Rev. John Vakulskas Dies at 76; Carnivals Were His Parish

Rev. John Vakulskas Dies at 76; Carnivals Were His Parish

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

He was the minister of the midway — a carnival priest who held services on bumper cars, in show tents and, at least once, in front of what was billed as the world’s largest portable Ferris wheel.

Over the last half-century, and on too many fairgrounds to count, the Rev. John Vakulskas tended to an ever-changing flock of carnival workers (he never called them carnies) on the move. He called it “my parish on wheels.”

Often clad in robes emblazoned with circus insignia, he baptized babies in fonts sometimes improvised from buckets or tubs, officiated at marriages and heard confessions from Catholics who were, in carnival parlance, copping a plea.

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