ANDOVER — What better way to spend a crisp fall day than to walk around Central Park while feasting on carnival foods and enjoying games of skill and chance along with amusement rides.

Andona Society’s Clown Town kicked off on Friday and continued on Saturday, with huge crowds of kids greatly outnumbering adults.

Kris Bishop and his wife Pauline of Andover brought their daughter Kaylie and son Dylan. It was the first carnival Dylan had ever been to.

“He told us it’s the best day of his life,” Pauline Bishop said.

Nirav Bhamsania of North Andover came with his wife and their two children.

“We’ve been waiting a long time to come to an outdoor event like this,” he said. “The kids are having a blast.”

It was the 65th annual fundraiser put on by the Andona Society, with its typical blend of carnival, amusement park, children’s games, crafts, vendors and informational tables.

Because of the pandemic, the organization pushed the event from its early May weekend to October.

For many who’d been to outdoor carnivals in the past, Clown Town was a revelation in that tickets could be purchased via a smartphone “Magic Money” App. All a person had to do was show the phone’s QR code to a ride attendant, who would scan it with their device.

Alternatively, people could purchase a Magic Money debit card, which could be purchased at Magic Money booths via cash, credit or debit card, then presented to a ride attendant.

“We really missed this last year so it good to have it back,” Andover resident Emma Woodthorpe said as she recharged her Magic Money card for her 10-year-old son and his friend. “This event is a great cause and it’s also a fun way to bring the community together.”

There were amusement rides for the very young, such as the Candy Express, a slow-moving train that traveled along an oval track, and for kids 48 inches and taller, a Gravitron ride that looked like a spaceship and spun around like a giant clothes dryer with kids pinned to its interior walls.

Children and adults raced each other down a “Super Slide,” while others braved a ride called the “Cliff Hanger,” which some adventurous kids said was like flying through the air on a hang glider. There were plenty of rides to choose from, including a Ferris wheel for those who weren’t scared of heights.

A midway offered a variety of games, including an updated version of the balloon dart challenge. In this case, instead of throwing pointy darts, contestants threw hacky sacks at balloons perched in front of sharp pins. By striking a balloon face on, it would explode.

Carnival foods were plentiful, including cotton candy, corn dogs, fresh squeezed lemonade, French fries, fried dough and more.

The nonprofit, which was founded in 1952 to give back to the town and youth, annually gives out $10,000 in college scholarships, $10,000 in summer camp scholarships and another $25,000 in small grants to schools, local teams and clubs that serve Andover’s youth. Clown Town has been its largest fundraiser since 1956.

The organization is also in the process of creating a 2022 calendar as a fundraiser and is soliciting hand-drawn art from youth impacted by Andona.

To learn more, visit https://andona.org.

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