When a school has a fundraiser, they need ideas how to carry it out and bring in big money for the cause. One of those ideas, in Real Life as well as on television, will include a carnival, and this is the option that wins out overall. Why shouldn't it be? Carnivals make money, and money is what the school needs. If done properly, carnivals can have a lasting effect as they can make a large number of people aware of your cause at the same time.
There are other situations in which this can apply, for example:
- A birthday party!
- A senior send-off!
- A major holiday!
- A prom!
- Just for the hell of it (Carnivals are awesome!)
With any situation, the carnival is always chosen as a proper venue. And, in all situations, the school will always have enough money to pull it off, even "poor" schools. A requirement for most fundraiser carnivals is that some sort of crazy circumstances will mess them up.
Not to be confused with the School Festival, the carnival-like Japanese Cultural Festival events that often appear in anime high schools; those are actually common in Japan. There can be some overlap, however, as some schools may donate the proceeds from their annual festival to a particular not-for-profit if it's not helping to pay for some improvement to the school.
Important features of the carnival usually are:
- A dunk tank
- A ferris wheel
- A ring toss
- Cheap, unsafe rides (optional)
- A kissing booth
- That game where you have to throw a baseball at some bowling pins to win a comically large stuffed animal for your date to impress her.
If a dance is held to raise money for any reason, it is a Charity Ball.
- Wonder Woman Vol 1: After Wonder Woman manages to recover and restore the sunken ship of the notorious local pirate Capt. Storm the Holliday Girls use it to put on a sort of pirate themed festival to raise funds for Holliday College.
- In Daddy Daycare, the two main characters need to buy a property to save their daycare business, so they throw a carnival.
- There's a school carnival in the film version of Grease, although it doesn't figure into the plot.
- In Never Been Kissed, the school throws a carnival to raise money for the senior prom.
- There's an on-campus charity fund raising carnival of sorts at the end of Revenge of the Nerds.
- There's a childrens's charity fundraiser featured in She's the Man. It's while she's there that Viola first kisses Duke (at the kissing booth) and falls for him.
- Bunnicula: There's a carnival being held at Pete and Toby's school in The Celery Stalks At Midnight, which Harold, Chester and Howie proceed to crash when they think Bunnicula's out causing trouble.
- Family Skeleton Mysteries: McQuaid University has a haunted house attraction, McHades Hall, at its annual Halloween Howl, to raise funds for a scholarship.
- The Macdonald Hall book Go Jump In The Pool has the students running a carnival to raise money to build a swimming pool.
- In Relativity there's a charity carnival. As usual for these kinds of stories, a bad guy shows up.
- The Brady Bunch once built a Dunk Tank for a school carnival.
- There's one in the Corner Gas episode "Cat River Daze." Davis and Hank are both so excited about the dunk tank that they compete with each other to annoy the townsfolk so people will want to dunk them.
- Degrassi: The Next Generation has had at least two of these episodes.
- Shows up briefly in Everybody Hates Chris.
- In The George Lopez Show, the family works the dunk tank at one of these.
- In Life as we Know it, the boys attend a carnival, which may or may not be for the school.
- In Married... with Children, after Peggy goes overboard with yard sales, Al decides to have one himself. It fails spectacularly, so he turns the back yard into "Bundyland".
- The third season episode "Bulletin Board" of M*A*S*H has picnic for the entire staff and a nearby orphanage. With some elements that could appear on a carnival: Klinger has a kissing booth. People can buy snacks. There's a sack race and a spoon race. During a game of tug of war, where most of the major cast ends in the mud pit, incoming choppers abruptly end the picnic. The goal wasn't to raise money, but morale.
- In The Monkees episode "Monkees Mind their Manor" there is a medieval faire to raise money to buy Davy's inherited Manor for the local villagers.
- Used in the second episode of No Ordinary Family.
- The Homecoming dance in Pretty Little Liars was this combined with a Charity Ball.
- In That's So Raven, Raven works the dunk tank at a school carnival.
- Veronica Mars's Neptune High had a Winter Carnival to raise money for the senior trip. Justified in that it's a very affluent school district.
- On Diff'rent Strokes, Arnold's school has a carnival and Willis gets hired as one of the workers for it. It becomes a Very Special episode after Arnold is electrocuted by a faulty microphone and stops breathing - and Willis then admits he lied about knowing CPR, something that was one of the qualifications for the job he was hired for.
- Greek had a college version, made by Greek row to attempt to smooth things over with the dean after the damaging fraternity expose of the previous season. It had Yeti Wrestling (after Yeti Pelting was nixed because Rusty forgot the snow machine), a ferris wheel, and rival kissing booths from ZBZ and Tri-Pi (and since ZBZ was the center of the expose, Tri-Pi handily won until the KTs bailed them out).
- Parks and Recreation: The first half of season 3 has the parks department planning the Harvest Festival to raise money for the department. In the episode "Harvest Festival", the festival takes place, and, despite a few mishaps, succeeds beyond their hopes.
- The Murder, She Wrote episode "Wheel of Death" is set around a travelling carnival setting up in Cabot Cove in exchange for giving a share of the profits to a charity chaired, inevitably, by Jessica Fletcher. It turns out that the owner is lying to both the charity and the IRS about how mich profit they're actually making. And then, of course, there's a murder.
- The Onion has parodied this at least once, with a mention that some years it actually costs more money than it brings in.
- In the Heights: The whole neighborhood has a carnival after the power goes out.
- In the print compilation book for the webcomic Eerie Cuties, there is a bonus story centered on Layla's kissing booth at a Fundraiser Carnival, with Brooke complaining about how demeaning the entire kissing booth concept was. It included jokes involving the problems with having an innocent Succubus or an Alpha Bitch in the booth. It ended with Layla in the booth, and Brooke thinking to force her to back down by buying a ticket herself. To her surprise, Layla was willing to kiss a girl for this, and that this only got more customers because Girl on Girl Is Hot.
- Precocious: In one arc Poppinstock Academy holds a fundraiser festival, reluctantly approved by the lawyers. Among other things the kids (and one enabling parent) set up a wet bar and cash casino.
- Daria has an episode where the library roof collapses, so they hold a medieval fair to raise funds for its repair. What's interesting is from the size and scale of the fair you can be sure they're spending about the amount they could fix it with in the first place.
- In The Magic School Bus episode "Getting Energized", Ms. Frizzle's class is assigned to operate the ferris wheel at the school carnival to raise funds for the animal shelter.
- In the Molly of Denali episode "A-Maze-Ing Snow," the kids organize a community fundraiser to raise money to fix their school roof.
- In the Peppa Pig episode "Jumble Sale", the school holds a fundraiser for a new roof.