Many families attend the City of Fun Carnival every year as it travels throughout the state of Utah and also to Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming and Idaho. But the roots of the family-owned carnival are much closer to home for those who live near and attend Steel Days in American Fork.
In the 1960s, the newly-formed carnival gave American Fork the opportunity to host a celebration that would allow carnivalgoers the opportunity to ride attractions for 15 cents, as opposed to the normal price of 25 cents.
The tradition is still around today, with American Fork Steel Days offering rides for only $1 each, unlike other cities that host the same carnival.
The founder and owner of the carnival, Lou Melendez, resided in Pleasant Grove until his death in 2011, alongside his wife and co-owner, Lois, where the carnival stayed family-owned and operated.
Lou, who worked as a carnival manager after college, started the business with only one ride, a speedway racetrack, that he purchased to make a little extra money on the side. One ride turned into two, and two into three, until the carnival became what it is today with several million dollars’ worth of rides and attractions.
Both Lou and Lois Melendez were heavily involved in the day-to-day operation of the business, even traveling and living in the trailer that parked at each city celebration alongside their carnival rides and employees.
At one point, Lois Melendez, was given what was once called a floss machine, or a cotton candy machine as it is now called, and Lou gave her sticks and sugar. Fortunately, she was taught by a customer how to use it, and she was able to add another aspect of excitement and joy to the carnival.
In addition to living together in the portable trailer, Lou and Lois Melendez also lived with their children, where they would pass down the strong work ethic and give them an exciting life falling asleep to the lights of the carnival during the long season of celebrations.
Their children and grandchildren would eventually manage the family business, fix rides, run food stands and take on various odd jobs to keep the carnival running smoothly. To this day, the family, including third and fourth generations of grandchildren run more than 25 rides and several food and game trailers.
The City of Fun Carnival continues in its traditions of valuing clean family entertainment, stating, “The games on our midway are designed to be fair and honest, with the child in mind and in many cases awarding them a prize for each play, no matter if they win or not. Our games are clean, and designed for entertainment and not gambling or to cheat people out of their money.”
They have been able to maintain that family-friendly atmosphere for more than 60 years now and take it with them to each city as their traveling carnival makes its way from celebration to celebration.
The carnival will be open on Thursday from noon to 10:30 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.