WASHINGTON (AP) _ A full-blown carnival took over the South Lawn of the White House Friday _ The Twister, The Scrambler, cotton candy and all _ but the only attraction that President Clinton was willing to try did not show up.

``I offered to go into the dunking booth myself, but they said you've dunked me enough over the past months,'' Clinton joked to several hundred journalists and their families.

In advance of the White House Old Fashioned Fair for the press corps, reporters had been told they would, with the right pitch, get the chance to dunk their favorite _ or least favorite _ White House officials into a tank of water. Press secretary Mike McCurry somewhat gleefully broke the news that the tank never came.

The president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed the crowd from a bandstand looking out onto the surreal neon scene in their back yard: clanging arcade games, a Ferris wheel rising in front of the Washington Monument, The Twister swinging pendulum-like around the Jefferson Memorial.

Actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen clutched hands on the Ferris wheel and took pictures with a miniature video camera.

Target games with darts and water pistols were suspended while the president lingered among the crowd for more than an hour.