DARTMOUTH (WBSM) — Everyone loves a carnival, unless it’s happening less than a hundred yards from your front door.

The Dartmouth Mall is hosting its annual spring carnival through May 7, a production of Fiesta Shows. In years past, the carnival was held in the parking lot near where the ALDI grocery store is now.

This year, it was moved to the back corner of the mall property, behind Macy’s and just after the entrance to the AMC movie theater.

Google Maps
Google Maps

A group of residents who live in the neighborhood that abuts the Dartmouth Mall property along its northern border have taken issue with the move.

“Nobody contacted us to let us know it was going to be there in the first place, and, like, it’s right in our front yard,” Normand Street resident Betty Cosmo said.

“The set up is 30 feet from a house that has a baby and an autistic child and another home with elderly people. It is so loud from the music and you can feel the vibrations from the rides,” resident Sarah Lamothe said. “Most important issue is the fumes from the generator are so strong you can’t go outside. I was choking and I live quite a ways from the carnival.”

Lamothe reiterated to WBSM that the neighbors were given no heads up as to the carnival being located at the end of their street.

“At no point were any of the neighbors contacted about the new logistics,” she said. “We were only made aware when I walked by the sign.”

Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media
Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media

This writer visited the carnival on Saturday, April 29 just after 6 p.m., and then the Normand Street neighborhood just before 7 p.m. Although the carnival crowd was not as large as usual because of a light rain that had been falling for a few hours, there was still plenty of noise coming from the carnival that could be heard while speaking with residents at their front doors.

“You can hear it. That’s not loud at all, it’s nothing like it’s been because it’s raining,” Cosmo said.

She lives a few houses down from the carnival’s most thrilling rides and said that on Friday night, when it was much busier, she could still hear the screams and music over her television.

Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media
Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media

Cosmo agreed with Lamothe that it’s not just the noise that bothers her and her neighbors.

“It’s the noise, the rumbling of the machines, the exhaust from the machines,” she said. “We have neighbors that have asthma, we have a very elderly couple that live right next to it, they’re having trouble. They can’t sleep. (The carnival doesn’t) end until 10-10:30. We all work, and we go to bed at 9 p.m. It is a very quiet neighborhood.”

Cosmo said that in the past, when the carnival was held over by where Aldi is now, there were no problems.

“When it was in the front, there were no houses over there, just businesses, so it wasn’t really a distraction,” she said.

Anibal Paz lives just a house away from the carnival.

“When it was over there by Aldi, the noise was still a little loud but there were none of the fumes or anything like that, and it wasn’t too bad,” he said. “Now here, it’s a bother.”

Paz said his family’s pets are all frantic from the noise and vibrations. He said that living next to the mall, they’re used to sounds like kids racing cars through the parking lot on the weekends or idling 18-wheelers parked in the lot overnight, but that the carnival noise is like nothing they’ve experienced before.

“Our small dog won’t leave my wife’s side because of the noise, so it’s a little close for comfort,” he said.

He said Friday night was especially loud.

“The screams,” he said. “My daughter is seven, and last night she wouldn’t sleep in her room. She slept with us because she said it sounds like people are getting murdered.”

Paz said he would have appreciated a heads up from the mall, the carnival and the town about the new location.

“That’s the biggest thing, it’s a surprise,” he said. “My next-door neighbor has a child who has autism. They’re elderly across the street. It’s keeping my wife up at night, it’s keeping my daughter up at night. There are small children in this neighborhood.”

Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media
Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media

WBSM reached out to Dartmouth Police to find out if there had been noise complaints regarding the carnival. Dartmouth does have a noise ordinance, but it allows for exceptions for “parades, music festivals, public gatherings, and events which have received Town approval.”

“As expected, there have been a few,” Dartmouth Police spokesperson Det. Kyle Costa told WBSM. “Since the town approved the permit for the carnival (which comes with noise), all we can do is document the complaints, and advise the callers to voice their concerns with Town Hall.”

Some residents also expressed safety concerns with the carnival so close, considering last year’s incident of shots fired at the carnival. There were also rumors on social media of arrests made at the carnival this past Friday night, but Det. Costa told WBSM all that happened was two juvenile females got into a fight that required officers to intervene and that no arrests were made.

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Dartmouth Select Board member Shawn McDonald offered some responses to residents’ concerns in the Dartmouth Helping Dartmouth Facebook group, which were passed on to WBSM from one of the residents.

He said he was surprised at the location for the carnival this year and that he personally does not think it’s a good location for it.

“The mall is private property and they are responsible for the location of where the carnival is staged,” he said. “Complaints about location should be directed to the mall’s management office.”

He did say that the board will discuss the carnival at an upcoming meeting and that he will ask the mall management to be in attendance.

One facet of the 2023 carnival that caught people’s attention is that none of the traditional carnival foods like fried dough and cotton candy are offered. There was a rumor on social media that the reason for the relocation of the carnival was so carnival attendees could eat in the mall’s food court, which is just inside the AMC theater entrance by the carnival parking lot.

“Due to Board of Health concerns and permit deficiencies, food was not allowed this year,” McDonald said. “(The) same Board of Health concerns also did not allow lodging on the premises.”

Permitting was a big question among the neighborhood. Lamothe told WBSM that as of Tuesday, April 25, the carnival had not received permits from the town’s select board, and it wasn’t on the board’s April 24 meeting agenda.

“This is normally a very quiet neighborhood,” she said. “The town has been a disappointment and the mall and Macy’s, just irresponsible.”

However, in his Facebook post, McDonald said the late permitting was the fault of Fiesta Shows.

“The carnival received their permit to operate late Thursday afternoon. The carnival operator was careless or lazy or inattentive in the permitting process,” he said. “I have already told the Town Administrator that if they return next year, if they treat the permitting process the same as this year, it will not be approved.”

One thing the residents made clear is that they are not against the carnival itself, but rather just didn’t like having it affect their quality of life without any kind of warning.

“We feel bad for the people that are working the carnival. It’s nothing personal against them,” Paz said. “It can’t be good for business, either.”

Paz said the location of the carnival isn’t as easily visible from Faunce Corner Road as it was in the previous location.

“We have friends in Fall River, Assonet, and we told them about the carnival and they’ve driven by and are like, ‘where’s the carnival at?’ They can’t see it,” he said.

WBSM reached out to the Dartmouth Mall communications team as well as the owner of Fiesta Shows, but has not yet received a response from either. We will update this story if either party offers a comment.

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