Hosting an event with entertainment involves a lot of details you need to keep in mind, but it’s easy to see that one particular factor is at the forefront of everyone’s minds: the cost. Renting rides, games, and other carnival setups can vary wildly in cost, and there are other costs to keep in mind beyond just the machines.
The Overall Cost of Carnival Rides
The cost of the actual machines, booths, rides, and inflatables you want to hire is widely variable. Small inflatable games and small bounce houses, for example, might only cost $100 per day to rent. Larger and more elaborate inflatable contraptions can be $300 or more per day. Meanwhile, extra-large machines like a Ferris Wheel can cost thousands of dollars a day to rent. A full sized 42 foot Ferris Wheel can run you $5,000 per day!
A lot depends on the kind of machines, games, and rides you want to hire, and how many you want to rent, and for how long.
Simple inflatables, basic machines, and carnival games tend to be relatively cheap to rent. They’re small when packed away, they’re easy to set up – some need only access to power for an air pump – and they’re trivial to transport.
Mid-range machines like trackless trains, mechanical bulls, and simple spinners are a little more expensive, usually because they require more setup and transportation.
Larger machines, rides, and contraptions, like a zip line, a climbing wall, or a bungee ride typically cost more to rent because there are other associated costs rolled into the price. The most common, of course, is staffing; if you need a trained operator to run the ride, you need to be paying them as well.
When you contact an event planner to book carnival rides and games, you’ll be able to get a full quote of the overall cost of renting all the entertainment you want. You can also request an itemized list of the costs, to see where the expenses actually are, and make decisions to cut specific rides to stay within your budget. Of course, any such company will be more than willing to work with you to stay under budget while providing the perfect amount of entertainment for your event.
You can always rent a full carnival event, with dozens of rides for a full week of fun and games. Alternatively, you can rent a couple of rides and games for a day or two of entertainment for a shorter event. Flexibility is the name of the game, and there’s always something available for any event and any venue.
The Cost of Setup
Setup is usually one fee attached to the overall cost of renting carnival equipment, but that fee will vary depending on how many and how complex the rides are.
So what factors go into setup?
- Transportation of the equipment to your venue. When you’re further away from the place you’re renting, particularly if you’re on the edge of their service area, you may see a larger fee than if you were closer. Not always, but some companies do adjust fees based on distance, or add a mileage fee for transportation.
- Mechanical setup. Large inflatable rides and slides require knowledge of how to set them up to avoid damage to the ride or to other items in the surrounding area. More complex mechanical devices, like spinners, mechanical bulls, or swings, require mechanical knowledge and trained operators to set them up and tear them down.
- Accessories. In addition to the rides you rent, you may also need an assortment of accessories and other items. Tables, chairs, and tents are a staple of a good event, and a good company will plan to bring what’s necessary for the event, rather than leaving it to you.
- Power. While some venues allow you to tap into their power, some don’t, and some don’t have power available to use. In these cases, you need power somewhere, and that’s where generators come in. Renting generators is an additional cost, but it’s better to pay it than to not have power for your event.
Setup will vary depending on your venue, your event, your needs, and your existing resources. Always make sure you’re leaving enough room in your budget to cover setup and other accessories.
The Cost of Staff
As mentioned in passing above, equipment typically needs staff. Trained staff need to be paid for their time. That said, the cost of operating a ride is typically included in the rental fee for that ride, so you aren’t always going to see additional line items for staffing costs.
Staff are required for:
- Transportation of rides to the location of the event.
- Setting up the rides and other machines in the venue, prior to the event starting.
- Monitoring and operating rides. This may be one person per ride, or maybe require more than one for some complex rides.
- Operation of some games and other entertainment. For simple games, it might only require one person to operate several games.
Additionally, staffing is required for some other extras you might have at your event, such as:
- A licensed bartender if you’re renting the services of a bar at your venue.
- Food vendors providing concessions for your event. Of course, you can book these separately from a catering company, or hire food trucks, so this can vary as well.
- Security personnel in some instances.
- Maintenance for machines in case they break down.
People are often the most expensive part of any event, but how the costs line up for renting carnival equipment depends a lot on what equipment you want, how much you want, and for how long you want to rent them.
The Cost of Prizes
While they aren’t necessarily important for carnival rides, sometimes you want to rent games instead of rides. Carnival games can be fun on their own merits, but we all know what you really want when you’re attending a carnival or fair-like event: the prizes!
Now, you can always provide your own prizes. A ticket system is easy to implement for carnival games, with a single centralized booth full of prizes for attendees to purchase with tickets. By supplying your own prices, you can include corporate-branded apparel and other such items. You can also include other items like food vouchers and raffle entries. One common prize setup we’ve seen is custom raffle boxes, rather than individual prizes, for a more personalized touch.
On the other hand, you can hire prize support from the company you’re booking for your games. This will typically be a range of mostly generic prizes, like stuffed animals and electronic items.
The range of prizes varies, of course, so you’ll need to discuss this with your event planning company. Don’t forget that you’ll need an attendant available to staff your prize counter!
The Cost of Power
This was mentioned above, but any good event is going to need some manner of power access to run successfully. Typically, you’ll get power in one of two ways.
First, you may get power from the venue. If you’re hosting an event at a fairground, in a convention center, or another public event space, you’ll likely be able to tap into the power of the venue itself. Some venues might provide power at an additional fee, while others provide it as part of the cost of booking the venue.
Second, you may get your power from generators. Whether you bring your own or you rent them, generators require space, fuel, and monitoring to make sure they’re running smoothly. If your venue is indoors but you don’t have access to their power, your generators will need to be placed outside with cables running indoors to power machines and games.
Always make sure you have power lined up for your event! Nothing is worse than having your setup crew arrive, only to discover they can’t use the power that’s available, or that no power is available at all.
The Cost of Extras
There are a lot of extras you can book from the same people you book your rides, or from other providers. Getting them all as a package deal can be cheaper than booking them individually, but you will want to double-check the quality of the services you’re booking either way.
What kind of extras might you book?
- Photography. Many events are about making memories, so hiring a photographer to capture those memories is a no-brainer.
- DJs. Someone in charge of music, announcements, and other audible entertainment can be a crucial element of some events.
- Clowns. Particularly relevant for children-focused events, clowns and other entertainers can be a huge asset to the party.
- Caricature artists. Artists can provide unique entertainment and a unique product for your attendees to take home with them.
- Face painting or airbrushing. Part of getting in the spirit for an event is dressing the part, and airbrush tattoos or face painting can be good fun for attendees of all ages.
- Balloon art. Some clowns can pull double duty as balloon artists, as well.
- Magicians. A good magician can entertain a crowd all day, with a variety of tricks from cards to birds and beyond.
- Seasonal costumers. Some events, particularly seasonal events, might want a Santa, an Easter Bunny, or another event-specific costumer available to make the rounds.
- Movie projectors. If your event runs after dark or has a dark indoor room, a movie projector can be a great addition.
- Live music. Booking a band for a unique set can be a great part of many events, and depending on the band, might even become a centerpiece of the entertainment.
All of these are optional depending on the kind of event you’re planning, your budget, and the atmosphere you’re going for. Any of them that you want to book will be an extra cost, of course, but when wrapped into your total event package, they can be quite affordable.
The Cost of Cancellation
One cost you hope to never encounter is the cost of cancellation. This might be a fee for cancellation after a certain date, or it might be a non-refundable deposit, or something in between. Typically, it’s only a concern if your event is falling apart, your budget has been denied, or your venue has a reason to cancel. There are any number of reasons why cancellation might occur, though, and we’re not here to judge.
Cancellation fees are simply a fact of doing business with a company that has to prepare, ship, and schedule their assets. If you cancel at the last minute, not only does the company lose what you had booked, they lose what those assets could have been doing if you hadn’t locked them up in your contract. Cancellation fees cover that.
Always be aware of what the cancellation policies are with any company you’re booking. There’s no excuse to be blindsided by them when your contract is plainly available, and they typically will not be flexible or refundable regardless of circumstances. Still, though, with a good company, your event should go off without a hitch and you’ll never have to worry about cancellation at all.
Keeping costs within your budget is always possible, no matter how tight or inflexible that budget may be. You just need to set the right expectations, plan the right size party, and book exactly what you need.