The Orange Lions Club is set up at Lions Park at 16th Street and Green Avenue. The carnival will be start at 6:30 p.m. from September 30 through October 3; 7-10 at Lions Park at 16th Street and Green Avenue. Kiddie Day will have free admission from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with free admission those hours. On Wednesday nights, admission is free with canned goods which will benefit Orange Christian Services. Otherwise, the admission fee is $3 for those over 17, $2 for ages 12-17, and free for children under 12. RECORD PHOTOS: Mike Louviere

David Ball – For The Record

Fall time means the annual return of the the Orange Lions Club’s carnival.

The carnival will be start at 6:30 p.m. from September 30 through October 3; 7-10 at Lions Park at 16th Street and Green Avenue. Kiddie Day will have free admission from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with free admission those hours. On Wednesday nights, admission is free with canned goods which will benefit Orange Christian Services.

Otherwise, the admission fee is $3 for those over 17, $2 for ages 12-17, and free for children under 12.

The carnival will open at 10 a.m. and be closed to the public on Oct. 1 to allow Life Skills students from area schools a chance to enjoy the day with rides, foods, and other vendor booths. Britt Godwin will be “pickin’ and grinnin’ to entertain the students in attendance.

Some new games- High Striker, Ring the Bell, and a new golf game- will be introduced this year. The usual rides and games will also make their appearance as well as food vendors and face painting by docents of the Stark Museum of Art.

“They’re (the docents) really talented and we appreciate the help,” Rusty Honeycutt, carnival chairman, said.

Chicken on a Stick and chocolate covered strawberries will be served for the first time. There’s also a second fryer for funnel cakes. Other favorites such as Lions (Bingo), the famous David Burgers, chicken kabobs and pork kabobs. All of the vendors are Lions.

Radar the Clown will make regular appearances every night.

The American Red Cross will be on the grounds to offer any first aid needed.

“We’ve got a lot of good help setting things up,” said Honeycutt. “It takes a lot longer to set things up then to take them down. We pray for good weather. The Bridge City, Noon, Vidor, and Little Cypress Lions Clubs helped too.”

He said lots of people who moved away will come back home for the Lions Carnival.

“They see their high school friends and they’re reunion-type meetings. Thousands visit every year,” he said.

Honeycutt said the crowd will pick up after 9 p.m. if it’s a home football game on Friday night.

“There will be a sea of people,” he said.

The Lions Carnival has a multi-generational history, as according to information provided by the club.

The Orange Lions Club held its first charity carnival in 1938. It consisted of several booths which were designed by the members. Most of the booths proved to be real money makers. Unfortunately, not all booths were profitable.

The first carnival ride made its debut a year or so later. The first ride led to many more for the growing little carnival as other rides were added over the years.

As the carnival profits increased, the rides became more and more important. In 1947 a merry-go-round was purchased and in 1948, a ferris wheel, and so until the club grew to its present carnival size.

At first the club set up its carnival in West End Park but it soon outgrew that area. The club purchased 6.8 acres of land at the present site of the City Park at Green Avenue and Adam’s Bayou, at a cost of about $1,500. It was their hope a clubhouse would be built there.

This was never done and the land was donated to the city of Orange in 1947 to be used for park purposes.

For many years the carnival was set up on the grounds around Orange City Hall. The carnival outgrew this area too and relocated to its present site.

Since 1961 several area clubs have been invited to participate with game and food booths. These clubs depend on their profits from the carnival to pay for their charity work during the year.

In the beginning the carnival was held twice a year. The first one was held during the election months to raise money at the expense of the politicians and their supporters. Many folks were willing to outbid each other for the opportunity to buy baseballs to throw at the political candidates to dunk them into tubs of cold water. The area politicians were always willing to join in the good-natured fund and help the club.

Setting up, running, and maintaining one carnival each year proved to be a lot of hard work for the Lions. They often had to call on friends and family members to assist in manning the rides and operating the booths. Holding two carnivals a year, as the club did in its early days, proved just too much of a chore.

To eliminate this hardship, it was decided the carnival would be held only once each year and it would be held the last week of September and the first week of October.

In the past the Lions used several methods to advertise their dates of the carnival. They first posted signs on city buses. One year they sponsored a parade.

In 1952 they hired a marathon pole sitter, “Shipwreck Kelly,” to attract attention to the carnival. Kelly was paid $50 to sit on a pole 24 hours a day for 11 days.

Also in 1952 the carnival experienced a minor failure.

It was the first time the Orange Lions have ever taken their carnival out of the city. The Port Arthur Lions asked them to join with their club for a special event. The two clubs were to split the profits 50-50. The net profit was $450 for the Orange club. The venture was a financial disaster and it was decided never to try it again.

Other problems the carnival experienced over the years was a blackout in 1941 caused by the war forced the carnival to be canceled. It was decided for the best interest of the war effort; the carnival would have to wait.

In 1942 several pastors from local churches complained about the gambling at the carnival and wanted the sheriff to close it down. With the gambling criticism from these men, several games were changed and prizes were given to the winners instead of cash.

In 1960 the club set a new all-time carnival record.

The carnival remained on the grounds for 41 days while it rained and rained and rained. The carnival grossed slightly more than $10,000 and with expenses, about $1,200, which they considered a success due to the weather.

“The Lions are very proud of their home-owned carnival and feel fortunate ti has operated almost accident-free over the years. The carnival is a much anticipated event each year for the children of Orange as well as their parents, who find it wholesome, friendly, and a safe place to enjoy entertainment at a reasonable price,” it read.