Vt. State Fair organizers stand by rides

Staff File Photo
The 2016 Vermont State Fair.

By Patrick McArdle

Carnival rides at this year’s Vermont State Fair, which runs Aug. 15 – 19 at the Rutland fairgrounds, are provided by the same company that provided the “Fire Ball” ride that killed an Ohio man on July 26, but fair officials say their rides will be safe.

Robert Congdon, a vice president of the Rutland Agricultural Society, which operates the fair, said society members extended their thoughts and prayers to the family of Tyler Jarrell, 18, of Columbus, who died in the accident that left seven people injured.

The Associated Press reported Jarrell died when the Fire Ball flew apart and threw him about 50 feet.

The accident happened at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus.

Congdon said people who might come to the fair should understand that Amusements of America is a large organization and the unit of the company that supplies rides in Vermont is different than the unit that supplied rides for Ohio.

“That unit was never scheduled to come to Rutland,” he said. “That ride was never scheduled to be here. We adhere to all of the requirements by the state, so the fire marshal is on site. All the proper routes get taken when our rides get set up here at the fair. We have confidence in Amusements of America.”

While Congdon said Amusements of America is not the only vendor to have supplied carnival rides for the fair, he said they have done so multiple times without incident.

“They run a great organization and we’ve been very satisfied with them,” he said.

While Congdon said he didn’t have a list of the rides at the fair this year, he believed they were the same rides that were at the Green Mountain Fair last week in Manchester.

After a filing which included proof of insurance, the rides were certified by the secretary of state July 28 to operate in Rutland and Manchester.

The Associated Press reported last week that Vermont has no mechanism for overseeing the safety of carnival rides.

But the carnival rides are not the only draw at the 172nd Vermont State Fair.

Congdon said there had been a lot of interest in what’s called “The NASCAR Experience,” which allows participants to simulate what it would be like to drive a race car.

“You experience what it’s like to be on the track in this simulator,” he said.

The five days of the fair feature a number of musical acts including gospel, country, rock and blues at the Sugarhouse stage.

Melanie Aguiar, chairwoman of the entertainment committee, said the musical acts are a combination of returning favorites and others making their first appearance at the fair.

Some returning exhibits allow visitors to get close to nature, like the Butterfly Encounter and the Adirondack Traveling Aviary, which allow visitors to get close to the birds and the butterflies, respectively. Others are traditional fair experiences like a haunted house, pony rides and monster truck rides.

All of those features will be there Tuesday through Saturday.

Some planning may be required for other events. Those who want to see an amateur battle of the bands should be at the fair Friday, while fans of demolition derby should plan visits Thursday or Saturday. Wednesday is the day to see truck and tractor pulls.

“I would say the best way to describe our grandstand activity this year is heavy on the motor sports side,” Congdon said.

Much of the activity includes displays from 4-H and the Grange, and contests that are focused on agriculture. Congdon said visitors and local farmers could expect that part of the fair will stick closely to tradition.

While Congdon admitted the fair had to get “over the hump” last year of moving from September to August, he said the feedback this year has been good.

“I really am confident that we are in a good position moving forward,” he said. “We’ve taken a lot of great steps in that change and we’re looking to continue on.”

One change to the fair was implemented last week. Tickets can now be purchased in advance through the Vermont State Fair website. Buying combination tickets for a family and passes to use the carnival rides in advance could provide a savings of up to $50, he said.

Tickets can be purchased on the days of the fair, but separate tickets are required for admittance, the carnival rides and grandstand events.

For more information about the fair and its events or to buy advance tickets, visit the website at www.vermontstatefair.org.