September Carnival Draws Small Crowd on Final Day

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The Ferris wheel was ready to turn, the bumper cars set to do battle with each other and the Zipper ready to spin.

All that was missing from the September Carnival at Ritchie Valens Recreation Center on Sunday afternoon was a crowd.

Only about 40 people--mostly parents escorting children--were present on the last afternoon of the three-day event, which earns funds for the city Recreation and Parks Department to help operate this park.


Skip McGee, 70, a manager with Carnival Midway Attractions of Riverside, which set up the small carnival in the park, had a ready explanation for the turnout. “Nobody wants to come out in the heat,” he insisted, even though temperatures were in the 80s.

For whatever reason, the crowds preferred to wait until nighttime to visit the carnival. The city gets 25% of the profits the carnival makes during its stay, McGee said.

The recreation center, named for local singer and cultural icon Ritchie Valens, who died in a plane crash in 1959 at age 17, also hosted a softball tournament Saturday between gangs from Pacoima and San Fernando.

As the carnival got underway Sunday afternoon, McGee was working his way from one ride to another, helping get the bumper cars working, checking on the turning Ferris wheel, and had stopped briefly at a booth where children tossed rings to win prizes such as cameras, watches and books.

“I’ve been in this for 62 years,” said McGee, an Atlanta native who lives in Riverside. His career started when he was given his first concession stand by his father at age 8.

“I’ll probably be doing this until I die.”