What started as a fun little day in a parking lot has turned into a full fledged production, Friends of Children’s Hospital fundraiser and Saturday anchor of Zippity Doo Dah®. We’re talking Sal & Mookie’s Children’s Carnival on March 23, which began with games in the restaurant’s parking spaces. “The first one five years ago was a simple setup,” said Jeff Good, Sal & Mookie’s co-owner. It was free to customers and neighborhood kids, providing a day of fun and games. It was also a celebration of Sal & Mookie’s April 27 anniversary.
The next year, the carnival added a dunking booth with a chance for kids to sink Good and business partner Dan Blumenthal, along with Chef Jon Pixlar and Max Barron. But just two years in, it transformed into something more.
The decision was made to move the carnival to the UMMC green space adjacent to the restaurant. “We’re so fortunate to have UMMC,” Good said. “They’ve been good neighbors and nothing but generous with access, parking, security and signage.” And, as the parent to Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children, that means UMMC is a big part of helping to bring a bountiful day to the state’s only children’s hospital. Last year alone, the carnival and its silent auction brought in $5,000 to be donated.
The Zippity Doo Dah® tie in? Good was approached in the fall of 2010 by Sweet Potato Queen® Jill Conner Browne who wished to bring a nighttime parade to the neighborhood. “The carnival gives some focus to a full day in Fondren,” Good explained. “We like to think the carnival is good for fellow businesses who are so generous with giving to our silent auction efforts, too.”
While the carnival has morphed over the years to include more, Good says it couldn’t be what it is without more hands. Add Parents & Kids Magazine as a major partner, the restaurant’s Tanya Burns, Jennifer Luby, Melissa Flanders, and, more recently, Maggie Briscoe and Liz Lancaster, to the mix and Good says that people are the true success story. “Many of the plywood cut out games you still see today were constructed and created by Burns (now the manager of BRAVO!) and her dad,” he said. To this day, employees’ families will come out to work a shift or two for the day. Good said they’re blessed to have wonderful people that each bring something different to the table.
At the end of what will be a very long day, Good said it’s all reciprocal. “It’s our gift to the community and our gift to Batson,” he explained. “We say thank you.” And certainly, the gift comes back? “Yes. It’s the old adage ‘The more you give, the more you receive. It’s ten fold. We’re very fortunate.” zdd13