Mouths full of cotton candy and the low roar of excited screams were the welcoming sights and sounds for those who attended the first day of the Mount Airy Lions Club’s carnival on Monday.
Attending the free, 71st-annual event, which runs through Saturday, is a more than three-decade-long tradition for resident Maureen Wetzel.
It’s a Mount Airy tradition,” she said. “[We come] to see people that we know. I always see a lot of old high-school friends and people we know [at the carnival].”
Nearby, Wetzel’s two children, Ethan, 9, and Elise, 6, were eating carnival fare. The children, and family friend Stephanie Gartz, 7, had grease-stained hands after eating macaroni and cheese and fried chicken — the main reason for the group’s visit Monday.
“We came for the fried chicken,” Wetzel said.
Along with fried chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese, deep fried Oreos and crab cakes, made daily by Lions Club members and other volunteers, are among the carnival’s top draws.
Known as the “crab cake twins,” Margaret Fritz, the mother of Lions Club President Ben Gue and Connie German, another club member, made the more than 100 homemade crab cakes put up for sale at the event. The pair started at 9 a.m. Monday to make the cakes.
The carnival has featured the seafood dish for about five years, but their crab cakes, sold for $6 each, are already well know, they said.
“We’re known everywhere for our crab cakes,”Gue said. “You can’t go anywhere in Mount Airy and get a $6 crab cake.”
“[People like the crab cake] because they’re homemade; they’re crab meat and they know it, they don’t have any filler in them. Everybody wants the recipe, but I won’t tell them. That’s our secret,” Fritz said.
The pair said demand for the crab cakes typically grows each day the carnival is open, especially after the last day of school, which is Friday.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but we do it to give back to the community,” she said.
Between 30 and 35 volunteers work most of the food stands operated by the club. Proceeds from the event help to fund the civic organization’s community service projects throughout the year, including its support for youth sports programs and college scholarships.
While some visitors come to the event for the food, many come for the rides, provided this year by Rosedale Amusements, as well as various entertainment acts.
“I really like that they have all-you-can-ride [tickets],” said Jill Gartz.
All performances begin at 7 p.m. on main stage.
The Lions club is also sponsoring its annual carnival raffle. Prizes include a Craftsman mechanics rolling toolbox, a 37-inch flat screen television and a hind quarter of beef provided by the Mount Airy Locker Company. Winners will be drawn at the close of the carnival on Saturday. Raffle tickets are available at the event.
The carnival starts at 6 p.m. each evening and closes at 11 p.m. during the week and midnight on Saturday. Activities take place at the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company's carnival grounds, at the intersection of Md. Route 27 and Twin Arch Road.