One rainy summer afternoon, I was driving on I-95 with my daughter when we passed a pop-up carnival on a road close to the highway. I could see the top of the Ferris wheel, the merry-go-round, and a couple of other rides, and almost instantly, I felt my heart beat a little faster in anticipation. Of what, I’m not sure, as we were most likely not going to the carnival, but just seeing the familiar carnival-related paraphernalia lifted my spirits and made me feel like a kid again, even if just for a moment. There’s just something about carnivals that’s magical.

Summers when I was growing up, my family would go regularly to the now-defunct Savin Rock Amusement Park in West Haven and the Orange Volunteer Fire Association Carnival when it was held each August, where my brother and I would ride the tilt-a-whirl, the teacups, the swings, and the scrambler as many times as my parents — and our stomachs — would allow.

Once each spring, on a Sunday morning, my dad, a pharmacist who owned a small store and who worked a lot of hours, would surprise us with a trip to what was then called Riverside Park in Agawam, Mass. (I think it’s a Six Flags, now). Popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs, and candy apples sustained us between rides, and memories of the carnival’s bright colors and roller-coaster screams of joy (and fear) make me long for those days again.

I’ve always wanted a home, or at least a room in a home, with a sophisticated carnival-chic (is that an oxymoron?) theme … striped awnings, a popcorn machine, some blinking lights, and maybe a corner for the “milk bottle” and “balloon and dart” games, as well as a dunk tank and a kissing booth (I think I’d probably skip the “weight guessing booth,” however). I’m sure I could find some fun yet sophisticated home carnival-inspired home decor if I looked hard enough. Summer is the perfect time for being outdoors, and whether you’re entertaining at home, going to someone else’s house, or heading to a carnival, be sure to make it fun.