Organizers of the 15th Annual Carnivale USA certainly want to generate an overflow of money at the Feb. 10 event, but equally important is raising substantial awareness of the kidscommons children’s museum.

They’ve discovered that’s what happens just by virtue of attendees walking into the downtown Columbus facility. Last year, some of the 340 attendees at a Canadian-themed Carnivale, which raised $120,000 via a silent and live auction, mentioned that they were delighted to see for the first time the interactive displays, the climbing wall, and of course, the much-publicized World’s Largest Toilet.

The facility once again last year attracted more than 50,000 people, not counting an additional 8,000 or more in school groups, said Ben Wagner, executive director.

“We still think this is a very special place — though not yet a place everyone has necessarily seen,” Wagner said.

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Money raised from the yearly party and from corporate sponsorships helps in many ways, including allowing kidscommons to offer several free-admission days, Wagner said.

Couples Missy and Eric Neal, and Doug and Deb Roese are chairing the party, which each year is considered a festive break from the winter doldrums. Missy Neal also serves as kidscommons board president.

“One of the big ways to sell people on your cause is to show them the impact and result of it,” Missy Neal said. “And for people to be able to see for themselves and touch the exhibits at kidscommons is maybe the best selling point of the museum.”

And she added that one of the best selling points of Carnivale, originally inspired by the innocent parts of the Carnivale in Brazil, is that it unfolds as a kinetic community gathering. People mingle throughout the evening, stopping only at second-floor tables to eat a bit of chef Gethin Thomas’ specialties.

This year, the menu will feature dishes linked to each of the four U.S. regions that will be highlighted at the event: Midwest, South, East Coast and West Coast.

Dishes from the South, for instance, include shrimp etouffee and Mississippi mud pie. East Coast fare includes New England clam chowder and New York hot dogs.

This year’s attendees also have plenty to digest from a live auction that still was being finalized at press time to include six or seven items, according to organizers. One big-ticket item will feature the growing popularity of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail experience, with stops at a variety of distilleries from Louisville to Lexington to Bardstown.

Other items open for public bids will be a barbecue for 10 couples on Harrison Lake in Columbus and an Indianapolis 500 race suite package. Plus, the silent auction will highlight more than 50 items.

Organizers also have decided to bring back a heated tent adjoining the museum to alleviate crowding. Last year, unseasonable temperatures in the 60s meant the heat wasn’t even needed in the auxiliary space.

“The tent was a great success,” Missy Neal said. “It helped with the traffic flow and gave people a little more space — and a larger dance area than before.”

Another success was the band The Tiptonians — so much so that the group that plays everything from current hits to classic rock will return this year for the third straight time. And now the group features a female vocalist in addition to its other singers.

“They’ve still got quite a following,” Missy Neal said.

If you go

What: 15th Annual kidscommons Carnivale USA 2018 fundraiser. Features “regional” food linked to one of four areas of the country, a live auction and live music and dancing for a 21-and-older crowd.

When: 7 to 11 p.m. Feb. 10.

Where: Kidscommons children’s museum, 309 Washington St. in downtown Columbus.

Food and drink: Chef Gethin Thomas of Henry Social Club is preparing a variety of dishes for the menu. And Chris Braun of Tre Bicchieri is coordinating the cash bar.

Tickets: $75 per person, available at

Information: 812-378-3046 or

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.