The Carnival Comes to Town
Posted by Tony & Cheri on July 9, 2012
Hello to all our readers. We haven’t posted a new entry for a while as we have had a very busy high season at our hotel and have been occupied with some family matters back in the US. But now we are back, and in the weeks ahead we will be posting more information about life in our adopted home of Playa del Carmen.
A carnival rolled into town this week to the delight of all the local kids…and quite a few adults.
This is not “Carnaval,” which is a large multi-day series of parades and parties held just before the beginning of Lent. And it’s not the big, glitzy circus that most Americans and Europeans know. Instead the summer carnivals or “ferias” of Mexico are small truck caravans traveling from town to town with rides, games, food stands and cheap merchandise for sale. This is the Feria Playa del Carmen 2012, and it has its own unique Mexican personality.
To us the carnivals offer a step back in time, reminding us of similar shows that traveled the US midwest back in the 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s. To people here in Mexico today they offer an affordable diversion from daily life. And for the kids they always mean FUN!
As in past years, the carnival set up around Playa del Carmen’s Palacio Municipal (City Hall), taking over the parking lot and part of the plaza that sits in front of the city offices. This year the operation was so big it also spilled over into the adjacent Walmart parking lot and a couple of side streets.
On the evening of the grand opening. hundreds of parents with kids in tow flooded the streets and filled the plaza as city officials, beauty queens, school bands and the carnival’s master of ceremonies crowded onto the hastily built stage under a gigantic tent cover for the opening ceremony. To everyone’s delight, once the ribbon cutting was over the sky above the Palacio exploded with fireworks. After that show, it was time to explore.
We walked along the rows of rides, most of which were for small children. Among the more popular rides were the merry-go-round, “flying” helicopters (which were about four feet off the ground), a tiny swinging pirate ship, a small Ferris wheel, and a train painted with various Disney characters. For the bigger kids there was a tilt-a-whirl and a “twister” that lifted a platform filled with seated riders to whirl them up into the air. And for kids of all ages there were bumper cars!
One ride we had never seen before was a row of five or six plastic bulls with very round bodies. As loud Mexican music played, the bulls would shift left and right and rotate rotate back and forth–a bit like a typical mechanical bull. The trick was to stay on the bull throughout the ride. Not very many were successful at it, so it was really fun to watch.
It is impossible to describe the wonder on the faces of the little children as they waited impatiently for their turn on a ride, or their delighted screams when their turn actually came. Sometimes we think Mexico has the most beautiful children in the world. Watching the kids have fun was the best part of the evening for us.
Eventually we wandered through the food area. Large tents offer traditional Mexican dishes like taco al pastor with large spits of marinated pork slowly turning on an open flame. Smaller stands offer churros (a sweet pastry stick), dried spicy shrimp on a stick, or grilled corn on the cob which is slathered in mayonnaise and chili powder. Other specialty items included artistically sculpted gelatin flowers in dozens of flavors and marquesitas, giant Mayan crepes. And of course there was cotton candy…what’s a carnival without cotton candy?
In the center of the carnival is a row of tents offering merchandise for sale. Furniture, clothing, plastic containers, records, shoes, toys, and plaster statues of saints and animals all vied for the attention of people walking by. And if the items don’t catch your attention, a barker with a microphone and amplifier probably will.
Of course there are games of chance. Booths abound where you can shoot an air gun, throw a dart or toss a ring in an attempt to win a great prize like a giant stuffed pink teddy bear. Strange, but we didn’t see anybody win that night.
And what’s a carnival without some freaky stuff? The oddity trailer had numerous items of weirdness from the natural world like a two headed snake, a four winged goose and even an alligator woman! We passed on that one.
When we had seen it all we started walking home. We passed a large lot, usually empty, now filled with truck trailers. campers and makeshift tents of plastic tarps. It was where the carnival folks had parked and set up housekeeping. We observed a young man step out of a tent from which very loud Norteño/Ranchera music blasted on a portable CD player. He carried a screw driver and a blender full of what appeared to be the basic fixings for salsa. He nonchalantly strolled over to a nearby building and set about hot-wiring the building’s electrical box so that he could plug in his blender! We laughed all the way home about his resourcefulness. We wondered about how different life must be for a carnival gypsy in Mexico.
The Feria Playa del Carmen is in town through July 16. If you are going to be in town (or you already live here) make sure to stop by.
Sale at the Luna Blue Hotel
Can you believe July is already here? The summer seems just to fly by. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could make summer last just a little longer? You can at the Luna Blue Hotel. Our Make the Summer Last sale and Advance Prepayment Rates offer rooms as low as $44.00 USD from Sept 1 to Oct. 14. When everyone else is pulling the fall jackets out of the closet and heading back to work or school, you can be lying on a white sand Caribbean beach. Just CLICK HERE for details.
Enjoy these photos from the feria:
‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar