When given the task of her senior project at Barker High School, Courtney Lynch, 17, wanted something tough, but she also wanted to have fun with it. With intent to major in business in college, Courtney decided to take over most of the priorities of her mom's business, which is not your typical business. At just one of its events, you'll find cotton candy in a lot of hair and many cartoon characters bouncing around.
Heather Welfare, Courtney's mom, named the business Big Mama's Carnival Candies. With just one booking, you'll find a little carnival in simple places like a backyard. Big Mama's has two bounce houses, a cotton candy machine, and about a dozen character costumes that people can rent for an event.
It's been Courtney's job to find bookings and come up with new ideas. Courtney's latest idea was a hug-o-gram, which sends a costume character to someone's door to give a nice, plush hug. Each hug is also accompanied by a sign with a greeting. The first few customers were good sports and definitely got a kick out of a monkey knocking on their front door, Courtney said.
"I'm very proud to have Courtney run the business ..." said Welfare. "She's only 17, and it's a lot of responsibility. Plus, she does a remarkable job."
Big Mama's has been adding fun to area fundraising events for a couple of years. Courtney and her mom are also proud to have helped out with the Andrea Hope LaRock Foundation's yearly pig roast, which raises money for Women and Children's Hospital.
Courtney recently added another fundraising event to the booking list. The characters will be strolling through the Festival of Trees in November, which is another fundraising event for the hospital.
When Courtney is training someone new to be a costume character, she says she tells them, "You can act as crazy as you want, because no one is ever going to see your face."
Running this business hasn't been all happy moments for Courtney. It can get very warm dancing in a character costume in the middle of summer. Bounce houses do not do well in rain or hail. At a charity event in Getzville last year, Courtney and her staff had to scramble to get the bounce houses down and put away. The bigger bounce houses are heavy, too. They can weigh at least a couple of hundred pounds.
Courtney's worst memory? She now knows that while spinning cotton candy, if she ever drops the stick, she shouldn't reach down to grab it. The cotton candy machine has arms that whip around like a fan. The feeling isn't pleasant when your hand is hit by them, Courtney said, and she has learned to be very careful.
She is excited to continue running the business during her senior year, but finishing her senior project and graduating from high school won't mean the end of Courtney's leadership at Big Mama's -- she'll be back in the summers to help out.
Sara Payne is a senior at Barker High School.