Fun Frolic Over the Years

Fun Frolic, June 24, 1959
A small boy enjoys a night out at the third annual Fun Frolic on June 24, 1959

The days are long, humidity is high, swimming pools across town are bustling, and ice cream for dinner is starting to sound like a good idea. Summertime is here, and I think it’s finally here to stay! As many of you likely know, one more thing synonymous with the summer season in Bloomington is the annual Fun Frolic carnival, scheduled to start this coming Friday, June 10 and run through Saturday, June 18 at the Memorial Stadium Athletic Complex. It’s a can’t miss event for those looking to indulge in the delights of carnival rides, games, and fried delicacies!

Fun Frolic (slightly subdued by today's standards), 1960

Not only is the Fun Frolic a great escape, it’s also a fundraiser for a great cause rooted to a 54 year history. Beginning in 1957, the Fun Frolic was organized as an annual fundraiser by the Bloomington Staff Council, a representative body of University staff members created to provide staff with organized representation and a medium of exchange with University administration. The council used proceeds from the event to award scholarships on a basis of merit and need to children of University staff level employees. When the Bloomington Staff Council dissolved in 1993, the Fun Frolic was picked up by as a joint initiative between the Indiana University Day-Care Centers (more recently the IU Early Childhood Education Services) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central Indiana.

IU Physical Plant employee Robert Zink volunteers for the "Dunk-a-Man" game, 1970

The original Fun Frolic was not the elaborate carnival affair that the event grew into over the years. Instead, the first event in 1957 consisted of tents and simple games such as bean bag tosses and basketball, all set up and run entirely by staff council members. Proceeds the first year were just over $1,000. The event gradually grew to include other rides, games, and amusements, such as Add em up Darts, Dunk-An-Athlete (later Dunk-A-Man), a glass-blowing shop, and pig races in the 1960s and 1970s. In recent decades, the carnival has transformed into an elaborate celebration with the assistance of local amusement companies; Cumberland Valley Shows has been contracting with the Fun Frolic since 1975. Every year, classic rides such as the Ferris Wheel and Tilt-A-Whirl mix with new attractions that change with the times.

The Fun Frolic lights up a summer night, undated
The Fun Frolic lights up a summer night, undated

If you visit the Fun Frolic this year and want to know more about its history or see some of these great photographs in person, stop by the Indiana University Archives! Documents related to the fundraiser–including financial records, correspondence with event constituents, contracts, newspaper clippings, publicity information, and photographs–are available to indulge your curiosity.

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