How to Open a Professional Carnival. To the casual observer, the carnival business may seem like fun. But as any professional in the industry will tell you, this is one of the most challenging and financially risky fields a person can enter. If you plan to open a carnival of your own, be sure of two things: that you love it and that you know what you're doing.
Save your money. Even just to buy a couple of rides you will need $20,000 to $30,000. If you prefer to start big, a good sized, fully equipped carnival with an existing route might cost you $1,000,000.
Give your carnival a legal structure, such as sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation.
Buy your rides used, unless you have a lot of capital to spare. If you can afford only two or three rides initially, you might consider contracting yourself out to other carnivals at first. You can also rent carnival equipment. See the links below for further information on this.
Hire a staff. At a minimum, you will need one employee for every ride you plan to operate. If you can afford it, you might consider hiring a maintenance staff, drivers, and even separate crews for set-up and operating the carnival. Family and friends can be a good labor pool to draw upon as you get your business off the ground.
Buy trucks, trailers and generators. You will need to transport your staff and equipment from town to town, and power up your gear once you get there. Some good deals can be found at the Used Rides website below.
Insure your carnival. This will not be cheap. Between liability insurance, vehicle insurance and workers compensation, you may spend between $30,000 and $40,000 a year. Expect the proceeds from your first successful event of the year to be devoted just to these costs.
Buy a winter facility to store your equipment during the off season. Carnivals operate from about March/April through October/November. The off season is when you will repair and repaint your gear and get ready for the following year.
Financing is available for carnival equipment, often with flexible payment schedules. Firestone Financial Corp. specializes in this area. If you can't afford mechanical rides, consider buying inflatable ones, which are much less expensive. You don't need to acquire game trailers and concession stands. These elements are usually provided by independent operators. Carnivals are booked a year in advance. Give yourself plenty of time to plan your first season.
There is a very high rate of failure among carnivals. The initial costs are huge and success is dependent on many factors that are out of your hands. Bad weather on event days, for example, or ineffective marketing by your customer can have a disastrous impact on your bottom line. For years, it has been proclaimed that the carnival business is on the verge of extinction. While the rumors of its death "have been greatly exaggerated," and a public appetite for carnivals certainly still exists, you should be aware that some people consider the industry's future uncertain.