The Norman Transcript

April 21, 2013

Lions Club Carnival, NMF, set to rock downtown

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Pharmacist Harry McMillan knew every child in my northeast Norman neighborhood. He didn’t always get our names right but he knew the number of mouths in each home. Six here. Two next door. Two next to them. Then four, two and two.

About this time of year, he’d make the annual trek through the neighborhood with an envelope full of Lions Club Carnival tickets. Kids, who didn’t always sense their parents’ financial situation, could always tell if it was going to be a good year by the number of sheets of carnival tickets sold.

In an odd way, Lt. Col. Millan helped spring chores get done quickly. The lawn got mowed, the animals fed and bedrooms were a bit cleaner in April. Even a 10-year-old knows that obedient children got more tickets.

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The carnival was a rite of Spring for most Norman kids. We knew summer was close. It was different than the State and County fairs because those were at the beginning of the school year. This meant school would be out soon.

That Lions Carnival will turn 50 this year. It will reopen Thursday, downtown in tandem with the weekend’s Norman Music Festival. It’s a fundraiser for the Norman Lions Club which meets at noon on Tuesdays at the First Presbyterian Church.

It’ll have the Ferris Wheel that carried us high enough to see the stadium and the downtown church steeples and that Tilt-a-Whirl that could turn a stomach quicker than those Denco Darlin’s available one door to the west.

Members recall that Lions John Campbell and Judge Elvin Brown were part of the club at the time. It was to be a fundraiser. The carnival set up between the old Denco’s Cafe and the railroad tracks. The city closed Front Street, now named James Garner Avenue, during the carnival.

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Lions Club members pushed advance ticket sales. Posters went up at businesses around town. The carnival moved several times over the years. To the Lloyd Noble Center parking lot, to the county fairgrounds, by the Sooner Mall and in front of what is now Sam’s Club.

Like with other carnivals around the country, attendance has dropped. They decided to move back downtown a few years ago on the same weekend as the music festival.

“The Norman Music Festival downtown was the entre for us to go back downtown,” said club member Bill Purcell. “Now, attendance has gone way up. That music festival draws tens of thousands of people who are already in a carnival mood.”

Andy Rieger


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