Sideshow Alley – A Guide to Games and Prizes

Having a Sideshow Alley with games that appeal to the young and old is one of the most popular attractions at school fetes. With so many games on offer these days, from Bottle Quoits to Coin Toss, Lucky Bag Draws to Splat The Rat, the sky’s the limit when it comes to your options.
But with so many options to choose from – from natural talent games (e.g. Knock-ems) to those with a predetermined number of winners (e.g. Tombola) – where do you start in setting up your own Sideshow Alley?
Here’s some top tips from our staff and readers to guide you in selecting games and prizes for your Sideshow Alley…

Game Selection

It’s important to ensure you have a mix of ‘natural talent’ games of with ‘games of chance’ to appeal to a wider audience. Beaumaris North Primary School in Victoria are holding a ‘Come Play With Us Fete’ in March 2012, which includes a wide variety of games designed to appeal to all types. Some of these include;
$1 Bucket – Put a one-dollar coin in the bucket – win half the money if your coin is drawn out!
21 – Do you like cards? Score exactly 21 in 3 darts and a prize is yours!
Asteroid Blaster – Dislodge the ball balancing on top of the bottle with a large water pistol and you win a prize!
Bust-a-balloon – Pop a balloon with a dart to win a prize!
Hoopla – Surround a box with a hoop and the prize is yours!
Knock-ems – One of the all-time favorite sideshow alley games. Great for all ages and any skill level. Knock down all the cans to win a prize!
Ladder Game – Land a bean bag in each space between the rungs of the ladder and throw the last bag through the door of the bell tower to win a prize!
Lob-a-Choc – See if you can land a gold coin on a bar of chocolate – if it does, it’s yours!
Lucky Bags – Draw a lucky number and receive the corresponding bag of goodies!
Lucky Bucket – Drop a 20-cent coin into a bucket of water – if it covers the gold coin, the coin is yours!
Lucky Dip – Dip your hand in and a grab a prize – prizes for both girls and boys!
Lucky Ducks – Pull a duck out of the pool and the corresponding prize is yours – everyone’s a winner!
Lucky Plate – Land a 20-cent coin on the plate floating in water and you win a prize!
Paper Airplanes – Buy a piece of A4 paper, fold it however you wish to make a paper airplane and then fly your plane along the course. Furthest distance wins a prize!
Ping Pong Pringles – Bounce a ping pong ball into an empty Pringles tube to win a prize.
Pot Luck – Select a pot and pour through a garden sieve to see if you have won a prize!
Ring-a-bottle – Throw a hoop, if it rings the soft drink bottle’s neck, the bottle is yours!
Smash-a-plate – See how many plates you can smash with a wooden ball – no prize, but very popular with dads and kids!
Splat the Rat – Splat the rat with a bat (pinning it against the board) as it drops out of the drainpipe and a prize is yours. Splatisfaction guaranteed!
Tombola – Pull a ticket out of the barrel to find out if you are the winner of a gorgeous teddy bear!
Win A Wine – Something for the adults – a 50/50 chance of winning a bottle of wine. Draw a corresponding ticket and the bottle is yours!
Don’t forget to download our Fete Stall Megaguide below (scroll to the bottom of the page!) – heaps of other great and out of the box ideas for you!
Some of these games take a bit of effort to set up, so a great option for those committees who don’t have the time to organize a sideshow alley themselves is to contact local show companies. Some are more than willing to attend and bring along their own games, if you expect enough people, in return for keeping some of the profits from their games. Alternatively, I’ve seen local community groups such as Rotary or Lions prepared to step up and run a sideshow stall each.

Prize Selection

Awarding a ‘prize for every child’ on some, or all, of the games on your Sideshow Alley will attract more players; so a good idea is to have a range of prizes on offer to cover both winners and ‘players’.
Kristy Spiegl from WA worked for a sideshow company for years, and she believes that games for littlies should always have a prize for everyone, even if they are small.
“We worked on a ratio of 15 ‘giveaway’ prizes for every 5 actual winners,” she said. “The ratio for prizes has to match the odds of winning, and a good plan is to keep the big prizes for games of skill rather than luck (e.g. ring toss) as these are usually where the teens and adults play.”
Some of the most popular giveaway prizes are simply cheap novelty gifts from discount stores. Cheaper items like hair clips, key rings, bubble blowers, Chuppa-Chupps and small bags of candy that you can buy for less than 50cents work well.
Another idea is to have a ‘prize drive’ where families donate novelty prizes in the lead up to the fete.
Some of the more popular winners’ prizes include:

  • Stuffed toys
  • Plastic trophies
  • Cowboy hats
  • Dolls
  • Novelty items
  • Lollies/ chocolate

There are novelty wholesalers that specialise in this type of product. Check out the suppliers on our site here.
Some alternative ideas for sideshow prizes include:

  • Tuck-shop vouchers
  • ‘Try again’ vouchers for another sideshow game
  • ‘Dare’ vouchers – get some teachers, parents or the principal to agree to certain ‘dares’. If a student presents their ‘dare’ pass, they have to perform the dare!
  • Ride tickets (this will only work if you have pre-purchased the rides. If you are working on a profit share, arrange a certain number of tickets with the ride provided beforehand!)

TIP: One of the trickiest parts of organising a sideshow alley is ordering supplies. Nobody wants to be stuck with a whole heap of leftover stock, so if you aren’t sure on numbers then make sure the prizes you order be used for other events or fundraisers if they’re not used!
The original version of this article was first published on 9 November 2011

Originally published 6 October, 2017

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