The Purim carnival, mastered by JCCs and Jewish day schools, is the only Purim tradition not mentioned in the Megillah. Even so, it is central to a family’s Purim celebration. My fondest memories of Purim as a child are from these carnivals – those magical places that were like amusement parks except with no electricity and staffed by members of my shul.
If you want to run a Purim carnival this year, you will need booths. Here are some of the best booth ideas that I remember from my childhood:
Throwing Stuff Booths
The Throw the Sponge at David’s Face Booth
This was a lot of fun, until I reached 8th grade and was the object of the sponge. The most traditional of booths, you take a sponge, soak it with water and hit somebody with it. If you want to make it sound good for Purim, you can call it the ‘Make Haman’s Face Wet Booth.’ Nobody wants a wet face. That, along with the grogger, shows anger at Haman.
I am happy that they did not have access to the water dunk tank that year. Once the children learned that anything that hit the bullseye would dunk me, they stopped using balls. Some of the tiny children even brought chairs, so they could reach the bullseye with their hands.
Take socks and whip them at somebody. This game is very similar to the Bar Mitzvah boy game, where we whip candies at a child.
This is like a sponge booth that doesn’t require water. Not very creative, but kids do like seeing others get hurt. People can get carried away with the idea of hitting others with things, especially if you call the object of the sock ‘Haman.’ So, for safety, please discourage people from throwing shoes, food or any kind of waste at the volunteer. Additional safety precautions: Do not allow people with sticks or canes near your Haman. My JCC had to stop with the sock throw booth after a man took his cane and started hitting Haman and yelling, ‘You anti-Semite. I will avenge my people.’ It was later found out that Haman was the shul Gabai (sexton), and the man hitting him did not receive the honor of opening the ark that week.
Bean Bag Tic Tac Toe
Part of the throwing trilogy, this is the only throwing sport that does not require the potential injury of a member of the community. You take a big plastic tic tac toe contraption, where each of the x’s and o’s are on one side of a triangle, that spins if hit. This is a great way to make Tic Tac Toe challenging, after you figure out that you win if you take the middle.
Anything where the hands are not used is fun and challenging, except for soccer.
The Apple Bob Booth
You take a huge big bucket of water and place apples in it. This ancient tradition, also known as the first ever recreational activity, keeps children occupied for days. Nobody has ever been able to bite into an apple placed in water, without something pushing on the other side. Adults can maneuver the apple against the side of the bucket while standing. The only way for a kid to get the apple in the mouth is to fall in. The cold water is shocking to the nervous system, and thus fun for parents to watch.
Being that Purim is for the kids, if you want to make it easier for them, you can make a Plum Bob Booth. Do not use dried plums; as much as you are looking to get rid of your Tu BShvat leftovers. Instead, you should place the plums in the Mishloach Manot (the gifts we give to each other on Purim), along with all of the other stuff you don’t like; such as poppy seed Hamentash that you bought by accident.
The Egg on a Spoon Race
This is not about speed. This is about balancing an egg on a spoon, in your mouth, and that takes skill. The sack race is also much fun and almost impossible, but you can use your hands and there is no throwing, and it is thus not a carnival game.
For more challenging no hand events, you can have an egg on a spoon long jump. You can also try the egg on the spoon dive. Even though hands are involved, the egg on a spoon poll vault is a crowd-pleaser. The egg on a spoon sack race is a great way to make it impossible for anybody to finish.
Find the Beans
The idea of this booth is to find jelly beans that are mixed in with flour. You can call this the ‘Cleaning for Pesach’ game, as this is the closest your children will come to helping you clean anything that might become leaven.
Like in the Apple Bob, there is no using of the hands. The key to all of these games is to build the child’s immune system. By running his face in flour, and picking out jelly beans that have been licked by the previous children, your kid will be ready to go back to the Apple Bob and overcome the lice from the other child’s hair, who fell into the bucket.
Random Other Booth Ideas
There are many more ideas you can use to bring home the fun, before the children enter the prize booth.
Miniature Golf with a Cup
One of the biggest challenges with miniature golf for Purim carnivals are the obstacles. So get rid of the windmills, get rid of the angled corners, get rid of the holes, and you have a fun game.
Take a regular home and add people yelling at the participants. My cousin’s house works for this. Everybody gets kind of frightened when they shout at their kids. You can call this ‘Haman’s House.’ Haman is what my cousin’s kids call their dad.
Face Painting with Face Paint
Make sure to purchase the paint that says ‘face paint.’ At the local carnival, they used oil paint. That was not good. Oil paint does no come off in the Apple Bob bucket.
Haman Sock Puppet Booth
Growing up we had a Haman’s Sock Puppet booth. The director of the JCC pulled out a bag of his old socks. He said the holes were Haman’s mouth. Haman did not smell good, nor did he use fabric softener.
These are just a few of the amazing booths we had, growing up. Be creative. Happy Purim!