Despite almost 90 degree heat, several thousand Muslims from the greater Washington and Baltimore metropolitan region as well as hundreds from surrounding states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania took a day for fun and socializing at the 5th annual Muslim FunFest family carnival.
The largest annual social gathering of Muslims in the region, the carnival offers large mechanical rides similar to those found in large theme parks and a huge collection of vendors offering products and services for sale, all in an Islamic environment. The carnival shuts down at each salah time and the congregational prayer is held in the center of the carnival area. Muslim FunFest is a project of the Dar-us-Salaam community.
This year’s Muslim FunFest at High Point Farm in Clarksburg, Maryland took place on a bright and sunny Saturday, May 26 from 12 noon to 7pm. Since the annual family carnival started in 2008, the number of attendees steadily increased from about 1,000 to last year’s approximately 10,000 (figures based on parking management company data). This year organizers expected up to 12,000 guests. However, the Dar-us-Salaam Muslim FunFest organizing team said the number is likely less than last year as many families stayed home to avoid the heat which reached up to 90 degrees. Accurate numbers from the parking management firm were not available at press time. Above, the view of the Asr salah from the Muslim FunFest helicopter. Both thuhr and asr take place in the center of the carnival to emphasize the central importance of the prayer and organizers make sure all vending and all rides are promptly shut down after the athan. One non-Muslim carnival employee accepted took the shahadah and entered into Islam after witnessing the thuhr salah. A Muslim co-worker was talking with him about Islam while they served food earlier in the day. Not visible in the pictures above are the areas for the zip line, camel rides, and helicopter take-off and landing area. The surrounding portion of the 100 acre farm was used for parking thousands of cars. Photos by Afnan Khan.
Each year organizers add bigger and better rides, and this year was no exception. The Round-Up (left) locked riders in a standing position and turned them around at high speed at different angles. For the younger guests, the 100-foot tall super slide (right) was a major attraction. FunFest organizers spend considerable time choosing rides each year, making sure they are high capacity and high turn around to avoid long wait times in line. Renting the larger mechanical rides can cost up to $6,000, so the Muslim FunFest depends on strong attendance and ticket sales to meet costs. Most mechanical rides were set-up and tested at least two days ahead of the event.
While most inflatable rides like the moon bounces are geared towards younger children, the pedestal joust attracts young men who fancy slugging it out with their friends.
This year there were three arabian camels (right) for children to ride in addition to ponies.
The zip line thrilled youth as they hurtled down hundreds of feet across the farm.
The “unlimited rides wristband” -- $29 at the door and $23 online before the event -- allowed guests full use of all the rides except the camel ride, zip line, and helicopter ride. A 5-minute helicopter flight cost $50, but riders say it was worth it. “How often are you going to ride in a helicopter with your kids?” said one guest. Muslim FunFest organizers sent the official photographer and videographer on the helicopter to capture ariel footage of the carnival.