Traveling carnival comes to Juneau

Golden Wheel Amusements brought all the carnival attractions from Chugiak by ferry. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Carnival workers set up an inflatable, which are great for small children. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Golden Wheel Amusements owners Joe and Jacqueline Leavitt (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

The carnival arrived in Juneau April 29 and set up for opening day May 1. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Since 2000, Golden Wheel Amusements has purchased many new rides and attractions. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

For the first time in years, the carnival is back in Juneau. It’s located outside the Nugget Mall and starts Thursday at 2 p.m.

Golden Wheel Amusements out of Chugiak begins its summer season early by bringing the carnival to Southeast Alaska.


Golden Wheel Amusements owner Jacqueline Leavitt expects long lines at the Zipper.

“It is definitely one of the teen favorites. It spins them around and if you’re not kind of used to that, it could get you sick,” Leavitt says laughing.

The Zipper gives a rider three ways to flip over.

“I love that the office is right next to it because people scream on that ride so hard and that is just music to my ears. I love listening to them just scream and scream,” Leavitt says.

The fair offers rides for big and small kids, games and food.

“Footlong corn dogs and funnel cake and cotton candy and candy and caramel apples,” Leavitt says.

Leavitt has been in the carnival business for most of her life. Her mother Claire Morton started Golden Wheel Amusements in 1967. The company’s first event was at Fur Rendezvous, Anchorage’s winter festival, which is still an annual gig for Golden Wheel. Leavitt and her husband started buying the company in 2000.

She says running a traveling carnival is a family affair that includes their three children.

“It’s kind of like ranching and farming. It’s great. You just come to work with your family and I think it’s a very good way to live,” Leavitt says.

It’s been 30 years since Golden Wheel Amusements brought a carnival to Juneau. Leavitt says it’s difficult to plan carnival dates around a ferry schedule. Plus it’s expensive to transport rides, equipment and 50 workers. She says traveling to Southeast by ferry with stops in Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan costs about $120,000.

“But we just felt like it was time to come to Southeast and that it was a good thing and that the public and the kids would just really enjoy it,” Leavitt says.

Leavitt’s son Chase Eckert says it’s a novel experience to be in a location that isn’t used to a carnival.

“We’ve had a constant parade of cars around the lot. Everyone’s stopping, taking pictures. Whole families, like vans full of people, come by and you can just see that they’re so excited. We haven’t been here since 1984 and these people don’t even know what a carnival looks like,” Eckert says.

Juneau gets two weekends to enjoy the carnival before it packs up and leaves on the ferry May 11.