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Beer at a School Carnival—an Urban Myth?

What do a chocolate King Kong, carnitas tacos and a beer booth have in common?

Back in the day, there was a traveling carnival that set up camp in an open field in San Juan Capistrano. If my memory is correct, it was in the open field where the campus is now. I recall rickety whirligig rides, run by typical carnival type characters who smelled of cigarettes ... or sometimes just plain smelled. Although I don't remember all of the details, I think there may have been a small Ferris wheel and a mechanical fortuneteller.

(Or am I thinking of scenes from the movie Big?)

I got to thinking of deep-fried Oreos and smelly ride operators while devouring $2 carnitas tacos at San Juan Elementary's April 29.

Continuing in the spirit of celebrating the school's , booths were vibrantly decorated in Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and western themes to represent the cultures that make up San Juan’s history.  

But the biggest hit? The food. It’s always about the food. Street vendor-esque food like corn on the cob slathered in mayo (crema), cheese (queso fresco) and powdered chili, nachos, hot dogs, ceviche and aguas frescas were sold along with my family’s favorite: carnitas tacos with award-winning salsa.

My mouth waters when I think about the onion and cilantro toppings. For $2 in tickets, it was heaven. The only thing missing at that moment was an ice-cold cerveza. When I overheard a rumour that the carnival hosted a Corona beer booth, I embarked on a mission to find out if this was an urban myth or reality. It required some light-as-cotton-candy research.

The seventh annual Ambuehl Carnival was held Saturday. I spoke with Ambuehl’s PTA president, Maureen Bournazian, the day before the event. She told me that the choice to hold the carnival over Mother’s Day weekend was strategic. It gave dads a place to take the kids, while moms could sneak in a mani/pedi and a Starbucks latte, or a Corona, all by themselves. Yay, Mom!

And while the kids were at the carnival, they had a chance to bring home a present on the biggest holiday of the year. The annual silent auction, which is always a showstopper, featured a one-of-a-kind prize this year—are you ready for it? ...

... a 2-foot tall chocolate King Kong by Helen Grace Chocolates. Oh, snap. Bring on the pens. It’s on.

At the end of our conversation, I wanted to confirm or dispel the beer booth rumor. She said she was almost certain that there never has been a beer booth. Later in the day, she sent me an e-mail with a photo of King Kong and stated: “This is our 7th year for Carnival/Silent auction and no beer booth ever.” She ended my carnitas and beer booth dream.

I'm not sure my memory is not completely whack with the recollection of a fantasy childhood carnival of my own, but my short term memory is spot on. But who cares? Between the street vendor food at San Juan Elementary’s Spring Festival and the King Kong chocolate at Ambhuel’s Carnival—I’m living the dream.

It’s a carnitas-taco-and-chocolate-King Kong kind of life. And if I want a beer, it’s a short walk to the .

Laura May 09, 2011 at 03:43 PM
You may be thinking of the beer booth at the "Fiesta with Friends" carnival that is held at the St. Edward's school/church in Dana Point. The carnival, complete with lots of fun rides, serves beer and great food! The carnival will take place this year on May 19- 22. Located at 33866 Calle la Primavera, Dana Point.
Melissa Hodge May 09, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Whoo hoo, Laura! I'm sold.
Irma Goerner May 09, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Melissa, You're not losing it! Before JSerra's Sports field and complex, there used to be a traveling circus at that spot for maybe a couple of weeks a year. I never went, but I would see the big top, I think it was Barnum and Bailey Circus. St. Edwards holds a 4-day carnival! I'm going to to have to check that out myself, I haven't seen another school carnival that sells better food than San Juan Elementary (I've been looking for over three years now). Irma
Laura May 10, 2011 at 09:35 PM
Oops.. correction the dates of the carnival at St. Edward's in Dana Point are May 20 -22 (Fri. - Sun,) It's always a fun time. The kids run around and go on the rides and play carnival games while the parents listen to great live music and eat great food. Beer and wine are both available.
Melissa Hodge May 11, 2011 at 01:40 AM
Thank you for verifying my sanity, Irma. ;)
Dawn Greene May 13, 2011 at 02:58 AM
How do we get on board w/ the beer, wine & dare I say it....YES! Tequila booth!!! Can you say "record breaking Spring Festival proceeds"? New laptops for EVERYONE!!!! Dawn Greene

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