GOSHEN – Indiana state law requires that all rollercoasters and amusement rides be inspected by state officials at least once a year, but the Elkhart County 4-H Fair goes above and beyond that requirement.
This is a relief to fairgoers, especially after a woman fell to her death out of a rollercoaster at Six Flags Theme Park in Arlington, Texas this past weekend.
All 35 of the fair's rides are owned and operated by North American Midway Entertainment. The company has a 60-person crew, including three nationally certified inspectors who perform check-ups on the rides.
"Every single ride has its own individual checklist that is performed over an hour before the rides open every day,” says Blake Huston, general manager of North American Midway.
The company's inspectors aren't the only ones who give the rides a good look.
The fair's safety director Phil Wogoman performs his own personal inspection of the equipment several days before the fair opens. The process takes him a full day-and-a-half.
"I go through and I go onto the rides and I go around the rides, looking for things people might have forgotten – a missing pin here or there, loose cables," Wogoman says.
In his 15 years as safety director, Wogoman says he has never found a major safety issue with any of these rides.
This equipment is torn down and reassembled at several county fairs throughout the state about every other week. But that doesn't mean they're unsafe, Huston says. In fact, because these rides are rebuilt constantly, they get more attention.
"A permanent park, the thing is erected, and it sits there for 20, 30 years, and maybe it’s not disassembled," Huston says. "They have their safety checks, but with our guys, they have their hands on every single part, every week.”
Wogoman says he's aware the state doesn't require him to do his own inspections, but he does them for the sake of the fairgoers.
“We just look to have the best and safest venue in the state,” Wogoman says.
That's why fairgoers like Kerry Zeese, who plans to ride every single ride at the fair, aren't afraid of getting in line for the Ferris Wheel.
"I just think they double-check everything now," Zeese says.