Cloudy skies didn't deter residents and visitors from coming out to the lights and sounds of Wednesday's opening night for the St. Peter's Fiesta Carnival.
Crowds filled the carnival as it opened late Wednesday afternoon. Kids out of school celebrated the start of their summer vacations, carnival workers readied their games for another year, and families like Bill Adams and Rita Van der Poole came again, looking forward to another Fiesta with the kids.
"Every time we drive through town and see it being set up." Van der Poole said "as much as we try to avoid town, they're ready to go."
She and Adams stood near the merry-go round and her kids, Warren, 5, and Jeremy, 3, pulled at her hands, asking to go ride the giant slide.
Adams said the kids have been at every Fiesta since Warren turned 2.
The early nights at the carnival, he said, are the best for kids. They can come before everything gets a little wilder later on, he said. This year is the Fiesta's 85th year, and cars packed the West End as people headed to the first night of the carnival.
Fiesta Shows, out of New Hampshire, brought the carnival again this year, packing St. Peter's Square with food stands, dart and water gun games and stomach-challenging rides such as the Freak Out a massive spinning pendulum. Wednesday's discount night let kids ride for as often as they wanted for one price, and a lot of them came out to take advantage of it.
"Hey, even if you lose the lady wins a teddy bear," said Eric Bent, motioning to a couple as they passed by his booth. Bent works a dart game and came back with the company to play Fiesta for a fourth time. He said he enjoys the show in Gloucester. The town has a lot of history, he said — and, during Fiesta, a lot of color.
"Those black chips mean you owe me a dollar," Britt Splawn said as a man won one of the "coin pushing" games. "I'm kidding," he added, clicking out coins from a change machine on his belt. The man won a teddy bear.
Splawn said he got into the business in South Carolina because it was the only work he could find. But, after getting into it, Splawn said he enjoys it, and enjoys coming to Gloucester. He was here for last year's Fiesta as well.
"Everybody likes to have fun," Splawn said, "and everybody likes to help people have fun."
Daniel Pinette, worked the game with Splawn. He says there's nothing like working the carnival. He enjoys the travel, the people — and, for the moment Gloucester. He said he signed up when he was at a Skowhegan Maine fairground playing a game. He asked the owner if he was hiring, and the boss asked him if he wanted to travel with them.
"I'm here to put smiles on people's faces," Pinette said, "even if they lose a few bucks, they'll leave with a smile on their face."
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.