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One certain thing is change, so they say, and I am sure it is true. But some things change more than others.

Clothing styles change faster than the seasons. The style of houses changes: bungalow, split level, picture window, country, tudor, etc. Eating habits change: meat and potatoes, pizza, smorgasbord, sushi (or however you spell it). Lately, all the fast-food places are going really heavy on the rabbit food. Eating patterns change fast under the horrendous pressure of cholesterol-consciousness.I thought of the rate at which things change when I visited the carnival a few weeks ago. In town for the local celebration, going the rounds in a neverending pull into town, unfold, put up the tents, hook up the bright-red and blue steel shafts and masts with the greasy ends with the greasy bearings covered by shields with painted clown faces. Spread out the rolling, wood-slat sea of the tilt-a-whirl, flip up and connect the high spindles of the ferris wheel that looks like it will go out of control any minute, leaving the city park and rolling over the local bank.

The rate of change in carnivals is slow, relative to most things. Details change - the color of the fur on the stuffed animals may be a bit more neon; there are fads in the animals themselves - Roger Rabbit may crowd out E.T.s in a year's time. Nachos are big right now, but haven't threatened the old standbys: cotton candy, corndogs and the timeless smell of frying carnival hashwagon hamburgers.

But, by in large, most things are the same from year to year. The sound of the ferris wheel motor rising and falling, the kiddie rides floating around and around in water or on wheels, with a wave of the hand each time around to exultant moms holding melting soft ice cream cones, an occasional passing child face in the circling blur that is screaming in terror at full bore. There is the timeless merry-go-round with scalloped, carved horses and giraffes (more often than not plastic, instead of the oak or pine it used to be, but for being fake, the effect is almost the same), and the panels along the top trim and inside the swirling circle of animals with painted landscapes of a land that doesn't really exist, and the calliope music belting out, warm and full and filling the air with sno-cone cups strewn over the grass and the night air with the eerie gold light of moving yellow and red light bulbs on the edges of all the moving rides, making the whole evening spin, held in place only by the black silhouettes of the park's lindens, locusts and maples suffering through the two- or three-day ordeal of nailed and hanging cables, and cables strung in rows over the foot-worn, sticky lawn.

And the carnival men looking at you from the bottle toss and the ring toss booth, taunting you with their eyes to come and make a fool of yourself and win a goldfish that you will have to carry around with you all the rest of the evening until you get back in the car and it spills all over the back seat and on the stuffed neon dog, and the kids whine a little bit, but are so tired that they go to sleep on the way home; so you just carry them in and take off their shoes and, if you are really fastidious, wash the popsicle stickum off their faces a bit with a wet washcloth and decide you will wait and throw them in the tub in the morning when you can think clearly.

No, carnivals really don't change a lot from year to year.