By Kim Walter
FRONT ROYAL - The second annual Senior Carnival proved to be a success Thursday morning, despite it wrapping up a little early due to rain showers.
Around 300 seniors and area residents from Fort Valley, Winchester, and Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties gathered at the Warren County Active Living Center for a morning and afternoon full of games, entertainment, food and friendship.
The carnival serves as a place for people to interact, but it also coincides with May being Older Americans Month.
The event, put on by the Shenandoah Area Agency of Aging, grew quite a bit from last year, both in terms of participants and sponsors for games and activities. Mary Ann Gardner, SAAA's operations assistant, said last year's event brought out about 240 people.
"We had 294 signed up for today," she said amid the carnival atmosphere on Thursday. "We had to do it again; people enjoyed it so much last year."
Gardner said she believes the reason for increased interest is simple - those who attended last year have been talking about it and spreading the word ever since.
"So many folks were calling and writing, asking us to do it again," she said.
The list of sponsors grew as well, and included Amerisist, Best Care Home Care, Consulate Health care, Medi Home Health and Hospice and Warren County Fire and Rescue.
"It says a lot about these organizations that they wanted to give their time to community seniors," Gardner said. "A lot of the folks here will probably need assistance from some of these organizations at one point or another, so it's good for them to be out, supporting the community."
Seniors had a variety of "penny games" to choose from, like the can bean bag toss, dart-balloon throw and the duck pond. There were also free activities - a cakewalk, face and hand painting, a corn hole game and musical entertainment.
Cindy Palmer, SAAA's interim president and CEO, said the penny games all seemed to be a hit.
"It may seem silly to charge a penny, but I bet a lot of these folks remember how much they used to be able to get with one cent," she said. "It's just another way we try to really make this a fun place for seniors ... something that will bring back memories from when they were kids."
Many seniors could be seen sporting colorful beads, painted faces and armfuls of small prizes. Some indulged themselves with cotton candy, popcorn and peanuts.
All the participating centers prepared food, which was put together to serve for lunch. The menu consisted of barbecued chicken, potato and macaroni salad, cole slaw, baked beans and watermelon.
Jesse Curry, 84, of Stephens City, helped prepare and serve some of the food. As a former chef, Curry said he was happy to lend a hand during the event.
"I volunteer with the Salvation Army and C-CAP," he said. "I'm always trying to stay busy ... they kept me real busy today, though! People just kept coming back for more food!"
Last year, Curry was able to actually play some games, and said he walked away with a good number of prizes. However, the winnings weren't and aren't the highlight of the event, according to him.
"It's so lovely to get people together from all the different communities," he said. "The friendship, laughter and joy that takes place here is very special."
The event's theme, 'Unleash the Power of Age,' was very important to Gardner. She said the event will be one to take place every year as long as the community continues to support it.
"Seniors have so much more power, so much to more to offer than they're given credit for," she said. "Something like this gives them a chance to talk, remember and just have fun. And seeing the community step up to the plate and show their support ... it's a beautiful thing."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org