A traveling carnival (US English), usually simply called a carnival, is an amusement show that may be made up of amusement rides, food vendors, merchandise vendors, games of chance and skill, thrill acts, and animal acts. A traveling carnival is not set up at a permanent location, like an amusement park, but is moved from place to place. Its roots are similar to the 19th century circus with both being set up in open fields near or in town and moving to a new location after a period of time. Unlike traditional carnival celebrations, the North American traveling carnival is not tied to a religious observance.
In 1893, the Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition (also called the Chicago World's Fair) was the catalyst for the development of the traveling carnival. The Chicago World's Fair had an area that included rides, games of chance, freak shows and burlesque. After the Chicago World's Fair, traveling carnival companies began touring the United States. Due to the type of acts featured along with sometimes using dishonest business practices, the traveling carnivals were often looked down upon.
Modern traveling carnivals usually make contracts with local governments in order to play both state and county fairs, as well as smaller venues (such as store parking lots, church bazaars, volunteer fire department fund raisers and civic celebrations).
A travelling funfair, often simply called a fair, is a small to medium-sized travelling show primarily composed of stalls and other amusements.
The British term "funfair" is also used to refer to non-travelling amusement parks. Larger fairs such as the permanent fairs of cities and seaside resorts might be called a fairground, although technically this refers to the land where a fair is traditionally held.
Fairs contain a mixture of attractions which can be divided into the categories of adult, teenager and child; usually including thrill rides, children's rides, sideshows and side stalls. Originally, a fair would also have had a significant number of market stalls, but today this is rare and most side stalls only offer food or games. The first fairground rides began to appear in the eighteenth century, these were small and made of wood and propelled by gangs of boys. In 1868, Frederick Savage, an agricultural engineer from King's Lynn, devised a method of driving rides by steam. His invention, a steam engine mounted in the center of the ride, transformed the fairground industry.