By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Three-year-old Gabriel Mason walked up to the measuring stick and turned his back toward it. He was hoping that he was taller than the 36 inches required to ride by himself.
Gabriel looked as his father, Edward, who gave him a nod that he was big enough to ride another ride solo at the Knights of Columbus barbecue on Friday night.
"This is the first year that he's really been able to really participate in the rides," Edward Mason said. "Everything for him right now is ĎAm I big enough for this? Am I big enough for that?' This year, he's finally big enough for most of the rides."
The Masons were among those who braved unseasonably low temperatures to take part in Friday's activities at the annual event, which marks the close of summertime fun in the Gem City. The weather has put a damper on the first two days of the four-day event at the Knights of Columbus headquarters at 700 S. 36th. The start of the 73rd annual event was delayed by a day thanks to soggy weather on Thursday.
"We didn't want to, but we had to (cancel). It was a safety factor," said Steve Trimble, who is one of four chairmen for this year's event. "We didn't want people out here in the mud and the rain. We made the call with the carnival. We decided to make the call and take the hit."
Trimble said monetary losses from Thursday night's cancellations would be "significant."
"It's a major night because a lot of families come out here with their kids," Trimble said.
Thursday night was armband night. Those armbands were honored for a four-hour period on Friday night. Still, there was plenty of room to maneuver among the midway of carnival games and rides set up by Miller Entertainment. With skies overcast near suppertime, there was also plenty of spots to be had under various tents set up for people to eat.
"It's thin right now because I think a lot of people heard it was canceled," Trimble said. "I think we will pack it later (Friday) and (Saturday) night will be even better."
Overcast skies and a light drizzle weren't about to keep 91-year-old Helen Pool from making her way to the event, something she comes to every year.
"I just live over on Edgewood," Pool said while trying her hand at some five-card poker. "I had to walk over a little sand dune to get here."
Pool was attending the event with Dick Dietrich and members of his family. They were celebrating the birthday of one of the Dietrich children.
"Dick paid for supper, so I put out the $5 cash for us to play cards," Pool said with a laugh. "Supposedly, that makes me generous."
Patrons enjoyed poker and a number of other games near the food serving area. Near the midway, the usual fare of games like the hoop shoot and balloon bust games were held.
This year, people were able to channel their inner Tiger Woods if they wanted near the Knights of Columbus' par-3 course. For $5, people got three balls to try to hit onto the No. 1 green. The 10 people closest to the pin each day will be asked back on Sunday for a shot at the grand prize when a hole-in-one would net them a new car from Little Jess Jeep.
The barbecue will run through Sunday. On Saturday, children's rides are $1 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and gates will stay open until midnight. On Sunday, kids' rides are $1 from noon until 3 p.m. The hole-in-one shootout will take place at 6:30 p.m. Food will be served from noon until 9 p.m. on Sunday.
When things wrap up on Sunday, it will mark the end of more than eight months of work for organizers.
"We pretty well live out here all of July and August," Trimble said. "We couldn't do this without the volunteers."