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Where Oh Where Should Our Carnival Go?

Riley Plaza Is Not The Right Place

Here Are Our Three Suggestions

By William Legault


Our little city is always full of questions. It is fair to say that opinions are never in short supply. The question for the week has become quite clear.

Where should the Fiesta October Carnival operate this year?

In recent years they have set up at 289 Derby Street just after the Topsfield Fair ends. The city purchase of that lot and current effort to turn it into a permanent public space have taken it out of the equation. The Mayor has proposed using a part of Riley Plaza for it this year as a stop-gap measure. In order for this to happen the City would have to temporarily suspend an old ordinance that prohibits such a use there. The hue and cry of neighborhood objections were raised without delay.

Years ago Riley Plaza did host an annual carnival. If I remember correctly it was during the annual August Heritage Days festivities. That week long festival would feature sales and specials at all of the Essex Street businesses, a full parade that survived into the late 1990s, and the Riley Plaza carnival. As a wee lad of seven or eight I would stand on Dodge Street and watch the bright lights of the ferris wheel and other rides while listening to the yells and scream of the kids who rode them. I never had have the pleasure of actually entering the carnival or going on the rides due to family budgetary constraints. This was long before every child came to expect a yearly visit to Disney World.

So. The question remains. Where should the carnival set up this year?

Riley Plaza is not the place. Too much traffic and too many pedestrians pass through the two key intersections that bracket it. When traffic bottlenecks there,  issues are created on every on street that feed into the two intersections. Those streets come from all points of the compass. The parking and noise issues for the neighbors are issues for sure, but those will be issues no matter where the carnival end up. Traffic and pedestrian safety rule the day on this one. I will be amazed if the vote of the City Council supports this plan.

There are some spots that would work better for both the short term or the long term. They are not in any particular order of preference.

SALEM COMMON This is exactly the kind of event that the Common, or a Common is for. Over the years we have seen events of every kind there. Yes, sometimes the grass gets damaged. That’s really not a problem, it’s a public park designed for public use. We fire Howitzers there every April. Damaged grass and soil can be replaced. Salem Common is a public park, close enough to the downtown, and already host to the October Fiesta food concessions. It might be possible to finagle a way to provide funding for the much maligned, frequently damaged, and often discussed Salem Common fence.

LESLIE’S RETREAT PARK – Another public park and one that is surely under utilized. There is plenty of room. It’s accessible from the downtown and the train station. There are two flaws to this spot. It is not that close to all of the Salem retail spots and restaurants. There would be some traffic and pedestrian issues on Bridge Street.

PALMER’S COVE PARK – There is room there. Although it is a bit outside of the downtown, it is not all that long of a walk from Derby Street. Traffic and pedestrian issues would be lesser than the either the Common or Leslie’s Retreat Park. This would be an opportunity for the restaurants on Congress Street like Root and Green Tomato at Shetland, or Deli House, Celia’s Restaurant, and Tipico Salem to introduce themselves to the Halloween hordes. We have no doubt that the Witch Dr team would love to showcase some some of their glass and other art works to the world.

Be sure to call or message your city councillors and allow them the benefit of your wisdom. Rest assured that they can always use your guidance

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