thing. Who am I to argue?
And by this point we think we’ve seen it all. I sit down on the sidewalk while their ride plays out, and then Karin hops off and tells me that she thinks there is more to this carnival thing if we just keep walking down the street a little farther. And who am I to argue with that, either?
I guess if you’re a smart residential planner, you don’t co-mix all the duplexes and town-homes with the more expensive splits or front-garage models. And sure enough, this little parade of show-homes continued with the step-up models just a short walk down the street and around the corner.
We poked around here a bit, and it didn’t take the girls long to figure out that they were painting faces in the garage-slash-office of one of the houses. The kids ahead of her in line were a little high maintenance. The girl wanted a full-on, pixel-perfect “my little pony” on her face that ultimately didn’t quite meet her expectations. The boy first wanted to be Darth Maul but when the painter wouldn’t comply with that he asked to be a bull which actually turned out to look more like an angry brown cow.
But after the lip he was handing out, he’s probably just lucky it was the front end of a cow he had drawn there. Just sayin…
Claire pretty much gave free reigns to the artist. She wanted a “pink face with purple lines” which, I’m sorry to say didn’t sound very creative, but turned out a lot more cute than either a distorted pink quasi-pony or an angry cow-face.
And she was far too shy to say much of anything besides a squeaky little thank you squeezed from the ear-to-ear grin as she hopped down out of the chair, and after which she was more than happy to pose for a whole series of photos via my phone (because I wasn’t smart enough to drag along a real camera.)
Karin, having stood in line for ten minutes waiting to have pink and purple squiggles drawn on the daughter’s face, got all wide-eyed and excitable when it turned out they were handing out free corn-on-the-cob a few doors down.
If nothing else, we didn’t get out of there hungry.
And as we were smacking down the last few nibblets the last of the unexpected sights (literally) trotted around the corner in the form of a full on horse-drawn wagon. Of course, some of the ambiance of the horse-drawn wagon thing was diminished by the line of half a dozen cars impatiently tailgating the poor driver down the narrow suburban streets. But I think he pretty much took it in stride.
He did a quick turn around and we climbed aboard, pretty much nabbing the last few seats. By this point the crowds (and the traffic) were starting to grow. We’d arrived shortly after the event opened for the afternoon, but either word had got out or the smell of mini-doughnuts was wafting over to the nearby Walmart or something and the hoards had started to arrive.
We opted to skip the walk back and instead boarded our shuttle — ahem, wagon — back to the start of the carnival, a few blocks away.
And you’ve got to keep in mind here the simple and surreal…uh…ness of this. Here we are in what is pretty much a construction zone with half-built houses everywhere. We’re riding down the street, dodging parked cars and watching the surprised looks on driver’s faces as they round the corner in their minivans and almost get in a head-on collision with a pair of horses. We pass the Ferris Wheel one more time. Then past the mini-doughnut cart which is now lined up half-way down the street (so, we hit THAT at the right time) and pull to a stop back over by the sno-cone lady, still pulverizing ice cubes for the masses.
We hop off, jog back to the car to avoid being in the next batch of horse-drawn-wagon tailgaters and then… done. Not bad for a free afternoon.