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In a nutshell, this is the very first school carnival I have ever planned. I plan conferences for a living so I feel that everything is under control, but I have a few questions that I need help with from seasoned professionals! So thanks in advance if you can answer these questions!


We are relying heavily on volunteers from local high schools and universities. Do you give the volunteers a few free tickets so that they can buy drinks or food since they are helping? Or is it acceptable not to provide them with anything?


Does anyone provide free tickets or wristbands to their PTA board members? Or staff at the school?


Does your kitchen staff cook your food? Or do volunteers mainly help with that? (Our volunteers have the food training so I just thought it  might be easier if we could use the school staff.)


Is it ok to have the ticket station (where all money transactions take place) and the volunteer stations set up outside under tents at the entrance to the school....slightly apart from the games? Or is it better to set them up closer to the games? Or is it better to set these two stations up inside the school? At the moment we are only using the cafeteria for food and a cake walk, the gym for the silent auction and market booths, and an art room for an art station; all other stations will be outdoors.


How do I plan for food quantities when our school and 3 other neighbor schools have been invited? Plus our giant banner is already hanging on the major street that crosses our school, and yard signs will be placed around the neighborhood days before the carnival. So we are heavily promoting this carnival. Do I buy enough food just for our school? We did not request RSVP's from those schools.


Has anyone run into a situation where they run out of food and do you send someone to buy more? Or do you just turn people away? I plan on having a list of the items we buy from Sam's with their SKU numbers so that if necessary I can send someone with that list straight to Sam's to pick up items that we need on that day.....if it comes to that.


Last question, we are having pre-sales of the tickets and wristbands. Do you normally distribute these ahead of time through the child's teacher, or do you hold on to them until the Fest Day and have parents pick them up at the ticket station?  


I'm trying to maximize our profits as much as possible. Any advice that you can provide is appreciated. Thank you!

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OK, it sounds like you are on the right track!  Here is what I can share that may help you.


We provided our volunteers with a cooler of water to drink throughout the event and a ticket for a slice of pizza for lunch.  Our PTA volunteer children were given free tickets to have access to games and rides with the understanding that they would only collect prizes one time from each game...this got out of control at our last festival, so we decided that PTA volunteer children would be provided with arm-bands to avoid sharing their free tix with friends (it is a fund raiser!).

As far as food is concerned, we have outside vendors come in (Pizza, Hot Dogs, drinks, etc.) and we settle up with them at the end of the day based on tickets collected.  This way, the supply/demand of the food is placed on them and it is one less problem you have to deal with that day.  For instance, we had Little Caesars provide pizza and they had a runner who would go to the store to bring more pizzas as they were needed.  Little Caesars also allowed us to charge a certain amount per slice so we could earn money on the sale of the pizza.  We rented a sno cone, cotton candy machine and we own a popcorn machine and sold bottled water.

We plan on pre-selling wrist bands next year and distributing them to the children via the teacher one week prior to the event.  The wrist bands will also be provided to the PTA children whose parents will be volunteering for 3+ hours for the event and any families who are financially disadvantaged that the school office can identify for the PTA.

It is absolutely necessary to have a ticket station where all money transactions take place.  We only had one station where tickets could be purchased to play games, go on rides and purchase food/drinks.  This area also offered chance drawings for prizes and tshirt sales.  Our cake walk, silent auction and sales/rides/games, dunk tank, rock climbing wall were all located outdoors.

Our Silent Auction was a huge success because of all of the generous donations given by local businesses.  We may be in a financially difficult time, but we found that many local businesses were more than willing to donate!

Best of luck to you!  After all the planning and the stress, try to look around and see how much fun the children are having with their families! 

We don't give high school volunteers free tix because (a) they often need the volunteer hours for their clubs and (b) they often get a kick out of doing it. We don't give PTA volunteers free tix either because it's a fundraiser and these folks are often the ones who'd want to give the most, plus it might look kinda fishy.  We don't give teachers/staff freebies either.  Usually the only thing they'd need to buy is food & drinks, which don't cost the buyer much, but they do cost the PTA to purchase, so...

Food: this year we're getting a concession vendor for most food, and they're giving us a 30% cut.  We are selling drinks ourselves.  We also are buying Chick-fil-a sandwiches and nuggets and reselling at higher cost.  This has been very popular in the past.  We are trying something new this year and asking parents to donate the soft drinks, water and chips.

Our main ticket booth is at the entrance.  We're having a secondary one inside that is combined with the spirit sales table.

We don't do much outside promotion, but my guess is do not count on a lot of attendance from other schools.  People with young kids have so much going on that they're probably not going to squeeze in something from a place that they're not closely connected with.

It's very hard to judge food quantities, but you don't want to be stuck with a lot of stuff.  It's ok to run out of most things and have slim pickings at the end. If there's any way you can find a school of a comparable size and demographic, I'd see if they can give you some quantities that have worked for them.

We hold our presale tix and wristbands until the carnival, so there aren't arguments about whether they were ever in the backpack or not.

Good luck!

Wonderful to see these great responses. I will publish a note in our PTA Parent newsletter today to direct people to this discussion so we can hopefully see some more great ideas shared.

I agree with some of the other responses.  We just had our PTA board meeting today discussing our annual event.  What has worked for us for food is that we partner with CiCi's pizza and let them handle the sale of pizza.  We charge them a booth fee and they did an excellent job.  In the past we had our dads grill hot dogs and hamburgers, this was very time consuming which is why we went with having CiCi's pizza sell their pizza at a deep discount.  The resturant is very close to the school and so if they could see they were going to run out they could call the resturant and have more pizza's made and deliverd within 30minutes.  We did not give out free tickets to our High School volunteers, like someone else already said, they need the volunteer hours and they are usually very happy to help.  Volunteers did get water but since CiCi's was handling the food they had to pay for their pizza.  This year we are adding Chic-fil-a sandwiches which will be sold by our 5th graders for a class marketing project.  Our school has been doing this carnvial for many years and we have tried a number of things this has worked best for us. 

 A church in our community volunteers every year and they bring their bounce house and they provide the attendants. If you really want to give your volunteers free food, you may consider partnering with your community partners.  You can ask them to provide water bottles and a volunteer 'luncheon'.  We have great community partners and have no issues getting local resturants to donate meals for a community event like your multi-school carnival.  You can ask them to buy a block of tickets for your volunteers,and PTA volunteer children.  Don't under estimate your local business partners.  They will usually donate $50 - $100 worth of food or other resources. With their help you can give away less and increase your profits.


I think you are right on track with having tents at the entrance for tickets/volunteers.  Our ticket stations are away from the activities we find this to be helpful with the flow.  It also helps to control the money.  It is also good for your volunteers.  At school wide carnivals volunteers can get lost trying to find the volunteer coordinator. 

Well, as others have said we also don't provide food for any high school volunteers.  We do keep water in a cooler for volunteers.

One thing that you should plan on is checking the money boxes at least every hour.  We have two people who take the cash to a safe location and either count it right then, or collect it in a safe until the end of the event and count all at once.

Remember, have fun and don't stress if food runs out early.  Usually the kids are having so much fun playing games, dancing etc., they don't care if they eat only popcorn and popsicles.

We have sign-ups for parents to pick slots for their class to work specific booths.  Each group of classes, called families, are requested to bring specific items, ie, cake for cakewalk or drinks.  Each is assigned a theme for the Basket Auction ie movie theme, Barbie, etc.  We have certain times during student drop-off/pick-up times to sell tickets ie 5/$1.00. Your FRYSC might help to get game tickets for students needing more help.  At the door during carnival, it's 4/$1.00 plus $.25 for entry/donation to charity group/or can good.  At this one entry point, you also receive a ticket and winning tickets are drawn every half hour or so for free gifts that are donated by local businesses.  Have cell numbers of your leaders and maybe even a walkie talkie. People brought used books earlier and they were resold at carnival, etc. The last half hour of carnival, extra food left is sold at half price. We have to pay our cafeteria staff extra to open kitchen and help. The night before for setup, we're treated w/sandwich or pizza and soda but, at carnival we buy our goodies because the whole school should be helping pretty much.


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