What are the ingredients of a successful school carnival?


At Lake Elmo Elementary School the answer is a tropical theme, fun games, plus great foods, without any candy, sweet drinks, or other sweets.

The Carnival Committee made a big change this year as they made a change to 100% healthy foods and prizes, in partnership with PowerUp, an initiative of Lakeview Health. The results exceeded everyone’s expectations for fun, and school fundraising, serving as an inspiration to other schools to make healthy changes as well.

The volunteers of the carnival committee were the first in the St. Croix Valley to change a school carnival to 100% healthy options, trading in some old traditions for better ones. Fueled by growing interest from parents in having better choices for their kids at school events, they also partnered with the PowerUp initiative, from Lakeview Health.

PowerUp focuses on making better eating and physical activity easy and fun for kids, to help kids be healthy now, and in the future. When thinking about whether to PowerUp their carnival, Paula, PTA President shared “When I think of particular “carnival” foods, I realized that it’s really the total carnival experience that makes it fun. I really appreciate that our school carnival be a place where the healthy foods add to the fun, but the focus is on spending fun time family and friends, instead of specific foods.” School Carnivals a great opportunity to help kids get exposed to better options, while having fun.

While there were some “skeptics” who wondered if kids and families would like a “healthy” change, new games and foods got rave reviews from kids and parents alike. Kids gobbled up better food offerings including:

  • Refreshing water, flavored water, milk, 100% juice, and Jamba Juice fruit smoothies, but no soda, sweet tea, sports drinks or sugary drinks.
  • A “Tropical Taco Bar” from Acapulco Restaurant including chicken, mango salsa, roasted pineapple, fresh veggies, served on a whole grain tortilla or new lettuce wraps, with sides of brown rice and homemade beans.
  • Freshly made pulled pork sandwiches from Hagberg’s on whole grain buns from Great Harvest Bread Co were a great tradition that continued.
  • Fruit & yogurt parfaits, tropical trail mix, and carrot cups with yogurt ranch dip.

The carnival was full of the usual fun games, but with “non-food” prizes instead of candy. The most popular activities were some of the new, PowerUp games such as:

  • Fruit Walk (instead of “cake walk”): No cakes were needed for kids to declare this event their all-time favorite. Kids were all smiles as they walked around a circle to music in hopes of winning their choice of a fresh pineapple, coconut or mango! According to Shannon Foster, 2nd Grade Teacher “This fruit walk is a hit and kids love it!” Some kids did the game more than 10 times with one parent overhead saying “I think that’s enough fruit for today” after her son filled a bag with his winning produce.
  • Water Bottle Ring Toss (replaced ring pop toss or soda bottle toss): Kids enjoyed the challenge of aiming for special bottles of water wrapped in dollar bill, or even a few 5 dollar bills. No soda? No problem!

“With all these positive changes, Chomp, the PowerUp Super Hero, couldn’t miss out! He joined the fun by giving lots of high 5’s plus pictures with the kids. The event even drew families from other schools. Christine said, “We drove more than 30 miles for this amazing family event because we heard that all food and prizes would be healthy. That never happens!”

Principal Gordy agrees, “the carnival was a big change, and a huge success. We’ve learned we don’t have to sacrifice healthy choices to have a great, fun event and raise money for our school.” School carnivals are just one example of how the St. Croix Valley can make healthy changes for kids. “PowerUp wants to congratulate Lake Elmo Elementary on taking this important step to do what is best for kids. We hope their success paves the way for other schools to PowerUp their events as well,“ Marna Canterbury, Director of community health for the Lakeview Foundation.

For more information on how schools, families, and the whole community can PowerUp the St. Croix Valley, or to request a free PowerUp School Event kit, visit powerup4kids.org.