Before Festival Of The Arts, Grand Rapids Hosted “The Carnival of Fun” In The 1890s
Public Domain Dedication)
Long before Art Prize or Festival of the Arts, Grand Rapids hosted a 4 day long festival in 1897 and 1898 called the "Carnival of Fun".
The festival was modeled after the “Carnival of Rome” and included parades, music, Midway acts, games, food, and drink. It drew huge crowds and brought money into the city from the carnival goers, but it only lasted a couple of years.
So why did it only last a couple of years? That's because Grand Rapidians in the 1800s didn't know how to hold their alcohol. According to the Grand Valley State University archives, "were 61 arrests for drunkenness, compared to 8 from the preceding week and 10 for the following week." But, even after the 1897 Carnival of Fun's drunken arrests, the city still hosted a second event in 1898.
The 1898 Carnival of Fun was twice as large and hosted three parades, free shows on four stages, fireworks, Midway games, food stands, and more. After the 1898 Carnival, people protested the "drunken immorality" and eventually won over the public and the Carnival of Fun never returned.
You can check out a few of the artifacts from the Carnival of Fun below, courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Museum's collection.