BARSTOW A spin on the Ferris wheel this weekend can help youth football players take hits on the field this fall.

Carnival workers from Butler Amusements rolled into Barstow on Tuesday, setting up a carnival in a dirt lot next to the Ramada Inn at 1511 E. Main St. Rides like the Ferris wheel, Footloose, the Zipper and one called Balloon Samba with a sign indicating it was purchased from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch were being pieced together and tested Wednesday. The carnival should open for business at 4 p.m. Thursday, workers said.

It's part of a plan John Williams, president of Barstow Youth Football, and Barstow High School football coach Mike Esposito hatched to offset the growing costs of football equipment. One football helmet, for example, costs $129 and must be replaced regularly for safety reasons, Williams said.

The youth football program generates about $43,000 per year in expenses, according to Williams. With local businesses struggling, he said it can be hard to raise that much money from the community. He said the programs should receive 20 percent of the carnival proceeds.

"We've got to find ways to bring money into the town to be able to continue to do the programs we're doing," Williams said.

That requires creative solutions like the carnival, Williams said, and help from people in the community.

Ben Rosenberg, owner of Barstow Station, allowed the carnival to use his land, Williams said. Even then, the workers saw the property Tuesday and almost turned around and left.
The problem: there was no access to water on the dirt area where they planned to erect rides.

Williams placed a call to a landscaping company he had worked with before and within 25 minutes, their workers arrived to correct the problem for free, he said.

A previous carnival on a dirt lot at West Main Street and Avenue H operated by Schoeppner Shows in March drew criticism for the site's lack of parking. The new carnival site is near several parking lots, restaurants and the Barstow Station movie theater.

Barstow councilman Tim Silva said he had received complaints after the March carnival of cars parking on surface streets blocking access to residences and other businesses. Some businesses reported trash overflowing from their dumpsters, presumably from the carnival, Silva said.

Since then, he said he has instructed city staff to consider parking and trash impacts before approving future carnivals. He added that he has not observed the carnival site on East Main Street.

"I'm glad when they come to town," Silva said. "It's some type of recreation for our citizens here, but I don't want to see it interfere with local businesses, our businesses that are here 24/7."

Williams said he would continue to seek funds for youth football and plans to seek a fireworks permit from the city to bring in additional cash. That would allow his organization to operate one of 10 fireworks booths over the Fourth of July holiday.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or