Call of the carnival

Few experiences stay with us like the ones we experience in childhood. But for Wayne Van De Graaff, a lifelong passion became a calling — and a second career.

Few experiences stay with us like the ones we experience in childhood.

But for Wayne Van De Graaff, a lifelong passion became a calling — and a second career.

Five years ago — with a lifelong interest in old-time carnivals — the Kars resident bought a 1938 carousel with the original wooden horses, and tracked down a Ferris wheel from 1917 — the oldest one in North America — at a barn in Thunder Bay. He contacted a company that services Cirque du soleil’s big tops and bought an original tent.

He reached out to industry experts, who became his advisers and artistic directors. Carnivale Lune Bleue was born.

“Last year, I realized this was going to be a full-time occupation,” said Van De Graaff, who was the president of his own international human resources and tax firm.

“So I sold my practice.”

Van De Graaff was raised in 1960s Utah — a “parochial” place where fads that swept North America skipped over. What were popular were the old 1930s-era carnivals.

“I was always fascinated with the era,” said Van De Graaff, now 50. “When carnivals really became popular was during the Depression in the 1930s when people would go to experience the food and the entertainment and the exhibits.”

Shows including Cirque Maroc, Carnival Diablo, the Great Snakes of the World and the Congress of Wonders transport you back to that time, Van De Graaff said.

So far, Van De Graaff is pleased with the way the second annual event is going and said the rain has had little effect on attendance at Hog’s Back Park.

Next year, he plans to tour in two cities in Quebec as well as Ottawa.

“Carnivale Lune Bleue is a world unto itself — it allows you to forget everything else,” said Van De Graaff.

 
 
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