MELBOURNE NEWS

Culture and heritage

Behind the scenes at Moomba Carnival: thrills, spills and show family secrets

26 February 2024

Meet the carnival family that’s been bringing the bright lights and adrenaline to Moomba for generations.

Chippa Chant was destined to be a travelling showman.

He grew up watching his dad perform death-defying motorcycle tricks while his nan wowed crowds in an acrobatics double-act.

“I’m a showman born and bred for three generations,” Chippa said.

A smiling man in a hat stands near a colourful an amusement ride
Chippa Chant with the Rock & Roll ride at Moomba Festival

“We were always travelling the show circuit with a hundred other kids. My mum was my teacher – I never left the showgrounds.”

Chippa’s grandfather built the ‘Wall of Death’ ride

Chippa’s wife Cassie comes from a long line of trapeze artists and circus people.

Over 25 years, they’ve raised five kids and built one of the biggest carnival businesses in the country.

“We’ve known each other since we were born, and we’ve been together since we were teenagers. There’s nothing we don’t know about each other.”

Together, they run a convoy of 30 semi-trailers that pace the east coast, packed tight with epic rides and sideshow antics.

Carnival rides in action with crowds walking around

Follow the sun to Moomba Festival

Right now, all eyes are on the carnival and rides at Moomba Festival from 7 to 11 March.

A crack team of travelling engineers, electricians and mechanics unfurls a rollercoaster from seven semi-trailers alone.

Three people on a green and red rollercoaster ride at Moomba
Rollercoaster vibes at Moomba Festival

“I’ve worked Moomba most of my life. All my memories are of big crowds, happy faces. All the screaming,” Chippa said.

“I like to see the joy on people’s faces. The thrill we put into them.”

The giant ferris wheel is the freshest addition to Chippa’s collection.

It springs 35 metres into the sky and casts a neon glow across Moomba, offering a birds-eye view of the city from 26 wheelchair-accessible gondolas.

A giant ferris wheel against the blue sky with white clouds
Ferris wheel at Moomba

“I’ve always loved the ferris wheel. We’re looking to create memories to roll on for generations in their families.”

“That’s the beauty of the ferris wheel: that’s why I’ve ended up with two of them!” Chippa said.

Chippa remembers the dodgems from childhood spent at carnivals

Out come the dodgems, the undulating children’s rides.

The spruikers step into sideshow alley and invite us to win big prizes for our sweethearts.

Night-time rides in action at Moomba Festival with city lights
Moomba Carnival by night

Thrillseekers squeal as they go for a spin.

These days, Chippa is happy to watch the adrenaline-based rides from the sidelines.

“The Freestyle is an extreme ride. It’s scary! I leave that one to my kids to test,” Chippa said.

Watch and learn feats of daring and skill

Three of Chippa’s kids are old enough to work the carnival full time now.

The youngest could teach you how to drive a crane – in theory at least.

“Showmen’s kids are 10 years ahead of their time. They get to see everything. They watch the machinery go up. They’re very switched on.”

“You grow up very competitive in the sideshow community. It teaches you to perform under pressure.”

His eldest son is a champion woodchopper. Chippa himself is a champion clay target shooter.

“My grandfather was good with his hands: he built a sideshow called the Wall of Death,” Chippa said.

A man rides a motorcycle around an arena
Fearless Fagan in action. Photo supplied: Chippa Chant

Pop told my dad he had to learn how to ride a motorbike on a vertical wall,” Chippa said.

“There were lots of accidents, but Dad became one of the best in the world.”

They called him Fearless Fagan.

How to find the best rides in the world

In a small community of travelling showmen, Chippa and his competitors need to be strategic about which rides they buy next.

Two of his old schoolmates have imported new rides from Italy just in time for Moomba: the Warrior and the Joker.

“The guys who have those two new rides, we all grew up together. They’re my main opposition. Between the three of us we’ve got one of all the good rides in the world,” Chippa said.

Chippa and the Rock Star

“Come show day, we’re all coming up with new ideas to outdo each other – better rides, better lighting – and that’s such a great thing. We’re all fighting for the same dollar.”

“There are no secrets between show families, we know everything about each other! We work together, play together.”

“We all went to school together. It’s a close-knit travelling community,” Chippa said.

Moomba Carnival 2024

Have you got your ride pass for Thursday yet? From heart-racing rollercoasters to kid-friendly rides, get your thrills at Moomba Festival from 7 to 11 March 2024.

Carnival rides and crowds at Moomba Festival

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