Archive for Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Rush County creates own carnival for annual fair

May 29, 2002

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— When Rush County couldn't find a carnival for its annual fair, the fair board decided to build its own.

For the past few years, the fair board has contracted with a man from Lebanon who brought two children's rides in each year, while a carnival committee volunteered to run games.

But this year, a scheduling conflict meant even the children's rides weren't available, said Fred Lohrey, co-chairman of the Rush County Amusement Company, which was formed in April.

Since it was formed, amusement company members have met weekly, building 12 game booths and leasing a moonwalk for the fair. But the big move came when the company bought five working rides, equipment and some other rides that need to be restored, from Griffin Amusement Company for $27,000.

In past years, Lester Griffin took his carnival to many rural towns, including the Rush County Fair in La Crosse.

"But the population is so small that a traveling show cannot afford to go to those little counties anymore," Griffin said. "It's just not feasible."

Rob Swinson, manager of Rides USA, a Wichita company that sells rides in the United States and Canada, acted as a broker for Griffin.

"This has been kind of a trend in Kansas in the last few years," Swinson said of community-owned carnivals. "Carnivals play the larger counties, where they have a chance to make more money."

During a Topeka convention for county fair boards in January, George Keener, co-chairman of Rush County Amusement, learned that 17 Kansas counties now own their own carnivals.

This year's Rush County Fair will feature a Ferris wheel, roller coaster and other rides from the carnival Griffin operated for the past 25 years. The rides haven't been used since last Labor Day.

Rush County is getting some vintage pieces, including an Octopus ride built in 1930.

The rides will be set up at the fairgrounds this weekend. The county fair is Aug. 1-3.

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