It's always fun heading to your local county fair or community festival. Think about events like the Ionia Free Fair, the Cherry Festival in Traverse City or the Venetian Festival in Charlevoix. It's part of summer.

In addition to the rides and food, you can certainly count on the carnival games. The ring toss, knock down the bottles or 'quarter pusher.' They're fun to watch, play and can be addictive. The carnival workers who run these booths are well skilled at drawing you in and taking as much money from you as they can.

A well seasoned carney - a name he bears with pride - Mitch Candiano who has spent several summers on the festival circuit in New England joined comedian and podcaster Theo Von as a guest on the program This Past Weekend. In a wide-ranging discussion on carney life, Mitch goes in depth on games and how exactly they work to deny you the prize and how tens, even hundreds of dollars or more can be spent on a futile effort to win something like a giant stuffed plush.

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Feeling a bit like a magician spilling trade secrets, Candiano shared how several games are set up to make it impossible to win - unless the carney wants you to win.

The carnival worker will keep up the banter and making you feel like the win is right around the corner. A win may come your way if a large crowd has built up and others can be tempted to play should they see you win.

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In a game called Cover The Spot where discs would need to fully cover a spot, the spot is made just large enough that the discs can't cover it.

In a game called Tubs of Fun - the game with bushel baskets set as an angle and a tossed softball must stay in the basket to win. The basket is set as an angle to ensure the ball pops out. The hook is the carnival worker is set at an angle to allow the ball to land. There is a trick to toss the ball with a underhanded flip to help slowly deaden the toss to not fly out.

knock down cans carnival game

How about Pop the Balloons? The balloons may be underinflated to a degree so the dart tips won't pop them.

For the classic knock down the stack of milk bottles or cans, they're weighted so they can't be toppled. However the bottle or can at the top of the stack would not be weighted to it could act as a prover to an unconvinced player.

The ring toss game, however, is actually a pure skill game. No gimmick there, if you can get a ring around the small glass pop bottle, you can win legitimately.

Finally, the 'quarter-pusher,' or splashdown, where a mechanical arm pushes quarters and prizes forward and anything that spills into the tray is yours. The trick here is the games have an out-of-bounds area to the sides where the 'house' keeps the coins and not you. The center of the play area is weighted to direct many more coins to the sides rather than to the front for payouts.

So like anything, play for fun and not the expectation of a big win.

To see the full conversation, check out the video below.

200 Classic Rock Carnival Mirrors

If you have any of these in your attic they might be worth big bucks.

Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening

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