By James Niedzinski
---- — Children were shooting guns, smashing plates and throwing darts in the maze of flashing neon lights Thursday night as the sweet scent of fried dough wafted through St. Peter’s Fiesta.
But it was all in good fun, as most walked away with stuffed animals, hats and other prizes.
It may have been cloudy and drizzling, but that didn’t stop children and their parents from enjoying the festivities of the 86th incarnation of the festival Thursday, and taking in the carnival games that have, along with the Fiesta rides, become a Fiesta staple of their own.
Thursday was Tim Ketchopulos’s eighth birthday, and he stepped up to give one game his best shot.
The Gloucester youngster wound up and let loose a baseball — but it just bounced off the plastic plate he was aiming at. The game’s attendant broke it for him, out of good faith.
“It was so good,” Tim exclaimed while helping his five-year-old brother Jackson with another pitch.
Tim helped his brother out, and after the two traded stuffed toys, Jackson walked away with a plush dog, while Tim went with a smaller “Garfield.”
“I wish (the plates) were glass,” Tim said.
The ecstatic eight-year old had a hard time choosing a favorite game.
“I really like them all,” Tim said.
He was not alone.
Just across the alley, Melissa Hansford let loose a hail of pellets from a toy gun, attempting to carve out a paper star at the end of the shooting range.
“It was pretty easy,” she said confidently, sporting the new camouflage baseball cap she had just won.
Six-year-old Isabella Murawski of Gloucester had good aim, too; she hurled darts at the unsuspecting balloons that were about to meet their fate; she hit four in a row Thursday night.
Indecisive at first, she ended up walking away with a stuffed “Hello Kitty” toy that was almost as big as she was. In fact, the two almost had matching outfits, Hello Kitty with her pink overalls and Isabella with her pink polka-dotted skirt.
“I like Hello Kitty a lot,” she said, clutching the stuffed cat.
Her father, Tony Murawski, said she was excited to be part of Thursday’s festivities.
“She kept asking ‘when are we going’ every minute,” Tony Murawski said.
Other games required different skills sets.
With a handful of quarters, Kyle Fourniel, 7, reached up and slowly fed each quarter into the car wash game. Kyle’s goal here was to get the coins to push a pile of bills over the edge and into his hand.
“I’m trying to get that $5 bill,” he said, tapping on the glass.
The game had unexpected results for Kyle.
“How did that even happen?” he said excitedly, collecting a handful of quarters from the tray beneath. “I didn’t even put a quarter in.”
Joyce Rowe, along with her 12-year-old daughter Oriana, were also enjoying the game.
Rowe, a Gloucester Italian, said they look forward to St. Peter’s Fiesta every year.
“I think they’ve got these ones taped,” she said of the bills toward the edge.
A few feet away, Heather Dagle of Gloucester, helped both her daughters — Sofia Dullea, 2, and Claire, 3 — fill up a clowns mouth with water attempting to win a price. But, nearby, Jim Towne took first place, giving a large purple ball to his three-year-old son, James.
Festival patrons were not the only ones enjoying themselves. Ryan Burke, who hopped from managing one game to another, said that, despite more rain, Thursday brought a solid turnout. “For what it is, it’s going good,” he said. “I like working here, they’re good people.”
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.